Many have ask me why I believe that the Fainting Goats and the Myotonic Goats are two different breeds. Where do I get my information? Is there any proof ? Why don’t more people understand this? Well first of all there is not too much information available. You have to really be willing to study and research.You have to be more interested in preserving the breed than just breeding for fun or money. Most of my information has come from old historical newspaper articles that date back to the early 1900’s. See some of the articles on my page called Historically articles about the breed. Some of my information has been gathered through interviews with some of the oldest and more established Fainting Goat farms around. Miss Mary Wells was a pleasure to interview! Sadly today I have even seen some of your oldest breeders (we will not mention names of course)beginning to breed away from the standard to acquire goats that are bigger and will mature faster. In the beginning these breeders had nice quality traditional goats, but today have what is considered the Myotonic goats. They breed for bigger faster maturing goats to take to sales or markets because they weigh more and therefore will earn more money and are more in demand. Or they breed to win at the shows. I truly can understand that people need to make money to help with the cost of raising their animals. I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is when breeders claim to be preserving the breed while breeding for bigger IMPROVED goats! You can’t preserve the breed while at the same time you are breeding away from it to gain profit. As far as the shows are concerned the judges set the standards in the show ring by placing the bigger goats first! Further down the page you will see show pictures from 2007-2012 and will see for yourself that the breed is getting bigger! They did not look at or consider the breed standard. All shows should be based on the standards.
I am sharing a few articles and some links to help you better understand the Fainting Goat breed. My hope is that after you read this page and do some research for yourself you will realize that the Fainting Goat breed has changed much over the past 100 years just like some of the other dog and livestock breeds have done. Breeders breeding to “improve” the breed have almost lost the original breed of goats. If you are interested in preserving the breed and keeping it original I would encourage you to check out the American Fainting Goat Organization American Fainting Goat Organization “AFGO”.
How and why have Fainting goats changed?By: Barb Roberts
This article was written a few years ago. I believe she is seeing some of the same things that American Fainting Goat Organization saw and the reason that AFGO was started. Barb Roberts is one of the ones that wrote the MGR description.
By: Barb Roberts
Submitted by: Tim Childerston
Below you will find educational information, which explains how this breed has developed through the years.
What they were and what they have become
Not much documented information is available on the early history of the Fainting goat and less about their looks and size. What the original Fainting goats looked like may be a mystery forever unless someone can find rare pictures from the very early part of this century.
If one refers back to TN for information from long time and well aged breeders the characteristics are for the most part agreed upon. If one were to call a certain strain *Original* the sizes of the animals would be as follows. Bucks 25 in. to 27 in. with some being as small as 24 in. and some reaching 28 in. Bucks under 24 in. would be extremely rare and bucks over 28 in. would be considered rare also. Does would be 22 in. to 24 in. with some reaching 25 in. Does under 22 in. would be extremely rare and does over 25 in. would also be considered rare.
Today size ranges for Fainting goats can hover at the extreme reaches if you consider the above heights *original*. It is not uncommon to find Fainting goats of 17 in. for both bucks and does. It is also not uncommon to find does over 25 in. and bucks over 28 in. Reasons are many for the vast size ranges of today’s Fainters. The smaller animals were probably bred due to the exotic trend of the 80’s while the much larger animals were bred to try and produce more meat. In many areas of the country crossbreeding with other breeds probably plays a large roll in the different sizes. In the extreme western U.S. many smaller animals can be found while in the far southern U.S. many larger animals can be found. The southern U.S. is a meat producing area while the far western U.S. tends to be geared towards the pet industry.
The Fainting goat seems to have developed into two or three distinct types of animals. The *original* types are a medium size goat with good bone density and good muscle. The larger or *improved meat* types may be only slightly taller than the original types or on the larger end of their sizes. They also have good bone density but because they are being selectively bred for the meat industry they tend to have a larger muscle mass. The smaller *pet types* should in general still have good bone mass and good muscle but they are normally well under the *original* heights. There are some strains that are *deer?like* in their looks. They have a small bone mass and generally less muscle mass, though some still carry a good muscle mass but on smaller bones. In some cases the differences are from selective breeding while in other cases the differences are due to crossbreeding with other breeds. If one were to look at crossbreeding instead of selective breeding for the size difference several breeds would come to mind. The larger size Fainters *may* have got their heights from dairy breeds and now from the new Boer industry. Being some Fainters are naturally larger in stature than others height is not always an indication of previous crossings with other taller breeds. The smaller sizes probably came from breeding with Pygmies and Nigerians. With the presence of so many different size ranges today no one size should be considered better than another. One should seek out the size range that best suit’s them and develop a breeding program around it.
Unlike most breeds height does not play a huge role in weight. Body structure and myotonia play more of a role in weight than actual height. Many *pet types* are not only short but weigh very little. Though in some *pet type* lines their body width and bone density may have been retained thus they may weigh 80 pounds or more. It is also possible for the *original* sizes to be under 100 pounds. This is because their line might have been previously bred for the pet industry and might have lost the good width and bone density that was common within the *original” lines. If the good width has been retained most likely they will weigh well over 100 pounds and can be classified as a medium meat animal. Some breeders have successfully stayed within the *original* heights and selectively bred for meat. These breeding programs regularly produce animal’s well over 150 pounds with some reaching 200 pounds. These breeders have also used their knowledge of myotonia to help produce these weights. The more myotonia an animal shows the larger their muscle mass will become. Think of it as a body builder consistently working out. Every time a goat has an episode of myotonia it’s similar to a body-building workout. The higher the level of myotonia the more workouts the muscles get. If you take two 24 in. goats with the same genetic background and feed them the same their myotonia level will still play a huge role in their muscle development. If one animal is highly myotonic and one is not the animal with the higher degree of myotonia will naturally build more muscle and thus weigh more.
The color scheme of the *original* Fainting goats is said to have been black and white, though no hard proof of this exists. Today Fainting goats can be seen in all colors and all color schemes. One interesting thing that needs to be pointed out is that, even today, more black and white animals seem to exist. This could be because the color scheme is just a dominant trait and one that’s hard to get rid of or it’s dominance could be because it was truly their original color. Even when breeding Fainting goats that are not black and white it is not
uncommon to have kids born that are black and white. Was the black and white color scheme actually the original color scheme of Fainting goats? It’s a question that we may never find a true answer to. As time goes on the dominance of the black and white scheme may be diminished but at present it’s still holding it’s own. With the present day Fainting goats being so vast in color ranges no one color should be thought of as better than another.
Some things, which have changed little within this breed, are the head and facial features along with the two different types of ears. If you follow our Breed Information link you will find an extensive description of their head and facial features along with a well defined description of their ear characteristics.
Fainting goats as a breed are still developing and what they eventually become will not be determined by chance but by breeders. Will there always be such a vast difference between the types? Will one size and strain win out over another? Will they continue to develop into two or three distinct strains, each with a different purpose? Will breeders wanting them solely smaller or solely larger pull the original strains to extinction? Will the impact of crossbreeding be so great that original characteristics will be lost forever? The next five to ten years will be the most crucial years in determining what this breed will eventually become.
Comments: Since Barb Roberts has such a strong knowledge about the breed and helped write the breed description for the Myotonic Goat Registry I now believe that she is seeing the changes that have occurred in the breed. Did she write this article in hopes of encouraging breeders to stop breeding for the “improved” goat and to be happy with the original breed characteristics that the breed or known for? I can’t say but it makes me think. After reading this it confirms my belief that the breed has become two different breeds. The new and improved Myotonic goats are bigger while the smaller Fainting Goats have maintined more in size and structure to the *origanal goats*. The damage has already been done. The Fainting Goat breed is not the only animal that has changed over the years. Below you will see several articles about other animals that have almost went extinct or changed and become so called “improved” due to breeders. Also please note that the writter who had great knowledge about the breed only referred to them as Fainting Goats.
© Animals Exotic and Small Magazine Reprinted With Permission – All rights
Comments: Little m Farm is no longer active with the breed, but they were around for a long time and I would consider them a reputable breeder in their day. They also knew what others didn’t seem to realize; that the term myotonic wasnt the original term and if makes me smile to see them refuse to use the term. They also knew that the breed was noted for their antics and were a novelty, and were proud of this fact. They were not pushing for bigger meatier goats; in fact they state on their website they DO NO sell for meat! This article came from their website.
