Many creatures arose with double faces and double breasts, offspring of oxen with human faces, and again there sprang up children of men with oxen’s heads.
Fragments, 5th cen. BC
|William Blake’s Minotaur, one of a series of watercolors Blake created to illustrate Dante’s Inferno.|
|Note: This cross is so distant that allegations of the actual existence of cow-human hybrids (quoted on this page) require further confirmation.|
The Minotaur, of course, is a human-bull hybrid, which nearly everyone, at least in Western society, has both heard of and dismissed as myth. But is it possible that such hybrids, on rare occasion, actually are produced?
Beyond a recent alleged birth of a cow-human hybrid reported from Thailand (photo 1, photo 2), and the widespread belief in Japan that cow-human hybrids actually do occur, there are there are dozens of serious reports about cow-human hybrids, many of which are quoted on this webpage. Some cases seem fairly well attested, in particular the following, which appeared in a medical journal.
In 1827, an article describing an allegedly real cow-human hybrid, born alive, appeared in the May-June issue of Magazin der ausländischen Literatur der gesammten Heilkunde (Schreter 1827, pp. 487-489). The Magazin, published by two Hamburg physicians, Nikolaus Heinrich Julius (1783-1862) and Georg Hartog Gerson (1788-1844), was a German medical periodical anthologizing foreign literature of interest to doctors.
The following is the complete article, quoted in translation, originally given in German by Dr. David Schreter, an Austro-Hungarian general practitioner who claims to have examined the specimen himself. The translated title of the article is “A Description of a Monstrous Creature Birthed by a Cow in the Town of Wagendrüssel in the Hungarian County of Zipser.”
On the 14th of March, 1825, Benjamin Münich, a resident of the mountain town of Wagendrüssel [present-day Nálepkovo in Slovakia], bought — at least so he claims — a pregnant cow from a certain Johann Krall of Stellbach. On the 25th of the following month, in the afternoon, the beast was having difficulty giving birth and both the owner and his wife were assisting. They were appalled when, instead of a normal calf, they were confronted with a monstrous birth, which they at once put to death. This strange animal was stuffed by a local businessman, and it was also painted by an artist, Johann Müller from the nearby town of Leutschau [now Levoča in Slovakia]. Eight or ten days passed before the authorities there in Zipser launched a legal inquiry into the matter.
This deformed creature has a crown-rump length of three feet [~90cm] and, when placed upon its feet, is about two feet tall. The head is large, and looks quite similar to a human being’s. From the superior portion of the frontal bone across the face to the chin, it measures ten inches [~25cm, that is, about the same measurement as in an adult human being]. The frontal and parietal bones define a fontanelle like that in the skull of an ordinary human infant. The sagittal suture is one inch long. On its head, from the fontanelle back, it has one-inch-long golden brown hair. On both sides the ears are rather small and human-like, but their lobes end in three-inch-long calf ears covered with sparse hair at their tips. The face is smooth and hairless, the eyes a beautiful blue, and the eyebrows a dark brown. The tip of the nose is flattened, with the nostrils distanced from each other by a septum thicker than that seen in human beings. The upper jaw, which lacks teeth, bears an upper lip like a human’s; the lower has ten thin, sharp teeth, and is more similar to a calf’s. On the chest are two rounded breasts with well-formed, prominent areolae 2.5 inches in circumference. These mammae are elevated somewhat (about half an inch) above the surrounding surface, as in a young woman. The torso and buttocks are like those of a human being, but the body is longer in proportion to the extremities. There is a naked eight-inch tail, about half an inch in diameter. The genitalia are female. Between the hind legs is an udder, and some of the umbilical cord remains attached. The upper portion of each of the four extremities is naked, as is the general surface of the torso, but the lower portions are covered with glossy brown hair. Each leg ends in a cloven hoof like that of a cow.
The fact that the birth of this creature actually took place is witnessed by the entire municipal authority of Wagendrüssel and nearly all of the inhabitants of the town, as well as by the members of the committee set up by the County of Zipser to investigate the matter.
