The Face of Fear

Let me first say that we don't espouse cruelty of any form on Bee Haven Acres. However, we were forced to participate in an activity that felt cruel in the end this weekend. You see, in order to register fainting goats, so that we can breed them and sell them, we had to photograph each of our babies in the midst of a "faint" as evidence of their breed. Up to this point we have avoided purposefully scaring our babies into a myotonic state because we have tried to provide a stress-free environment for their transition into their new home. Now that is not to say that they have not had a few instances of stiffness and even a few occasions of "falling over". But, none of these have happened intentionally.

Well it was apparent that the only way we would be able to photograph this phenomenon under the specified conditions was to make it happen when the camera was ready to shoot. Becky and I positioned ourselves with our cameras while Jack was in charge of startling O'Malley and Chip (our new buck has a name, now). We crouched down, focussed on Chip and Jack jumped and shouted at him. Instantly, Chip jumped, froze, fell to his side and rolled onto his back with his stiff legs pointing to the sky.

Next was O'Malley's turn. It is important for you to understand that O'Malley has earned the title of "Princess" on the farm. She is the youngest and cutest of the goats and she really knows how to work it. She has everyone wrapped around her little cloven hoof! She has a precious little bleating call and loves to be held close. When the others pick on her, she calles out and whoever is nearby comes running to her rescue. So, you can imagine it was hard for any of us to try to purposefully frighten our little Princess! Once again, Becky and I were poised with our cameras and Jack began his jumping and yelling. O'Malley turned towards Jack with her big golden eyes and said in her sweet little voice "maaaaaaaa - maaaaaaaaaa", almost as if to say "why are you doing this to me?" Oh, how sad that made us, but we still had to get the picture. After 3 more unsuccessful, pitiful tries we decided that we would all have to jump and yell at her in unison.....O'Malley was just too trusting. 1 - 2 - 3.....and "AAAHHHHH" we each yelled and jumped towards O'Malley. With a look of unbelievable terror, her eyes widened, her joints stiffened and she fell over paralyzed. And I have never felt so horrible in all my life. I quickly (after first snapping her photo) scooped her up in my arms and held her close like a baby. Her little heart was beating like the fluttering of a hummingbird's wings. I stroked her and kissed her and used my best calming mother's voice until once again her limbs were pliable and her heartrate slowed. I vowed after witnessing the fear that poor O'Malley endured that I would never intentionally scare any of our goats again. I have never before been so touched by the face of fear. I can only imagine what they would experience in the presence of a predator.....being fully alert but completely paralyzed and aware of the fate that awaited them.


I have seen this before and while it is natural for this breed of goat, you're right, it's not very pleasant to have to force them to do it. The top picture is actually a bit comical, but I do have a hard time looking at little O'Malley. She just looks so scared. I'm glad that it's over now and that you were able to comfort her right away.

Tina Leavy said…
aww. luckily they have a safe area to stay, and what you had to do for the photos didn't last very long. O'malley is my favorite too, she just looks so sweet.
Beemoosie said…
I had never heard of these types of goats before! Your story was sweet, bet you are glad to have that over with!
Katie said…
What an amazing thing! I can't wait until my husband sees these pictures. We're 'city folk', outside of Chicago, who dream about one day having a little place back in the country in Michigan where I'm from . . . and I always show him pix of goats to feed our fantasy. These photos are just too much! What a story. I love reading about their arrival at your farm. Keep telling goat stories!
Tracey said…
Ack! I always hate when I see people making those poor goats faint. Glad it was over with quickly...sorry you had to paralyze them with fear :(