Jumarts: Equid × Bovid

Fact or fiction?

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EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS

     
Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass yoked together.
Deuteronomy, xxii, 10
An ostensible horse-cow hybrid (jumart) at Kitale Nature Conservancy, Kenya, in 2011. Note horselike tail and hindquarters, as well as the absence of an udder. (Two more videos appear below.) Excerpt from a YouTube video.

Most scientists today would reject the possibility of strange mixtures like ox-horses and ox-donkeys. Nevertheless, in centuries past, scholars did widely claim that such hybrids exist. Indeed, many asserted that they themselves had seen creatures of this sort. And the video at right, of a living animal with a cow’s head but horselike hindquarters and tail, lends credence to their claims, in that it seems to confirm that horse-cow hybrids actually can be produced, at least on rare occasion (as do the numerous reports quoted below). Such animals are known by various names (see list at the bottom of this page), but perhaps the most common is jumart. This word has been used in English since at least the mid-eighteenth century, as evidenced by it's presence in Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, defined as “The mixture of a bull and a mare.”

There is a great deal of evidence that jumarts exist, eyewitness testimony, veterinary reports, comments of breeders, photographs and even the video shown here (and two additional videos embedded lower down on this page). But it seems such animals are quite rare, which would explain, at least in part, why they are not better known. The most obvious obstacle to the full acceptance of their existence is the lack of any DNA study verifying a particular specimen as a definite horse-cow hybrid (to my knowledge, no alleged specimen has been tested in this way). This page, however, attempts to collect whatever evidence is in fact available for this cross, and presents that evidence in an historical format.

Bucephalus Bucephalus, the famous mount of Alexander the Great, as portrayed on an ancient silver tetradrachm. Note the presence of cow horns. Alexander founded a city, Bucephala (modern-day Jhelum in Pakistan), near the site where this animal died.

The existence of such creatures has been reported since ancient times. A famous example is Alexander the Great’s steed Bucephalus, whose name literally meant, “ox-headed” (see image right). Many classical authors seem to have taken it for granted that Bucephalus had the body of a horse but the head of a bull. Thus, Arrian (Anabasis, V, 18) writes that “The mark by which he was said to have been particularly distinguished, was a head like an ox, from whence he received his name Bucephalus.” As portrayed on ancient coins contemporary with the life of the animal, Bucephalus did have horns like a bull. Chares of Mytilene, an historian who attended Alexander’s court, wrote that Alexander’s father Phillip paid 13 talents for the animal, an equivalent of 312,000 sesterces in Roman money (see Gellius, Attic Nights, V, 2). This would amount to something like a million dollars in modern money, so cow-horse hybrid or not, Bucephalus must have been a very special animal.

Conrad Gesner Conrad Gesner
(1516–1565)

The scientific story of the jumart begins in the 16th century with Conrad Gesner, the founder of modern zoology, who, in his Historiae Animalium (Liber I, De Quadrupedibus viviparis, 1551, p. 19), writes,

I hear occasionally of a peculiar sort of mule produced in France in the vicinity of Grenoble, which is born of a she-ass and a bull, and which, in French, are called “jumarts.” [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin.]

In the same place, he mentions a cow-horse hybrid, saying that he has

learned from credible witnesses that in the Swiss Alps above Chur, in the vicinity of [Mt.] Spelugi, a foal was born from a mare served by a bull. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin.]

Gesner, who was Swiss himself, was a professor at the Carolinum, the precursor of the University of Zürich. He later refers to the same event (Gesner 1551, p. 106):

Here [in Zürich], we have heard the testimony of trustworthy men that they themselves saw a foal at the foot of Mt. Spelugi (as we call it) in Rhaetia [i.e., eastern Switzerland] that was produced from a mating between a mare and a bull. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin.]

One source of this information was likely the physician Jakob Ruf (1505-1558), who, according to his German Wikipedia biography, lived as a young man in a cloister at Chur up to the time of the Reformation in 1526, but later lived in Zurich, where he became the leading surgeon of the city. In his De conceptu, et generatione hominis, he mentions this same birth (Ruf 1587, p. 48), and gives a brief description:

For in Switzerland, a horse served by a bull gave birth, at the expected time, to a foal with the hooves of a horse, but otherwise, in shape, hair and tail, like a cow. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin.]
Julius Caesar Scaliger Scaliger
(1484-1558)

Julius Caesar Scaliger, a scholar of the same era as Gesner and Ruf, called a hybrid of this type a “hinnulus.” He said (Scaliger 1612, p. 650; see also p. 349) it

is the offspring of a bull and a mare. I have seen many and once had a pair myself. However, I now have just one, a young female. On her forehead she has two bony lumps each the size of half a walnut, traces of her father’s horns [see photograph of skull below]. In this type of animal, some say, the upper incisors are missing. And such is often the case. Hence, the lower jaw protrudes, as is the case with many fishes. Befi [another name Scaliger uses for these animals in the original Latin text] are produced by the Gabali and Arverni. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin.]

The Gabali and Arverni were two ethnic groups native to France. The former lived in the southeastern region of Aquitaine, the latter, in the Auvergne in central France.

Giambattista della Porta Della Porta
(1535?-1615)

Likewise, Giambattista della Porta, the Italian scholar, polymath and playwright, avers that “I myself saw at Ferraria [i.e., Ferrara], certain beasts in the shape of a Mule, but they had a Bull’s head, and two great knobs in the stead of horns.”

Paul Zacchias (1584-1659), personal physician to popes Innocentius X and Alexander VII, long resided at Rome. In his best known publication Quaestiones medico-legales (1651, p. 504), he winds up a section on hybrids by describing a jumart, which he claimed was for many years in the possession of Cardinal Borghesi.

