Jared Blohm , 7-'legged' deer killed near Waucousta
, Fond du Lac Reporter (Dec. 14, 2006):
What has seven legs, male and female reproductive organs and nub antlers?
It sounds like a bad joke, but it's what Rick Lisko found in his driveway late last month.
Lisko hit the seven-legged nub buck while driving his truck through the woods along his mile-long driveway near Mud Lake, east of Waucousta in the Fond du Lac County town of Osceola on Nov. 22.
"It was definitely a freak of nature," Lisko said. "I guess it's a real rarity." Lisko had slowed down as a buck and two does ran across the driveway.
"All of a sudden we felt the truck stop," he said.
The small buck had run underneath his truck, Lisko said. When he got out to look at the deer he noticed three- to four-inch appendages growing from the rear legs and later found a smaller appendage growing from one of the front legs.
"It's a pretty weird deer. It kind of gives you the creeps when you look at it," said Lisko, who described the extra legs as looking like "crab pinchers."
The appendages were moving when he first saw them, Lisko said.
"They were actually functional," he said.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Warden Doug Bilgo came to Lisko's property to tag the deer.
"I have never seen anything like that in all the years that I've been working as a game warden and being a hunter myself," Bilgo said. "It wasn't anything grotesque or ugly or anything. It was just unusual that it would have those little appendages growing out like that."
Bilgo took pictures and sent the information to DNR wildlife managers. He thinks the anomaly is a birth defect.
John Hoffman has worked at Eden Meat Market — which processed over 1,000 deer this year — for over 40 years. He skinned the deer for Lisko.
"I see a lot of deer and I've never seen anything like that," he said. "It just was a rarity. It was something different that you never see."
It is probably just ignorance of ancient history that prevents Wisconsin and federal authorities from taking this prodigy with the seriousness and attention that it deserves. See William Ramsay, s.v. prodigium
in William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities
(London: John Murray, 1875):
PRODIGIUM in its widest acceptation denotes any sign by which the gods indicated to men a future event, whether good or evil, and thus includes omens and auguries of every description .... It is, however, generally employed in a more restricted sense to signify some strange incident or wonderful appearance which was supposed to herald the approach of misfortune, and happened under such circumstances as to announce that the calamity was impending over a whole community or nation rather than private individuals .... Since prodigies were viewed as direct manifestations of the wrath of heaven, and warnings of coming vengeance, it was believed that this wrath might be appeased, and consequently this vengeance averted, by prayers and sacrifices duly offered to the offended powers. This being a matter which deeply concerned the public welfare, the necessary rites were in ancient times regularly performed, under the direction of the pontifices, by the consuls before they left the city, the solemnities being called Procuratio prodigiorum .... [W]hen the prodigy was of a very terrible or unprecedented nature it was usual to seek counsel from some renowned Tuscan seer, from the Sibylline books, or even from the Delphic oracle.
Livy's history of Rome contains many reports of prodigies. Livy 3.10 (tr. Aubrey de Sélincourt) seems especially relevant, in view of recent, current, and possibly future events in the United States:
The year was marked by ominous signs: fires blazed in the sky, there was a violent earthquake, and a cow talked -- there was a rumour that a cow had talked the previous year, but nobody believed it: this year they did. Nor was this all: it rained lumps of meat. Thousands of birds (we are told) seized and devoured the pieces in mid air, while what fell to the ground lay scattered about for several days without going putrid. The Sybilline Books were consulted by two officials, who found in them the prediction that danger threatened from 'a concourse of alien men', who might attack 'the high places of the City, with the shedding of blood'. There was also found, among other things, a warning to avoid factious politics.