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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Polydactyl Jackpot: Seven-hooved Foal Born in Belgium

Oslo - Rådhuset (City Hall)
In Nordic mythology, the famous Sleipner was the eight-legged horse ridden by arch-hero Odin. Alexander the Great's Bucephalus was allegedly a polydactyl as well, and Julius Caesar is said to have preferred to ride a horse with extra hooves.

Hold on to your hoof picks, the owner of this foal might need to borrow them.

A mare at a petting zoo in Belgium has given birth to a foal with seven hooves. Three of the foal's limbs are equipped with what are called supernumerary digits.

A year ago, the Hoof Blog splurged on a collection of bits and pieces from around the web about these unusual quintaped horses. We even found a Shire draft horse named "Norfolk Spider" with six hooves.

That particular post has gone on to become one of the "top 10" posts on the Hoof Blog of the last four years. Everyone seems to be curious about multi-digit horses. (See link to that article and photos below.)

"Sleipnir", 1999

It is unclear what will become of the foal in Belgium, partly because the information available is not in English and I'm hesitant to translate it with any certainty. It does sound like the vet school at the University of Ghent in Belgium is interested in obtaining the limbs, but it doesn't say that they are interested in the foal that is attached to them.

Click here to see two of the seven hooves of the foal in Belgium. That photo is protected by copyright. Hopefully more photos will be available, and I will be able to post them here.

Will the foal live or die? This is the kind of thing that people used to pay money to see on the midway at the fairs in Vermont.

It brings to mind one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets:

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass.
And as he stares into the sky, there
are twice as many stars as usual.

"The Two-Headed Calf" by Laura Gilpin was featured on the Hoof Blog back in August 2009 after I heard Garrison Keillor read it on NPR's Writer's Almanac.

Good luck to the seven-hooved foal in Belgium. May he gallop his field with confidence some starry night soon.


Click here to read Polydactyl Ponies: A Gallery of Horses With Extra Digits

Thanks to @HorsUsNews for the news tip via Twitter. Painting of Sleipnir by Ahula Tinga. Carving of Odin riding Sleipner is at the Oslo City Hall in Norway; photo by Jaime Silva.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to  
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