Little m Farm is located in West Tennessee in the beautiful wide open spaces and slightly rolling hills. GOD is in charge here and we give all the praise to Him.
Located near Lexington, Tennessee (midway between Nashville and Memphis and only 6 miles off of I-40), we try to maintain a herd of at least 30 Tennessee Fainting Goats/ Nervous Goats. WE DO NOT SELL FOR MEAT. Our fainters are a novelty and raised as pets and each has a name and a unique personality.
Some folks object to the use of the word “fainter or nervous” to describe our goats and say we should use the official version, “myotonic.” We say that long before some pencil pushing,over educated, city folk called them “myotonic”, Tennessee folk just called them “fainting or nervous” goats and that is good enough for us.
A quick look at the different registries; Some have come and gone!
Comments: Registries play an important role in the breed. They are responsible for ensuring that all goats match the breed standard. They are responsible for tracking and preserving pedigrees. They are responsible for the keeping the direction of the breed going forward without allowing changes that could harm the breed. They alone have the ability to change the breed! Their champions and their animals used to represents the breed will be the guild line that other breeders go by. If a registry allows goats to be registered that don’t match the standards; it will change the breed over time.
The first registry for the Fainting Goats was the American Tennessee Fainting Goat Association. It is no longer open.
Second was International Fainting Goat Association. They are still running.
Third was the Myotonic Goat Registry. They are still running.
Forth was the American Fainting Goat Organization. They are still running.
Fifth was the Myotonic Herd Book- Opened in August 2011 and closed within a year.
Gene McNutt’s Face Book Page
Comments:February 21, 2015 I found this on Oliver Gene McNutt’s Facebook page. Sounds like my belief is once again confirmed here as well. Breeders have been crossing to get larger goats! This statement comes from the original founder of the Myotonic Goat Registry. He makes is clear that they were NOT selectively breed but were crossed. Clearly the breed according to history should be smaller than we are seeing today! Why can’t breeders see this?
December 2009- The AFC Cooperative Farming News wrote this article about the sale of MGR and its’ move to Alabama. This was from an interview with Tara Lawrence and her family. The article states the following.
- “Two years ago, they decided they would start concentrating on quality stock. They ( The Lawrence’s) wanted to breed bigger, meatier, show goats.”
- “We want an animal that is hearty and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, and is large and could be used as a production animal on the commercial end”.
- “We hope by promoting and growing this breed they will become a more marketable animal as far as the meat goat industry goes“.
Comments: Okay so she wants to grow them bigger and meatier! She wants to use them on the commercial end and have a marketable animal. Just as Gene suggested in his comment above! He stated that it was inevitable that they would be crossed! Well guess what! This means that she too will have to crossbreed them. Why? All true Fainting Goats are just too small for the commercial end and they just mature too slow! This also means that as the owner of the registry she will lead the way for redefining the breed. As Barb Roberts mentioned in the eariler article; Will the impact of crossbreeding be so great that original characteristics will be lost forever? The next five to ten years will be the most crucial years in determining what this breed will eventually become.
A few years ago this article came to light around the time of the Goats, Music, and More Festival. It was written by Fern Greenbank. It is call Registry is a breed’s best friend. I will only list a few quotes but you may wish to view the entire article.
- Gene McNutt states, “I originally wanted to promote the goats for the meat and dairy market. But, in the 80’s the breed was on the watch list for extinction with less than 1,500 goats registered per year. Then the focus started to shift to breed preservation. McNutt said he knew it was time to find the right person to take over the registry and he just happened to cross paths with Tara Lawrence, a relatively new breeder in Alabama”. He stated that she talks fast and she talks business.
- Tara states ” The shows are sanctioned. Goats garner points based on their show wins and those points are translated in the market place as higher value. To be a permanent grand champion, a goat must accumulate three points based on an established system. If a goat accumulates 12 points, it’s considered “platinum” and it’s retired. Generally speaking, a point equates to $1,000 so a permanent champion can bring up to $3,000 and the kids also rise in value.
- “The better pedigree, the higher market value”.
Comments: So Gene sold the registry to a new breeder to guide it? I would have thought he would have sold it to someone experienced, that knew the breed well if preserving the breed was truely important. Also he didn’t really even know her for a long time ( he just happened to cross paths with her) before entrusting the entire breed to her hands!
Comments: Tara states that the points equal money. Pedigree can have a higher market value. Well I didn’t realize it was all about the money! I think their logo says it is all about the breed? Makes you wander! I guess with some people it is! So again many things have lead the breed down the wrong path. Down a path that has done more harm than good. Down a path that now has divided the breed into Myotonics and Fainting Goats because of this push to have bigger, meatier, commercial market goats that sell for lots of money. So my question after reading this article is: Is a regisry really the breeds best friend? My answer is not always!
Here are a few pictures from the festival held in Tn. Called the Goats, Music, and More over the years. Can you tell the changes? They most diffently are getting bigger!
2007 Champion Woody Creek Farm Onyx
2008 Champion Pint Size Ambrose
2009 Champion Pint Size Ambrose
2010 Champion Woody Creek Farm Wells Hot Rod
2011 Champion Woody Creek Farm Wells Hot Rod
2012 Champion Pint Size Phoenix
Here is a statement from Goats, Music and Morewebsite. “There are two strains (First here is the definition of strain;a group of plants or animals bred away from the original species). of this animal. Most of those found in Tennessee and the eastern U.S. are smaller. Most Texas herds tend to be somewhat larger, probably due to selective breeding for the meat market. In fact, some ranchers have renamed them Tennessee Meat Goats.”
Comments: First of all it should have read two different BREEDS not strains. If one so called strain is from Tennessee and the other from Texas than what about the ones from Kentucky, Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and etc.? You get my point. Also Onion Creek Ranch should be given credit for the Tennessee Meat Goats. They have bred them. They are a different breed. Why? They are trademarked! You can’t trademark something that already exsist!
This is from the Onion Creek Ranch. They are describing the sizes of the different goats.
“Most typical Myotonic goats are small to medium-sized and seldom achieve more than 100 pounds mature weight. Some are muscled, but many of them are not. Most are pet-quality animals not suitable for meat-goat production. In contrast, Tennessee Meat Goats™ are the result of selective breeding and heavy culling of large-framed, heavily-muscled Myotonic goats. Only those animals who meet the criteria developed at Onion Creek Ranch will ever be called Tennessee Meat Goats™.”
I found this on a breeders website.
What exactly *is* a Myotonic goat?
What about Stifflegs, Nervous Goats, Wooden legged and Fainters………..are they all the same? In a nutshell the answer should be “YES”. All these goats have in common the same condition Myotonia Congenita. Myotonic Congenita is the medical term to describe stiffening. Myotonia is a inherited neuro-muscular condition which causes the goats muscling to stiffen or “lock-up” when they are startled or overly excited . If they are off balance when their muscles lock up they will tip over, thus the terms of Nervous Goats, Fainters, or Stifflegs. These goats will still be chewing their feed/hay should they get startled and loose balance. Myotonia occurs in the muscle fiber… not as a function of the central nervous system…. and causes no problem for the goats. The goats stay conscious the whole time……thus the term “fainter” is a misnomer. The proper name for these animals is “Myotonic”.
Comments; I disagree with this. The article states that all these goats (stifflegs,nervous,wooden,myotonic and fainters) all have the same condition! While that may be true; A condition does NOT make a breed. Humans and tumbler pigeons also have this condition. They are NOT the same “breed” either! So the answer to this question; are they the same? In reality the answer is NO!!!!
Little Big Man Miniature Longhaired Tennessee Woodenleg ‘Fainting’ Goats
Comments: This article refers to the smaller sized goats (50-80 pounds). Minatures we call them today. He also talks about the Tennessee Meat Goats weighing 200 pounds while the average Fainting Goat was weighing in about 100 pounds! So in the mid to late 1990’s the average Fainting Goat weighed around 100#. This too shows how the breed is so much bigger today. Again now two different breeds. Notice he called them Fainting or Woodenlegs; NOT MYOTONICS. The term Myotonic wasnt around untill much later.
|History—I am an Iowa hog and cattle farm boy. I had never been around goats until I purchased my property north of Austin, Texas. Three goats came with the property. Suzie, Sally, and Billie wormed their way into my heart immediately!It was not long before I discovered that they were ‘fainting’ goats. What an amazing idea! Goats that faint! Well actually they don’t faint. They have a genetic trait called myotonia that causes them to stiffen up when surprised. The trait is relatively rare in the animal world and is a recessive gene so both parents must have the gene for it to be observable in the babies. It does not harm the animal in any way. They simply lose control of their leg muscles for a few seconds. This does make them EXTREMELY vulnerable to predators. It is awfully hard to run from predators when you are laying on the ground stiff as a board!