Paul Zacchias - paul-zacchias-224-260-13.jpg Paul Zacchias
(1584-1659)

Cardinal Scipione Borghese Cardinal Borghese
(1577-1633)
And finally, I will say a bit about a hippotaurus [i.e., jumart], a hybrid born of a bull and a mare. He had a face like a cow, but in other respects was rather like a mule, except that he had the shanks of a cow, though the hooves were those of a horse. He was of an ordinary size, or perhaps a bit smaller. His coat was thick and rough. His teeth, both upper and lower, were defective, and he therefore could not ruminate. His voice, not easily described, was somewhere between a moo and a whinny. Indeed, the bray of an ordinary mule is hard to imitate. In other respects, he seemed to resemble his mother. It was Cardinal de Comitibus who brought him [to Rome] from France, where these animals, apparently, are often bred, and who gave him to Cardinal Scipione Borghese. A powerful beast, he had a firm, pleasant gait. He lived 32 years, but in the end had to be put down because, with his teeth, he could chew neither grass nor hard food and had to swallow them whole. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin.]

And in the early eighteenth century, Dr. Patrick Blair (c. 1680–1728), a Scottish surgeon and a Fellow of the Royal Society, informs his readers that from “a Bull and a She-Ass is procreated a certain Animal, called Joumar, as I am credibly inform’d by the intelligent Dr. Sherard, who has often seen them in Turkey, where they are very frequent, and of great Use, as being excellent Beasts of Burthen, and of a quick Pace upon a March, a property not very incident either to Father or Mother. This Animal is a compound Mixture of both, and by being so, of a very unusual Shape” (Blair 1720, Part II, p. 310).

Indeed, eighteenth-century books on horse breeding gave explicit instructions on how to breed horse-cow hybrids, as shown here:

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horse-cow hybrids Illustration from the 1703 edition of Georg Simon Winter von Adlersflügel’s Stuterey, (Stud Breeding) a manual on horse breeding. Adlersflügel was a master equestrian and the author of numerous books on equine medicine. In connection with the figure above he (pp. 128 and 130) gave the following instructions on how to get a bull to cover a mare, which may be of use to modern experimenters with this cross: “One must keep the bull in a darkened stall, get him used to wearing a rope halter and give him plenty of good feed. And rub him frequently with the same grooming powder that one uses for stallions. Keep him in this manner for a few months, leading him about regularly by his halter (which should be done at night), and meanwhile, each day, use a sponge to rub him well under his nose with the scent of a mare in heat. Then, on a quiet night, one can lead him to the mare and let him cover her. But it must be emphasized that one must do this repeatedly until the mare has conceived, at which time one need not of course lead him to her any longer. One must also place the mare in a hole dug out in the ground and restrain her head between posts so that the bull can easily come to her. Also, one should cover her head so that she will not see the bull.” The existence of such detailed instructions for producing horse-cow hybrids raises the question of why an expert on horse breeding should provide them if no hybrids ever resulted. In breeding ordinary mules, mares are often made to stand in a hole in just the same way so that short-legged jackasses can reach them.
Voltaire Voltaire
(1694-1778)

In late eighteenth-century France, belief in this equid-bovid hybrid seems to have been extremely widespread. For example, after the French Revolution the new official calendar renamed the months, and gave names taken from nature to each individual day of the year. The name of the 15th day of the new month of Messidor was Jumart. A French encyclopedia (Cours d'études encyclopédiques ou nouvelle encyclopédie élémentaire, vol. 6, p. 40), published during the revolutionary era, lists the beasts of burden as follows: “the horse, the ox, the ass, the mule, and the jumart.” Voltaire, widely considered one of France’s greatest Enlightenment writers, accepted the reality of cow-horse hybrids as much as he did that of mules (see Voltaire 1792, p. 200).

A second ostensible living horse-cow hybrid (jumart), present at Kitale Nature Conservancy, Kenya, in 2007. Note horselike tail and hindquarters. This individual appears to have had Brahman cattle parentage. Excerpt from a YouTube video.

A second video, showing the same animal as that in the video immediately above, in which it can be seen that this individual is a male (note, too, in the background, the presence of an animal with a cow-like tail and horse-like hindquarters, which may represent a third jumart present at Kitale). Excerpt from a YouTube video.

hindquartersHindquarters of a horse (left) compared to those of a cow (right).

Zirkle (1935, p. 34) says this cross “was cited as an authentic instance of hybridization for well over two hundred years.” He also notes that many of the descriptions “seem to be independent eyewitness accounts from several different countries, and no one ever seems to have doubted the creature’s existence.” This last statement, however, is not entirely accurate; many people, for example Buffon (1749-1804, vol. 14, p. 398), did express doubts, which is not surprising, given that cattle are artiodactyls (“even-toed ungulates”) while horses and asses are perissodactyls (“solid-hoofed ungulates”), that is, they belong to two separate mammalian orders. In other words, on the basis of their scientific classifications, a horse and a cow are as distantly related as a pig and a chimpanzee.

But there were also many who adamantly embraced the reality of cow-horse hybrids (the longstanding controversy was similar to that seen in the case of cat-rabbit hybrids at the present day), especially in France. Thus, in his Histoire générale des animaux even the doubting Buffon included this illustration of a jumart, since he realized that his readers would expect to see one alongside pictures of oxen, horses, mules, donkeys, and all the other common animals:

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jumart Above: Illustration of a jumart from Buffon’s Histoire générale des animaux (Part 1, The Quadrupeds of France). In English the caption reads: This is a beast of burden, which is produced from the union of a bull with a jenny or a mare, and from that of a stallion or a jackass with a cow. In the 1768 volume of L'Avant-Courreur two such animals are mentioned. One, being the product of a bull and a mare, differed little from a small ordinary mule, except in that the upper jaw was much shorter than the lower. As for the other, derived from a bull and a jenny, it was only about 3 feet 2 inches tall; its coat was composed of hair much like a cow’s; the forehead bulged where cattle have horns; the upper jaw was also two inches shorter than the upper; it had the muzzle of a cow, of which its body also had the general length and conformation, and it was similar to a cow, too, with respect to its tail, and in that it was knock-kneed.
horse-cow hybrid A jumart skull (Image: Musée Fragonard d’Alfort).

horse skull Horse skull

Cow skull Cow skull

One eyewitness from that era was Giuseppe Marco Antonio Baretti (1719-1789). Baretti was an Italian literary critic, translator and writer. In his book An Account of the Manners and Customs of Italy (London, 1769, vol. 2, pp. 281-285), he states the following:

As for the carrying of burthens, we [i.e., the Italians] make use of mules, and of another animal called Gimerro [In a footnote here Baretti says, “Gimerro in English is Jumart.”], expecially throughout the mountains where horses would soon perish.

