EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS
Warning! Readers may find this page disturbing…
Can a primate cross with a pig to produce viable offspring? Many scientists would say no. And yet, truth to tell, ostensible hybrids of this type, in particular ones which seem to involve human beings, have been repeatedly reported. There are dozens of cases on record. The accounts vary somewhat with respect to the descriptions of the alleged hybrids, but basically, they boil down to this: All describe creatures that have the body of an ordinary pig, except for the presence of hands and/or a human-like head, that is, the front end is similar to human, the rear end, to pig.
The reports differ with respect to the claimed degree of resemblance the foreparts to those of humans. Some, however, do allege an exact similarity (see the screenshots of old newspaper reports at far right). The most recent accounts (for which photographic evidence is available) depict creatures with faces that are reminiscent of, but certainly not identical to, those of human beings. Indeed, several of these recent putative hybrids have a fleshy process like an elephant trunk attached to their foreheads, a structure known as a frontal proboscis. Frontal proboscides are also mentioned in some of the older reports (see column at the far right of this page).
A Chinese case (2015)
The most recent of these strange births took place on Monday, Feb. 9, 2015 in southern China. A sow belonging to Tao Lu, a resident of Yanan township in the city of Nanning, farrowed a “piglet” with a human-like face. Pictures accompanied the news stories (photos). The animal was born alive, but died of starvation soon after birth. Nearly the last of a litter of 19, it was crowded out by siblings and unable to nurse. (Newborn piglets deprived of milk usually live only a few hours.)
The fact that only one individual from a litter of 19 resembled a human is not inconsistent with the possibility that it was a hybrid. When a litter-bearing mother, such as a sow, is multiply inseminated by different males, members of the same litter can have different fathers. Within the context of hybrid crosses, this means that a mother inseminated by two males, one of her own kind, and one not of her kind, can produce litters composed of both pure and hybrid offspring. (The former will usually make up most of the litter since the fertilization rate will generally be higher.)
A recent birth in Laos
Another, similar individual was recently born in Laos in June 2014 and is shown in at the top of this page (video #1). Though this video is perhaps the most convincing of any video showing putative hybrids of this type, there is very little information available about this particular birth. Indeed, some sources say it occurred in Burma, not Laos.
Another Chinese case
In the summer of 2008, news stories surfaced on the Internet picturing a creature said to have been born in a litter of piglets farrowed by a sow belonging to Feng Zhanglin, a resident of Xiping township in the province of Hunan in China. The animal (shown above), described as a monkey-pig, was born July 19, 2008. The pictures associated with the various stories look real, but what is this creature? An actual pig-monkey hybrid? A strange, complex mutant? Many have suggested it's a pig-human hybrid.
The various brief articles about this birth give anecdotal descriptions of the reactions of the family (e.g., Mrs. Feng was frightened of it; Mr. Feng abandoned it; their son recovered it and fed it, etc.) and tell how neighbors crowded the Fengs’ yard and how reporters rushed to the scene. But I have been unable to obtain any more recent reports relating to this very unusual birth, nor even a single serious scientific assessment of the animal. So at present it’s unclear whether this “piglet” survived to adulthood or whether, in particular, the nature of its origins have been evaluated via genetic testing (anyone with additional information, please forward your findings here to the website). Here are links to additional pictures of this creature:
A Central American specimen
In August 2011 a sow in a remote Guatemalan village (Santa Cruz El Chol, Baja Verapaz) produced another such “piglet” with a humanlike head. Its appearance, rather similar to the 2008 Chinese “monkey-pig” shown above, was recorded in television news reports, one of which is shown Video #2 above.
An additional case
A fourth such creature appears in Video #3. It has a frontal proboscis, which is similar to that seen in the photo above of the "man-pig" born in China in 2015, but the proboscis is free-standing. This is simply a video I found on YouTube and there is no information in English about where or when it was made, but the people in the video seem to be speaking some eastern Asiatic language (if anyone understands what is being said, please let me know). It’s interesting in this connection that an old report about an alleged human-cow hybrid, quoted elsewhere on this website, pictures a creature with a frontal proboscis.