I bought a few more goats. One was a longhaired black buck named Buck. I still have him but he is retired. Along the way Suzie had a small longhaired baby I named Fancy. She was my inspiration to develop a herd of miniature longhaired fainters.
Over the years I have bought and traded until my herd is almost entirely miniature now. I have used VERY selective breeding to enhance the longhair trait while keeping the size small.
Definition—Miniatures by my definition are 50 lbs. or less at 18 months of age. The does are typically less than 60 lbs. throughout their life. The bucks may grow to be in the 70 to 80 lb. area as they age although some are still at 50 lbs. at two years old. Since they are derived from a meat goat breed they are muscular, but most are not stocky—just appear to be smaller versions of the full size fainters.
The normal size for Woodenlegs is 100 lbs. up. There is a subspecies called the Tennessee Meat Goats that have been bred up in size to over 200 lbs. by Suzanne Gasparotto of Lohn, Texas. (http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com) My breeding program has dropped the size in half while enforcing the longhaired gene.
Why—My breeding program started as a stress relief project. My fast paced life in the PC customer/sales support industry was getting to me. Coming home to my babies was the best relaxation I could find, but the project soon became an obsession and I loved every minute of it!
My 10 acres of pasture will only support about 20 goats at best. I was lucky to live next to a large cattle pasture (over 200 acres). The owner invested in clearing the cedar and brush off of about 50 acres next to my property. I was asked to let my goats into the pasture to keep the brush from growing back. It was a great partnership. I had access to the pasture and the goats kept the brush from growing back. My herd grew to 80 goats, and then I VERY selectively culled them to drop back to my core herd of 30 to 40 animals.
But recently the deer hunters who buy the hunting lease rights decided that my goats and Pyrenees dogs were ‘ruining’ their deer hunting. They told the owner either the goats went or their money went. So now I am forced to cut my herd at least in half. I am seriously thinking about dropping by two thirds back to as few as 10 animals.
So here is a summary of my complete herd. I will list by name and age followed by descriptive information. I plan on getting photos of each animal that I can scan and email to anyone requesting more info on specific animals. None of my animals are registered but all are ‘fainters’. They have had almost no health problem, except a few occasional isolated cases of pinkeye are the only disease they have had. They are wormed with SafeGuard cattle blocks two or three times a year. I do not vacinate because there has never been a need. I have had to feed very little supplemental feed since the goats found everything they needed to stay healthy and fat in the big pasture.
I decided to include his herd list because if you have any of this linage it might be an interesting read.
Zeigy—DIED OF INJURIES 2002. He is the AnheuserBusch ZeigenBock beer mascot goat. You can read about him at http://www.hopnotes.com in the ZeigenBock subsection. I have one son of his who is miniature and longhaired. Zeigy is a solid white small full size. There is a picture of him on the banner on my homepage.
Buck —DIED OF OLD AGE. He was my first longhaired goat. His blood runs all through my herd. He is mostly black and is a small full size. He is 10 years old and is retired. His only job now is to mow the lawn at his leisure.
Beau—SOLD. He was my first full size buck – there is a picture of him on the banner on my homepage. His blood runs all through my herd. He is listed here for geneological reasons.
Eric—SOLD. Eric is my cornerstone herd buck. His picture is on the banner on my homepage. He has GORGEOUS fine long hair that reaches to the ground. He is a quad color with black brown tan and white markings. He has fathered over 20 ‘thru the fence’ babies—I had to put up a hot wire just to keep him away from the girls, except when I wanted him to be with them!
Rush—SOLD. Rush was obtained in 1995 from Suzanne Gasparotto’s her. Rush faints in a big way. He is taller and leaner than most of my herd. He has a unique reddish brown color that is almost burgundy in the summer. He is two color with brown and white. He has only whispy skirts, but he has a strong longhair gene that passes down through the line.
Apollo—SOLD. He is a solid white with a long beautiful mane and chest hair. He is in the pictures (with the red ear tag). He is from Suzanne Gasparotto’s herd.
Samson—SOLD. He was born in 1996 and is from Suzanne Gasparotto’s herd. Samson is my smallest herd sire. He looks like a black and white bulldog. He is very muscular and faints at the slightest provocation. I have gotten my smallest offspring out of him. He is short haired.
Bob—SOLD. He was born in 1997. His sire is Eric and his dam is Boots. Bob is a twin. He has long coarse hair over all of his body. He is quadcolor—brown, black, tan, and white. His picture is on the ‘da Boys’ page. His twin, Bobbie, was killed by a coydog.
Bart—SOLD. He was born in 1997. His sire is Rush and his dam is Star (full size, now sold). Bart is black and white and he has skirts.
Chris—SOLD. He was born in 1997. His sire is Eric and his dam is Chastity. Chris is GORGEOUS. His picture is on the ‘da Boys’ page. He is a quad color with long hair and skirts. He is a twin to Chrissy.
Babe—SOLD. He was born in 1997. His sire is Samson and his dam is Millie. Babe is a twin. He is black and white and is built like his dad. He is short haired. His twin, Babs, was killed by a coydog.
Seth—SOLD. He was born in 1997. His sire is Rush and his dam is Summer. Seth has the gorgeous color of his dad (the reddish brown and white). He has long skirts. His twin, Selena, was sold. His picture is in the ‘da Boys’ page.
Diamond Jim—SOLD. He was born in 1997. His sire is Rush and his dam is Nellie. Diamond Jim is black and white. He is short haired and has a muscular build. His twin, Diamond Lil, was killed by a coydog.
Moe—SOLD. He was born in 1997. His sire is Samson and his dam is SweetPea. Moe is my smallest offspring. He just barely makes 50 lbs. at two years of age. He is twin to Minnie. He is tan with white short hair. I had planned on breeding him to BG this fall.
Zag—SOLD. He was born in 1997. His sire is Zeigy and his dam is Aggie. Zag is pure white with a long mane and skirts. He has long bangs that curl down over his eyes.
Joe and Jake—SOLD. They were born in 1998. Their sire is Eric and their dam is Star. They are tripletts. Their sister, Jeri, is sold. Joe is mostly black. Jake is black and white and short haired.
Spade—SOLD. He was born in 1998. His sire is Eric and his dam is LillieB. He is a twin. His brother, Ace, was killed by a coydog. Spade is a tricolor brown black white with skirts and a mane—pretty contrasting markings!
Chas—SOLD. He was born in 1998. His sire is Eric and his dam is Chastity. He is a twin. His sister, Cheri, was killed by a coydog. Chas has reddish brown, black and white markings with a hint of skirts.
Pudd—SOLD. He was born in 1998. His sire is Eric and his dam is Samantha. His twin sister, Puddin, was killed by a coydog. Pudd gets his reddish brown color from Rush and he has beautiful blond skirts.
Daryl—SOLD. He was born in 1998. His sire is Eric and his dam is Daisy. He is a twin. His brother, Dean, was killed by coydog. Daryl is a surprise to me. He has definitely followed after Eric. His picture is on ‘da Boys’ page. He has long fine multi-colored hair and long bangs. Daisy is my only full size doe and she is the one feeding in the upper branches of the picture on ‘da Girls’ page.
Peanut—SOLD. He was born 1998. His sire is Eric and his dam is SweetPea. Peanut is an unusual reddish tan color with very striking skirts. His picture is on ‘da Boys’ page.
Terry—SOLD. He was born 1998. His sire is Apollo and his dam is Tina. Terry is pure white. He is fine boned and lightly built like Tina with just a trace of skirts.
NOTE: See, I told you Eric was busy with the ‘thru the fence’ breeding.
NOTE: The coydog got 12 of my goats over a 6-month period before I finally got a bullet into him. He was the worst predator I or the county hunter had ever run across. I will put a story about him on my web page someday. He still gives me nightmares! (A coydog is a halfbreed coyote dog cross – extremely smart!)