David Schreter, M.D., general practitioner at Leutschau.
So this cow-human hybrid described by Schreter differs from the Minotaur of Greek myth, in having a human head and body, but the tail and legs of a cow. Most accounts of the Cretan Minotaur give him the head of a bull. With its human head and four hoofed feet, the hybrid just described is more similar to a Mesopotamian lamassu (see image, right).
But Schreter’s report does not stand alone. Such creatures are reported, too, from twentieth century America. Thus, in a story in the Lewiston Evening Journal for May 12, 1915 (p. 12), an account is given of various freak animals preserved by a local taxidermist, E. J. Boucher of Auburn, Maine. Six different monstrous calves are described, and “One of the six was a calf with a human head. The eyes were close together, eyebrows were present, the nose was ape-like and the jaw perfectly human.”
Another, case is reported in the September 3, 1913 issue of the St. Johnsbury Caledonian, a newspaper published in St. Johnsbury, Vermont (Access original). It reads as follows.
Another, more recent case is reported in the September 3, 1913 issue of the St. Johnsbury Caledonian, a newspaper published in St. Johnsbury, Vermont (Access original). It reads as follows.
Frank T. Harris of Lunenburg [Vermont (Lunenburg is about ten miles from St. Johnsbury)] has in his possession the body of a calf that has a perfect human face, the only thing of its kind ever known to scientists. He will exhibit this freak at the Caledonia County Fair. The calf is Holstein and has a black and white body, but the head and face are in human form, except the ears. The calf weighed about 30 pounds and had no hair, except a slight beard on the face. It is a wonder that everyone will want to see.
An affidavit signed by many well-known people of Lunenburg, states they saw the freak just after it was born and that it is unquestionably genuine. It has been called to the attention of the medical authorities of Harvard and they state that such a thing was never known before and will revolutionize medicine. The animal has no marks of sex and is one of the wonders of the 20th century.
And on page 4 of the July 11, 1912 issue of the Daily Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky), column 3 (Access original) a report about a similar, but separate case appears. The account was originally published in the Cincinnati Times-Star.
What is considered one of the greatest freaks of nature ever seen in Cincinnati was brought from Ashland Ky., Wednesday, by Dr. Edward Fanning. The freak has the body of a calf but the face of a human being.
The creature was born several days ago and lived but a few hours. “This is one of the rarest specimens ever born,” said Dr. Fanning, “and it will be presented to some museum as a curiosity.”
The body of the monstrosity was taken to Max Wocher’s Son’s establishment on West Sixth Avenue, where it was prepared for preservation.
Another twentieth-century report describing a cow-human hybrid appeared in the March 9, 1909 issue (p. 2, col. 1) of the French newspaper L’Ouest-Éclair:
GRENOBLE, March 8. — A very odd freak has just been born at Goncelin [a commune in the Isère department in southeastern France about 32 kilometers northeast of Grenoble].
A cow belonging to M. Henri Tissot, a merchant, just gave birth to a monstrous animal with the body of an ordinary calf, but with a head that greatly resembles that of a human being, except that it is about one-third larger than that of a human adult.
M. Ruillier, a veterinarian at Pontcharra, when contacted, said he had never before seen anything like it and, given that the monster had been born dead, that he had asked M. Tissot, who agreed, to allow him to dissect the animal’s head in order to report on the case to the [French] national school [of veterinary medicine] at Lyon.
The head of this monster weighed 5 kilograms [about 11 pounds]. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
Another case was reported that same year from a village in what is now Croatia. An account of the event appears in the June 10, 1909 issue of the Austro-Hungarian newspaper Neue Schlesische Zeitung:
A brief mention of another supposed cow-human hybrid appeared in the September 3, 1910 issue of the Palestine Daily Herald, published in Palestine, Texas (Access original). It simply states that “Sheriff Davis of Orange has in his possession a calf with a human head.”
