NewsMontana News


Townsend calf born with heart inside neck beating the odds

Posted at 9:12 AM, Apr 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-05 11:12:49-04

TOWNSEND – Ranchers near Townsend witnessed a rare miracle this week.

A calf was born with her heart beating inside her neck and four days later she’s still beating the odds.

“It’s a once in a lifetime calf,” said Kimberly Zimmerman, a veterinarian and owner of Elkhorn Veterinary Clinic in Townsend. “I’ve been practicing for 10 years, and this is the first one I’ve seen.”

Juliet Flynn Christensen posted the video on Facebook, which went viral. As of Thursday night, it had 6,000 shares.

The calf’s condition is called ectopia cordis which means the heart formed outside the chest cavity.

It’s not caused by anything genetic. It’s simply a “glitch in nature,” according to Alan Goldhahn, a WIMU adjunct professor at Montana State University.

For calves born with the birth defect, it’s rare to survive.

Miracle Calf
A calf was born with her heart beating inside her neck near Townsend and four days later she’s beating the odds. (MTN News photo)

“A lot of times, with those kinds of defects, their valves and other parts of the heart aren’t formed right, so they don’t get enough oxygen to other necessary components of their body,” said Zimmerman. “So they usually don’t last very long after birth. The fact she’s still alive is pretty amazing.”

Now, veterinary students at MSU will get to learn from her case. “In vet school, you read about it, you think that’d be cool to see, but you usually don’t ever get the chance,” said Zimmerman. 

Thursday morning, MSU vet faculty picked her up. Cora is headed to Bozeman, where she’ll live out her natural life while students study her.

“It will be a true opportunity to see and appreciate something they haven’t, and probably won’t get to see in their lifetime,” Goldhahn told MTN News. “It’s very rare.”

Goldhahn said the vet students have been studying anatomy. Now, they’ll get to see Cora the miracle calf in person.

The Flynn family at Hidden Hollow Ranch said they’ve seen a lot through the years, but they’ve never seen anything like Cora. They also never expected the attention the video has gotten.

According to Zimmerman, a calf born with this condition could live to about four months.

-Evelyn Schultz reporting for MTN News