Cow-human Hybrids

Mammalian Hybrids

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EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS

This article, which is about cow-human hybrids of sexual origin, may disturb some readers.

     
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.
—Empedocles
Fragments, 5th cen. BC
William Blake’s Minotaur
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 (transcript of the original German article; Lea una traducción en Español, Lisez une traduction française). 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.”

Lamassu
With its human head and cow-like legs and tail, this ancient Mesopotamian lamassu, now on display at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, has a generally similar appearance to the hybrid described by Schreter at left. On the other hand, the standard Minotaur of Greek legend, with a bull’s head and otherwise human body, differs substantially from the hybrid he describes.

A twentieth-century description of a cow-human hybrid in an American newspaper

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.”

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 it 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]. 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, projecting nipples 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.

[Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Transcript of the original German article.]

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. The hybrid just described is generally more similar to a Mesopotamian lamassu (see the lower image at right above).

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.

Calf with Human Head

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.

CALF'S BODY, HUMAN FACE

Freak of Nature is Brought From
Ashland to Cincinnati

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:

A Freak Calf

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 remarkable monstrosity. In the village of Tepljuh, in the municipality of Drnis, not far from Split [in modern-day Croatia] the cow of a brewer named Colovic has birthed a monstrous calf. The calf, born dead but fully developed, had the head and torso of a human being. Both forefeet, however, were exactly like a pig’s [having four digits?]. The monster had only the hind feet and tail of a calf. As the news of the birth spread through the village and several farmers had seen the monster, they demanded that the cow be slaughtered, because these superstitious peasants took it for a being that would bring hail and flood down upon the village. When that same day the news reached the coal mines at Siverić [a village adjacent to Tepljuh], no one could believe it. So out of curiosity a number of men went to the neighboring village to see the monster for themselves. Among these was Postmaster Colic, who confirmed the news and who is regarded as a reliable witness. And yet, this story still seems a bit fantastic. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]
Artificial cow-human hybrids. This article cites reports of cow-human hybrids of natural, that is, sexual, origin. But in recent years, scientists have also artificially produced cow-human hybrids by mixing human and cow DNA. For example, technicians have succeeded in inserting human chromosomes into the cow genome, and the resulting animals are viable. But cow-human hybrids of this sort, for example those used in the production of vaccines, are usually taken only to the embryonic stage. More information >>

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):

Calf with Human Head

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].

Location of Uttar Pradesh
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.

A Calf With a Human Face. An Agra correspondent of the ‘Madras Mail,’ writing recently, remarks : “An extraordinary freak of nature was brought to light at Sultanpur, one of the suburban villages of Agra Cantonment, situated not quite a mile from the Cantonment Church, and on the outskirts of what is known as Pensioners’ Lines. A cow, it was said, had given birth on the previous day to a wonderful calf, which survived only a few hours, the head of which resembled that of a human being, while the rest of the body was that of any ordinary calf.” A correspondent of the paper immediately proceeded to the spot, and says: “When I got there I found an immense concourse of people gathered inside, outside, and round about a Gwala’s hut.” With some difficulty I managed to make headway through the crowd, and at length got to the ‘sacred’ spot. There I found what at first appeared to me to be an ordinary dead calf, but on closer inspection I found that it was one of the most extraordinary calves I had ever seen. The lower portion of the body from the neck downwards was perfectly symmetrical and natural, but the head in every respect was that of an overgrown babe, say about 8 months old. There was the short round face in the place of the long-pointed snout, the ears small, and fixed flatly in the head, instead of protruding out—in fact, a perfect human face. Hindus of all castes, from the sacerdotal Brahmin to the low caste Chamar, were all there to do reverence, as they told me, to this more than sacred cow. Some of the better class of men among the crowd told me that they attach a great deal of importance to this extraordinary phenomenon of nature, as being prophetic of some marvellous development of an abnormal event that will occur in the history of this country at no distant date. So much for idle superstition of uncultured minds. What they mean to do with the carcass I do not know, my offer to purchase it being positively declined.”

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.

cow-human hybrid

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 freaks that have been alcoholically preserved are kept in glass jars of various sizes in the back parlor of the dwelling. In one of the largest of these vessels is a calf with a face with features so distinctively human as to almost suggest that it is a human head upon a calf’s body. It is an ugly face and at the same time a startling one. The neck, exceedingly narrow, is set upon the body of an ordinary new-born calf, somewhat bloated by nineteen years' soaking in alcohol. Seventeen or eighteen years ago, when "Bill" long was the proprietor of the museum at Fourth and German streets, this was one of his chief attractions, and it is said that when it came into his possession he paid $700 for it.