Of mules we have great droves continually carrying merchandises, particularly over those parts of the Apennine that answer to the port of Leghorn; those of the Alps that lie between Italy and Savoy, Switzerland, and Tyrol; and those which geographers call the Ligurian Alps. Some of the muleteers of the Apennine draw even carts with mules; but those of the Alps never do, or at least I never saw any that did. Perhaps the greater height of the Alps and their unconquerable ruggedness causes the want of this convenience.

It will not be improper to say something of the gimerros, as I find that no travel writer, of the many I have read, has ever mentioned them, and that they are but little known even to those of my English friends who delight in various and extensive reading. A gimerro is an animal born of a horse and a cow; or of a bull and a mare; or of an ass and a cow. The first two sorts are generally as large as the largest mules, and the third somewhat smaller. I have been told by some muleteers in several parts, that the sires of these animals are first shewn a female of their species just before the leap; then led forcibly to one of the species intended, which is kept at hand. The Alpine peasants assure us, that they might get a fourth kind between a bull and a female ass, but that they ordinarily prove sorry things. Of the two first sorts I have seen hundreds, especially at Demont, a fortress in the Alps (about ten miles above the town of Cuneo), that was much talked of during the last war between the French and the Piedmontese. There many of these gimerros were used, chiefly in carrying stones and sand up to the fortress that was then a-building on a high rocky hill. Of the third species, I rode upon one from Savona to Acqui, so late as the year 1765. [Here, Baretti inserts the following footnote: “Savona is a town on the Ligurian coast, belonging to the Genoese, and Acqui is the capital of Upper Monferrat, belonging to the king of Sardinia.”] It was a sluggish beast, scarcely sensible of the bit and whip; but wonderfully sure-footed; and riding that way in January, as I did, in a most rugged by-road, the whole country round covered in a deep snow; many a mile in a narrow path, often on the brink of a precipice, and all the north sides of the frequent cliffs (over which I was to go) perfectly hidden under the hardest ice; going such a way, I say, I had really need of such a beast, that was very careful not to fall.

The gimerros resemble the mules so much, that, if you are not told, you will scarcely ever think of the difference, which chiefly consists in the ears, not so long as those of the mules; in the parts of the head about the nostrils and mouth, which in the gimerros are generally rounder than in the mules; and in the middle of the back, which is sharper in the mules than in the gimerros. Those between a bull and a mare have likewise a fiercer aspect than the other two species; and the species of that on which I went that journey, have upper fore-teeth remarkably more forward than their under; yet they feed very well. A careful examiner, I believe, would discover more distinguishing characteristics of the gimerros than I did. My eyes, which are none the best, and consequently not much used to survey objects with great exactness, did not help me to more.

So then, are these animals really horse-cow hybrids? A key to resolving this controversy will no doubt prove to be the fact that specimens are available, at least two at Kitale Nature Conservancy (the living animals shown in the videos above), and a skull in a Paris museum. Since these three would probably all be F₁ hybrids, it would be easy to test them with molecular genetic techniques. And given that there are at least two present in a single facility, at Kigale, they are probably not so rare that diligent search would fail to locate others. (If you are aware of others, please contact this website.)

I was first led to the Paris specimen after reading Ackermann (1898, p. 74), who stated that there was a skeleton of a jumart in France in the collection of the Musée Fragonard d’Alfort, an anatomical museum associated with the French National College of Veterinary Medicine at Alfort (Écoles nationales vétérinaires d’Alfort), located today in a suburb of Paris. Ackermann’s assertion prompted me to explore the museum’s website, which did indeed turn out to have a page discussing jumarts, and which includes a photograph of a skull (see figure above at right and high resolution image below). The following is a translation of that page (accessed Apr. 20, 2010): “Monstrosities were little studied in the early years of the Écoles Vétérinaire, but there is one exception that stirred a longstanding controversy: the jumard (or jumart or joumart). This animal,

horse-cow hybrid A jumart, allegedly drawn from life at the l’Ecole d’Alfort in France in 1766. Note that this animal has a cowlike tail, unlike the animal pictured by Buffon, the Buitelaar animal pictured below, and those shown in the videos above, which all have tails like that of a horse. Artist: Jean-Pierre Houël.
said to be the hybrid of a bovid and an equid, was extensively described by [Claude] Bourgelat [the founder of the college], who used all his prestige to make the idea of this interspecific cross accepted. He made a precise description of it in his correspondence with the naturalist Charles Bonnet. This jumard was very strong. Its forehead, muzzle, and lower jaw were those of a cow, but the teeth and uterus, those of a mare. Notably, it lacked a gall bladder. [A gall bladder is present in cattle, but not in horses.] Elsewhere, Bourgelat asserted that he had produced a horse-cow hybrid by mating a Navarre stallion with a cow. It only lived four months and was more like the mother than the father. The founder of the Écoles Vétérinaire [i.e., Bourgelat] noted that several cases had been presented to the Ecole de Lyon [the college’s original branch] and that Dauphiné [A former province in southeastern France] was certainly one region particularly favorable to their production. The jumard became the center of a huge controversy in which the major biologists of the era asserted their opinions. Buffon, in the Supplément à l'histoire des quadrupèdes, recognized that mares and bulls can copulate despite their differing genital organs. He reports seeing in 1767, at the home of his miller, two or three copulations a day without any birth having resulted. To Buffon, the jumard appeared to be a fantastical animal though he did admit that other types of interspecific crosses are possible, as for instance that between wolf and dog. Garsaul, Haller, and Huzard backed his opinion and that opinion triumphed after nearly a century of controversy. The Musée Fragonard d’Alfort still has a jumard skull dating from the time of Bourgelat. The cranium is globular, the lower jaw, longer than the upper, and upper incisors are displaced toward the rear. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
Claude Bourgelat Claude Bourgelat
(1712-1779)

The jumart skull mentioned in this translated text is pictured on the same webpage, which is somewhat surprising given that horse-cow hybrids today are generally considered imaginary, and given the museum website’s claim that they do not exist “triumphed.” The skulls of mythical animals do not end up in museum collections. So either this type of hybrid has been produced, or the skull pictured is a fake or that of some other creature. Note, however, that this skull, which the Alfort Museum describes as a jumart’s, differs markedly from that of a cow, horse or ass (see pictures above, comparing these skulls). So if it is not a jumart, what is it? And what is the animal shown in the video at the top of this page? Here is an enlargeable image of the Alfort skull:

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Horse-cow hybrid High-resolution image of a jumart skull (Enlarge).

The French college of veterinary medicine is one of the world’s oldest. Its main branch at Alfort opened in 1766, and its museum, the Musée Fragonard, located at that branch, opened in the same year. The founder of both (as well as the original branch of the college at Lyon, which first opened its doors on January 1, 1762), the veterinary surgeon Claude Bourgelat (1712-1779), began the museum’s collection. He was a member of both the French and Prussian academies of sciences. Many veterinary colleges in other countries were founded by his students, who took the French college as their model.

Charles Bonnet Charles Bonnet
(1720-1793)

Charles Bonnet, a Swiss scientist, was one of the foremost naturalists of the eighteenth century. While updating his Oeuvres d'histoire naturelle et de philosophie, an encyclopedia of natural history, he happened to read about a jumart supposedly once in Bourgelat’s possession. As a result, he writes the following (Bonnet 1779, vol. 6, pp. 349-352): “Confronted with authorities of conflicting opinion, I greatly desired to be able to make up my mind

on the interesting question of the existence of jumarts. In a magazine, I had seen the description of a jumart that M. Bourgelat, Inspector General of the Écoles Vétérinaires de France, had caused to be dissected under his direction at the Lyon branch of the school, but dared not trust the report of a journalist. Having to publish a new edition of my book, I directly contacted M. Bourgelat himself, and the expert and detailed letter I received from that celebrated individual in response leaves no room for doubt that jumarts are in fact very real. The author of the letter began as follows: “I believe in the existence of this particular kind of hybrid, known as the jumart, as much as I believe in my own. I have had several of them sent to me from the Haut Dauphiné by students of the veterinary school, and which were born on their fathers’ farms.” Such formal testimony from such a renowned academician as M. Bourgelat, who is better able than anyone to judge the truth, would seem to carry the greatest weight. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy, Original French.]
A water-storage organ? The Swedish-born German naturalist Karl Asmund Rudolphi (1771-1832), who visited the Musée Fragonard d’Alfort at the beginning of the nineteenth century, described the complete head and neck of a jumart. In addition, he commented that the animal in question in life had an unusual organ, which apparently served the function of water storage: “The animal from which this head was obtained was at Alfort for a long time, and people were surprised by the fact that he was never seen drinking, and they concluded that he in fact never drank. For all attempts to make him drink were in vain. But then, all at once, he drank two buckets of water, which, given the small size of the animal, provoked new astonishment. But at autopsy they found a hollow organ on the upper surface of the stomach of about the same size as the stomach pouch of a llama” (Rudolphi 1804-1806). Possibly this hollow, stomach-attached organ was the consequence of crossing a ruminant, with a four-chambered stomach, and a horse, with a single stomach?

The skull pictured above is apparently that of one of the jumarts Bourgelat claimed to have had in his possession during the years he served as director and inspector general of the school. There seems little doubt that such is the case, given that the museum website describes it as the skull of a jumart, and explicitly states that it “dates from the time of Bourgelat.” Moreover, it is well-known that Bourgelat began the collection that later became the museum’s.

In the present context, it appears significant that (1) descriptions of jumarts regularly mention that the upper jaw is much shorter than the lower (the usual distance mentioned is “an inch and a half”), and (2) that in the picture shown above, of what the museum website describes as the “skull of a jumart,” (“tête osseuse de jumard”) that the incisors in the upper jaw do, in fact, fall far short of those in the lower. This is not the case in a horse or an ass, and a cow does not have upper incisors. There seems to be no known animal with a similar mismatching of the incisors, nor one with a tooth and skull configuration like that seen in this putative jumart. In an old description of these animals, Leger (1669, p. 7) says this mismatch generally prevented the jumarts he saw from grazing, except in fields with long grass they could crop by pulling it off with their tongues. Similarly, Paul Zacchias (quoted above) mentions that an old jumart belonging to Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577-1633) had to be put down because it could not eat grass or hard food.

There is also the fact that this specimen has an obvious knob or prominence over each eye, another feature regularly mentioned in accounts of jumarts. (These knobs are better visible in the smaller of the two images of the Alfort specimen shown above, as the larger image was taken from an angle that makes it harder to see them.)

In the article quoted above, Bonnet (1779, vol. 6, pp. 351-352) includes an excerpt from Bourgelat’s letter, a section describing the anatomy of a female jumart: “Fear of altering the anatomical description of this jumart in abridgment has prompted me here to transcribe nearly word for word from M. Bourgelat’s letter. In its external appearance, this animal has a mouth or muzzle like that

of a cow. [new paragraph] With its enveloping soft tissue removed, one finds the cranium much more rounded than in a horse. The frontal bone is larger; the nasal bones more depressed in their upper part; the orifices of the nasal cavities, and the cavities themselves, much narrower; the orbital opening, round, whereas in the horse it is oval; the palette, much longer and more concave; the upper jaw an inch and a half shorter than the lower, the former being, as in cattle, at least two inches wider than the latter. Each jaw contained twelve molars, six on each side; those of the upper jaw describe an arc posteriorly. … the region corresponding to the space between the canines and first molar was flattened relative to the horse, and one and a half inches in length, and convex, whereas in the horse it is concave. [new paragraph] This jumart had neither canines nor wolf teeth. The incisors, which are eight in number in the lower jaw of a cow, here numbered just six in each jaw. They were an inch and a half long. They were not vertical, but inclined forward so that the upper jaw did not bear on the lower jaw except at the very tip of the left first incisor. [new paragraph] The tongue did not differ from that of a cow. Its papillas or buds were as easily distinguished as in the latter animal. [new paragraph] The throat was much much larger in diameter than than in a horse. [irrelevant comments omitted here] The stomach was single and shaped exactly as in the horse, but it was much larger. [new paragraph] The spleen was of the same shape and of the same consistency as that of a cow. [new paragraph] The uninary bladder at its greatest dilation had a diameter of no more than three inches. [new paragraph] The uterus was exactly like that of a mare or a she-ass. [description of uterus omitted] The ovaries were the size of a fava bean, soft and flaccid. [note: abnormally small, flaccid gonads are typical of hybrids] [new paragraph] Otherwise, there was no gall bladder [A gall bladder is present in cattle, but not in horses.] and no difference in the structure of the remaining visceral organs, which resembled those of a mare in all respects. The myology was similar to that of a horse in all respects. M. Bourgelat ended his account with the following words: “Since that time we have opened and dissected several jumarts, both male and female, and I can assure you that all had a single stomach and no gall bladder.” [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
Louis-Furcy Grognier Grognier
(1774-1837)

Louis-Furcy Grognier (1774-1837), a member of the Academie Français and the French Society of Medicine, was a professor, and later, the director of the École nationale vétérinaire at Lyon. Like many French veterinarians of his era, Grognier believed that horse-cow hybrids exist, though he considered them rare. Thus, he says (Grognier 1841, pp. 83-84; see also Grognier 1805, p. 188), “Enlightened individuals worthy of credence claim to have seen these animals [but] most naturalists deem them imaginary. However, whatever the differences may

be between equid and bovine genitals, one cannot deny that a bull can cover a mare, and a stallion, a cow; both these things have often been seen. But from the fact that one observes a hundred such unions without progeny, does it follow that they are never fecund? It is an established fact that in the country, where males and females of all species are put together pell-mell on the pastures, hybrids are sometimes born that have the head of a calf, the tail of a cow, and knobs in place of horns, but having body and limbs built like those of a horse. At the school of veterinary medicine in Lyons an animal was examined that in its general form was like a mule, but whose face and upper jaw resembled a bull. The tongue was covered with papillae as in the bovine species. This animal had neither the bellow of a bull, nor the neigh of a horse, nor the bray of an ass; rather its sharp, shrill cries recalled the bleating of a goat. I could supply additional examples but will be contented to say that, while I do not reject the existence of jumarts, I consider them unlikely. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]

The encyclopedist Victor d'Azyr (1821, p. 391) concurred with Grognier’s view that hybrids of this type are rare, for he says that in his native Cantal (a little populated region in the Auvergne) he had seen only two, though, he adds, several other people from the same region had assured him that they had seen others. Given that these animals are rare, if they exist at all, the attitude expressed by Grognier (1805, p. 194) seems reasonable enough:

When a truthful and forthright person claims to have witnessed something extraordinary, one has no right to say that such a thing cannot exist simply because one has not seen it himself. Nevertheless, many authors reason as follows: ‘We have never seen a horse-cow hybrid, therefore anyone who says he has is either mistaken or wants to trick us.’ Why not say instead that animals of different species unite with difficulty and that, when they do, an offspring very rarely results? [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
Claude Julien Bredin Bredin
(1776-1854)

In the same publication, Grognier (1805, pp. 194-195) mentions his friend and colleague, Claude Julien Bredin, who also served (from 1815 to 1835) as Director of the French School of Veterinary Medicine at Lyon, “while at Sospello [modern Sospel] in the Maritime Alps department [of southeastern France] where he was performing his duties as a veterinarian to the artillery, was shown an animal that was supposed to be the offspring of a bull and a she-ass. It was 3 feet 5 inches in height. Its body

Another account
Over the years, various anecdotal accounts of such hybrids have appeared in publications targeting rural readers. For example, the following is from Baily’s Magazine of Sports & Pastimes (1891, vol. 56, p. 284): “We hear from Thorney Abbey, in the Isle of Ely, that Mr. Patrick, an eminent grazier of that place, had a two-year-old filly which proved to be with foal. She produced a few days ago a very uncommon creature. One side of it is like a calf red and white; the other side like a foal, quite black, except a few red spots interspersed. It has a head like that of a calf, and two horns already about three inches long. Its fore feet are like those of a foal. It sucks at the mare and continues in health. (Extract from weekly paper bearing date June 20, 1768.)” http://tinyurl.com/pap5wsl
resembled that of a donkey, but its hair was like that of a mule; its rump was much more rounded than that of a donkey; the stomach was voluminous, like that of a cow; the neck, very short and thick; the hooves, well formed and undivided; the cannon bones, slender and without the slightest indication of a groove in their anterior portion; the knees, extremely large; the mane was black and shaggy; the head is large and well-set; the forehead, prodigiously large, and in its middle presented a deep depression; we observed two prominent knobs just above the eyes, but they had no trace of callosity, nor anything about them that resembled horns. [new paragraph] The incisors of the lower jaw were very well situated; those of the upper jaw, unequal and displaced toward the rear: the first incisors were very large, but the second and third, excessively small; the eyes prominent and extremely large; the end of the nose was very slender, as in an ass. [new paragraph] This bizarre animal was male and its sexual organs resembled those of an ass. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
Buffon Buffon

Many French naturalists, however, who were not veterinarians held the opposite view. This school of thought seems traceable in its origins primarily to the Comte de Buffon (Histoire Naturelle, 1829, vol. 16, pp. 392-393), who tried and failed to produce a horse-cow hybrid: “On my family estate, in 1767 and subsequent years, the miller had a horse and a bull who lived in the same barn, and who

had such passionate feelings for each other that whenever the mare was in heat the bull, if free, never failed to cover her three or four times a day. These couplings, repeated many times over several years, gave the master of these animals high hopes of seeing an offspring. However, it never resulted in anything, and all the residents of the place were witnesses both of the matings these two animals—which were very real and for several years often repeated—and of the lack of the product. This very certain fact seems therefore to prove that, at least in our climate, a bull can produce no offspring with a mare, and it is this finding that makes me doubt, very legitimately, the existence of this first kind of jumart. I have no facts as certain that I can cite in contradiction of the possible existence of the second sort of jumarts, the type of which Dr. Shaw wrote and which he says come from the donkey and cow. I admit that, even though the difficulties involved appear to be about as great in both cases, the positive testimony of someone as well educated as Dr. Shaw makes the existence of this second type of jumart more probable, than that of the first. And with regard to the third type, that dereived from a bull and an she-ass, I am convinced, despite the testimony of Merolle, that it does not exist any more than a jumart from the bull and the horse. There is even more disagreement, yet more natural distance, between a bull and a she-ass than between a bull and a mare, and from the fact, which I have already mentioned—that a bull produces no offspring with a mare—we can infer that no progeny will be produced from the union of the bull with a female ass. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
Paul Gervais Paul Gervais
(1816-1879)

But not everyone agreed with Buffon, and many veterinarians continued to believe in horse-cow hybrids long after Buffon was dead, perhaps because reports of such animals continued to crop up. For example, the following brief notice about a horse-cow hybrid appeared on page 3, column 4, of the January 5, 1872, issue of The True Northerner, a newspaper published in Paw Paw, Michigan (source): “The latest freak of nature is an animal at Council Bluffs [Iowa], which is half horse and half cow.” A similar notice, but in this case reporting a cyclops, appeared on page 16, column 2, of the July 23, 1893, issue of The Indianapolis Journal, a newspaper published in Indianapolis, Indiana (source): “A monstrosity in the shape of a colt with a head like a calf and having but one eye and no mouth was foaled on the Fair ranch in Sonoma County, California. It lived for two hours after its birth. The dam was a large draft mare.”

Writing in the mid-nineteenth century, the eminent French zoologist Paul Gervais (1855, p. 154) commented that “Naturalists have accepted the opinion of Buffon, but such is not the case with veterinarians, who are far from convinced.” (Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.)

He went on to explain why he did not believe in jumarts himself: “Unfortunately, these singular productions have either not been described with the care they deserve, or in those cases where they have been, they are easily recognized as

An injunction against jumarts
The strictures of Deuteronomy (22:9-10) suggest the Israelites were concerned to prevent the production of hybrids of this type: “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou has sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass yoked together.”
a few monstrous individuals, just as one sees in any species, and which can be explained without supposing that some foreign fertilization has occurred. Up to the present day at least, the doubts held by many veterinarians on this subject have not been based on any really authentic observation, and these doctors could not be under more obligation to provide evidence to resolve this important issue. It is nonetheless demonstrated today that Jumarts do not exist in countries where they were reported, in Italy, Corsica and Algeria, for example, and moreover have not been observed elsewhere, in the way that we observe mules and hinnies. These monsters to which Mr. Grognier refers are never viable, and the stories, more popular than scientific in which they typically appear, seem no better founded than are the various tales people spout about various monstrous human births, about which modern teratology provides such exact knowledge. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]

It's easy enough to see why Gervais might suppose that all horse-cow hybrids are inviable. In fact, many of them are. It’s a wide cross, and in wide crosses, the percentage of inviable hybrids is usually higher, all other things being equal. For example, an inviable horse-cow is reported in the following article from page 2, column 6, of the September 30, 1879, issue of the Hamilton Spectator, a newspaper published in Hamilton, Victoria, Australia (source).

    A Monstrosity.—A lusus naturae, in the shape of a foal with a calf’s head and feet was born on a farm near Byaduk last week. With the exception of the head and feet, all other portions of the body resembled those of a horse. Its mother was a fine mare. Mr. Christie, who supplied the information, says he never saw anything like it, nor do we suppose anybody else ever did, and, had it not been stillborn, it would have been worth hundreds of pounds to a showman.

And yet 14 years after Gervais’ death we find a news report of a cow calving, not one, but two perfectly viable horse-cow hybrids. The following article originated with the Dunedin Star, a newspaper in Dunedin, New Zealand. But here it is transcribed from page 4, column 1, of the July 18, 1893, issue of the Poverty Bay Herald, a newspaper published in Poverty Bay, New Zealand (source).

HALF HORSE, HALF COW

    A cow recently gave birth to a pair of singular animals. They resemble colts more than calves, although both possess rudimentary horns and hoofs of cattle, but in all other respects they seem to be young horses, having long, flowing manes and tails of colts, only these latter are unusually long and bushy. One is a male and the other a female, and both are well-developed, well-shaped animals. The mother, however, seems to know that there is something abnormal about them, and has declined to allow them natural nourishment, so that they are to be brought up by hand.
    The mother is a young Jersey of unmixed breed and a valuable animal. As usual, the penny show proprietors have scented out the curiosities, and have proposed to purchase them, but the owner has declined, having a mind to watch the development of these singular offspring. The other cattle and horses on the farm alike refuse to consort with the strangers, and it has been found necessary to isolate them in a separate pasture. The colt-calves are playful little creatures, and seem to possess affectionate dispositions, coming to the bars at a whistle from the man having them in charge. Crowds from all over the country have been to see the curiosities.—Dunedin Star.

Occasional reports of such hybrids continued into the twentieth century. The following appeared on page 5, column 1, of the February 22, 1905, issue of the Keowee Courier, a South Carolina newspaper (source).

