When former veterinary technician and retired truck driver Kitty Martin first met Hero the calf on a Virginia farm last spring, his hind legs were so damaged by frostbite that he had to have them both amputated. But if he were to survive after being rescued and taken to his new home with Martin in Texas, he would need some form of mobility.
With the help of animal surgeons at Texas A&M University and prosthetics manufacturer Hanger, the British Charolais calf received his first set of prosthetic legs in December. But the now-15-month-old bull was still growing, and rapidly became too big for his new legs, getting a new pair in January.
Those legs could be considered prototypes, and the team hopes that this third set, given to Hero last week, will last a lot longer.
"They have to be heavy enough to support his weight, plus he's going to be hard on them," Erin O'Brien, Hanger orthotist and prosthetist, told the Associated Press. "He's an animal, he's going to be out in the dirt and laying down and moving around all over the place."
The new legs are made from hard-wearing titanium with urethane hooves, with connecting components made out of titanium and carbon fibre, and sockets made of carbon fibre and acrylic resin. They are also adjustable in both width and height, so Hero can continue to wear them for some time to come -- hopefully until they wear out.
Martin, meanwhile, hopes Hero will have a bright future as a therapy animal for wounded veterans and children with special needs.
"There's nothing he can't do," she said. "He's already doing things they said he'd never be able to do."