Snow—NOT FOR SALE. She was born in 199. Her sire is Beau and her dam is Suzie. Snow is solid white and mid-size she but has had small babie. She currently has twins that were born in 1999 that look like they are going to be mini-longhairs.
Daisy—NOT FOR SALE. She was born in 199. Her sire is Beau and her dam is Sally. Daisy is a solid white and full size but she has had small longhair babies.
Ninny—DIED OF OLD AGE. She was born in 1993. Her sire is Buck and her dam is Smokey. Ninny is a solid black and is a small-boned frail-looking doe who has had beautiful kids. I have mixed feelings about offering her for sale. I may change my mind.
Milly—SOLD. She was born in 1994. Her sire is Beau and her dam is Snow. Milly is a small, almost white short hair who has had small but strong and healthy babies. She mated with Samson and she has given me my smallest offspring. She had twins on May 1st—bred to Samson.
Boots—SOLD. She was born in 1994. Her sire is Buck and her dam is Suzie. Boots is brown with black accents. She survived a coydog attack but she will always walk with a limp. She was twin to Fancy who was killed in the coydog attack.
SweetPea—SOLD. She was born in 1995. Her sire is Beau and her dam is Snow. SweetPea is a cutie. She is a gold brown color, has a stocky build and has ears that flop half way out. She has had small babies and is an excellent mother.
Chastity—NOT FOR SALE. I bought her from Suzanne Gasparotto at the same time I got Eric. They have given me my best miniatures. Chastity has had 12 babies from 5 freshenings. She currently has newborn tripletts that look very promising.
Summer—SOLD. She was born in 1995. Her sire is Buck and her dam is Lillie. Summer is strikingly black and white with fluffy skirts. Her picture is on ‘da Girls’ page. She is due to deliver in May 1999—bred to Chris,
Tina—NOT FOR SALE. She was born in 1995. I bought her from Suzanne Gasparotto. She is gold and white and is a small boned, dainty doe. She just lost two nice buck kids who were at least 10 days premature. There seems to be no reason for the premature births and she appears to be healthy. The babies were big and strong but just not mature enough to survive in spite of my round the clock efforts to save them.
Anjie—SOLD. She was born in 1996. Her sire is Beau and her dam is Annie. Anjie is my baby—at least she thinks so. She and her brother were premature. I fed them with a syringe for the first 24 hours and then held them to a nipple so they could nurse for two days. She is imprinted on me and NEVER takes advantage of her pecking order status as daughter of the alpha critter (me). She is white with gold accents.
LillieB—SOLD. She was born in 1996. I bought her from Suzanne Gasparotto. She is a solid sleak black and has beautiful long-haired babies. She is a nursing nanny but she will be ready to wean her black baby doe born in January 1999.
Samantha—SOLD. She was born in 1996. Her sire is Rush and her dam is Boots. Samantha has the red brown color of Rush and has skirts. Her picture is in ‘da Girls’ page. She is twin to Sammy, who is sold.
Aggie—SOLD. She was born in 1996. Her sire is Beau and her dam is Daisy. Aggie has long fine hair over her whole body. Her picture is on ‘da Girls’ page. She is white and beige and is real fine textured.
Chrissy—SOLD. She was born in 1997. Her sire is Eric and her dam is Chastity. Her brother is Chris. Chrissy is a buckskin short hair.
Minnie—SOLD. She was born in 1997. Her sire is Samson and her dam is SweetPea. Her brother is Moe. She and Moe are the smallest offspring I have produced. She is beige and white and has floppy ears like SweetPea.
SallyB—SOLD. She was born in 1998. Her sire is Eric and her dam is Celia. SallyB was a ‘thru the fence’ accident. She is fine boned and has tricolored short hair.
Taffi—SOLD. She was born in 1998. Her sire is Eric and her dam is Brandi. Dear sweet Taffi—she is at the bottom of the pecking order and faints SO easily. She is multicolor brown and has fine hair over all her body that I think will eventually be long and beautiful.
AnnieB—SOLD. She was born in 1998. Her sire is Eric and her dam is Anjie. AnnieB is a black and white short hair, a twin to AndyB who was killed by a coydog.
BG—SOLD. She was born in 1998. BG is a totally unique bloodline. She is purebred Nigerian Dwarf with a show quality pedigree who faints. Her picture is on the ‘da Girls’ page. She is a TINY thing—only 30 lbs. at 18 months.
1999 Newborn Kids
Lisa—SOLD. She was born in January 1999. Her sire is Eric and her dam is LillieB. Lisa is mostly black with white streaks on her sides. She is small. I can’t tell yet about long hair.
Little Big Man (SOLD) and Little Big Girl (SOLD)were born in March 1999. Their sire is Eric and their dam is Snow. Their pictures are on ‘da Kids’ page. Little Big Man shows all the signs of being an outstanding miniature longhair like his daddy.
Ellie, Eddie, and Ernie (ALL SOLD) were born April in 1999. Their sire is Eric and their dam is Chastity. Their pictures are on ‘da Kids’ page. It’s too early to tell, but Eric and Chastity have a perfect record of outstanding babies.
Mac and Missy were born in May 1999. Their sire is Apollo and their dam is Millie. They are a 1-1/2 lb. doe and 2 lb. buck. It looks like they are going to be dark colored—kind of a dusty brown now but have dark underhair. They are strong and active. SOLD.
Storm was born May 11, 1999. Storm is SOLD.
Old vs New: A Comparison of Styles
This article was written during my last month of tenure as Chairperson of the National Pygmy Goat Association’s Health, Education & Research Committee.
Large illustrations are at the top for closer comparison, but there is also an alternating border of them on the left side of the screen for continuous comparison throughout the article.
Comments: Please have an opened mind about breed changes and the harm they can do to a breed. Think about what you have seen, know, or read about the Fainting Goats in relationship to this article!
|Ideal body type has always been exemplified by the illustration of anatomical parts, which is an integral part of NPGA’s Breed Standard. Our original illustration is the kind of goat many people now call the Old Style. For some years, a New Style has been fashionable, although it had enough problems that many people are now breeding toward the more functional original type. Differences between the two types occurred because judging rewarded the newer style, so people changed their breeding programs to produce goats that some judges considered desirable and placed highly at shows. And an unworkable fad was born.Because so many people have become members since 1993, when the illustration was changed, you have probably never seen the original illustration that NPGA’s founders visualized. The original type is a true working style. This article compares and explains the structural differences between these two body types and why the original model is superior in every way.
Based on changes in body type wrought by show fads, New Style is substantially different from the original. When the new Judges Training Manual was about to be published in 1993, I vociferously objected to the new illustration, because the type of goat it depicts is modified enough to make it far less anatomically useful in the real world. My main objection to the new illustration has always been that each new NPGA member receives a copy of this illustration with the Breed Standard and cannot help but assume that it depicts the most desirable physical traits, in addition to size and scale. This general style of animal, regardless of specie, is well known to be subfertile and to have reduced life expectancy.
Let’s look first at the similarities of the two types. They each have one of the things they are only supposed to have one of, and two of everything else. Well, they should have two horns and ears, but they were not really necessary for the illustrations. They are both pictured slightly from the rear to give an idea of dimension and to show the many structures of the hind end. Of the two, Old is cobbier than New in the strictest sense of the word – short legs proportionate to a fairly normal trunk size. Besides the fact that they are both Pygmy does, these are about the extent of the similarities.
Now let’s look at the differences between the two and the reasons why these differences impact fertility and longevity.
As already mentioned, many people think that New appears to be more compact, but the truth is that she has just been squashed from end to end and has a very short body. New is just slightly taller, yet she has the length of body to make her proportionately much cobbier in appearance by about 25%. How these proportions affect production and life expectancy is discussed in detail further on.
Compared to New, Old is a rugged, upstanding doe and well-proportioned for her frame size. She is well-balanced and stands squarely on all four legs. Being 28% longer in body (point of shoulder to pin bone), she distributes her weight more evenly, and certainly more strongly on the rear legs. If she came to life and walked off this page, her gait would be solid and purposeful. Each of Old’s individual parts are built for business. She is an altogether very impressive animal.
Old’s head is slightly longer than New’s, but it is proportionate with her frame (body size). She will eat more functionally and not have to be babied along. The strength of Old’s jaw is appropriate for her. New’s jaw appears to be exaggerated, and her muzzle is one-third deeper than Old’s. Her browsing ablity will likely be somewhat hampered by the shape of her muzzle, but that is the least of her problems.
