Lee Pitts: Double headers
October 1, 2010
I’ve been trying to breed a three-tailed lamb or a six-legged dog for decades now and haven’t had any luck, and then I hear about some dude in Egypt whose cow gave birth to a double-headed calf. Some guys have all the luck.
Remember as a child going to the circus and giving up a hard-earned quarter to see a sheep with the head of a goat? Or a one-ton sow, or a 3,000-pound steer? Freakish animals have been a staple of sideshows and circuses ever since Barnum met Bailey.
I’ve seen two-headed animals in jars of formaldehyde at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and once paid a whole dollar to see a horse with the head of a pig. I was very disappointed with the horse/pig combo for two reasons: #1 because I could see the stitches where the taxidermist did a poor job of attaching the two, and, #2, because I really wanted to believe that it was possible to have a horse that could eat, think and smell like a pig. Oh, I forgot… I already had a horse like that.
Because such freaks of nature don’t pop up often they are extremely valuable. The guy in Egypt says he’s going to keep his two-headed calf but I think he’ll change his mind when he’s offered the $25,000 experts believe it could bring at auction. Qualified veterinarians believe the calf will survive and it could be a real show stopper because each head has its own set of eyes and mouth. I wonder, after its mother takes one look at the calf and runs away do you then bottle feed each head or just one?
There have been double-headers before. According to an article by Marc Hartzman such a calf was born in 1936 on a dairy farm in California. The dairyman obviously had the same morbid sense of humor as I do because he named one head Dolly and the other Rolly. All four eyes blinked at once and, get this, Dolly ate the food while Rolly chewed the cud. Tell me that’s not the neatest thing you’ve ever heard!
When it comes to freaks, dairymen have all the luck. I remember reading about a white Holstein and about the only black on her coat was in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head. I heard Disney bought her for a lot of money. I once had a crossbred cow that if you looked real hard and drank enough beer you could see the profile of Abraham Lincoln, but she died and I had to pay Buzzard Bill the tallow man to haul her away.
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I should have had all sorts of freaks in my herd because I was too cheap to buy enough bulls, so brothers often bred sisters and fathers their daughters. But the closest I ever came to a “cash cow” was a heifer that walked sideways. She was good for a lot of laughs and was really entertaining to watch until you tried to herd her, or run her up a chute. No one wanted to pay me big bucks for her either, especially the cow buyers who, as we all know, have no appreciation for modern art. They got what they deserved, I’m sure, when they bought her at auction and then had to unload her out of a truck.
The circuses were also NOT interested in our Berkshire hog that looked like W.C. Fields, or a calf that sounded exactly like Barbra Streisand when it bawled “The Way We Were.” I think circus goers would have really liked a bull we bought that came from Montana. Its tail was half frozen off and when he went to the bathroom I swear he looked exactly like a 1,800-pound German Shorthair pointing for quail.
Kids loved our horse that I could make laugh but we never made a nickel off him and our three legged dog was not born that way but was the result of catching up to the car she was chasing. We once owned a pig that could grunt, eat and wallow in mud all at the same time, which is not all that rare if you’ve ever seen Congress in session.
My best chance for immortality though was a deformed carrot that I grew in our garden that looked exactly like an anatomically correct male. I was wiped out financially though when my wife, not realizing the treasure she held in her hands, cut up the carrot and put him in a salad.