Yet another case is reported in the January 9, 1908 issue of the Butler Weekly Times, (Butler, Missouri), page 10, column 2 (Access original):
John Griessen, a farmer living near Sedalia [a town in Missouri about 100 miles east of Kansas City], is the owner of a young calf whose head greatly resembles that of a human. The calf was born August 28, 1906, and was Lilliputian in size, its head and face bearing likeness to a human. Its mother was a half blood Jersey and his sire a registered shorthorn. When strong enough to stand on its feet the calf only weighed 9 pounds and 10 oz. [4.36 kg (The average birth weight of calves is 63.6 pounds (~29 kg)] It is now over a year old, healthy and active, but has never grown any taller and will never be any larger than an Angora goat. Its little body is covered with a fine silky hair similar to that of a Persian goat, and its legs are as short as a shoat’s and as spindling as a deer’s. In height the freak is less than 28 inches [71 cm] and weighs 60 pounds [27.2 kg].
|Uttar Pradesh (red)|
Another report about a cow-human hybrid appeared in newspapers across the globe in the summer of 1899. The following is from an Australian paper, the Northern Star (Lismore, New South Wales), and appeared in column 2, page 6, of the Wednesday 9 August 1899 issue (access original). However, the same story ran in many other British Empire newspapers. The event supposedly happened in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Another cow-human hybrid, which was supposedly born the previous year, was reported from Gadsden, a small town in western Tennessee. The following is a screenshot of a brief article appearing on page 2 (col. 3) of the Savannah Courier, Savannah, Tennessee, on Mar. 25, 1898. (Access original) The source of the story was the Alamo Signal, a newspaper published in Alamo, Tennessee, a town near Gadsden.
Yet another cow-human hybrid was reported in a California newspaper that same year. The following is from the Jan. 6, 1898 issue of The Herald (Los Angeles), and appeared in column 6, page 10 (access original). An article entitled “Collector of Freaks” gives an account of the specimens in a collection of abnormal animals owned by a certain Fred A. Robinson. Most of the animals described were of a fairly run-of-the-mill variety, but the following excerpt records something exceptional.
The following appears on page 7, column 1 of the July 4, 1894 issue of the newspaper Znaimer Wochenblatt, which was published in Znojmo (Znaim), a town in what is now the Czech Republic:
Last Monday on the farm of Josef Ruppberger in Langenrohr (a place between Tulln and Sieghartskirchen) a cow produced a calf with a human head. It was attached to a long neck and atop the skull was a patch of upright-standing hair. The lower part of the face, in its form, was reminiscent of a bulldog. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]
Tulln and Sieghartskirchen are small towns in what is now northeastern Austria.
Yet another American case appears on page 3, column 4 of the March 9, 1892 issue of the newspaper Fort Worth Gazette, which was published in Fort Worth, Texas: Access original
Shreveport. La., March 8.—There is on exhibition in this city a monstrosity in the shape of a calf with human characteristics. The “what is it?” came into the world Sunday last [i.e., March 6, 1892] on the Freewater place, this parish, and was dead at birth. Several physicians have examined the freak and pronounce it marvelous. Its head is shaped somewhat like that of a negro, and the breast is of perfect human shape. It is sexless, and the fore feet are shorter than the hind ones, lending them a look of arms.
The advertisement shown below came from front page (column 1) of the classified section of the March 3, 1890 issue of the Los Angeles Daily Herald (access original). The relevant portion of the ad is highlighted in pink.
The following is from page 2 of the February 22, 1888 issue of The Columbus Journal (Columbus, Nebraska), in column 5 (access original). It originally appeared in the Silver Creek Times, published in Silver Creek, Nebraska, a village 16 miles southwest of Columbus.
Two cases are reported as having occurred in Ohio, one in 1886, the other in 1888. The first is a single sentence on page 4 of the March 18, 1886 issue of the Springfield Globe-Republic (Springfield, Ohio), which reads, “Up at Shelby, Ohio, a calf has been born with a human head” (access original). The second appeared on the front page of the September 21, 1888 issue of the Essex County Herald (Island Pond, Vermont) at the bottom of column 2 (access original). The Herald notes that the information was taken from the Cincinnati Enquirer. The article reads as follows.