Sixty percent of the goat’s weight is carried on its front legs. New’s weight has been pitched further forward onto her front legs by her short body and extra height in the rear quarters. The stress on her front legs will be perceptibly greater during pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy her gravid uterus will exert more pressure on her internal organs than will Old’s. All of this additional weight forced forward weakens the muscles and ligaments that hold the shoulder blades in place, so New can be expected to have looser shoulder attachments, weaker pasterns and perhaps more arthritis at an earlier age than Old.
Old’s sternum is more prominent than New’s, giving her more heart and lung capacity. Old’s scapula (shoulder blade) is angled more correctly, creating sharp definition of the joint at the point of the shoulder which translates into better angularity throughout the whole front leg. As scapular angulation steepens, like New’s, the front end stiffens. Walking puts unnatural force on all the leg joints, and it helps to weaken the muscle and ligament attachments of the shoulder blades.
The most important function of the shoulder blades is that they serve as a sling to suspend the goat’s entire front end between the front legs. With loose shoulder blades, the front end drops and the sternum sinks back under the chest. The shoulders can be loose enough that the goat does not have any foreward prominence of the sternum when it is viewed from the side.
One of the most dramatic differences between Old and New is the strength and length of the back. Weakness in the chine, usually referred to as a dip in the chine, is very noticeable in New because she is crammed together from end-to-end. This will make it more difficult for her to walk as easily and freely as New, in both the front and rear legs, and her excessive girth will be cumbersome.
Because New’s back is short, she is also steeper in the rump. As body length shortens, the pelvis tilts more steeply and the pelvic opening may even become misshapen. A steep rump alters the angulation of the rear legs and results in a straighter (post-legged) angulation of all the joints of the rear legs. Straighter rear leg angulation is greatly responsible for thrusting additional weight forward where it was not meant to be. Old’s longer and more level body will carry a pregnancy more easily. Her length of loin will provide good support and roominess for her gravid uterus, as well as a large rumen capacity. Her more level rump will facilitate kidding and uterine drainage because the contents of her uterus will not have to try to defy gravity.
In body capacity there’s really no comparison. From elbow to stifle, Old’s barrel is almost 40% longer than New’s. Old has abundant room for a full rumen and a large litter of kids without crowding internal organs. She will remain active during pregnancy. New will hit her third month of pregnancy and begin to lounge around in front of the feeder, too uncomfortable to move around. New will sitg on her haunches like a dog much of the time, because she has to let gravity shift her heavier uterus away from her heart and lung capacity, not to mention her diminished rumen capacity and ability to take in sufficient nutrients in the last month of gestation when the fetuses put on 70% of their bulk.
During the last month of pregnancy, the weakest point is New’s hind end due to increasing internal pressure on the soft tissues. Her chances of vaginal prolapse go up dramatically if she is too fat, and she will probablay be because it has been too difficult for her to move around and get any exercise. New is an ideal candidate for a vaginal prolapse.
With that much fetal growth in the last month, New’s energy reserves may be taxed beyond her ability to consume enough energy, and she will be susceptible to ketosis as her body metabolizes fat for an energy source. Old has the body capacity and stability on all four legs to be active and carry to term without incident, although if she is poorly managed by overfeeding she may have kidding problems. That is less likely, because she will move around more and be in generally better shape for delivery than New. Old’s heart girth is proportionately larger in circumference and deeper than New’s. Combined with increased body length, she has far more room for critical organ functions. Likewise, her depth of flank is greater.
Pygmy goats are bred and judged toward a meat standard rather than a dairy standard. Sixty-six percent of the value of the meat animal’s carcass is the rear half, from the last rib backward and down through the hind legs, where the best cuts of meat are located. Length and size of the loin eye muscle and length of thigh are important in this respect. The anatomical area called the twist (not identified in either illustration) is the region between the hind legs, below the genitals, where the thigh muscles appear to join. Depth of the twist indicates more muscle. Old has a 33% advantage in depth of twist over New. (Interestingly, the vulva was not named on either illustration, either.)
There are many differences between the legs and feet between the two illustrations. New has much smaller feet and shorter, stiffer pasterns to reduce her agility of movement. As feet become smaller, more pounds of weight per square inch are generated on the feet which will probably intensify any kind of foot problem and be harder on the soil. Old stands squarely and solidly on her rear legs. Her femur is the appropriate length, with the stifle joint located at the same level as her flank. And her hock angulation, which will translate into more resilient movement, is more pronounced than New’s. The bones of New’s front leg are slightly angled forward here they meet at the knee joint, resulting in a condition called “buck knee” or “over at the knees.” Front legs should always be straight when viewed from the side and from the front. Crookedness reflects bones that do not line up correctly to create a sturdy knee joint. Arthritis results from excessive wear and tear on poorly angulated joints.
Only a small portion of the udder is shown in each illustration. New’s udder is carried substantially higher, indicating a shallow rear abdomen and perhaps a concurrent reduced udder capacity. New’s teats are also half the length of Old’s, making hand milking difficult.
The validity of this comparison is borne out by detrimental changes people have wrought on many different types of animals, including livestock. When body type is changed to reflect human desires, simple mechanics and normal physiological processes are ignored, and these animals perform poorly when compared to their more correctly structured counterparts. Genetic improvement is measurable, and it depends on productivity and longevity of the sort that the Old Style of goat is far more likely to possess.
Comments: “I felt like Mrs. Kinne was taking about the Fainting Goat Breed. She could have easily been! Breeders are doing the same thing and the goats today are encountering some of the same issues.
By Dr. Becker
Not long ago I ran across an article in a U.K. publication titled “How a Century of Breeding ‘Improvement’ Has Turned Once-Healthy Dogs into Deformed Animals.” It featured some rather stunning pictures of certain dog breeds as they looked 100 years ago, compared to how they look today.
The article led me to the blog it was borrowed from, Science and Dogs. The author of the blog post gives permission to use his before and after pictures, so I thought I’d share them with my readers here at Mercola Healthy Pets.
As a veterinarian, I’ve seen first-hand the problems created when dogs are bred exclusively to achieve a certain look, without concern for their health, mobility, or quality of life. It is deeply disturbing to me, with all we know about the suffering these animals endure, that breeders persist in exaggerating their dogs’ physical characteristics, even if it means sacrificing their health.
How Certain Dog Breeds Looked in 1915 vs. 2015
The images on the left are from a 1915 book titled Dogs of All Nations. The pictures on the right are today’s poorly bred version of the dog on the left.
On the left is a well-conditioned, athletic Bull Terrier. The dog on the right has an altered skull and thick abdomen. Today’s Bull Terriers are prone to a long list of disorders, including extra teeth and compulsive tail-chasing.
Look at how low to the ground today’s Basset Hound is. His shorter stature is the result of changes to the rear leg structure. He also has surplus skin, and needlessly long ears. Today’s Basset Hound’s droopy eyes are prone to eyelid abnormalities, and he also often suffers from problems related to his vertebra.
See how much shorter the Boxer’s face on the right is? Boxers are brachycephalic dogs, meaning they have pushed-in faces. Like many brachy breeds, the Boxer’s already short muzzle has been bred even shorter over the years, and slightly upturned as well. Brachys have difficulty breathing and controlling their body temperature, which often places extreme limitations on their physical abilities.
This unfortunate animal is the poster dog for all that is wrong with exaggerated breeding for looks. English Bulldogs suffer from an endless list of diseases, and according to one survey, their median age of death is 6.25 years. The massive size of today’s English Bulldog makes normal mating and birthing out of the question. They can’t reproduce without medical intervention.
Dachshunds a century ago had short but functional legs and necks in proportion to their overall size. Since then, they have been bred for longer backs and necks, jutting chests, and legs so short their bellies barely clear the floor. Doxies have the highest risk of any breed for intervertebral disc disease, which can cause paralysis. They are also prone to dwarfism-related disorders, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and leg problems.
The German Shepherd Dog is another animal that has been ruined by unscrupulous breeding practices. In 1915, the GSD was a medium-sized dog averaging 55 pounds. Today’s GSD is a complete distortion of the original. He’s a good 30 pounds heavier, with a barrel chest, sloping back, and often a “drunken” gait. These dogs used to be magnificent athletic specimens, but no more.
