27 August 2012

Three-horned sheep are real

Ovis aries - Old Norway Sheep (anomalous, three-horned)

As explained at Biomedical Ephemera:
Three-horned sheep legitimately have more than two horns... As a result, the extra horn locations can deform the skull shape of sheep who develop them, resulting in…"special" sheep.

Thankfully for farmers, most of the time, the extra horn and semi-deformed skull/face has no influence upon brain development, and the sheep are no more dull than average.
Text and image from an eighteenth-century German nature book.


  1. Similarly, my three-horned coworkers.

  2. I wonder if some of these "special sheep" didn't suffer from a related condition to what this little guy had : http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1320&dat=19980414&id=8EVWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FOsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3948,3141550
    (WARNING: link contains image of two-faced pig, although fairly tame the image may be disturbing to some)

    I don't know what it's called specifically, but if the cranium of an animal grows too wide in utero features will duplicate, resulting in an extra eye or nose. By "too wide" I don't mean "extra large". In this case the signals that tell a fetal skull to stop expanding and differentiating fail to communicate properly, or else the cells that give those signals grow too far apart from each other, resulting in accidental duplication as each "side" tries to form the "whole" it was ordered to make (If that makes sense). Extreme cases will result in two completely separate faces. If all three/four eyes had optical nerves I can only imagine that this will affect the brain as well.

    I can guess that some three horned sheep had skulls that, for whatever reason, grew too wide at the top rather than the front of the head.

    See also these guys (a nice picture this time folks) for something completely different: http://www.4hornfarm.com/Sheep.html

    1. Thanks, Jenny. I think the condition you are referring to is "diprosopus" -



    2. That's the word I couldn't remember for love or money. Sounds like you're way ahead of me :)

      Thanks for the links, although now I have this horrible image in my head of a two-faced kitten singing, "Two Faces Have I".

  3. if three horns is exciting, you're going to love the isle of man sheep!


  4. Jacobs Sheep routinely have 4 or more horns. It's part of the breed standard. http://albc-usa.org/cpl/jacob.html

  5. no more dull than average, huh? ... that's still pretty dim. *shudder*


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