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Triplet Calves

Updated on December 18, 2017

Triplet Calves

Even in the era of world-wide communication ad media, triplet calves are very rare and worth a news story. Cows are biologically capable of producing twins but generally have only one calf at a time. Triplets are extremely rare. Triplets are slightly more common with older cows and in family lines with a previous record of producing triplets.

Some farmers are selecting for triplet calving to increase the incidence. However, calves from twin or triple pregnancies are less likely to survive, and females with male sibling in utero may be infertile. Cows who have triplets are also more like to become infertile or die than those having single calves. So it is not a win/win situation. Most farmers are happy to have singletons and occasionally twins.


Because bovine twins are rare and, let's face it, rather by cute, they are a subject found in antique and vintage photographs by proud farmers. Some examples are shown below, with the year marked when it is known.


A tethered white spotted cow is shown in a pasture with her three offspring. This picture appears to originate in France and is marked on the back "Cine Foto Paris".
A tethered white spotted cow is shown in a pasture with her three offspring. This picture appears to originate in France and is marked on the back "Cine Foto Paris".


The picture below, dating from 1922, shows a cow dubbed "Dairy Maid" with her triplets.
The picture below, dating from 1922, shows a cow dubbed "Dairy Maid" with her triplets.


Three calves delivered by a cow named Lucie
Three calves delivered by a cow named Lucie

Recent Examples

Even More Unusual

A cow in the United Kingdom even gave birth to triplet calves of different breeds after being inseminated with sperm from more than one bull.


There is only two cases of bovine quadruplets that I have found

  1. From 1930. Born to a seven-year-old Holstein Friesian, two of the calves were also identical twins.
  2. In 2012, all female calves, also including one set of twins.


  • Echternkamp, S. E., Thallman, R. M., Cushman, R. A., Allan, M. F., & Gregory, K. E. (2007). Increased calf production in cattle selected for twin ovulations. Journal of animal science, 85(12), 3239-3248.
  • Pearl, R., & Pearson, K. (1912). A Case of Triplet Calves: With Some General Considerations Regarding Multiple Gestation in Normally Uniparous Animals. Maine Agricultural Experiment Station.
  • Sawa, A., Bogucki, M., & Krężel-Czopek, S. (2013). Reproduction performance of cows with single, twin and triplet calves. Acta Veterinaria Brno, 81(4), 347-352.


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    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      3 years ago from New Zealand

      We do have twin calves occasionally, and they do take a little more care to look after when first born than one especially when born to a heifer (2-year-old cow) as they usually reject one of them.

      Enjoyed the photos of the triplets, so cute, thanks for sharing.

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 

      7 years ago from West of England

      Cute! Enjoyed the photos in your Hub and the links.


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