Fainting goats are a distinct breed that can be dated back to the early 1880's in Tennessee. Some accounts link the breed to a particular farmer named John Tinsley, who reportedly brought a number of goats exhibiting symptoms of myotonia congenita down from Nova Scotia, Canada. According to this account, the animals were bred by a local doctor, and a little more than 120 years later, herds of fainting goats can be found throughout the United States.
Breeders know this breed is not only REMARKABLE but marketable, and work very hard to to encourage certain behavioral traits and/or to encourage certain physical features.
Fainting goats have been bred for several distinct purposes here's a few:
For meat: As are the primary use for most farm goats, the fainting variety is often raised for slaughter. Goats are natural climbers and jumpers, so they're also natural escape artists when fenced or penned in. Extra effort is often needed on the part of farmers to keep the animals enclosed. Myotonia congenita, however, tends to curb the animals' natural inclinations, as the acts of climbing and jumping can also trigger fainting. Thus Fainters are easier to keep enclosed. Additionally, the excessive muscle tensing tends to result in greater muscle mass, less body fat and a higher meat-to-bone ratio than other breeds of goat.
For amusement: Like many animals, fainting goats are also sometimes raised as pets. Some owners raise them for the uniqueness of their fainting spells, while others choose them simply because they're easier to keep in an enclosure. Like other breeds of goats, their temperaments and physical appearance often make them good companion animals.
To accompany herds: Since a fainting goat would fall over or be reduced to a hobble following a fright, many farmers saw them as an excellent form of protection for sheep herds. If a predator such as a wolf or coyote were to attack the herd, the non-myotonic animals could run away, leaving behind any fainting goats either immobilized or hobbled by the fright. The herd would escape and the predators would focus on the easiest kill. But this use has largely fallen out of practice, and the degree to which it was actually used is uncertain.
My personal favorite; "Noxious weed, Brush, and Undergrowth Exterminator" AKA: Living Lawn Mower.
A myotonic goat, otherwise known as the fainting goat, is a domestic goat whose muscles freeze for roughly 5-plus seconds when the goat feels panic. Though painless, this generally results in the animal collapsing on its side. The characteristic is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. This is often referred to as the fight or flight response. When startled, younger goats will stiffen and fall over. Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle. Normally, this tensing is followed by an immediate relaxing of the affected muscles, allowing a typical goat to actually turn and run away from a perceived threat. With myotonia congenita, however, the muscles tense and stay tensed before slowly relaxing.