The Islander's series, 50 Years Ago This Week, referenced a five-legged sheep on display at Kangaroo Island's Hospital Fete in 1967. Since then, islanders have been contacting the office to share their stories about multi-limbed sheep.

An extra two legs: This sheep lived a long and happy life, well cared for at Parndana Wildlife Park. Photo: Russell Ross.
An extra two legs: This sheep lived a long and happy life, well cared for at Parndana Wildlife Park. Photo: Russell Ross.

“Six legs good, two legs baa-ed”!

A  cheeky paraphrasing, (Four legs good, two legs baa-ed) of George Orwell’s famous novel, Animal Farm, seems a good way to introduce an attraction that would have stunned crowds at Kangaroo Island’s annual Hospital Fete in 1967.

In the February 23 issue of The Islander, mention was made of a five-legged sheep and we asked if anyone recalled seeing this amazing freak of nature.

Well, no they didn’t, and no such extraordinary attraction stopped the crowds at this year’s Hospital Fete, held on almost the very same day as 50 years ago.

However, last week Russell Ross, ex-owner of Parndana Wildlife Park, popped in to show us some photos of sheep with three legs, five legs, and this extraordinary one, with six legs (two either side of her head, plus the usual four).

Russell said that originally a farmer had brought in a three-legged sheep to the Park and then word got out and when the farmers were tailing lambs, they would keep an eye out for anything unusual and take them along to Russell for him to look after.

A five-legged sheep soon followed and then this six-legged beauty, who lived a perfectly healthy, long and happy life, well cared for at the Park.

It gave the shearers a few issues, but they would gently and carefully shear around the extra legs.

Polymelia (from the Greek ‘many’ plus ‘limb’) is a congenital birth defect in which the affected individual has more than the usual number of limbs.

Sometimes an embryo starts as conjoined twins, but one twin degenerates completely except for one or more limbs, which end up attached to the other twin. These can be surgically removed.

Many multi-limbed animals are born – goats, chickens, ducks, dogs, frogs, it is not that uncommon, and the condition affects humans, too.

Obviously our sheep started its early life as twins.

All that now remains of its siblings attempt to survive are just its two legs, a gentle reminder, forever caressing its sister’s head.