If it looks like a duck and barks like a duck, you may have a problem on your hands. And that’s just what one sheep rancher in China is claiming after one of his sheep reportedly gave birth to a dog. The impossible genetic anomaly has sparked a great debate online and the future of genetic research may be on the line. Is this the world’s first real sheepdog? Or a case of mistaken identity?
Liu Nalying says he was astonished when -while herding his sheep- he found a previously pregnant ewe licking a newborn lamb. But when he approached, he noticed something odd about the small creature. It looked almost like a sheep, but its face and tail were very distinctly doglike. Even the ears of the creature appeared to be floppy puppy ears rather than normal dog ears. And he says in his 20 years of herding he’s never seen anything like it. So what could it be?
Nalying has had thousands of visitors since the strange creature suddenly appeared in his field, and he’s been having it herded with the other sheep while it’s tended to by its mother. He says many in the area are looking on the creature’s sudden appearance as a miracle. But could it be that this sheep is actually a cross between two different species? Geneticists maintain it is not just unlikely, but virtually impossible. The cross-bred species we know today such as the wolf-dog, the hybrid pheasant, and the iron age pig often come as the result of different creatures of very similar genetic background.
The alternative is a coincidence where a sheep simply has a series of genetic deformities that ultimately result in it looking like a dog. But these would be tremendous strides in genetic variation. And it would be far too many such variations for the sudden addition of paws, a snout, and a tail to be likely. It would be far more likely that the resulting deviation from its normal cell structure would result in the creature’s death.
And yet somehow here it is. Some have suggested that the creature could actually be a puppy that somehow navigated its way into the remote field where the sheep were staying as a newborn, or could have been carried there by some other means and then one of the mothers could have adopted it as its own after losing or birthing its own lamb whose body then disappeared.
It seems this is one of those situations where any reasonable explanation can only serve to make this mystery even stranger. And with thousands of visitors, Liu Nalying will have plenty of people asking questions about the origins of his peculiar sheep.