There are many newspaper reports about putative pig-human hybrids, a broad selection of which appear below. Those appearing here all date to before 1923 since the searchable Library of Congress database of digitized American newspapers, from which they were taken, contains only issues published prior to that year.
Such reports are of especial interest because the descriptions given in these many separate accounts, by individuals who would be very unlikely to know each other, concur in describing these “piglets” as having human hands and/or human faces, that is, they consistently describe the front-end of these hybrids as being human-like and the rear ends as being pig-like. How would people living at different times in so many different places — South Carolina, New York, Minnesota, Georgia and various other states around the country — come up with similar descriptions if they had not each seen similar creatures? It’s like the old police trick of interrogating suspects separately—you know they are telling the truth when they tell the same story. Here are the reports I have located thus far:
Screenshot of a news story about a pig with an old man's face, which appeared on the page 2 (col. 6) of the Daily Phoenix, published in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 31, 1896. (Access original)
Screenshot of an account of a pig born with a human face, which appeared on the page 3 (col. 2) of the Daily Phoenix, published in Columbia, South Carolina, on July 15, 1869. (Access original)
Screenshot of an account of a pig born with human hands, which appeared on the front page of the Democratic Northwest and Henry County News, published in Napoleon, Ohio, on July 4, 1895. (Access original)
Screenshot of an additional account of a pig born with human hands, which appeared on page 2 (col. 4) of the The Cambria Freeman, published in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, on March 26, 1880. (Access original)
Screenshot of a brief article appearing on the front page (col. 6) of the Crittenden Record, published in Marion, Crittenden County, Kentucky, on May 21, 1908. (Access original)
Screenshot of a brief mention of a pig born with human hands, from page 4 (col. 3) of the St. Paul Daily Globe, published in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on Nov. 04, 1885. (Access original)
A newspaper account of a pig born with a human head in Tennessee in 1877:
Screenshot of a news story about a pig born with a human head, from page 4 (col. 3) of the Memphis Daily Appeal, published in Memphis, Tennessee, on November 31, 1877. (Access original) In the nineteenth century the Latin term Lusus naturae (meaning “sport of nature”) was often used in reference to surprising freaks and mutations.
Same case as that immediately above, but a different story from a different newspaper:
Screenshot of a news story about a pig born with a human head, from the front page of the Clarksville Weekly Chronicle, published in Clarksville, Tennessee, on September 1, 1877. (Access original)
Screenshot of a report (originally appearing in the Louisville, Kentucky Journal) about a “pig” with human face, from page 4 (col. 1) of the Memphis Public Ledger, published in Memphis, Tennessee, on August 8, 1867. (Access original)
Screenshot of a report about a “pig” with human face, from page 4 (col. 6) of the The Hickman courier, published in Hickman, Kentucky, on November 20, 1885. (Access original)
Screenshot of a report about a “pig” with a human face, from page 4 (col. 4) of the the Warren Sheaf, published in Warren, Marshall County, Minnesota, on May 12, 1892. (Access original)
Screenshot of a report about a “pig” with a human head, from page 2 (col. 4) of the Fisherman & Farmer, published in Edenton, North Carolina, on May 29, 1896. (Access original)
Newpaper reports describing individuals with frontal proboscises:
Screenshot of a brief article appearing on the front page of the Belmont Chronicle, St. Clairsville, Ohio, on July 23, 1891. According to the account, a “piglet” born in Wellsville, a village in eastern Ohio, had human hands and a frontal proboscis. (Access original)
Screenshot of a brief article appearing on page 2 (col. 7) of the Clarksville Weekly Chronicle, Clarksville, Tennessee, on Aug. 22, 1874. According to the account, a “pig with a human face” and a frontal proboscis on display in a drugstore in Chattanooga, Tennessee (Access original)
Screenshot of a news story about a “pig” born with a human head and frontal proboscis, from page 3 (col. 1) of the Opelousas Journal, published in Opelousas, Louisiana, on Mar. 13, 1874. (Access original)
Screenshot of a news story about a “pig” born with a human head, from page 14 (col. 3) of the Perrysburg Journal, published in Perrysburg, Ohio, on July 30, 1914. (Access original) Another case of frontal proboscis.