Samuel Stepelton, a farmer living in Auglaize Township, Ohio, has quite a freak of nature. One of his cows gave birth to a fully developed calf which bore a perfect human head covered with a thin layer of hair, similar to that which covers the head of a new-born babe. The mouth of the animal was like that of a dog, and within it was a double row of sharply pointed teeth it lived but a few hours.
The following is from the front page of the July 31, 1883 issue of The Daily Astorian (Astoria, Oregon), and appeared at the bottom of column 2 (access original):
A brief mention of another such creature appears on page 4 of June 5, 1879 issue of Nebraska Advertiser (Brownville, Nebraska), column 3 (access original). Though it appears in a Nebraska newspaper, the report refers to an animal born in Maine.
Thus, these last two cases both involved animals that lacked a brain, a condition known as anencephaly. Read about a case of anencephaly in an ostensible ape-human hybrid >>
The next case, which was supposedly witnessed by members of the faculty of the medical faculty of the School of Medicine of the University of Würzburg, appeared in the May 13, 1858 issue of Courrier franco-italien, a newspaper published in Paris:
From Munich: I have just received from Würzburg a curious piece of information that I thought I should communicate. An extraordinary freak has been presented to the faculty of medicine there: a peasant from the countryside has donated a calf born alive with a human head to the school’s anatomical collection. The scholars of our city are holding a large meeting to discuss this freak and are expected to offer their explanation soon. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
Würzburg is in northwestern Bavaria. Although the material quoted above comes from a Paris newspaper, the fact that this event occurred is also attested by various Bavarian newspapers (for example here and here). So perhaps this specimen may still be available in the university’s anatomical collection today.
A pair of similar cases.|
A Japanese case
The postcard above shows a bizarre specimen with not only a human-like head (sheathed with cow hair), but a calf head as well, supposedly born at Beppu in southern Japan in 1926. Note that it has the same conformation as the Parisian cow described by Morand at right. More information >>
A Parisian case
In a manuscript in the Bibliothèque de Lyon (Morand 1812), a Parisian physician, Jean François Clément Morand (1726-1784), a member of the French Academy of Sciences, describes a living cow-human hybrid that he saw at the St. Germain fair. He alleges that this animal had “atop its true head, a growth of the same size and form as a human head” [Original French.] This is exactly the conformation seen in the Japanese specimen in the photo at left.
There were at least four cases of ostensible cow-human hybrid reported in the eighteenth century. Thus, in the June 1752 issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine, there is an account, “Extract of a Letter from a Clergyman at Clayworth in Nottinghamshire” (Anonymous 1752), of a creature half calf and half human born of a cow.
The name of the clergyman in question is not specified, but given the small size of the parish of Clayworth, he would almost certainly have been Reverend James Carrington, who was at that time Rector of Clayworth. The following is the published extract from his letter: “I should have wrote sooner but that I wanted to be satisfy’d in the truth of a report of a monstrous production in a neighbouring village. The animal in question
|St. Peter’s, Clayworth, the country church where Rev. James Carrington was serving as rector at the time the alleged cow-human hybrid was born.|
Carrington’s description has certain interesting parallels with that given above by Schreter. Again, the mother is a cow (as is usually the case in such reports). The animal is again mostly naked, with the exception of hair on the lower part of its legs above the hooves, and as in the case described in detail by Schretter above, it has breasts like a woman. Carrington seems to make no definite statement as to whether this particular cow-human hybrid was born alive.
