Photos of a “mutant”, two-headed calf have surfaced from a small Polish farm, according to a local veterinarian who reportedly posted a photo of the delivery to social media.
But is the cow actually a “mutant”? Technically, yes – a genetic mutant. Conjoined twins develop in two ways. Sometimes an embryo only partially separates to form two individuals (two fetuses develop from the embryo but remain connected). Other times, a gene expressing for the head goes haywire, growing so large that it splits in two. What triggers this response – whether genetic development in the womb, external factors, or both – is an answer that researchers are still working out. That task has proved difficult time and again because conjoined animal twins rarely make it past the embryonic stage, rarer yet making it to adulthood.
Karolina Szarowska, who allegedly helped deliver the cow, said the mother survived a “difficult birth” and her male calf died shortly after. According to the cow’s owner, who chose to remain anonymous, it was reportedly her fourth birth – the first having been to a calf born with its internal organs outside.
If the photos are real – IFLScience has reached out to the veterinarian but has not heard back yet – it’s not the first time conjoined animal twins have been recorded. In May, a mushroom picker in Minnesota stumbled upon a two-headed deer fawn. While the conjoined twins are believed to have been stillborn, it’s believed to be the first known case of a two-headed fawn to have reached full-term.
In an even rarer occurrence, a two-headed calf in 2016 not only made it to term but survived more than 40 days under the care of one Kentucky family. Dubbed Lucky, the young calf had many unlucky deformities: her middle two eyes didn’t work, she could only walk in circles, and she needed help eating since both mouths moved at the same time.