A Dog-hawk Hybrid?


I am obliged to report that which is reported, but not to believe it.
—Herodotus, The History, VII, 152
Gaspar Schott Gaspar Schott

The German Jesuit and scientist Gaspar Schott records that the Belgian physician Cornelius Gemma (1535-1578) claimed to have seen in his youth a dog with a head like a hawk’s (Schotti 1662, p. 665). Gemma's mention of this hybrid appears on p. 77 of his De naturae diuinis characterismis… (1555 Antwerp).

Gemma brought up this weird hybrid as an example within the context of a discussion of the supposed phenomenon of maternal impressions, that is, the old idea that a mother's undergoing a shocking or frightening experience involving an animal can cause her to give birth to an offspring that resembles that animal (see sidebar at right).

Maternal impressions

Up until the early twentieth century, it was widely believed that the exposure of a mother to a particular animal, especially an exposure that frightened her, could result in a child within the womb taking on the characteristics of that animal. Thus, it was thought that a woman frightened by a dog stood an increased chance of giving birth to a dog-faced baby. This notion was applied also to animals that gave birth to strange offspring with mixed characteristics. But no scientist today would accept a psycho-spiritual explanation of this sort.

A translation of his brief reference to a dog with a hawk's head reads, in translation,

Even brute animals, can be affected by this extraordinary force, which can alter species in color and form. Thus, in my youth I saw a dog with the head of a hawk. It was taken around for all the populace to see, and it was said to be the result of fright.

Of course, merely saying something is so does not make it so.

This old and extremely dubious report is mentioned here in part for the sake of completeness, and also to give the reader some idea of former notions concerning the potency of maternal impressions. Obviously, the actual occurrence of such a hybrid seems highly improbable, and any such allegation would need thorough scientific confirmation before it could ever be accepted as fact.

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

A list of dog crosses

The following is a list of reported dog crosses discussed on this site. Some of these crosses are much better documented than others (as indicated by the reliability arrow). Moreover, some are extremely disparate, and so must be taken with a large grain of salt. But all have been reported at least once.

reliability arrow

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