|Facade of Saint-Nizier, the church where French physician Jean-Ferapie Dufieu claims a cow-human hybrid was baptized on the 20th of January, 1759.|
Another case from this period is recorded in Jean-Ferapie Dufieu’s Traité de physiologie (Lyon, 1763, vol. I, pp. 228-229) in which the author, a French physician, describes an “infant” baptized in Lyon. Thus, he writes that “on the 20th of January, 1759, the vicar of Saint-Nizier in Lyon baptized an infant who had features like
A Lithuanian case|
In his Memoirs (1857, p. 188), Bartholomew Michalowski briefly mentions that in 1788 in Samogitia ("Żmudzi"), a region of northwestern Lithuania, a calf was born with a human head.
|Aristotle (Generation of Animals IV, iii) refers to the belief of his contemporaries that cow-human hybrids, calves with human heads, were sometimes born.|
From church records, it appears that the name of this “infant” was François Marie Charton (access a screenshot of the baptismal record). Dufieu’s story is interesting because it is one of only three cases listed on this page in which the mother is supposed to be a woman, not a cow. (Presumably no one would have chosen to have this creature baptized in a church if it had been birthed by a cow.) The other two cases appear below.
A third report from the eighteenth century appeared in a supplement to the July 1784 issue of Observations sur la Physique, l’Histoire naturelle et sur les Arts, a scholarly journal published by the botanist Jean-Baptiste François Rozier and his nephew, scientist and explorer Jean-André Mongez. In this case, the report includes an intaglio plate showing the specimen (see image at right below), but the head is considerably less like a human’s than in the other accounts, perhaps because this individual had undergone only seven months of development, whereas the other reports listed here seem all to refer either to the products of full-term pregnancies (in both cattle and humans the gestation period is approximately 280 days). It is also possible that development was simply aberrant in this case, as it is in a certain fraction of the individuals produced by some hybrid crosses.
|Intaglio illustration of an alleged cow-human hybrid included in Rozier and Mongez’s report.|
Still, in the individual pictured, the lower portion of face is quite similar to a human being’s, as is the cranial region. This illustration is the only one on this page that is, apparently, drawn by an artist with access to an actual specimen, except for that of Schreyer (below) and, perhaps, Martin Luther’s Monk-calf (also pictured below). The distribution of facial hair, as shown in the picture (which is similar to what in humans is called a Van Dyke) is of interest because it is consistent both with several other mentions of facial hair around the mouth in other reports quoted on this page. The limitation of hair to the lower portions of the legs is also consistent with the descriptions of both Carrington and Schreter. At any rate, the following is a translation of Rozier and Mongez’s original report:
A case somewhat similar to Rozier and Mongez’s is briefly described in the June 4, 1910 issue (p. 7, col. 3) of the Znaimer Wochenblatt, a newspaper published in Znojmo (Znaim), a town that now lies in the southern Czech Republic:
Modern-day Moravská Třebová is a town in the Svitavy District of the Pardubice Region, Czech Republic.
The fourth eighteenth-century case supposedly took place in New England. George Lyman Kittredge (1916 p. 37), the renowned professor and scholar of English literature, writes that in 1716 the Puritan minister and author Cotton Mather (1663-1728) reported to the Royal Society that a cow in his vicinity (Massachusetts) had produced a calf with a face like a human being’s. In the same article (p. 18), Kittredge states that “No historical student would think of denying that Cotton Mather was one of the best informed Americans of his time in scientific matters.”