The Pug is another brachycephalic dog that has been bred to exaggerate the trait. The result? High blood pressure, heart problems, low blood oxygen levels, breathing problems, a tendency to overheat/develop heatstroke, dental issues, and skin fold dermatitis. At the other end of this poor dog is a “highly desirable” double-curl tail, which is actually a genetic defect that can result in paralysis.
Today’s version of this once-highly skilled working dog is supersized, with a pushed-in face and excess skin. The Saint Bernard doesn’t do much work these days, because he quickly overheats. Some of the diseases he’s prone to include eye and eyelid abnormalities, Stockard’s paralysis (a spinal cord disorder), and bleeding disorders.
I agree with the Science and Dogs blogger who concludes:
“No dog breed has ever been improved by the capricious and arbitrary decision that a shorter or longer or flatter or bigger or smaller or curlier ‘whatever’ is better. Condemning a dog to a lifetime of suffering for the sake of looks is not an improvement; it is torture.”
|A Dying Breed? By Cora Oltersdorf
The longhorn means more to Texans than anyone else. It’s hardy, strong, beautiful, and it makes for a pretty nice mascot. And it’s slowly being bred out of existence, but not if these few ranchers can help it.
Envision a time when Texas was truly wild country, no urban sprawl encroaching on the land. No barbed wire fences, or roads of any kind. From this place sprang the full-blood Texas longhorn, descended from Spanish cattle. These Andalusian cattle came over with the first Spanish settlers, who didn’t know which would survive and which wouldn’t. Mother nature picked the ones who would and they interbred to form the full-blood Texas longhorn.
The full-blood longhorn possesses many traits that aid its survival, such as its characteristic horns and ability to eat just about anything and thrive. But now their survival is at risk due to crossbreeding with other species of cattle to create a “modern” longhorn, a longhorn that old-school Texas ranchers view with disdain. Ranchers such as Fayette Yates, who has the oldest family line of longhorns in existence, Maudeen Marks, and Lawrence Wallace, along with a younger crop, like Don, MA ’87, Life Member, and Debbie Davis, BFA ’83, have banded together and are doing all they can to raise awareness of this dwindling breed.
While it’s hard to know exact numbers, as the current longhorn registries are voluntary and often out of date, these experienced ranchers see the full-blood longhorn numbers diminishing with each new generation of “show” longhorns, bred with just about anything to get longer horns, beefier bodies, and dappled coats. The Spanish cattle tended to be solid in color, but now the paints (what Yates calls color, in Spanish) are popular, with speckles. Says Yates, “Ranchers have bred down a lot of good cattle, then and now, just getting the color. Anything that had color to it, they looked at it kind of like the second coming of Christ, something nearly that good.”
Compounding the problem is that only one registry, the Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry of which Don Davis is president, requires both visual inspection and blood-typing to confirm no evidence of impurity within the animal. (According to Debbie Davis, “Present blood-typing science can only confirm the presence of outside genetics, and not confirm purity. We are working on building a new DNA database that will define what a Longhorn is genetically. Future DNA tests will be able to determine purity.”)
Each breed of cattle has specific phenotypes, like any living creature. While ranchers, such as Ira “Cap” Yates and Emil Marks (fathers of Fayette and Maudeen), in the early part of the 1900s were sure that the Texas longhorn was a separate breed, there was no scientific proof. This proof finally came along in the 1970s with blood tests for phenogroups (antigens on the surface of blood cells, which are determined genetically). “The geneticists found blood group markers that were unique to the Texas longhorn that did not occur in any other breed,” says Marks. “It was a breed that man had nothing to do with creating. They evolved.”
Longhorns descended from cattle that explorers brought over in the 1500s from southwestern Spain. Through genetic tests, scientists have discovered that most of the Texas longhorns are related most closely to the retino cattle, which are solid-colored, ranging from brown to red. These cattle can still be found in Andalusia today. They first entered Mexico, where they found a climate and food similar to their native land, and they thrived. The longhorns spread throughout the New World, some eventually wandering off into the wilderness, where they became truly feral. (They were once hunted as a game animal.) Left on their own, they became an even hardier species and thrived in all environments, from swamplands in Louisiana to deserts in California and all temperatures, from harsh winters in the Northwestern Plains to blazing summers.
Their smaller size (bulls are 1,200-1,400 pounds, cows 800-900 pounds) came as a result of their food supplies, and the twist of their horns helped with defending against predators. “Those cows whose horns went straight out had a harder time protecting their flank, which is where a wolf or coyote will attack first. Those that had some twist to them could get back there and protect that area,” says Don Davis. They have a natural instinct to protect the weak and sick cattle during attacks, which they got from their Andalusian ancestors, along with an instinctive system of having several cows watch the calves while the rest of the herd grazes.
Their fertility is renowned. They can breed after one year of age and keep calving each year for more than 20. The ranchers have a joke that a longhorn cow will calve every 9 months, 3 minutes. (The gestation period of a longhorn is 9 months.) They don’t need assistance with calving because of their narrow heads and small bodies.
“They’re breeding these so-called ‘modern longhorns,’ and they’re having a hell of time calving, with lots of them losing calves,” says Fayette Yates. “I’m 79 years old, been around longhorns all my life, and I’ve never pulled a longhorn calf yet.”
“Never,” adds Maudeen Marks firmly.
The ranchers love talking about longhorns. Their eyes glow, their voices fill with respect and warmth. And, according to them, longhorns have human qualities, such as mourning when one of their own dies. “My dad traded a bull with [rancher Lawrence Wallace’s cousin] Graves Peeler, and the bull got there and tore himself up and had to be shot,” says Marks. “Nothing else we could do, and 32 bulls came and stood around that one bull and moaned and lowed and pawed. They absolutely will do this.”
Marks was born in Barker, Texas, in 1918 and was raised on a ranch. “My father was a very forward-thinking man, and all girls knew how to work cattle, and the boys knew how to cook,” she laughs. She grew up with longhorn cattle, grazing them on the big prairies west of Houston, and although she went to college and worked for Houston Lighting & Power and the Houston Livestock Show (her father, Emil, was its first director), she kept gravitating back to the ranch, and she currently ranches outside of Bandera.
When a predator comes into a pasture, the cows will gather and defend their calves. “What wolf, what dog, what menace would stand there when they had a sea of horns coming towards them?” asks Marks with passion.
“I’ve seen one cow kill coyotes and dogs, just hook ’em,” confirms Yates.
According to Lawrence Wallace, who has a PhD in nutrition from New Mexico State and ranches out in Val Verde County, ranchers can work full-blood longhorns according to how the surrounding wildlife are acting, along with the phase of the moon. Folklore, you say? Not according to him. “If you have a full moon, you may as well leave those cattle alone because they graze all night, and they don’t want to be moved the next day. The darker the moon, you can work your cattle the next day without any problems. Any other cattle don’t do that.”
Longhorns are hardy. A particularly fierce seven-year drought in Texas in the 1950s forced many ranchers out of business. Wallace spent his senior year of high school in Tilden, Texas, living with his cousin, Graves Peeler, a legend among longhorn ranchers. By the end of the drought, Peeler had paid off his ranch of 5,800 acres, had $16,000 in the bank, and had his grocery bills paid, “And he said, ‘We’d have had to sell out like everyone else if we’d stayed with those crossbred cattle,’ ” says Wallace. “That made me a believer in the longhorn cattle.”
The full-blood longhorn hasn’t just saved individual ranchers. “They saved Texas,” says Debbie Davis. After the Civil War, people up north craved beef, and once a trail drive was established in the 1860s, longhorns started going north. Their hardiness and longer legs made them the best breed to survive the long trail drives. Says Yates, “We sent them to the Yankees back east and also took them to California and brought back gold, drove them across the desert. They’re the only cattle that could do that. Nowadays, you couldn’t drive these [modern] cattle two days, and they would die.” The money they brought into Texas delivered the state from a post-war depression into a boom.
