Call it the culture of freak. At least that's how Todd Ray, the owner and operator of The Venice Beach Freakshow, and the pivotal cast member in the recently canceled AMC series Freakshow, wants you to organize your thinking. After having a successful career in the music industry, Todd's tastes turned to what are often considered natural anomalies.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, Ray holds the world's record for owning the largest collection of two-headed, or dicephalic, animals, which at the time of the writing numbered twenty two different specimens. They're on display at Venice Beach.
It's not that difficult to find pictures and stories about two headed animals. What's odd is the proliferation of stories and pictures of their existence that seems to contradict the common wisdom that asserts their rarity. Of course, the existence of the internet, along with natural human curiosity regarding animal anomalies, encourages people to report on their every occurrence.
At the same time, it also needs to be noted that the internet serves as a perfect forum for the dissemination of false information. The potential for a large audience, coupled with Photoshop magic, means readers must be wary of the many existing photos claiming to show a near-mythical two-headed animal.
The following ten, though, are some of the better documented two-headed animal discoveries over the past two years.
10 Two-headed Snakes
Meet Medusa is a two-headed Albino Honduran Milk Snake, and probably the most famous two-headed snake in the world today. Born in late 2011, Medusa still lives comfortably today as a pet in Florida, eating from both heads. She even has her own Facebook page.
A little over three years in age, Medusa is still a relatively young two-headed snake. A spokesman for the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco, CA recently told a reporter that the “Steinhart Aquarium holds the record for a captive two-headed snake, which lived more than 22 years”.
9 Two-headed Lamb
In late September 2014, news from New Zealand hit the wires about the birth of a two-headed lamb, or more properly, a two-faced lamb having two mouths, two noses, three eyes and one head, appropriately named Two Face.
No one gave the lamb much chance for survival. However, Two Face, with the help of three young girls caring for him, scrapped around for six weeks successfully battling infections. After overcoming so many struggles, the Parker family expressed sadness and surprise when they awoke one morning in November and discovered him dead. The family suspects Two Face died of a brain hemorrhage due to the presence of blood in the eyes.
8 Venus the Cat
Technically Venus does not fall into either the two-headed or two-faced animal category as it is usually described. Venus the cat actually has one face, but by all appearances, two different sets of genes determine her two separate eye colors and facial fur.
That would make Venus a chimera, an organism where two different genetically separate embryos merged into one. Experts are hesitant to make the call. That has not stopped Venus from becoming an internet sensation for the last four years.
7 Two-Faced Pig
There's an odd correlation between China and births of two-faced pig; the country rules the internet's two-faced pig niche. The trend started in 2007, China's Year of the Pig, with an announcement in January that a two-faced pig was born in the village of Quanzhou in East China’s Fujian province.
In 2013, two separate two-faced pig stories broke; one April birth in a village in Jiujiang and one December birth in Nanchang, capital of eastern China's Jiangxi Province.
6 Two-headed Salamander
December 2014 brought the announcement of the birth of a two-headed Near Eastern fire salamander tadpole in a laboratory in Israel. Named Arne and Sebastian, the people at the lab halfway refuse to speculate on the cause of abnormality, saying it could be a random mutation, or pollution related.
Interestingly enough, this is the second report of a two-headed fire salamander in two years. The first report covered a specimen in Germany that died after being nursed for six months. To date, there's been no follow up on the health of Arne and Sebastian.
5 Two-headed Dolphin
Media reports in August 2014 documented the existence of a dead two-headed dolphin washing ashore along Turkey's coast. It was collected and transferred to a laboratory for further investigation.
While there are a few documented cases of two-headed or conjoined cetacean species - most recent was a 2014 case wherein a conjoined gray whale showed up dead in a lagoon in Baja, California - they are considered rare. The chances of any physically deformed animal surviving in the wild are less than the survival chances of a physically deformed domestic animal, who might have the help of a human.
4 Two-headed Cow
At least three two-headed cow stories have come out of Europe, Australia and North America over the past year. The most recent story, published in April, 2015 comes out of Baker County, FL. Dwight Crews.
A local dairy farmer found the calf named Annabel in his field. Initial reports quote the owner as saying Annabel is being bottle fed due to her having a difficult time lifting her head to suckle on her mom. Mr. Crews also reports being in contact with Ripley's Believe It or Not. They are inquiring into the age of the calf, as 40 days represents the record for the oldest living two-headed calf.
3 Two-headed Turtles
A few stories documenting the discovery or birth of two-headed turtle made news throughout 2014. For example, the San Antonio Zoo announced the birth of a two-headed Texas cooter in 2013, and sadly announced its death a year later in July, 2014.
In September 2014, a woman in Maine found a two-headed snapping turtle during a local turtle watch. She has named the turtle Frank and Stein. One month later, the Bangor Daily News, still interested in Frank and Stein's fate, reported he was alive and well. Since that time, no news on Frank and Stein's health has been forthcoming.
2 Two-headed Shark
In March 2013, a local fisherman received a surprise two-headed bull shark fetus discovered in a shark caught near Florida Keys. According to an article published in the Journal of Fish Biology, other instances of the existence of two-headed sharks have been documented.
However, this is the first documented case of a two-headed bull shark. The authors also reported, "Radiography and magnetic resonance imaging revealed a case of monosomic dicephalia where the axial skeleton and internal organs were found to divide into parallel systems anterior to the pectoral girdle resulting in two well-developed heads."
1 Frank and Louie the Two-faced Cat
With the Guinness World Record for being the longest-living Janus cat (a name that refers to the Roman God Janus and his two faces), a two-faced cat named Frank and Louie became a minor celebrity in the animal world. Living to the ripe old age of fifteen, he recently passed away at the veterinary hospital where he was born.
Most dicephalic - or two-faced - animals live very short lives. Perhaps Frank and Louie got lucky with his physical anomaly: While he had two mouths, only one was functional, precluding the need to deal with potential eating and digestion problems. Additionally, he had only one brain, and while he had three eyes, onto two actually were used for sight.