The Sichuan province of China was bound in awe in August as an unusual piglet grabbed the headlines. International headlines were taken over by the event as people all over the world marveled at the phenomenon, almost defying natural laws of birth and growth. The piglet was born in farmer Tan Yongxiu’s farm. The farmer was not home at the time of delivery, and was informed of the miracle by his wife upon his return home. The unusual piglet was born with an extra set of limbs, both front and back. The farm, located in the Nanchuan District of Chongqing, has had a constant stream of visitors, which includes international media and experts eager to study the specimen.
Whose pig is it?
Upon his return home, the 63-year old farmer was informed by his wife that a “six-legged monster” had been born to one of their sows. He went to the pigsty to clean the unusual little one, and discovered that it had eight legs, not six. The extra set is protruding from the piglet’s stomach. The front legs are around 2cm; while the back legs are nearly double that. They are non-functional. Yongxiu has been raising livestock for 20 years, and he said he had never seen anything like that in his life. His mother, who is 90 years old, has also reported that she had not come across anything so unusual. The international media have dubbed it “octopig”.
Why was it born like that?
Guo Zongyi is an expert in the field, and is currently working as the director of the Congquin Academy of Animal Science. He issued a statement that while pigs usually have four legs, it is common for pigs in the area to be born with five. The extra leg is usually seen growing out of one of the four standard legs. This particular specimen, it was implied, with eight legs is very rare. Zongyi said that possible reasons for this occurrence could be genetic mutation or the result of inbreeding. Genetic mutation is the more likely choice since only one pig was born with the changes. Inbreeding would have resulted in more than one being born with defects.
Does it have special needs?
The piglet itself is not any different from any other piglet. It has no special needs, nor does it behave differently. This unusual feature has probably elongated the pig’s life. The farmer has been reported to say that he would keep the pig on his farm as a “specimen”, to “see what it would look like in the future”. He means to segregate it from the other and rear it in a separate room.
The piglet is not diseased, and nor is it inferior to its siblings in any way. In fact, its meat will be deemed edible and fit for human consumption.
Is it unique?
This is not the first time a multi-legged piglet has been born. In 2007, the news of a multi-limbed piglet being born came out of Croatia. The case in Croatia was even more unusual. The piglet was born with six legs, two anuses and two sets of male genitalia. Owner Ivica Seic said that the pig was growing faster than the others. The fast growth rate of the pig has prompted the owners to keep him as a pet. They have plans to breed him, to see if the mutation duplicates, but they say that the two sets of genitalia might cause a problem. This piglet was named “Octopig” by its owners.
Is natural for animals to be born with extra limbs?
The condition is called Polymelia, and is a fairly well documented occurrence. It is usual for the extra limbs to be deformed or shrunken in some manner. This is considered a birth defect, and occurs in both humans and in animals. As recently as 2005, a girl named Destiny was born in Detroit with a fully formed extra leg. In 2006, a Shanghai resident gave birth to a baby boy with a fully formed third arm. This is a rare case, and the only documented one of an extra supernumerary arm. 2007 saw a child born with four legs in Polokwane, South Africa. Looking back at the animal world, four legged chickens are a common occurrence, with cases appearing in Pennsylvania in 2005 and Winder, GA in 2013. Four legged ducks are also common. The Ribeiroia parasite attacks tadpoles, which leads to the resultant frogs being affected by polymelia. Even dogs and cats are affected by this condition.