Birth is an amazing thing, but sometimes the results can be even more spectacular (and surprising) than we expect. Take a look at this baby cow, for instance. When she was born, the farmer thought that he was looking at two calves. The truth, though, has been wowing the internet ever since.
Stan McCubbin lives on his farm with his wife Brandy Abell McCubbin and their four daughters. The McCubbins’ farm in Campbellsville, Kentucky, is just like any other. Or it was – before the birth of an extraordinary animal in late October 2016.
One Friday evening, Stan went to check on his cows before bedtime. He knew that one of his heifers was expecting, but he didn’t realize that the cow had already given birth. Moreover, when he got closer to check on the calf, what he saw was beyond belief.
In fact, it was so unusual that at first he couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing. “From a distance, I thought I had twins lying together,” Stan told WDRB. “I saw two noses… and then when I saw her, I was just completely blown away.”
“It’s something I’ve never seen before and I think it’s amazing,” Stan added. And it would seem that many other people thought the same thing, too. Indeed, the calf has drawn attention from news outlets, and videos of the special little animal have gone viral on social media.
Brandy, meanwhile, has recalled the moment when her husband told her about the newborn. “He was just like, ‘I’ve got a two-headed calf,’ so I was in shock,” she said. Yes, you read that right: the calf was born with a rare genetic mutation that resulted in her having two faces.
The birth defect is called craniofacial duplication, or diprosopus. According to Arkhat Abzhanov, a developmental biologist for London’s Imperial College, there are several ways this can happen. For example, it could be an overgrowth in the gene that controls head width, resulting in two heads or faces.
The mutation could also be the result of a fertilized egg failing to separate in the womb properly. Abzhanov told the BBC, “Those kind of mutants are rare, but they’re reported in domestic animals and in the wild.” So how did the McCubbin family react?
“She has two heads, but I’m okay with that,” five-year-old Kenley McCubbin told the media. Mind you, the farmers noted that most animals with diprosopus are stillborn. “I said she was lucky to live and our little five-year-old [said] ‘That’s her name – Lucky,’” Brandy explained.
Quite noticeably, then, Lucky’s head diverts into two faces. Yes, she has two noses, a pair of mouths and three eye sockets, and she also has four eyes. Interestingly, two of those eyes share the middle socket, though as far as the McCubbins can tell, they don’t work.
Videos uploaded to YouTube of the family feeding Lucky also show a fascinating aspect of her condition. Since Lucky is still very young, the calf is being bottle fed for now. But it seems that when one of Lucky’s mouths is fed, her other mouth moves, too.
That’s not to say that her mother has rejected her, though; quite the opposite. In fact, the heifer’s mom is often close by, making sure her baby is safe and well looked after. She has nothing to worry about there, however, as the family dote on the young calf.
Yes, despite their initial surprise at the calf’s unusual appearance, the family just love their little Lucky. Caters News Agency reported that they “treat it like their baby.” For now, then, the young cow is as healthy as can be, although she struggles with some everyday activities.
For instance, Lucky can only walk in circles, most likely because of the strange vision cues to her brain. That said, she’s still young, and she might yet learn to process what she sees better. Plus, the little cow falls down frequently. In fact, the family have said that she has some “balancing issues because her head is so heavy.”
Lucky’s mutation has been seen in a variety of other animals, and from a scientific point of view, it’s not a shocker. In fact, it’s even been known to occur in humans. However, because of the rarity of the condition, there is no known cure and there are very few treatment options.
Therefore, the life expectancy of animals with diprosopus is tragically low. Fortunately, though, Lucky is currently the oldest known calf living with the condition, and she is little more than 47 days old. Her family appreciate every day that they have together, however.
“I’m just thinking, ‘How many days do we have?’” Brandy told WDRB. “It’s a blessing that we get to go through this with our children and our family and it’s just something unique and rare.” Hopefully, Lucky has many days, or maybe even years, ahead of her yet.
After all, she’s far from the oldest animal to survive the condition. That record goes to a cat with two faces called Frank and Louie (or sometimes, Frankenlouie). His owners cared for him until he reached the age of 15, when he passed away in 2014.
The McCubbins have said that spending time in the barn with Lucky and looking after her has brought their family closer together. And Stan added that he finds it a great experience for their children. “I think it’s something these kids will get to remember forever,” he said.
Lucky has also lived up to her name by finding a family who are willing to look after her for as long as she needs them. “She looks different, but every day she’s getting stronger,” Brandy told WJHL. And we hope Lucky keeps going for years to come.