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 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.

One of the most remarkable freaks of nature recorded comes from the farm of Mat Harry, who resides three and one-half miles from this place. It is a calf with a human head, neck and shoulders, being almost as perfect as those of a person. The cow owned by Mr. Harry gave birth to the wonderful animal last week; but the calf did not live. Mr. Harry has saved the skin, and as soon as prepared it will be placed on exhibition.

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.

Calf with A Human Head

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 calf with a human head was born recently on the farm of Joseph Hiett, near Winchester, Va. Its body was that of an ordinary calf, while its head, mouth, nose, etc., was the shape of that of a human being. Upon being dissected its head was found to be totally without brains, containing nothing but water, and its body a total malformation throughout. It was pronounced to have been alive up to the time of its birth, but to have died instantly upon that event.

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.

A Warren, Me., cow recently gave birth to a calf having a human head, covered with soft hair, while the body was natural. The creature had no brain and died soon after birth.

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.

cow-human hybrid 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.

Eighteenth Century

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
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.
is the offspring of a cow, is about the size of a child of 10 years old, and formed in all respects like a human creature, except the ears and hoofs, the latter of which are cloven, and the ears resembling a calf’s, are covered with a kind of down. But no hair appears in any part, except for about three inches above the hoof on each foot or hand, (which you will please to call it) and on the upper lip, like a Spanish mustacho. The face is much like that of an old man, the chest perfectly resembles that of a woman, to which sex ‘tis said that it has also a very distinguishing analogy [in the 18th century, one of the senses of the word analogy was “similarity”; so this seems to be Carrington’s euphemistic approach to saying this hybrid was female]; but I was not very curious in that part of the scrutiny; the skin is soft, smooth and of a complexion at least equal to a French foot soldier after a summer’s campaign.

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.

Church of Saint-Nizier, Lyon
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

those of a cow. The lower portion of the face was human and the upper a mixture of cow and man. He had a nose more like that of a cow than a human being’s and his skin was covered with hair from the upper part of the small of the back upward over the top of his head as far as the upper border of his cow-like nose. The priest had to lift this shaggy hair out of the way to baptize the infant. The ocular orbits were large but without eyes. The arms were mere stumps having only two digits [i.e., cloven hooves again]. This infant died the next day, the 21st, and was buried in the cemetery there at St. Nizier. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
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.

cow-human hybrid
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:

On a Monstrous Calf born at Nemyriv. An important event for the study of natural history has taken place in [the village of] Nemyriv in the Ukraine. There, on September 23rd of this year [1783], a Jew slaughtered a cow in her seventh month of pregnancy. A male fetus of singular appearance was extracted alive, but died a few minutes later. The torso of this animal (Plate 2, July 1784 issue) is that of a naked calf with dark red skin. The hooves are unusually large, and the skin above the forehooves is covered with short light brown hair. The forehead and the scalp, which is completely bald, exactly resemble those of a human being. But instead of a nose there is a kind of snout [i.e., a frontal proboscis, a structure that’s fairly common in ostensible pig-human hybrids], attached at its upper end to the forehead. It is soft, without bone or tendon, and three inches long by 1.5 inches in diameter. At the end of this snout, which is much like a small elephant trunk, is a one-third-inch-wide opening ringed by short hair. The eye openings are an inch long and lie below the base of the snout. The eyes are rather deeply embedded and their lids have lashes like those of a human being. On either side above the eyes are five long hairs that serve as eyebrows. The rest of the face is extremely similar to a human being’s. The cheeks are round and covered with a smooth skin. The upper lip is quite large and bears a thick curly mustache. The tip of the tongue is split to a depth of one-quarter inch. Instead of bone, the upper jaw is composed only of cartilage; the lower jaw has four incisors. The chin is rather large and covered with a bushy light brown beard. The creature is 26 1/4 inches long; its height at the shoulders is 12 1/2 inches; and it is 15 inches from the ends of the hind legs to the top of the spine. It weighs 23 1/2 pounds. By order of Count Vincent de Potoski, Grand Chamberlain of the King of Poland, this monster has been preserved in alcohol in a glass vase prepared especially for that purpose, and it is now in the court apothecary. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French]

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:

An Abnormality. After a cow was slaughtered today in the slaughterhouse at Moravská Třebová, a calf was found that had a head like a human being's but with an imperfectly developed eye on each of its temples. On the forehead it had a pig's snout [frontal proboscis?] below a large eye. The monster has been sent to the Anatomical Institute in Vienna. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]

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.”

