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Headed Off at the Pass: Our Two-Headed Calf

Posted by Peg Boettcher at

Two-headed bull calf at Ye Olde Curiosity ShopCarried to term by a Friesian-breed cow at Bulsworthy Farm near Launceston, Great Britain, our baby bull developed with two beautifully shaped heads and necks, but -- alas -- only one body. Sadly, the little guy died soon after his mother went into labor. But he was tenderly preserved by the celebrated Victorian taxidermist, Walter Potter, early in the last century. The calf's mother survived the birth (much to the relief of farmer Mike King).

 

How can this happen? Called “polycephaly,” the Greek word meaning “more than one head” simply enough, the condition usually stems from the fusion of identical twins in the womb. Identical twins form when a single egg that has been fertilized by a single sperm somehow decides to divide into two creatures. Usually the process results in a matched set of adorable babies. But in rare cases, the embryos don’t separate completely. This is the fate that befell our little bovine buddy.  

 

Peg Boettcher has been wrangling curios and working for Ye Olde Curiosity Shop since 2004.

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