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These Cows Have Extra Legs

cow with extra legs in factory

The phenomenon of cows born with extra legs, a condition known as polymelia, is a rare and intriguing occurrence in the animal kingdom. This article delves into several cases of such cows, exploring their lives, the science behind their condition, and the broader implications for animal genetics and care.

cow standing on grass with extra legs
Image credits: Daily Mail

Lilli: The Swiss Miracle

In Switzerland, a calf named Lilli captured hearts after defying the odds. Born with six legs, Lilli’s case was particularly notable. Despite a veterinarian’s prediction that she would not survive, Lilli thrived and became a minor celebrity in her native land. Her extra limbs, attached to her shoulder, posed a unique challenge. 

However, Lilli underwent successful surgery to remove these limbs and made a full recovery in an Alpine animal sanctuary. Her story is not just one of survival but also of the compassion of those who chose to give her a chance at life.

Gambiarra: The Brazilian Six-Legged Wonder

cow with extra legs in factory
Image credits: Daily Mail

In Brazil, a calf named Gambiarra presented a similar case of polymelia. Born with an additional set of legs emerging from its neck, Gambiarra’s survival was initially doubted by veterinarians. 

However, the calf grew up in excellent condition and led a normal life, defying initial expectations. This case highlights the resilience of animals with congenital anomalies and the importance of not underestimating their potential for a quality life.

Watch Video Of Cow With Extra Legs

YouTube video

The Northern Ireland Calf: Angel Wings

A calf from Northern Ireland presented a unique case with two extra limbs hanging from its shoulders, resembling “angel wings.” Despite its unusual appearance, this calf secured a forever home, demonstrating the growing awareness and acceptance of animals with physical differences. The decision to find a forever home for this “very special bull calf” reflects a shift in how we view and care for animals with unique conditions.

Understanding Polymelia

YouTube video

Polymelia, while rare, occurs across various species, including cattle, buffalo, chickens, frogs, and even humans. In cattle, it’s sometimes linked to genetic mutations or chromosomal instabilities. For instance, a mutation in the NHL-RC2 gene in Angus cattle has been associated with polymelia. This gene influences the development of various body systems, including limbs. However, the exact causes can vary, and in some cases, environmental factors or issues during pregnancy might play a role.

Broader Implications

Studying cases like Lilli, Gambiarra, and others provides valuable insights into genetic mutations and limb development. These cases are not just curiosities but opportunities to understand better the complex processes that govern animal development. They also challenge us to reconsider our approach to animal care, emphasizing compassion and adaptability in the face of unexpected challenges.


The stories of cows with extra legs are more than just oddities; they are testaments to the resilience of life and the compassion of those who care for these animals. As we continue to explore the mysteries of genetics and development, these extraordinary bovines remind us of the diversity and complexity of nature.

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