Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stop, Drop & Roll

Fainting goats crack my husband up. Officially myotonic goats, this type of goat was bred to be, well, bait. When wolves and coyotes were still an ongoing and major threat to livestock, the continuation of this gene in the breeding pool resulted in a large percentage of offspring who would become immobile when startled. Farmers realized that they could run fainting goats with their sheep and the predators would snatch the goats giving the more valuable sheep time to escape.

They don’t really faint; that’s the creepy thing. In actuality, it’s a case of temporary paralysis which causes their limbs to stiffen; they fall down and slowly roll over to expose their bellies. Hysterical when it’s a barnyard pet. Creepy when considered in the context of their original purpose as predator bait. It’s one of those things that, while it makes you laugh, makes you cringe at the same time. I won’t get into the technical details, you can look those up on your own. I will, however, offer this video from Mark of the Soda Craze blog.

On a related fainting note, I have my own story to share with the twisted of heart. If you’re politically correct or overly sensitive to the public embarrassment of caprines, you might not want to read this next bit.

About 4 years ago, I was once again in the market for goats. We happened across an ad in the local throw away newspaper, phoned up and spoke to a man who had several goats for sale. After hopping in the truck and getting lost (briefly), we trundled down the bumpy driveway of an off-the-beaten-path hobby farmer, attempting to avoid running over some rather mouthy geese in the process. In a makeshift pen we found a collection of fainter/pygmy mix goats. I’m not a fan of pygmy goats but I got a kick out of the concept of the fainting so we bought twin doelings, one who fainted, one who didn’t, and headed home.

Hubby, being a closet sadist, discovered why they’re called fainting goats when one of the dogs got into the barn yard and poor little Polly hit the turf with herd dog nipping her heels in frustration. Related and yet not, hubby was given an air horn as a Christmas gift from my uncle who had ridden with him enough to know that he really needed something in traffic and an air horn was infinitely safer than a firearm.

Fast forward to our wedding two years ago….picture this: a yard full of family and friends, all slightly inebriated and in fine humor. Out came the air horn. Had we been from the south it would have been accompanied by “Hey, y’all, watch this!” but being Yankees, it was more a gathering of boisterous and disbelieving Italians who milled around the barn yard fence until WWWAAAHHH! There went the horn followed by poor Polly who jumped in the air, tried to run away with feet dragging followed by the inevitable side plop, belly up roll, and hysterical laughter from the audience. As if once weren’t enough for the poor goat….the air horn ran out of air that day and Polly, poor thing, was very pleased to see everyone leave. It was horrifying and hilarious at the same time. Man, I wish I had video.


Jane Doe said...

I had never heard of fainting goats before, that's interesting. Your story reminds me of a video I watched in high school; I can't remember what it was about but there was a narcoleptic dog in it, a dachshund. He was running through a field full speed and suddenly just dropped to the ground, it was hilarious! I can picture your goat doing the same thing.

Thanks for the laugh!

Sherry W said...

My husband wanted some fainters way back in the early days of goat gathering and I said no. The delinquent asshats around here (I do live in the South)would keep the poor things startled so much they would starve to death. Those goats make me cringe to watch them. Kinda like watching something with a spinal injury. Gives me a full body shiver.

Mojo said...

In the South, "Hey ya'll, watch this" is usually reserved for something that might merit an nomination for a Darwin Award. Triggering a ... whatever you call it in a goat with an air horn? Meh. I suppose on a slow day it might merit a HYWT, bust most days it'd probably be introduced with a simple "Checkkissout". But in a setting like you describe here, it might get as far as "Checkkissout ya'll" since there'd be a bunch of folks around.

Anyway, that ain't why I came by. I was reading some of the older posts on "my" other blog (even though it isn't really "mine") and yours was one of them. And the way you left it, I just wondered how things were for you now. It hasn't been so long that I'd expect the world to have changed or anything, but I do care. After all, you weren't just a story. So stop by sometime or drop me a line or send up a smoke signal or somethin'.