EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS, ΦΒΚ
Some readers may find the contents of this page disturbing.
At Frusino a lamb was born with a swine’s head; at Sinuessa, a pig with a human head; and in Lucania,… a foal with five feet. All these were considered as horrid and abominable, as if nature were straying from her course in confounding the different species.
The History of Rome 31.12
This page of the pig-human hybrids section collects historical accounts from the early literature.
No less a personage than the great philosopher John Locke gave credence to the existence of pig-human hybrids. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690, III, Chapter 6, §27) he asks, “Who would undertake to resolve what species that monster was of, which is mentioned
And the German chronicler Johann Christoph Becmann, a professor at the University of Frankfurt, recorded (Historische Beschreibung der Chur und Mark Brandenburg, 1751, Volume 1, p. 883) that at Prenzlau, on July 15, 1587, a sow farrowed a piglet with a human head in the marketplace. In the same place he also mentions that similar births occurred in Berlin in 1647, in Golnau, Pomerania, on May 19, 1652, and near Havelberg, in 1719.
In 1699 the English physician Sir John Floyer (1649-1734) authored an account (Floyer 1699) of two supposed human-pig hybrids (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 21). There he states that “In May 1699 there was shewed to me a Pig, at Weeford in Staffordshire, with
Head of an alleged man-pig (Floyer 1699)|
Floyer himself, ascribed the human-like heads of these piglets to “compression of the Womb” (that is, as Floyer explains, pressure on the piglet’s head from the uterus, placenta or adjacent piglets). But from his account, it’s clear that others believed these animals to be pig-human hybrids. He says one, a male, was born alive but died soon thereafter because he could not nurse.
It’s of interest that the shape of the head of the animal as described by Floyer and as pictured in his illustration (see figure, above right) is similar to that of the “monkey-pigs” pictured on another page of this website (“the same Chin, and depression betwixt the Eyes, and the roundness of the Head and flatness of the Ears”). However, if his animals were in fact hybrids, it’s clear that in England in 1699 the nonporcine parent would not have been a monkey. Floyer notes that the sex of the Derbyshire “piglet” could not be determined, but that the Weeford animal was a male.
An anonymous 1676 pamphlet announced the birth in London of a pig with human-like features. From the description given, it’s clear that the specimen in question did not differ much in its appearance from many other putative pig-human hybrids, that is, its skin was soft and smooth as a baby’s, a frontal proboscis was present, the face and skull exhibited various human-like features, and the hooves were curled up in front. As in many other reports about distant hybrids, the specimen in question was anophthalmic, that is, it lacked eyes (more cases of anophthalmia and cyclopea in pig-human mixes).
Other early examples of what seem to be pig-human hybrids can be found in the writings of French surgeon Ambroise Paré, who says (Paré 1646, pp. 665-666) that “In the year 1110 a sow in the town of Liège [Belgium] farrowed a pig having the head and the face of a man, as well as human hands and feet, but the rest was like a pig.” Paré’s illustration of this animal appears immediately below.
|An additional artist’s conception of the pig-human hybrid of Liege (Paré 1646, p. 665), also pictured at the top of this page.|
Continuing, Paré describes another Belgian case:
Both of the Belgian specimens are figured in Paré (1646, p. 665).
The earlier of the two cases he cites is mentioned in the Chronica Majora of Matthew Paris (c. 1200-1259): “At the same time [1109 CE], in a parish of Liège, a sow gave birth to a piglet with the face of a man.” Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin: “Eodem tempore in parochia Legiensi porca porcellum enixa est, sed faciem hominis habentem” (Luard 1874, vol. 2, p. 136).¹ But given that Paris makes no mention of hands and feet, Paré may have read about this birth in some other source.
Sir John Hayward, in his Annals of the First Four Years of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, writes that in the year 1562, “a sowe farrowed a pigge having hands and fingers like a man child.”² A contemporary account of this “piglet” published in a broadside that same year reads as follows:
The German historian Johann Christoph von Dreyhaupt, in his treatise on his native Halle (Beschreibung des Saalkreises, 1755, vol. I, p. 645), states that a piglet with a human head was born in that city in 1523. He goes on to say that
Johann Georg Schenck (1609, pp. 113-114) lists seven old cases of pigs born with human heads. One of these, he says, the creature pictured at right, was born near Nicosia on the island of Cyprus in the year 1568.
Johannes Praetorius (Neüliche Miß-Geburten, 1678) reports three pig-human hybrids born in Germany. One was a piglet born with a human head on the twentieth of June, 1678 in Rinteln [a small town in Lower Saxony]. The other was a "half a pig and half a man" farrowed on a farm outside Mühlhausen. A third was born in Eisleben in the fall of 1669 a child with the snout of a pig.
An additional case is listed in Chinese records of the Shanghai region, a pig born in the year 1600 with a human head and hands (Macgowan, 1860, p.70). And Albertus Magnus (Physica, lib. 2, tr. 3, cap. 3) states that “sows can give birth to piglets with human heads” (“porcae parientes porcellos, quorum capita sunt humana”).
There are also various classical references to such births, as summarized in the following list.
Long before the Romans, Akkadian omen lists specified the consequences of sexual connection between humans and pigs (Freedman 2017, p. 72):
Note that in all reports of human-pig mixes cited on this page, the mother is a sow and it is the forepart of these tertium quids that resembles humans and the rear, pigs. There is, however, a good bit of variation among the accounts with respect to how much of the forepart is human, varying from cases where a single foreleg bears a human hand, up to cases where both forelegs do, and the head and face bear a perfect resemblance to the human condition. A 18th century case reports the presence of a human ear on one side and a pig ear on the other (as did news stories about a birth at Friendship, Tennessee in 1877). There is also variation with respect to the presence/absence of a frontal proboscis, which seems to be reported in something less than half the cases.
However, there are a few reports on record about human mothers giving birth to half-human half-pig creatures, and it is interesting that in such cases the structure of the body is said to be reversed, that is, the foreparts are pig-like and the hind parts are human-like.
Since he believed such things to be real, it’s not surprising that Locke, wound up his discussion of pig-human hybrids by asserting that no one really knows exactly what a “human being” might be. “So far are we from certainly knowing what a man is; though perhaps it will be judged great ignorance to make any doubt about it. And yet, I think, I may say,
By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).
Above: A 16th-century account of a pig-human hybrid supposedly born in Italy in 1528. From Fabio Columna's Phytobasanos siue Plantarum aliquot historia in qua describuntur diuersi …, Appendix: Piscium aliquot plantarumque novum (Neapoli, 1592), p. 5. The following is a translation of the relevant portion of the text: “To this may be added, because it is extraordinary — and even unbelievable if it were only heard of — but it is attested by the word and teaching of many authorities, and it has been told me by my dear grandmother Caterina Pelegrina, and I am persuaded that it is certain, given that her living father, Hieronymus Abellar, and other citizens of the town confirm it, in the year of our salvation 1528 a monstrous animal was born of a sow, having the head in all respects like that of a human being, but the remainder of the body like that of its mother…”|
1. English historian Sir John Hayward (1613, p. 303) refers to what seems to be the same case. He says the event took place in the thirteenth year of the reign of Henry the First, which would have been 1112 A.D. Hayward notes merely that “A pigge was farrowed with a face like a childe.”
2. Crawford (2005); Hayward (1840, vol. 7, p. 107).
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