Schreyer (1682) reports a creature found in the White Elster (Weiße Elster) River near the German town of Zeitz on July 17, 1681 (two miles downstream at the village of Bornitz), which he says had the head of a human being and the body of a calf. His letter to the editors of the Leipzig University scientific journal Acta eruditorum included an illustration of the rotting carcass, a woodblock print of which (shown at right) accompanied the article. As can be seen in the picture, the abdomen of the animal is distended, perhaps by gasses released by internal decomposition, as is usually the case with bodies left to rot in warm water; the prominence atop the head, evident in the picture, may represent a protrusion, due to similar pressures, of convoluted brain matter through the fontanelle (which would explain why Schreyer describes it as “corrugated”). Note that the tufted tail is similar to that shown in Rozier and Mongez’s illustration above. This animal bore a beard on its chin as did those in several of the other accounts on this page. Schreyer’s report (translated from the original Latin) reads as follows:
On July 17, 1681, the river that flows past Zeitz [i.e., the White Elster] produced near the village of Bornitz a horrible monster having the head of a man affixed to the neck of a calf. The head bore a prominence above [see illustration], enveloped in a corrugated membrane. The eyes were shut. The ears were like a cat’s. The nose, which lacked a left nostril, was flat. The mouth gaped and bore teeth in both jaws. On the chin was a beard like that of a goat. The neck was quite long. The breast and forefeet were those of a calf, the hind, of a pig [four-toed?], and the tail was short and hairy at the end. Otherwise, this monster, which was of the female sex, was hairless and black. No interior examination was made due to the horrid stench of the putrid carcass. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin]
|Note: Rosen (1994, p. 151) states that Klint’s “book is usually referred to by the name On Meteors, although the original title page is lost. It seems originally to have been called Om the tekn och widunder som föregingo thet liturgiske owäsendet (On the Signs and Wonders preceding the Liturgical Broil). The book is now in the Stifts- och Landsbiblioteket library (Box 3085, S-580 03 Linköping, Sweden) and carries a new title page crediting the work to Jonas Petri Klint, a 19th century librarian’s mistake for ‘Joan’ (John).”|
Stepping back a century, we find the writings of Joan Petri Klint (d. 1608), a Swedish clergyman and historian. In his book On Meteors (see note at right), Klint (translated in Rosen 1994) gives an account of a cow-human hybrid, which he claims was born in March 1588,
Jobus Fincelius (also known as Hiob Fincel), a sixteenth-century German humanist and physician was a professor of philosophy and medicine at the University of Jena, he authored a two-volume work entitled Wunderzeichen in which he lists events he interpreted as miraculous signs (Fincelium 1566). Among them was a creature with human features supposedly birthed by a cow near Bamberg in northern Bavaria. The following is Fincelius’s account: “In the same year of 1556,
|Artist’s conception of the cow-human hybrid described by Fincelius, drawn about fifty years after the supposed event (image is from Schenck 1609, artist unknown).|
So again, in this account the alleged cow-human hybrid has a human-like head and torso, but cloven hooves and a tail. Also, as did Schreter and Carrington, Fincelius says the Kleisdorf birth had breasts like a woman’s. And in this case, as in the ones reported by Carrington, by Schreyer, by Rozier and Mongez, and in the 1913 case in Vermont, the hybrid has facial hair around its mouth (though the style of beard shown in the illustration from Schenck is probably based purely on the artist’s imagination).
Martin Luther’s Monk-calf, a cow-human hybrid allegedly born near Freiburg in Germany, Dec. 8, 1522 (Artist: Lucas Cranach the Elder).|
|Martin Luther (Artist: Lucas Cranach the Elder).|
Another German cow-human hybrid actually played an significant role in the Reformation. Martin Luther claimed that a monstrous human-like calf born on Dec. 8, 1522, at the village of Waltersdorf near Freiberg (about 70 miles southeast of Luther’s Wittenberg) was a sign from God that the Catholic Church was corrupt. Catholics, in their turn, interpreted it as a sign that Luther was accursed by God. Pictured at right, this creature was, according to Aldrovandi (1642, p. 372), born of a woman. Supposedly, it had a deformed, but human-like head, stood upright, and on its shoulders, a cape-like flap of skin that Luther likened to a monk’s cowl. As did the specimens mentioned in the various reports above, it had hooves instead of hands and feet.
Palfijn and Mauriceau (1708) report a birth that supposedly occurred in Germany in 1554:
So here, again, a hairy chin is mentioned. Note, too, that the protruding tongue agrees with the picture of Luther’s Monk-calf shown at right above. The rudimentary development of the forelegs is reminiscent of the case described by Petri. Liceti (1665, p. 188) also mentions the Passelwalck birth, but gives the date as 1555.