However, by the end of the 19th century, the full-blood Texas longhorn began its decline. Most of the cattle drive trails had been fenced off, and railroads had taken over. The longer horns of the cattle meant fewer could ride in a car at a time. Around the same time, a new influx of British breeds gained favor. They matured in size more quickly so were more cost effective, and they were aesthetically appealing, fat and round, unlike the rangy longhorn. So ranchers began to crossbreed with the English cattle to “improve” the longhorn. This independent breed slowly receded, replaced by ones that required a lot more care from ranchers, better feed, and protection from predators. “I’ve heard old-timers say that about the time that they got rid of most of the longhorns, bred them out, that they had to get rid of the lobo wolves,” says Yates. “They didn’t have to when they had the longhorn cattle because they fought them off. These crossbred cattle would just bawl and watch them kill their calves.”
Also contributing to their historical decline was their natural resistance to tick fever, a common cattle disease. Since it didn’t kill them, they carried the ticks to other, more vulnerable cattle. No ranchers outside of the state wanted anything to do with the Texas cattle. Along with this came the tick eradication efforts of 1922. Texas law required that all ranchers dip their cattle every two weeks. Any longhorns that were too difficult to work and couldn’t be caught were simply shot.
Some ranchers began to sit up and take notice that the longhorns were disappearing and being bred to the edge of extinction. This breed finally needed man to survive. In 1927, the federal government appropriated $3,000 for a federally protected herd of full-blood Texas longhorns on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. (The current Bevo, “Sunrise Express,” whose ancestors came from the WR herd, is Sunrise Ranch branded, raised by John T. & Betty Baker of Liberty Hill.) To assure purity of the herd, the refuge got many of their cattle from Yates’ father, Cap. He owned the purest and largest herd of Texas longhorns. In 1941, Texas established its own state herd. Sid Richardson gathered the funding, while J. Frank Dobie and Lawrence Wallace’s cousin Graves Peeler went out and gathered the longhorns.
NOT OUT OF THE WOODS That should have been the end of the decline of the longhorn, but a combination of the modern beef industry and crossbreeding continues to decimate the full-blood Texas longhorn population. Texas longhorns will reach sexual maturity in less time than other breeds, but they take several years longer to reach full physical size, a disadvantage in the beef industry.
Calves are placed in feedlots after about six months to gain weight as quickly as possible. Ranchers want a breed that will gain weight quickly to sell while the feedlot operator also favors a breed that eats a lot of feed, gains weight quickly, and gets out. Don Davis says, “The more cattle the operator runs through his feedyard each year, the more feed he sells. And the longhorn doesn’t really fit into this industrialized version of the cow business.”
Longhorn cattle are better converters. They can eat less feed and still produce the same amount of beef as some of the other breeds, making the longhorns less desirable to that feedlot operator. But they still take longer to reach full weight, called “feeding out.”
“European breeds gain weight faster, and the modern beef industry wants to turn the dollar,” says Debbie Davis. “If you can get a steer finished at 15 months instead of two-and-a-half years, then they’d rather raise the one that finishes at 15 months.”
“The beef is tasteless,” says Yates.
“That’s because it’s only 12 months old when it’s dead, as opposed to 24, 28 months old,” says Don Davis.
“Some of them are still kicking on the way to the store,” adds Yates, chuckling and shaking his head.
As for crossbreeding, ranchers who believe in the “modern” longhorn think that the longhorn is a result of crossbreeding, so continuing the practice shouldn’t be of concern. Members of the Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry, like Marks, Yates, and the Davises, believe the breed that descended directly from their Spanish ancestors should be preserved.
Marks says her father’s objective was to perpetuate the Texas longhorn cattle in their original state because “someday we might need what they have to offer, their characteristics, their durability.” She didn’t always understand what her father saw in them, “But once you get to fooling with them, you will understand.”
Their ability to survive in harsh country, which is what a lot of South and West Texas is, may be of future benefit to all ranchers. “A basic trend in agriculture in the United States is that ranchers, farmers, and producers are becoming pushed further and further out into the marginal country,” says Don Davis. The further out you go, the more desirable the Longhorn traits become, like hardiness, ease of calving, disease resistance, eating brush, and the ability to walk long distances between watering. “People are going to wish they had these cattle.”
They’re not against crossbreeding, by any means. Crossing a longhorn cow with other breeds produces “outstanding beef. And your mama cows still retain all the attributes of the longhorn cattle,” says Davis.
Crossbreeding is a necessary part of ranching. The first generation of crossbreeds, called “F1,” takes the best of both parents, so it is the most prolific and healthy, according to the ranchers. This tendency to be robust is called heterosis, or hybrid vigor. However, you can get better and more consistent results if you start with two purebred animals. If a cross is successful, then it can be reproduced again and again.
But crossbreeding can produce ultimately negative results. Agricultural scientists who were crossbreeding Texas longhorns with English and continental breeds to get that quick weight gain discovered they got more than they bargained for. “They’ve found out that they’ve upped the cholesterol, upped the saturated fat, and there’s less unsaturated fat,” says Wallace.
But the Texas longhorn has always been a low-fat animal, and they gain fat in an opportune place: around their kidneys. This has two advantages: “When you jerk out the entrails and hang it up on the rail to gut it, you don’t have all that fat on the outside,” says Wallace. Not only is there less fat to eat, there’s no need to trim fat anywhere else and lose meat.
And the meat’s taste? “Every person who’s ever set out to market longhorn beef has created a tremendous demand for it,” asserts Davis, who speaks from experience. He has been working to set up the Cattleman’s Texas Longhorn Beef Co-operative for the last six years. In restaurant trials, “We had customers walking out of the restaurant saying it was the best steak they ever had,” he says.
The CTLR is working to educate the public, as well as other ranchers, about the declining full-blood Texas longhorn and the importance of blood-typing. It has registered 3,000 longhorns since 1991 that have passed its visual inspection and blood-typing. The CTLR has visually inspected and blood-typed public longhorn herds, such as the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, which removed its impure longhorns, and the Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Big Bend Ranch State Park herd. And Don Davis is raising funds for a documentary about several ranchers.
Ramona Kelly, BS ’77, a documentary writer and producer, who also works in the Department of Continuing and Extended Education, and Don Davis got in contact with each other through a mutual friend to discuss making a film about the vanishing longhorn and the vanishing longhorn rancher. Davis is raising funds while Kelly, along with filmmakers Mat Hames and Wilson Waggoner, BS ’95, founders of Alpheus Media, have interviewed several ranchers, including the ones in this story. UT’s Center for American History is serving as the project’s nonprofit sponsor for contributions for the first phase only — the interviews — and in return, it will receive all of the documentary’s raw footage to archive for historical research and education. They will complete the other phases of the project as Don Davis raises the funds.
The three are just as passionate about the longhorns and the ranchers as the ranchers themselves. Waggoner has a tremendous respect for the people, “I’ve always had that idea of the rugged individualist, the farmer, the rancher, as being something to look up to.” But the story reaches to him more deeply because of his Texas heritage (his family has been in Texas since the early 1800s). For Hames, a fourth-generation Texan, the burning questions he wants to answer are why these independent cattle ranchers are disappearing in Texas, and why it is important that the full-blood Texas longhorns be preserved.
Kelly feels privileged to bring a part of Texas history and American culture to life, because the stories are vanishing as the ranchers disappear. “It’s really an amazing experience to sit in the presence of these people and get to their heart, where their stories are.”
They’re passionate, but it’s hard to change the tide with so few people. And another problem is that ranchers get attached to their cattle, so they don’t want to blood-type and know that they have to get rid of them.
Wait. Stoic, old-school ranchers get attached to their cattle? “If they have a name, you’re attached to them,” says Don, laughing. “Lawrence may number most of them, but he still has a few that have names.” Wallace smiles and says, “Oh, yeah.”
Beyond its tastiness and health benefits, the Texas longhorn has less-tangible assets. “I’m sixth-generation Texan, and they’re my heritage,” says Gil Dean, Yates’ nephew.
“They are the American icon breed. That’s significant. What a wonderful mascot that UT chose, because that was the symbol of this state, that was what kept this state alive after the Civil War, restored the economy,” says Debbie Davis.
But without these ranchers’ efforts, that icon will disappear forever.
Comments: “I admire these breeders for preserving the breed. I myself hold a strong passion for the Fainting Goat Breed. I will continue to work hard to educate breeders about the differences between the Myotonic and the Fainting Goats. While some my say Im crazy or I just don’t know what I am talking about; all I can say is do your own research and stop listening to others. Then let me know your thoughts! I do NOT want them to be a lost breed!”……Debbie Cassidy
Understanding Sex-Link Hybrid Chickens
Are Hybrid Chickens Considered Chicken Breeds?
