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Three-Legged Calves

Updated on November 24, 2016
Vintage photo: property of Psyche Skinner
Vintage photo: property of Psyche Skinner

This photograph was taken in Poland by Herbert Photos Inc. The calf depicted was reportedly born in the vicinity of the city of Lodz.

In the realm of animal oddities, it is quite rare for an animal to be born with three legs. A lot of animals lose a leg due to injury, but to be born with a non-symmetrical congenital defect is unusual. Missing limbs are not included in the long list of congenital defects known to occur in cattle suggesting hat is it a particularly rare even and may not be genetically based.

However this defect has been documented to occur multiple times--the internet does provide a number of other vintage examples from across the years--most with a similar conformation to the Lodz calf--a completely missing front leg but the other three legs completely normal.

This calf dates from 1906. It had a twin that had four legs but was blind.

This three legged full-grown bull is somewhat more unusual, and is missing a rear leg. It appears on a photo-postcard dating from around 1923.

Other reported cases:

So far I have been unable to find any medical explanation for this deformity. The loss seemed to be able to effect any leg, front of back--but predominantly found in forelimbs (see table). It seems unlikely to have a genetic cause.

A partial loss of the distal part of a limb might be caused by a ligature (something wrapping around the leg) or some other kind of injury suffered in the womb. (There are obviously also cases where calves lose limbs after birth due to an accidental trauma, e.g. Heidi).

Position of Missing Limbs

 
 
 
 
Left
Right
Front
5
5
Back
0
2
Missing limbs tend to be front legs, fairly evenly divided between left and right.

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    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 

      5 years ago

      Interesting to read about 3 legged animals, wondered how they survived in life.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      6 years ago from Wales

      A great article and thank you for sharing.

      Take care and enjoy your day;

      Eddy.

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