For more than 20 minutes Wednesday morning, no fainting goats passed out in the small arena of the Bank of Texas Petting Zoo at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
That’s because the goats and their petting zoo pals were too busy with the Malone family of Plain City, Utah, nudging the children and jumping up and down for attention.
“It’s fun,” 5-year-old Treyson Malone said minutes after walking out of the petting zoo. “My favorites were the goats.”
Little sis Macie smiled in agreement.
“They’ve been around horses, dogs and calves,” mother Mandy Malone said Wednesday. “But this is the first with these animals.”
First-time-encounter stories are nothing new for Becky West of Venus, manager of the petting zoo, which for years has been one of the most popular attractions at the Stock Show.
The reasons for the popularity is easy: cute four- and two-legged creatures.
About 60 animals are in the petting zoo, ranging from the fainting goats to Japanese silkies. On nice, warm days at the Stock Show, West estimates, 4,000 visitors come to the zoo to pet animals. On gloomy, wet days like Wednesday, she expects at least 600 to 800 people.
And yes, the fainting goats do collapse. The domestic goats have muscles that freeze up for seconds when the animala are scared, and briefly faint.
The added attraction Wednesday was some very young fainting goats, a few just a week old.
Visitors must want to keep a close eye on the bonding between the petting zoo animals, especially a red Scottish Highland cow and the young goats.
“A month ago, [the cow] was just in a quiet pasture, minding her own business,” West said. “Today, she’s got goats all over her.”
At that moment, as the cow lay down, two young fainting goats used her as a couch for a few seconds, then bounced off of her.
“That’s why the llama isn’t down,” West said. “The llama doesn’t want all those goats jumping around.”
West didn’t expect the gloomy Wednesday to stop visitors from coming to the petting zoo.
If rain keeps some Stock Show visitors away, the petting zoo still gets visits from schoolchildren and rodeo crowds.
West has her hand on the pulse of the Stock Show — she stays in a recreational vehicle 10 feet from the petting zoo for the entire Stock Show, so she hardly leaves the grounds.
“We keep it as clean as possible, so we are always here,” West said.
For years, West has depended on volunteers such as lawyers, teachers, and college and high students to help maintain the animals.
“I shoveled for the first time,” cousin Jennifer Doctor of Azle said Wednesday. “She’s been doing this for the last 12 years at the Stock Show, and this is my first time to volunteer.”
Entry to the petting zoo is free, and visitors can feed the animals.
But signs around the zoo remind visitors of one important rule: “Please Do Not Pick Up The Animals.”
Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr