Jumarts: Equid × Bovid

Fact or fiction?



Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass yoked together.
Deuteronomy, xxii, 10
jumart A jumart, allegedly drawn from life at the l’Ecole d’Alfort in France in 1766. Artist: Jean-Pierre Houël

Few scientists today would deem strange mixtures like ox-horses and ox-donkeys possible. But for centuries scholars did claim that they were, that is, they said hybrids can be produced from cattle crossed with equids. And indeed, some asserted that they themselves had seen creatures of this sort. Such animals are known by various names, but perhaps the most common is jumart.

Viewed in an ontological light, the jumart is dubious. It dwells somewhere near the boundary between science and mythology. Perhaps creatures of this sort do not exist and have never existed. Or, then again, perhaps they did. Given available evidence, which is scanty, it seems further investigation might tip the scale either way.

Conrad Gesner Conrad Gesner

The story of the jumart begins in the 16th century and continues to the present day. In his Historiae Animalium (Liber I, De Quadrupedibus viviparis, 1551, p. 19) Conrad Gesner, the founder of modern zoology, 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 says 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 (1551, p. 106) refers to the same event:

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 in its shape, its hair, and its tail like a cow. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin.]

Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484-1558), 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 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.

Similarly, 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).

Voltaire Voltaire

The foregoing quoted material constitutes only a small sampling from the many early accounts asserting that this equid-bovied hybrid truly existed. In late eighteenth-century France, knowledge of, and belief in, this 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 jumarts as much as he did that of mules (see Voltaire 1792, p. 200).

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 doubt concerning their existence, which is not surprising, given that cattle are artiodactyls (“even-toed ungulates”) horses and asses are perisodactyls (“solid-hoofed ungulates”), that is, they belong to two separate mammalian orders. But there were also many who adamantly embraced the reality of jumarts (the controversy was similar to that seen in the case of cat-rabbit hybrids at the present day).

Jumart skull A jumart skull (Image: Musée Fragonard d’Alfort).

horse skull Horse skull

Cow skull Cow skull

So, then, is this animal real or imaginary? A key to resolving this controversy will, no doubt, prove to be the fact that a specimen apparently exists, which, given that it would probably be an F₁ hybrid, would be easily testable with molecular genetic techniques. Ackermann (1898, p. 74) states that there is 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 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,

Claude Bourgelat Claude Bourgelat
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. Elsewhere, Bourgelat asserted that he had produced a jumart 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 [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 ["brachygnathia superior"], and upper incisors are displaced toward the rear. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]

The jumart skull mentioned in this translated text is pictured on the same webpage, which is somewhat surprising given that jumarts today are generally considered imaginary. 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? Here is an enlargeable image of the skull:

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jumart skull High-resolution image of a jumart skull.

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

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 once supposedly 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 that in fields with long grass they could crop by pulling it off with their tongues. Similarly, Paul Zacchias (Zacchias 1660, p. 504, 18) mentions that a jumart belonging to Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577-1633) died 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.

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 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

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 jumarts 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 only 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:

simply because one has not seen it himself. Nevertheless, many authors reason as follows: 'We have never seen jumarts, 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

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 jumart: “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

But not everyone agreed with Buffon, and many veterinarians continued to believe in jumarts 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 hyrid appeared on page 3, column 4, of the January 5, 1872 issue of The True Northerner, a newspaper published in Paw Paw, Michigan (access source): “The latest freak of nature is an animal at Council Bluffs [Iowa], which is half horse and half cow.” A similar notice appears on page 1, column 1, of the September 6, 1893 issue of The Yellowstone Journal, a newspaper published in Miles City, Montana (access 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 a Fair ranch in California.”

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.]

And yet 14 years after Gervais’ death we find a news report of a cow calving two horse-cow hybrids. The following article originated with the Dunedin Star, a newspaper in Dunedin, New Zealand. But it was transcribed here from page 4, column 1, of the July 18, 1893 issue of the Poverty Bay Herald, newspaper published in Poverty Bay, New Zealand (Access source)"


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 (Access 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 (access 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 rans about and will probably grow up.

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 (access source):


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 here. 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 (Access source). It reads as follows:


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 (Access source). It reads the same as the article above, but adds this paragraph:


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 (Access 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 compared to a cow tail A horse tail and cow tail.

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 (Access 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.

horse-cow hybrid Above: An old news from p. 2, col. 4 of the July 17, 1902 issue of Jamestown Weekly Alert, a newspaper published in Jamestown, North Dakota (Access Source).

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. [Note: The gestation period of a cow is about 39 weeks, that of a horse 48 weeks or more, so the length of gestation here is intermediate between that of horse and cow. Hybrids typically have a gestation period intermediate in length between those of their parents. Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]

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


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


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 of a female, which would make the fact that it lacked an udder very peculiar indeed—if it were a pure cow.

It can be seen that the Boston 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 Boston 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. 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 animal, from their descriptions, seem to have been of an equine character overall. 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 jumarts exist. Reservation of judgment on such issues 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 would 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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