    C. W. Hunt, of Mountain Rest, reports a curiosity, monstrosity, malformation or phenomena at his farm in the shape of a combination calf—half calf and half mule—which was born last week. Its feet are those of a mule, small and shapely, and have no sign of the calf’s cloven hoof. Its head and ears also are quite mulish, bearing a decidedly closer resemblance to a mule than a calf. The remainder of the body of the creature is that of a calf. At three days of age the little freak was alive, apparently healthy and gave every promise of growing to maturity. (See also)

The following report about a colt with a cow’s hoof appeared on page 4, column 4, of the April 25, 1908, issue of Pullman Herald, a newspaper published in Pullman, Washington (source):

Colt With a Cow’s Hoof

    Albany, Ore., April 21.—A freak colt has been born on the farm of E. Hartsock, in Benton County, near this city. One of its front feet is a cow’s hoof. The colt is now a week old and apparently is not hampered by its strange foot. It runs about and will probably grow up.

In a similar case later that same year, a pony foaled by a Shetland mare in Nevada, Iowa had three cow’s hoofs instead of one. The report appeared on page 8, column 1, of the June 11, 1908, issue of the Monroe City Democrat, a newspaper published in Monroe City, Missouri (source). The same story appeared in many other papers across the country (for example).

A Pony With Cow’s Feet

    Nevada, Ia. June 5.—A freak colt was foaled here yesterday. A Shetland pony mare belonging to Orrin Lash, a retired farmer who has just moved into town, gave foal to a colt, and three of the hoofs of the bay Shetland are as perfectly formed cow’s feet as one ever looked upon. The fourth hoof, the right hind one, is naturally formed. The cow is strong and healthy, chases about the barnyard with the mother and is natural in all other ways.
    Many have gazed upon the little curiosity, and all are unable to advance any satisfactory explanation for this freak of nature. At first Mr. Lash was inclined to kill the little fellow, but as the colt was strong and apparently able to make his way through the world all right, his neighbors prevailed upon him to save the little one. A great many people have called to see the freak.

Another case of a horse with cow hooves is described on page 2, column 4, of the July 17, 1902, issue of Jamestown Weekly Alert, a newspaper published in Jamestown, North Dakota (source):

A Freak

    Wm. Blake of his city bought a colt Saturday from a farmer named Newburger of Ypsilanti [Michigan] which is quite a curiosity. The colt has instead of the regulation horse’s hoof on its left front leg two horn-shaped growths similar to the hoof of a cow in some respects but longer. One of the horn-shaped growths is used to walk on by the colt. The other grows out of the fetlock. The upper one is about 14 inches long and the lower is about 10 inches in length. The colt is a year and a half old, is healthy and walks with but little difficulty. Mr. Blake was offered $100 for the animal Sunday by a traveling man. He refused the offer. Hundreds of people visited the barn on Sixth Avenue north, Sunday, to see the freak.

On a separate page of this website a putative deer-horse hybrid is pictured which had deer hooves protruding from both of its front fetlocks. From the standpoint of taxonomic classification, deer-horse hybrids are similar to cow-horse hybrids.

The following report about a horse-cow appeared on page 2, column 4, of the August 3, 1901, issue of The Broad Ax, a newspaper published in Salt Lake City, Utah (source):

WONDERFUL COW-HORSE

New Jersey Again In Line With Something Abnormal

    Veterinarians are interested deeply in a freak cow-horse, which is in the possession of Mr. William S. Hugo of Elizabethport, N.J. At first glance the animal looks like a mare of natural size, but on approaching her hind quarters the formation of a cow is discovered in the hip bones, which are level with the backbone. She measures [~60cm] from one hip bone to the other. The mare has natural shoulders and head, but when traveling has the peculiar stride of the cow.
    The animal has attracted much attention, and several circus men have endeavored to buy her. The mare can get over the ground in lively fashion, while not appearing to be going fast. In the stall the animal chews her cud, as does a cow or bull, and if watched closely many of the attributes of the bovine can be observed. When swishing flies her motion is the same as that of a cow. She can gallop, but in a clumsy fashion only.

Another report alleges a three-way horse-cow-deer hybrid (perhaps simply a horse-cow hybrid?). It appeared on page 2, column 4, of the July 9, 1910, issue of the Charlevoix County Herald, a newspaper published in East Jordan, Michigan (source). It reads as follows:

HORSE PARTLY DEER AND COW

Freak Animal in Canada Is Only One-Third Equine

Backbone Is On One Side
    Ottawa—At the village of Buckingham, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, a few miles from this city, is a horse, if such it can be called, that is only one-third horse, the other two parts being divided equally between cow and deer.
    As a freak the animal probably has no equal. The normal parts are its head, eyes, teeth and one hind leg.
    Its backbone is not in the center, but runs along the side of its back.
    One side of the body is that of a deer, perfectly formed, with the fine close-set ribs and the delicately curved body, while the other side resembles that of a cow, very full, with big rough ribs and the hide much rougher than on the other side.

A second report about the same animal described in the article immediately above supplies some additional information. It appeared on page 2, column 4, of the March 17, 1910, issue of the Heppner Gazette, a newspaper published in Heppner, Oregon (source). It reads the same as the article above, but has different headlins and adds a paragraph:

FREAK PART HORSE, COW, DEER

Spine on Side, Horn on Front Legs, Hoof Points Backwards

    On one of its front legs there protrudes a twin horn which measures four feet and ll inches from the tip to the base, turning up at the point and weighing about 25 pounds. The hind leg on the left side is put on backwards, so to speak, all the muscles of the leg are on the inside and the hoof points backwards.

That same year, a horse-cow in Stratford, Connecticut, was mentioned on page 8, column 5, of the November 14, 1910, issue of The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, a newspaper published in Bridgeport, Connecticut (source). The brief notice reads as follows:

Freak of Nature

    A horse with cow blood in its veins is the queer freak brought from Oregon by L. W. Warner, and now housed in his barn in Stratford [the next town east of Bridgeport]. The creature plainly exhibits the mixed characteristics of horse and ox. Mr. Warner intends to place it on exhibition.
.
horse-tail and cow tail Tails of a horse and cow.

