Special to R-Time Ranch
By Edward Winkle
Quick now, what animal has long bangs, draping body skirts, cheek muffs and resembles a gorgeous, long-haired Yorkshire terrier?
And, should we mention, it's silky to the touch and puts on a comedy act with pratfalls.
If you didn't know, you'd never guess.
The Mini Silky is a Head-Turner
The critter with a four-word name, the miniature silky fainting goat the mini silky for short pretty much is, and does all the above.
Animal lovers get to experience up close this rare goat that's a real head-turner in Washington state at R-Time Ranch near Tenino, where Mt. Rainier's summit can be seen from the ranch. Surprisingly, this novel goat only recently appeared on the animal scene, so go see this adorable goat with a dazzling coat.
Forget about the llama, ostrich and domestic yak. The new pasture eye-catcher is the mini silky.
The Faintest Idea
And what about the fainting part? Some of these goats fall down when startled, some do not. Either way, their silky-smooth coat, friendliness and non-stop playfulness, attracts like a magnet anyone that enjoys the idea of improv comedy.
New Fainting Breed
The miniature silky fainting goat is a newer breed that took a fork in the road from their larger cousins, Tennessee fainters. Fainting goats have a problem when frightened. Their muscles tighten or seize when experiencing sudden panic. For instance, if a coyote should come on the scene, or even a person causing alarm, the goat would snap into its unbalanced freezing act.
The goats don't feel pain or loose consciousness when they rigidly fall. And they really don't faint. They're informally labeled fright goats, scare goats and even myotonic goats, bearing in mind their inherited myotonia disorder.
When leg muscles stiffen, young goats tumble, while older ones stand rigidity planted on all fours. After about ten seconds they're back to their old playful selves again.
A Fainting History
Fainting goats first surfaced as a herd of four in Tennessee around 1880. For about one hundred years just a few breeders keep alive the rare breed with the strange behavior. Close to becoming extinct, breeders revived interest in fainting goats in the 1980s.
More: National Geographic Clip about Faintng Goats
A Sacrificial Purpose?
Stories surfaced that the fainting goats' function was to serve as a sacrificial defense for sheep ranchers. But that fodder ramains unsubstantiated "folklore," according to Bobbie Golden, an official with the International Fainting Goat Association. For now, the goats-as-security tale just doesn't stack up for using the fainters as wolf bait, at least intentionally.
How the Miniature Silky Fainting Goat Emerged
The mini silky was born in 1998 when Renee and Stephen Orr on their Sol-Orr Farm in Virginia cross bred their fainters with colorful, long-haired Nigerian dwarf goats.
Like a Yorkshire Terrier
Renee Orr owns up that the breeding ambition was for a look somewhat like a showy Yorkshire terrier.
With their goal achieved six years later, Orr reacalls, "The herd was declared a new goat breed when we opened the Miniature Silky Fainting Goat Association and Registry in 2005."
Pet the Mini Silkies
Back at R-Time Ranch, owner Byron Seaman raised six registered mini silkies from kid stock. "The happy goats are fun to watch for hours on end, with visitors to the ranch enjoying petting the beautiful silkies' coats," he said.
Are any for sale you might ask? Byron says he won't commit any of his mini herd until the stock builds up.
Every ranch could use some pasture eye candy, and this full-bodied herd at R-Time Ranch creates one of the best candy stores in the shadow of Mt. Rainier.
Just don't mistake a mini silkie for a small Yorkie.
Freelance writer Edward Winkle contributes to USA Today and other Gannett-owned publications.