A diligent scholar is like a bee who takes honey from many different flowers and stores it in his hive.
—John Amos Comenius
The evidence for cow-sheep hybrids is sparse, much sparser than that available for what would otherwise seem less likely crosses, say, sheep × pig or dog × cow. Christiansen (1952) pictures an alleged hybrid, and Mohr (1930) reports a sheep-cow calved in the town of Husum in northern Germany (see also: Wittmer 1925). And Slavik et al. (1997) successfully produced cow-sheep hybrid embryos by fertilizing bovine oocytes with ram semen in vitro. But goat-sheep hybrids, are much more common.
There are also old news reports about sheep-cow hybrids. Under the heading of Brief State News on page 19 of the May 3, 1917 issue of The Ward County independent, a newspaper published in Minot, North Dakota, the following notice appears:
Another newspaper account (The Kingston Daily Freeman, page 7, March 9, 1903) reports that “A cow belonging to C. D. Mickle of Guilford Center recently gave birth to a calf which is covered with wool like a sheep.”
Another report about a cow-sheep hybrid appears on page 4, column 2, of the October 14, 1892 issue of the Vermont Phoenix, a newspaper published in Brattleboro, Vermont (source):
Both Chesterfield and Hinsdale are New Hampshire towns across the Connecticut River from Brattleboro.
One old report is especially interesting because it seems to describe a bilateral gynandromorph, a very unusual condition in a hybrid. The article entitled “A CALF-SHEEP” appears on page 6 (cols. 4 and 5) of the August 20, 1891 issue of the Fort Worth Gazette, a newspaper published in Fort Worth, Texas (source):
There is even an old account of a cow giving birth to two lambs and a normal calf as the result of a single pregnancy.
Cow-sheep also appear in nineteenth century listings of hybrids. For example, Morton (1847a, p. 43) offers the following account:
The source cited (Brande 1845, p. 573) states that hybrids have been produced from the union “of the bull and sheep, notwithstanding their disparity of size.” But no documenting reports are mentioned. William Thomas Brande (1788-1866), a chemist and an author of many scientific texts, was a fellow of the Royal Society (access the 1866 edition of Brande).
And such animals were sometimes offered for sale. In the September 4, 1880 issue of the New York Clipper, (p. 191, col. 4), an advertisement reads as follows: “Great Curiosity for Sale. A HYBRID ANIMAL, HALF COW, HALF SHEEP, and covered with wool; has four horns—two buck’s horns on his feet. Apply to JOHN BRAGAW, Guntherville, L. I., N. Y.”
But, as has already been pointed out, these hybrids are rare, and the documentation for this cross is poor.
By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).
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On the Origins of New Forms of Life
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Georges Cuvier: A Biography
Prothero: A Rebuttal
Branches of Biology