Backyard Poultry Contributor • October 26, 2015
We can see that there are no males in this little flock of Red Sexlinks—their color makes them all easily identifiable as pullets. Photo courtesy of Isabel McFadden, Tennessee
By Don Schrider – At Backyard Poultry we get questions all the time asking for help identifying the breed of various chickens. Many times the chickens pictured are not purebred chickens at all but crossbreeds / hybrid chickens hatcheries produce for very specific purposes – such as egg production. Such poultry can be very productive and useful for the backyard fancier but cannot be considered a breed.
Before we go too far in stating what “is” and what “is not” a breed, there are some terms we need to define. First, what does the word “breed” really mean? We can define “breed” as a group of animals with similar characteristics that, when bred together, will produce offspring with the same characteristics. In other words, a breed breeds true. The advantage of pure breeds is that each generation of offspring can be counted on to look and perform in the same way as the previous generation.
Breeds were often developed due to geographic isolation or for specific purposes. For instance, Rhode Island Red chickens were developed in Rhode Island and lay brown eggs. Each generation will be “red” in color and lay brown eggs, just as their parents did—and at much the same rate of production. Purebred Rhode Island Red chickens, when mated to purebred Rhode Island Red roosters, do not produce offspring barred in color or that lay green or white eggs.
Mongrels, crossbreeds, and hybrid chickens are all terms that mean the birds not pure breeds. Each of these terms has some historic relevance worth knowing in order to help understand how they relate to pure breeds. The idea of purity in a genetic population has old roots, but was not widely applied to poultry until the 1800s. At this time there were only a few “breeds,” most flocks of chickens displayed a variety of color characteristics, sizes, rates of production, etc. Little thought was given to selective breeding. These flocks were referred to as “mongrels” or “mongrel poultry.”
At the time (circa 1850), more and more poultry from diverse parts of the globe become available in North America and Europe. Crossing of Asian and European stock formed the basis for many new “improved” breeds—such as American breeds like the Plymouth Rock or the Wyandotte—these “improved” breeds formed the basis for a burgeoning emphasis on poultry farming as a standalone farming enterprise. Burgeoning means to put forth fresh growth. To blossom. To grow rapidly. Flourish. According to the Webster Dictionary.
The fact that purebred poultry could be relied upon to produce predictable results, generation after generation, and the fact that they were productive, by the standards of that time period, were the basis of profit that could be relied upon. Any chicken that was not a pure breed was referred to as a mongrel and the meaning was derogatory.
The Cornish Cross meat bird is a cross between the Cornish and the Plymouth Rock breeds. Fast growth have them ready to harvest as fryers at six weeks of age. Photo courtesy of Gail Damerow
A crossbred chicken (today often called the hybrid chicken) is simply the result of crossing two or more purebred chickens. There is nothing new about crossing breeds. I like to think that human curiosity—that desire to wonder, “what would you get”—led to many experiments. All throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, some poultrymen would cross various pure breeds. This may have started as a curiosity, but a few of these crosses were found to produce faster growth, meatier bodies, or higher egg production.
During the early 1900s, poultrymen supplying chickens for meat found these crosses advantageous, but popular opinion had already been formed against chickens that were not purebred. Early promoters of these crossbred chickens knew they needed a new term for their poultry to disassociate them from the derogatory connotations of terms like “mongrel” or “crossbreed.” As they noticed some improvement in rate of maturity and growth, they stole a term from plant breeding—the term “hybrid.” And thus hybrid chickens became acceptable nomenclature.
Hybrid chickens could be relied upon to grow slightly faster and lay well. They also exhibited that same trait we find when we cross two breeds of almost any animal – vigor, a.k.a. hybrid vigor. Vigor and faster rates of growth in hybrid chickens were true advantages in meat production, and eventually led to the birth of today’s 4-way cross industrial meat chickens. But for many decades the need to keep and produce breeding stock for two or more pure breeds in order to have stock to produce the hybrid chickens was of no advantage to the farmer/ poultryman; cost simply outweighed any advantage. Pure breeds were still the preference for the production of eggs.
Are They a Breed?
Because sexlink chickens do not produce offspring that look and produce as [well as] they themselves do, they are not breeds. They simply do not fit the definition of a breed. So what are they? Since they are the result of crossing two (or more) breeds, they may only be termed crossbreeds.
So if you have a sexlink chicken and you wonder what breed it is—it is not a breed but a crossbreed.
While you may have a nice flock of sexlink chickens, producing many wonderful eggs, a breed they are not. You can refer to these hybrid chickens as a “kind” or a “type” of chicken and be correct. But they will not breed true and that is the basic meaning of a breed. So be proud of your hens and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
He is also the author of a revised edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys.
Text © Don Schrider, 2013. All rights reserved.
Originally published in 2013
Comments: The term “hybrid” And thus hybrid chickens became acceptable nomenclature. It was a selling point and a way to encourage breeders to raise their breeds. Because they are a hybrid they mature faster and had more growth. Sound Familar? The term Myotonic has also become acceptable nomenclature! Nomenclature is defined as: a system of names for things especially in science. Hybrids are NOT purebreds. Myotonics are not purebreds. They are in all reality a fancy name that was choosen to promote the “improved” goat! A bigger and meatier goat.
Improving The Breed”
The halter discussion going on brings up the question, do we actually want to “improve” breeds, and if so, how and by how much? I tend to be a traditionalist, and appreciate the different breeds of horses…each having its own conformation and characteristics based upon the reason the breed was developed. For those of you too young to remember, the differences between Quarterhorses, Appys, Morgans, and even many lines of Arabs, are becoming fuzzier and fuzzier as time goes by because we seem to be breeding them all to a similar standard. There was a time when there would be no need for “what breed is he?” threads, because a horse’s breed would be obvious to all. Today we have to search hard for little nuances to try and distinguish what breed a horse is…does that seem right? I place a lot of importance on history and tradition, and I hate to see the “traditional” Morgan, which has a rich history, the “traditional” Appy, which has a long history predating Quarterhorses, and the “traditional” Quarterhorse, among others, lose their identity and just be lost in history. I don’t personally like the expression “improve the breed” – for a couple of reasons. First, it is often used by people that are clueless about breeding to begin with – they just parrot a mantra they have heard repeatedly. Second, do we really want to improve a breed in the first place? And if the answer is yes, how and by how much? I tend to be one that thinks in terms of PRESERVING a breed rather than “improve” it. What does “improve” mean anyway? Is it an improvement to breed a horse that can run faster by breeding for lighter bone and hooves while at the same time breeding for heavier muscle? Is it an improvement to change the conformation of an Appy, that has a long and colorful history, from a rangey warhorse to a stock horse simply becasue we like stock horses? If we want a stock horse, shouldn’t we buy a Quarterhorse instead of changing another breed into a Quarterhorse? Is it improving a breed to make it more streamlined or aesthetically pleasing to the eye? 100 years from now, will we cease to have breeds, or will we just have “horses”? Many people, myself included, are concerned with the preservation of endangered species. I’m not a wacko about it, but it seems sad to lose a species that has been on this Earth for millions of years, and took another countless millions of years to evolve its identity. So why do so many of us not feel the same way about breeds? Why do we place so little importance in keeping a Morgan a Morgan, an Appy an Appy, an Arab an Arab, and so on? In the case of Appys, you pretty much have to go to a specialized breeder to find a “real” Appy, and I see that trend continuing to grow in some other breeds as well. Perhaps this all doesn’t mean much to anyone but me – don’t know. Or perhaps it is just that I am old enough that I have actually seen breeds change over the years. I just think sometimes that we should step back and take a good look at where our breeding practices are taking us, and ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing. Just my opinion, of course…
Comments: Well I think this writter is right on track! If you want a meat goat for commerical reasons why didnt you buy a Boer Goat or a TexMaster. Oh course my choice would have been a Tennessee Meat Goat. A slow maturing Fainting Goat is not the anwser and neither is “improving” the Fainting Goat and calling it a Myotonic goat for a meat goat. People have been “improving” these goats for years, trying to get the market to support the breed with no sucess. They just cant compete with the Boer Goats! Stop messing with the Fainting Goat Breed and let them be natural. Not a goat that appears to be on steroids.
Here is a link to an article that I wrote and it is published with Hoeggers Goat Supply. I hope you can get a chance to read it.