This week, on a family farm in northeast Croatia, a goat was born with eight legs and both female and male reproductive organs.
"I counted his legs and I thought I was seeing things,” farmer Zoran Paparis told inSerbia. “Then I called my neighbor to make sure that I am not crazy.”
A veterinarian in Arkansas attributed the eight legs and multiple reproductive organs to a “process called fetal reabsorption, in which one fetus absorbs another in the womb.” This same vet noted that “the process is not uncommon and is usually caused by low levels of a pregnancy hormone called progesterone” and that “the goat would most likely not live past two weeks.”
“Kids born with both male and female organs occur at a rate of less than 15 percent in goats,” says Dr. Munashe Chigerwe, a professor and veterinarian at the University of California, Davis. Citing a study in the Journal of Heredity, Chigerwe notes that hermaphrodism in goats is genetic, and that hermaphrodism occurs more frequently in goats than in any other farm animal. The study finds that mortality rates among hermaphrodite kids are actually lower than mortality rates among normal kids. No mention of hermaphrodite kids with eight legs, though. (But, according to Chigerwe, multiple legs are positively associated with hermaphrodism, as are other factors, such as being polled—not having horns.)
Multi-headed and multi-limbed creatures date back to Greek mythology's Lernaean Hydra, a snake-like creature with nine heads that was finally killed by Hercules as the second of his Twelve Labors. However, abnormal animals are not reserved for mythology. Rare birth defects have created pigs with three snouts, and even a cow with extra hooves growing out of its back. Paparis recalls a kid born with two heads at a neighboring farm several years ago.
The farmer hopes his Octogoat—one of three triplets born to dam Sarka—will survive and gain enough strength to be back on its feet—all eight of them—in no time.