A three-eyed calf has been saved from the slaughterhouse by a Hindu animal sanctuary which believes it is a holy cow.

The animal, which had been due to enter the food chain, was bought from a beef farmer for £5,000 by the Jain Animal Sanctuary so it can be worshipped as a god.

Some beasts are sacred in Hinduism, with the cow among the most revered. The group believes the third eye in the middle of the calf’s forehead means it is special and should be pampered rather than killed.

The calf has now been named Mahadev – another name for the Hindu deity Shiva, whose third eye represents wisdom and insight. It is being cared for at a farm in Leicester.

Jake Jones, the owner of the calf, had planned to send it to slaughter along with the rest of a herd at his beef farm in Brynmawr, Wales. Mr Jones, 32, said he rears around 3,000 calves every year and had never seen any that looked like this before.

Nitin Mehta, the sanctuary’s founder, said the calf’s appearance makes it "especially significant" and is a sign it must be cherished.

The sanctuary said: "We are very proud and blessed to inform everyone that we have rescued a three-eyed bull from slaughter in Wales. We have named him Mahadev. It’s an honour and privilege to be given the opportunity to provide love and care to Mahadev!"

The sanctuary's founder said the third eye is a sign the calf must be cherished

Credit: Wales news service

Mahadev’s third eye was first investigated by Malan Hughes, a vet who was testing cattle in Wales for tuberculosis earlier this year.

Mr Hughes, 28, said: “Having a calf or any animal with this impairment is extremely rare. I have never heard of, or seen one like this before. The calf seems perfectly healthy. We were doing other work with the herd when we noticed the fault. He will surely live a normal life for such an animal.

"Vets tend to see all sorts of things – cyclops lambs and animals born with two heads – but I have never seen anything like this before. From the outside, the extra eye looks fine. It has eyelids and eyelashes, and it is moist too, as if some kind of lubricant is being secreted.

"But it’s impossible to know if anything is going on behind the eye. It does not act any differently from any other calf."

In 2014, a three-eyed calf called Shiva born in Tamil Nadu, India, was worshipped as a religious deity. Villagers flocked from miles away to visit the animal. This is believed to be the first time a similar event has happened in the UK.

Shiva is the third god in the Hindu triumvirate, which consists of three gods who are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. He is known to have untamed passion, which leads him to extremes in behaviour. Sometimes he abstains from all worldly pleasures, and at other times he is a hedonist.

His third eye is believed to not only be representative of wisdom and insight, but also the source of his untamed energy. On one occasion he is believed to have opened his third eye in anger when interrupted during worship.