Caspar Peucer (1525-1602), a physician who married the daughter of Luther’s colleague Philipp Melanchthon, mentions a fourth German case, a creature supposedly found dead near the town of Bitterfeld in 1547. Bitterfeld, too, is close to Wittenberg (just 12 miles away). Peucer’s brief account (Peucer 1603, p. 728) reads as follows:
Another, even earlier case has been reported. In his account of Ireland (Topographia Hibernica, 1188, § II, xxi), the Welsh chronicler Geraldus de Barri, known as Gerald of Wales (c. 1146 – c. 1223), relates the following story about a cow-human hybrid that, he claims, not only reached maturity, but even dined on a regular basis with Norman lords at Wicklow Castle (see also Expugnatio Hiberniae for the year 1176). Gerald gave his tale the title Of a Man Half Bull and a Bull Half Man:
The Ox-man of Wicklow, a cow-human hybrid described by Gerald of Wales in his Topographia Hibernica.|
Near Wicklow, at the time when Maurice FitzGerald first gained lordship there was seen a human prodigy, if indeed it is correct to say “human.” For while the creature had a human body, his extremities were those of a cow. To the joints which normally connect the hands to the arms, and the feet to the calves, were instead attached the hooves of an ox. His head was bald, except for a few patches of down in place of ordinary hair. The eyes were large, cow-like in their roundness and color. The face below was flat — merely two nostrils, with no protruding nose. Speaking no words, he voice was like that of a cow.
Long an attendant of Maurice’s court, he came every day to meals, and what he was given to eat, he gripped in the cleft of his hooves which served him as hands, and so conveyed it to his mouth. However, because the [English] nobles of the castle often mocked the Irish for getting such things on cattle, they at last, in their malice and spite, waylaid and killed him, which he little deserved. For shortly before the English arrived on that island [i.e., Ireland] a cow had birthed this man-calf in the mountains of Glendalough … Thus, you might well suppose that “a man half-bull and a bull half-man” had been created once again [here, Gerald refers to the Minotaur of ancient legend]. For almost a year he remained with the cattle, following and nursing his mother. But at last, since he was more human than cow, he was brought over into human society. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin]
Daedalus helping Pasiphae enter the wooden cow (artist: Giulio Romano, 1503)|
Pasiphae with infant Minotaur (Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, 340-320 B.C.)|
The Egyptian deity Montu was represented as a cow-human hybrid (Medamud, 4th century B.C.). Credit:
|Enkidu battling a lion. Note that Enkidu is represented as a cow-human hybrid (Akkadian cylinder seal impression, c. 2200 B.C.)|
Cow-human hybrids have been the subject of mythology and religious awe since the most ancient times. The best known example is that of the Minotaur of Greek legend. In that story Minos, the king of Crete and the husband of Pasiphae, prays for a white bull to sacrifice to Poseidon. But, as Apollodorus (Library and Epitome, 3.1.4) relates, Minos
There are other, earlier deities, such as the Egyptian Montu and Apis, as well as the Mesopotamian Enkidu, which were often represented as a blend of human and cow. The Temple of Montu at Medamud was first built during the Old Kingdom era, that is, in the third millennium B.C. Worship of Apis and Enkidu date back to at least an equally early date. And even today, the Devil is often represented in Christian publications as a kind of cow-human hybrid with horns, cloven hooves and a tail.
|Sumerian representation of a man (Gilgamesh?) embracing two cow-human hybrids (image on the soundboard panel of a harp found at Ur; Early Dynastic III Period, 2550-2450 B.C.)|
|Sumerian cow-human hybrid or bullman (2500 B.C.)|
By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).
A mythical cow-human hybrid, the Chichevache, a human-faced cow, appears also in The Canterbury Tales. According to Chaucer, it fed only on obedient and faithful wives and was therefore perpetually gaunt with hunger:
The Oxford English Dictionary says Chaucer’s is the earliest known use of the word chichevache in English. In French, chiche vache means “greedy cow” and was in use as an epithet in France at least as early as the 13th century.
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