A Dog-hawk Hybrid?

Hybrids out of History



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

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

The Belgian physician Cornelius Gemma (1535-1578) claimed to have seen in his youth a dog with a head like a hawk’s. His mention of this weird and implausible hybrid appears on p. 77 of his De naturae diuinis characterismis… (1575 Antwerp).

Gemma cited this weird hybrid as an example within the context of his 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 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. Many such accounts appear in the early literature, but the mere existence of such claims doesn’t make them true. For example, a rather similar hybrid, a pig with the feet of a hawk, is mentioned by the ancient historian Tacitus (Ann. 12.64):

In the year of the consulship of Marcus Asinius and Manius Acilius [AD 54] it was seen to be portended by a succession of prodigies that there were to be political changes for the worse. The soldiers’ standards and tents were set in a blaze by lightning. A swarm of bees settled on the summit of the Capitol; births of monsters, half man, half beast, and of a pig with a hawk’s talons, were reported.

Dog × hawk is perhaps the least well-documented bird-mammal cross discussed on this website. On the other hand, chicken-human hybrids, which have been reported many times—including at least three separate reports by scholars—are probably the best-documented cross involving a mammal and a bird.

deer-cow hybrid Deer-cow hybrids?

Table of contents >>

Bibliography >>

Internet citations >>

Biology Dictionary >>

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.

dog-cow hybrid A dog-cow hybrid?
reliability arrow

Dog × Wolf >>

Coyote × Wolf >>

Dog × Dingo >>

Dog × Jackal >>

Dog × Coyote >>

Dog × Cow >>

Dog × Fox >>

Dog × Cat >>

Fox × Raccoon Dog >>

Dog × Maned Wolf >>

Dog × Bear >>

Dog × Primate >>

Fox × Raccoon >>

Dog × Sheep >>

Dog × Goat >>

Dog × Pig >>

Fox × Wolf >>

Dog × Horse >>

Dog × Rabbit >>

Dog × Turkey >>

Dog × Parrot >>

Dog × Hawk >>

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