Can Goats Have Down Syndrome

There was an internet trend going around a while back, claiming that some adorable kitties, tigers, lions, and even giraffes are victims of the genetic disease known as Down Syndrome. But the question is, are goats susceptible to that genetic disorder as well?

Goats CANNOT have Down Syndrome. No animals actually have Down Syndrome; it’s genetically impossible since the disorder is isolated in homo sapiens and our genetic code. Down Syndrome is similar to a different genetic disorder that occurs in apes, but no other animals.

Goats can’t have Down Syndrome. It’s unclear how exactly the rumor got started, but no matter how many posts you see, there’s no way that any animal (aside from humans) can have Down Syndrome. It’s unique to our species and our species alone.

Animal Down Syndrome: Debunked

Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 1000 or 1 in 1100 live births worldwide, according to the WHO (World Health Organization). That’s 0.1 to 0.09% of the population. That might not seem like a lot, but in context, that’s around 790,000,000 (or 0.79 million) people who have this genetic disorder. But not one of those affected cases is anything other than a human.

Why? Because Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder that arises from mistakes made in the genetic code of humans, and no other animals can have it, because a basic requirement to even have a chance of getting the disorder in the first place is having a human genome. Down Syndrome occurs in humans when a formed embryo ends up with three copies of its twenty-first chromosome (called Trisomy-21). Most people with normal genomes have 46 total chromosomes. But people with Down Syndrome have an extra copy of one chromosome, giving them 47.

The extra chromosome codes for all of the same genes as the other two copies, but all the extra genetic material messes with the system, making too many proteins and changing the internal make-up of the entire body.

This genetic disorder is extremely specific to humans because every single organism’s genome (genetic code) is totally different. It makes sense when you look at a human in comparison to literally any other animal. Every creature is so unique, and it’s awesome.

Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, but goats have 30 pairs of chromosomes. And even if goats did have a Trisomy 21 in their genome, expecting the same problem in the genes to affect humans and goats the exact same way is like taking a building manual for two different LEGO sets, ripping page sixteen out of both, and expecting it to cause the exact same problem in each project. It just doesn’t work like that.

Apes are almost an exception to this rule. Almost. The thing is, apes are relatively close to humans (genetically, at least) and this means that they are the most likely to have syndromes similar to ours. Apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes, just one number away from our 23 pairs.

Apes have a genetic disorder caused when they have an extra twenty-second chromosome (Trisomy-22) which is said by scientists to be similar to our twenty-first chromosomes. An ape with this condition (her name was Kanako) had similar symptoms to those that occur in humans with Down Syndrome, such as heart disease, problems with vision, and thin corneas.

But, when it comes right down to it, goats don’t have Down Syndrome. They can’t. It’s scientifically impossible.

Trending: Animals with “Down Syndrome”

A few years back, an explosion of images flooded the internet, with cute (if not odd) looking animals that “have Down Syndrome.” The trend started not out of malice (at least, we hope not) but because not everyone on the internet is concerned with truth. If people post pictures that seem believable enough, anyone will believe them (unless we fact-checked everything we read online, which would take a million years). Plus, it’s easy to get hyped on a new discovery for a while, only to realize a few months (or years) later that none of it was ever true to begin with.

The common trend between all the pictures was the fact that the animals all had some sort of physical abnormality. People looked at the pictures, thought the animals looked different from other animals of the same species and equated that with Down Syndrome. One of the most popular Down Syndrome animal celebrities was a white tiger named Kenny.

White tigers are rare since the white fur is caused by the expression of a recessive gene. The rarity means that people have inbred white tigers with one another in order to perpetuate the pretty fur. But inbreeding causes a lot of genetic problems. Kenny the white tiger was a victim of these issues, and his face had quite a few strange features because of it. He had a pug-like snout, that made him look less like a tiger and more like a bulldog. So when his picture hit the fan, people attached the “Down Syndrome” label and ran with it (even though they had no idea what they were talking about).

Other animals flooded the web, and it didn’t matter if it was true or not; people were caught up in the “Down Syndrome Animal” fever. There are alleged goats with Down Syndrome out there, but most of the pictures are taken from a weird angle, or the baby goat is just sticking out their tongue. And if being able to stick out your tongue is a symptom of having Down Syndrome, we all have it.

Genetic Disorders in Goats

Even though goats don’t have Down Syndrome, they have their own plethora of genetic issues they can fall prey to. Lucky them. But much less is known about genetic diseases in goats because all the resources that could be spent on them are used to research and find cures for genetic diseases in humans instead. That said, there is one we do know about.

The G-6-S (G6-Sulfatase deficiency) is a genetic disorder that occurs in Nubian goats and related crosses. This disorder causes problems in motor development, stunted growth, and then early deaths. If you want to order a genetic test to see if your goat has this disorder, click here.

Recent Posts