capercaillie-sheep hybridReconstruction of an alleged capercaillie-sheep hybrid, based on the description in the quoted report below (digitally converted by E. M. McCarthy from The Sacrificial Lamb by Josefa de Óbidos).

Western Capercaillie × Domestic Sheep

Tetrao urogallus × Ovis aries

Hybrids out of History



This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23
face of a capercaillieThe face of a capercaillie

Note: Any claim that hybrids can actually be produced from this disparate and poorly documented cross would require confirmation.

In 1828 the Austrian magazine Jurende’s vaterländischer Pilger (vol. 15, p. 373, #9) reported that a sheep had given birth to a lamb with the fade of a Capercaillie. In translation, the report reads as follows:

    Recently [i.e., on March 4, 1823], in Klein Neudorf in Prussia, a mother sheep in the herd of Lieutenant Commissar Materne birthed a lamb whose face was very similar to a Capercaillie’s. But in the place of its mouth, it had a two-inch-long conical, wool-covered growth, and, in addition, a smaller such growth on the forehead. Both were connected to the face as with a kind of joint, though no bony matter was present. Beneath the smaller of these growths there was an organ that seemed to stand in place of the eyes, which were absent [the incidence of cyclopia and anophthalmia are significantly elevated in distant hybrids]. Beneath the large growth, near the neck, there was a deep hole like a mouth, but without jaws. The ears, which hung down, were securely attached to the sides of the smaller of the two growths and were very large in proportion to the little head. The head as a whole was about the size of the head of a large Capercaillie, to which, in its general form, it was extremely similar.

The Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is the world's largest grouse. This bird reaches a maximum weight of about 7.2 kg (16 lb), and so might be large enough to mate with a ewe, especially if she was lying down.

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By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).

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