Screenshot of a brief article about a “pig” born with a human-like face and a frontal proboscis, from page 2 (col. 4) of the Orangeburg News, published in Orangeburg, South Carolina, on Sept. 19, 1874. (Access original)
Screenshot of a brief article appearing on the front page (col. 6) of the Daily Public Ledger, Maysville, Kentucky, on Nov. 3, 1896. It reports a cyclopean “piglet” with a human head. (Access original)
Pig-human hybrids: Old reports
There are also various other accounts of pig-human hybrids in the older literature, and, since this page is my dumping ground for all reports of hybridization between pigs and primates, I’ll include some of these accounts here.
No less a personage than the great philosopher John Locke gave credence to such hybrids. In his renowned 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
by Licetus (Bk. i. c. 3), with a man’s head and hog’s body? … Had the upper part to the middle been of human shape, and all below swine, had it been murder to destroy it? Or must the bishop have been consulted, whether it were man enough to be admitted to the font or no? As I have been told it happened in France some years since, in somewhat a like case.
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
a Face something representing an Humane Fœtus, and the roundness of the Head, and the flatness of the Ears surprised all Persons, and they did usually apprehend it to be a Humane Face, produced by the Copulation of two Species. … This kind of Monstrous Pigs … I believe is very frequent, because I had another [piglet] of the same Kind sent me out Derbyshire, which had a resemblance of a Man’s face and all the other parts of a Pig, and this had the same Chin, and depression betwixt the Eyes, and the roundness of the Head and flatness of the Ears I have above described.
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 above ("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.
Other examples of alleged pig-human hybrids can be found in 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 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 [see two figures below]. … In the year 1564 in Brussels, at the house of a man named Joest Dickpert, living on Warmoesbroeck Street, a sow farrowed six pigs, the first of which was a prodigy having a man’s face, as well as arms with hands, and representing humanity in a general way from the shoulders up; but it had the two hind legs and rear parts of a swine, and the genitals of a sow. It nursed along with the others and lived two days, but then it was killed, along with the sow, on account of the horror that people had of it; this prodigy is here illustrated [see woodcut figure below] most naturally, just as it was in life. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]
Both of these alleged hybrids are figured in Paré (1646, p. 665). The first may be a reference to a single-sentence mentioning such a hybrid in the Chronica Majora of Matthew Paris (c. 1200-1259): “At the same time [1109 A.D.], 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:
This present yere of oure Lord God a thousande five hundred three score and two, one Marke Finkle a joiner dwelling beside Charing Crosse by Westminster, had a sow that brought forth one pigge onely, upon the seventh of Maye, beinge Ascention daye, the whiche pigge had … two fore feet, like unto handes, eche hande havinge thre long fingers and a thumbe, bothe the thumbes growinge on the outsides of the handes. [quoted in Lilly 1870, pp. 45-46.]
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 in Nicosia on the island of Cyprus in the year 1568.
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). Two others are mentioned by the ancient Roman historian Livy (59 B.C.-17 A.D.), who says (History of Rome) a pig with a human head was farrowed at Sinuessa (XXXI, xii) and another at Tarquinii (XXVII, iv). 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”).
In the case of all of these reports of alleged human-pig hybrids it is always the forepart of the animal that resembles humans and the rear that resembles pigse. There is, however, 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 does the more 1874 case described in the article excerpted from the Clarksville Weekly Chronicle at right). 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.
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, that the certain boundaries of that species are so far from being determined … that very material doubts may still arise about it. And I imagine, none of the definitions of the word man, which we yet have, nor descriptions of that sort of animal, are so perfect and exact as to satisfy a considerate inquisitive person.
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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