A Turtle-sheep Hybrid?



I am obliged to report that which is reported, but not to believe it.
—Herodotus, The History, VII, 152

Note: Any claim that hybrids can be produced from this highly disparate cross would require confirmation.

The following transcript is of an odd story that appeared on page 2, column 3, of the April 12, 1873 issue of the Clarksville Weekly Chronicle, a newspaper published in Clarksville, Tennessee: (Access source): “A strange monstrosity was born on

the farm of Wm. E. Davis, in Mercer county [Tennessee], a week or two ago. It was the offspring of a cotswold ewe and was more like a turtle than anything else. In shape it was nearly round and flat, with a crust on the back. The only wool it had was a small tuft on the back of a small curiously shaped head. The feet set out at the sides like those of a turtle. Mr. Davis can only account for the monstrosity from the fact that the ewe must have been frightened when with lamb by a turtle in the branch which flows through the pasture.
Alligator snapping turtle
Alligator Snapping Turtle
Macrochelys temminckii

Note: It has been my policy in listing reports of hybrids to include all serious allegations, especially those of scholars, whether or not the hybrid alleged seems possible or likely to me. This policy, I think, helps to eliminate subjective judgment on my part, and therefore should remove at least one source of systematic bias from my work. It also helps to fulfill the ethical obligation of telling not just the truth, but the whole truth.

Are turtle-sheep hybrids possible?

The alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), one of the heaviest freshwater turtles in the world, is native to the southeastern U.S., including Tennessee. It reaches weights of at least 300 pounds and so, at least conceivably, would be capable of mating with a sheep. However, the authenticity of this disparate cross has never been verified.

The mere fact that this cross is so distant would be enough to convince many people that it is impossible and that the report above must be a mistake or hoax. After all, sheep and turtles belong to two different vertebrate classes, Class Mammalia and Class Reptilia, respectively. However, there is, in fact, quite a bit of evidence that interclass crosses do occasionally occur.

There is also a report from Iowa about two turtle-cow hybrids. And there are even reports about turtle-human hybrids. However, the evidence for all of these reported mammal-turtle crosses is thin.

sheep-pig hybrid Sheep-pig hybrids?

A similar cross >>

Bird-mammal hybrids >>

Table of contents >>

Bibliography >>

Internet citations >>

Biology Dictionary >>

By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).

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