Cow-human hybrids: Early accounts

cow-human hybrid

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:

Report of a Monstrous Human-calf

Communicated by Mr. D. Schreyer, a naturalist residing at Zeitz

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,

Near Örebro [Sweden] in the parish of Svensta, in a croft called Kalkaboda just outside Stenkulla, a cow gave birth to a calf with the appearance of a human head and human feet, but without forelegs. The calf seemed to be a half-man, half-calf. He had big eyes, stretched out his tongue and wanted to get at the people who were watching him; he rose bellowing and off he went, but was slain.

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,

cow-human hybrid
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).
a calf was born in the village of Kleisdorf on the River Izt about three miles [north of] Bamberg. This dreadful creature was fat and had the hooves of an ordinary calf, but a large human head, a black beard, as well as ears and breasts like a human being’s. The torso, too, was like a human’s, but longer, and the naked tail was like a dog’s. This monstrous birth, which soon died, was calved on the property of a noblewoman there at Kleisdorf. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]

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
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 by cranach-200-292-13
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:

On a Pomeranian farm called Rossauw near Passelwalck [probably modern Pasewalk], a woman gave birth to a horrible monster; it had the body of a calf, but its naked head was round like a ball and much like that of an ape. Its chin was covered with coarse, prickly hair, and its tongue poked out. Its front feet lacked hooves, being like round balls; those behind were like cow hooves. Its tail had no joints, as if it were a single bone, and was thus completely inflexible. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French]

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:

In the year 1547, in the town of Bitterfeld, a calf was found in the fields with the crown of its skull red and shorn. Its eyes, nose and ears were those of a human being, but its mouth and chest those of a calf. The forelegs, too, were mainly like a calf’s, but the hind legs more like a human’s, though somewhat short. In both front and rear, each separate digit bore the hoof of a calf. Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin: “Anno 47 ad oppidu Bitterfeld vitulus in agro repertus oculis, naribus & auribus humanis, vertice tonso & miniato, rictu & pectore vitulino, cruribus anterioribus vitulinis posterioribus humanis & brevibus admodu, sed utriusque desinentibus, partim in vngulas vitulinas, partim in humanos digitos qui ungulis superabat, & separatim propendebant.”

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:

cow-human hybridEnlarge
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]

Cow-human hybrids in myth and literature

cow-human hybrid on ancient coin
Pasiphae
Daedalus helping Pasiphae enter the wooden cow (artist: Giulio Romano, 1503)

Pasiphae and the Minotaur
Pasiphae with infant Minotaur (Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, 340-320 B.C.)

montu
The Egyptian deity Montu was represented as a cow-human hybrid (Medamud, 4th century B.C.). Credit: Janmad

Enkidu
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

sent the bull to the herds and sacrificed another. But angry at him for not sacrificing the bull, Poseidon made the animal savage, and contrived that Pasiphae should conceive a passion for it. In her love for the bull she found an accomplice in Daedalus, an architect, who had been banished from Athens for murder. He constructed a wooden cow on wheels, took it, hollowed it out, sewed it up in the hide of a cow which he had skinned, and set it in the meadow where the bull was kept. Then he introduced Pasiphae into it; and the bull came and coupled with it, as if it were a real cow. And she gave birth to Asterius, who was called the Minotaur. He had the face of a bull, but the rest of him was human; and Minos, in compliance with certain oracles, shut him up and guarded him in the Labyrinth.

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.

Human hybrids >>

A cow-human hybrid born in Thailand >>

Japanese belief in cow-human hybrids >>

Pasiphae
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 bullman
Sumerian cow-human hybrid or bullman (2500 B.C.)

Table of contents >>

Bibliography >>

Internet citations >>

Biology Dictionary >>

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:

O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
Lat noon humylitee youre tonge naille,
Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of yow a storie of swich mervaille,
As of Grisildis pacient and kynd,
Lest Chichevache yow swelwe in hire entraille!

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.

Theseus in the labyrinth killing the Minotaur
Theseus slaying the Minotaur (Master of the Campana Cassoni, 16th century)