The following question from a reader appeared on page 11, column 1 of the March 1, 1911, issue of The Ranch, a monthly newsletter published in Seattle, Washington (source):

    Question—Will you please give this space in The Ranch? I have a heifer that is somewhat of a “freak of nature,” she has a tail like a horse; but what interests me most is that she will soon freshen, and only one side of her udder is developing. What can I do to make the other side develop? A. V. R. Colby, Wash.

A horse-cow hybrid is mentioned on page 3 of the March 17, 1915, issue of Bregenzer Tagblatt, an Austro-Hungarian newspaper published in Bregenz (now in western Austria). The report reads as follows:

    In the stable of the Restaurateur Werkmeister in Friedingen a calf was birthed that had a perfect horse’s head. This monstrosity was of the male sex and lived 28 hours. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]

A donkey-cow hybrid is reported on page 3 of the June 4, 1917, issue of Pilsner Tagblatt, an Austro-Hungarian newspaper published in Pilsen (now in the Czech Republic. The brief notice reads as follows:

    A Monstrosity. In Neuhof near Buchau a cow owned by a farmer named Al. Huml birthed a female calf with the hind legs and tail of an ass. The birth of this vigorous monstrosity, which is still alive, created a great sensation. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]

Another horse-cow hybrid is mentioned on page 6 of the October 28, 1917, issue of Grazer Vorortezeitung, an Austro-Hungarian newspaper published in Graz in what is now Austria. The brief report reads as follows:

    Half Calf Half Horse. After a 44 week pregnancy, a cow belonging to Farmer Alexander Hügel in Neudorf gave birth to a calf, with the rear legs and tail of a horse. The delivery of this highly developed freak, which is still alive, was quite difficult. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]

The gestation period of a cow is about 39 weeks, that of a horse, 48 weeks or more. So the length of gestation in this last-quoted case is intermediate between that of horse and cow. Hybrids typically have a gestation period intermediate in length between those of their parents.

Even more recently, an animal in an English news report appears to be a horse-cow hybrid. It belonged to Frans Buitelaar, a Boston, UK meat dealer back in the 60s or 70s, and is pictured in an online article in the Boston Standard. According to the brief comments accompanying the picture, a local vet was consulted at the time and he pronounced the animal “bovine.” However, might it also have been equine? The Standard’s image is shown below, along with those of a horse and a cow for comparison. Traits visible in the picture that seem consistent with the idea that this animal has equine inheritance are: (1) its very horse-like tail; (2) the rounded hip (i.e., croup) region, which does not at all have the pointed shape characteristic of a cow; (3) absence of an udder; (4) saddle in the back, unlike the straight back of a cow; (5) long, thick horse-like neck.

Article continues below

cow

horse-cow hybrid Above: An ostensible horse-cow hybrid.
Image: Boston Standard, UK

horse

One might, of course, simply suppose that the image is a fake. However, although the former owner Frans Buitelaar is now deceased, his son, Adam Buitelaar, when contacted, said he does remember seeing the living animal and confirmed it did look like the creature shown in the image above. And, moreover, he said it did have a horse’s tail. He also said that it was a female, which would make the fact that it lacked an udder very peculiar indeed—if it were a pure cow. Moreover, the two animals shown in the videos on this page above have a similar structure, and videos are far more difficult to fake than photos.

It can be seen that the Buitelaar animal differs substantially from the creature shown in Houël’s eighteenth-century illustration. Possibly, this discrepancy simply reflects a high order of variability in the offspring from this cross, as is the case with certain other distant hybrids. The structure of the Buitelaar animal is, however, consistent with the brief descriptions of the Buchau, Neudorf and Colby animals in that the equine similarity is primarily restricted to the hindquarters and tail. The same can be seen in the two Kitale animals shown in the videos above. On the other hand, the Mountain Rest, Elizabethport and Friedingen animals were reported to have the reverse configuration, that is, they were described as horse-like anteriorly and cow-like posteriorly. And then, some of the early French cases and the New Zealand animals, from their descriptions, seem to have been of an equine character overall. And then we have the two animals born in the U.S. in 1908, which looked like ordinary colts, except that one had a single foot like that of a cow and the other had three. The basis of this extreme variability in what must be F₁ hybrids, if they are hybrids at all, is unknown. In closer crosses, F₁ hybrids typically show very little variability.

As usual, in the case of any hybrid of disputed status, I leave open the question of whether horse-cow hybrids exist, although the videos on this page do confirm, at the very least, that animals combining equine and bovine traits do exist and are viable. Reservation of judgment on such issues, however, is a matter of strict policy here on this website. However, it is clear that genetic testing of the alleged jumart skull (pictured above) held in the Musée Fragonard’s collection, and of the two Kitale animals, would help to resolve this issue, at least with respect to that particular specimen (such testing would be straightforward given that it is presumably an F₁ hybrid, if it is a hybrid at all). Such a study could have potentially important results, in that any definite verification that this specimen is derived from hybridization between an equid and a bovid would demonstrate that the limits of mammalian hybridization extend far beyond what many scientists currently believe possible.

Dog-cow hybrids >>

Chicken-duck hybrids >>

A probably phony report about a buffalo-horse hybrid >>

Table of contents >>

Bibliography >>

Internet citations >>

Biology Dictionary >>

Etymology: Webster’s Third New International Dictionary states that the French word jumart, which has been adopted into English, derives from Provençal gimerro, jamerro or chimarro, from Old Provençal jumerra, ultimately from Latin chimaera, meaning chimera. Jumart is related to the Latin word jumentum, meaning mule, or beast of burden, and to the French word jument, meaning mare. Many other names have been used, in various languages, to refer to hybrids of this sort. Among them are the following: jumard (Fr.), jumar (Fr. masc.), jumarre (Fr. fem.), jumerre, jumarra (pl.), joumar, gemart, gemar, gimar, ox-donkey, ox-horse, hippotaurus, onotaurus, hippotaure, guimarri (Ital. pl.), guimerri (Ital. pl.), bosmulo (Ital.), bosmuli (Ital. pl.); kumrah or koomrah (Arabic, according to Shaw).



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