They're aptly named. When startled or frightened, their legs stiffen and they tend to fall over. A video showcasing a farm that raises the falling animals has charmed the Web.
Once frightened, their muscles freeze. "If they try to move, they tip over," Carol Ellis, co-owner of Goat Flower Farm, told Yahoo. Although they're known as the "fainting" goat, "they never lose consciousness," the 53-year-old added. Technically, it's not a faint as much as a fall. But we think we can make the claim that few animals have ever looked so adorable while hitting the ground.
Ellis, who has raised the breed since 1996, currently has 82 goats on her farm. Of those, 44 are babies, and they are startled by pretty much everything, which means — thar they go. "You can go in and clap your hands, and they go down," she said. The high-strung ones continue to react that way as adults, too.
Some have figured out how to work around their physical reaction. "They find a fence to brace themselves against," Ellis said. And for those without a crutch? "When they fall over, it's a gentle fall. If you look in their eyes, it looks like they're just annoyed. It is not a painful look."
She admitted that the breed sometimes elicits concern for the welfare of animals that are raised to fall down — a trait that clearly would not exist in the wild, where it's survival of the fittest. The breed's numbers are so low that the Livestock Conservancy Organization keeps them on a priority list.
But these goats are not bred for dairy or headed to the slaughterhouse — they're raised as people's pets. "The fainters are very laid back, very calm," Ellis said.
In the video, one brown-and-white goat seems to stop, freeze, and fall to its side on the ground, its little legs stiff in the air. Just as suddenly, the baby recovers, jumps up, and walks off. "It doesn't hurt them at all," Ellis told ABC, "It's completely muscular. It doesn't affect any other system."
The trait is hereditary, caused by a gene also found in other animals and even humans, according to the website How Stuff Works.
Ellis, who laughingly noted that she has an industrial engineering degree from Lehigh University, said she's known now as the Crazy Goat Lady. "They are an awesome animal," she said. "We love our goats. They've brought us a lot of fun."
Follow Claudine Zap on twitter @zapkidd.