Kudans

Japanese belief in cow-human hybrids

Mammalian Hybrids

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EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS, ΦΒΚ

     

Kudans

Many creatures arose with double faces and double breasts, offspring of oxen with human faces, and again there sprang up children of men with oxen’s heads.
—Empedocles
Fragments, 5th cen. BCE
cow-human hybrid An alleged cow-human hybrid on Japanese television.

In Japan, there is a centuries-old belief that rare hybridization between human beings and cows occurs. These animals, known as kudans, are supposedly short-lived and infallible seers — they are born, speak their prophecies and promptly die.

Such trust is placed in these purported prophecies that related sayings have entered the language, such as “honest as a kudan.” And people widely wear, or at least have worn in the past, pictures of supposed kudans as amulets, with the idea that they provide a tutelary function.

kudan An early representation of a kudan. The Japanese in the picture translates as “December 1836, in Tango province, a monster with the face of a human and the body of a cow called ‘kudan’ appeared on Kurahashi Mountain.” It also says that “a kudan was produced also in December of 1705, and a good harvest followed. Any who wore an amulet depicting the kudan experienced great family prosperity even in times of sickness, and large harvests in times of famine. Indeed, it is an auspicious beast! Because the kudan is an honest beast, it is customary to write ‘like the Kudan’ at the end of every act and deed.” (Translation taken from Wikipedia.)

The Wikipedia article on Kudans (accessed 3/20/2017) says that “From the Edo period [1603-1868] through Showa period [1926–1989], there have been several reported sightings [of kudans] throughout Japan, though they are most often reported in western Japan.” It also states that “On June 21, 1909, a Nagoya newspaper reported a sighting of the kudan. According to the article, a calf had been born with a human face a decade before in a farmhouse on the Gotō Islands. It reported that ‘It died only 31 days after its birth and prophesied a war between Japan and Russia.’ The calf was later stuffed and put on display in the Yahiro Museum in Nagasaki. The museum has since closed and the calf's whereabouts are unknown.” This would probably be the specimen shown in the image immediately below.

A pair of similar kudans:

cow-human hybrid A Japanese museum specimen. A bizarre specimen with not only a human-like head (sheathed with cow hair), but a calf head as well. Note that this specimen has the same conformation as the Parisian cow described by Morand at right. Enlarge image
A Parisian case. In a manuscript in the Bibliothèque de Lyon (Morand 1812), a Parisian doctor, Jean François Clément Morand, describes a cow that he saw at the St. Germain fair. He alleges that this animal had “atop its true head, a growth of the same size and form as a human head” (Original French: “au-dessus sa vraie tête, un kiste ayant la grosseur et la forme d’une tête humaine ”). This is exactly the conformation seen in the Japanese specimen shown in the photo at left.

During World War II a kudan was supposed to have been born in Kyoto and in its prophecy it predicted that people that ate beans and rice within a certain time period would survive the bombings. Needless to say, consumption of those two foods promptly skyrocketed.

Of course, such mythological issues, while interesting, are of less relevance from a scientific standpoint than the fact that photographs of specimens are available. In some cases, apparently, even the specimens themselves (possibly faked?) have been preserved. The latter open the door to potential genetic testing (if anyone has any information about whether such tests have already been conducted, please contact the website).

Kudan photos collected from the internet:

cow-human hybrid An alleged cow-human hybrid born in the Japanese prefecture of Kagawa in 1930.

cow-human hybrid A second view of the alleged Kudan shown on Japanese television and pictured above.

Kudans


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