Bizarre and Taboo

Chimera Human-Animal Hybrids

Chimeras Are Made in Labs

But Can Humans Give Birth to Them?

Chimeras are now deliberately created in the laboratory by scientists who are being criticized for creating  “pig men.” Other types of chimera “animal-men” are also being made, whereby human cells are inserted into the embryos of various animals to grow human organs inside the grown animals. But can human beings give birth to human-animal hybrids?

chimera

Chimera pig man. By Andrew Taylor Wikimedia Commons

Chimera in History

Agnes Bowker, a house servant living in Market Harborough in Leicestershire, England, claimed in 1569 to have given birth to a bald, stillborn cat. While this could have been written off as a sign of a mental illness, the midwife and other witnesses all claimed that the bizarre story was true.

Today we would laugh this whole story off, but in the late 1500s folk beliefs ran rampant and things like black magic and witchcraft were considered very real things. So many people believed that Agnes’s “child” was either a supernatural event or a warning about consequences from mating humans and lesser animals.

And, indeed, Agnes claimed that the father of the child was some kind of demon or paranormal entity.

The situation was unusual enough that it was looked at by a group of local men who took the cat and performed a rough autopsy. They cut the cat’s body open and told the townsfolk that instead of being a supernatural entity, it was a normal cat, albeit dead.

chimera human cat

Agnes Bowker’s human-cat. Source: unknown

Investigating Agnes Bowker’s Cat

But the tale had spread by word of mouth and eventually a minister, Anthony Anderson, decided to do a full investigation. This was probably partially out of curiosity. But it also could have been an attempt to stop the spread of the story, which was blanketing the surrounding areas. After questioning witnesses and Agnes herself and analyzing the now, undoubtedly, rapidly decaying cat, he declared the animal to be a normal cat. He wrote that the cat: “…containeth the full length, thickness, and bigness of the same . . . measured by a pair of compasses.” He even went so far as to do a post-mortem procedure on another cat and outlined the stark similarities to Agnes’s cat. Others were also not fooled. The bishop of London wrote to a member of Elizabeth I’s inner circle: “It appeareth plainly to be a counterfeit matter; but yet we cannot extort confessions of the manner of doings.” But the bishop’s opinion shows that the story had spread to all levels of society throughout England.

No mention is made of what became of the cat’s body. Since after the birth it had been considered by some to be of remarkable parentage, it might have occasioned the burial rites of a human of the time.

Chimeras in the 21st Century

One would think that in the 21st century, such chimera stories would be scoffed at and relegated to the realm of wild imagination and supermarket tabloids. But not so. In modern times, as chronicled on the (quasi-)factual Internet, there are stories and photos of animal/human chimera births. This includes a woman in Benin City who gave birth to a baby that looked remarkably like a horse. A witness said: “She held somebody’s leg with the clothes as she pushed harder for the baby to come out. Then, something dropped and she fell. The thing fell, some people called it a goat but it looked like a horse. It has a long neck and the ears were long. It was exactly like a horse, although it was in a baby form.”

Chimera horse-baby

Reported horse-baby chimera of Benin

A Saudi Arabian woman purportedly recently gave birth to a snake-human hybrid. And a woman in an unspecified location gave birth, after a year-long gestation period, to a baby that resembled a rat, tail and all.

Such chimera infants all die soon after birth, if not born dead. Although most scientists agree that humans cannot breed with other animal species, pictures exist that are debated for authenticity by believers and skeptics alike.

Sources:
“Miscellany”, BBC History magazine, Volume 17, Number 6
The Engines of Our Ingenuity website, pulled 6/30/2016
vyperlook.com website, pulled 6/30/2016
Technology Review, “Human-Animal Chimeras are Gestating on U.S. Research Farms,” January 6, 2016, Antonio Regalado

Doug MacGowan

Doug MacGowan lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife, a dog, and far too many cats. He has published five books on the topic of historic true crime. In his free time he enjoys reading.

Historic Mysteries