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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Animals:

Batyr the Talking Elephant
Batyr was an Asian elephant captive at Karaganga Zoo in Soviet Kazakhstan who could, by using his trunk to manipulate his tongue, utter a number of human phrases. He would ask zoo keepers for water, would chant “one, two, three” whilst hopping and dancing, and would sometimes use rude Russian slang. In total Batyr had a vocabulary of around 20 phrases. In 1980 a recording was made of Batyr saying “Batyr is good” amongst other words. [Source]

Batyr the Talking Elephant

Batyr was an Asian elephant captive at Karaganga Zoo in Soviet Kazakhstan who could, by using his trunk to manipulate his tongue, utter a number of human phrases. He would ask zoo keepers for water, would chant “one, two, three” whilst hopping and dancing, and would sometimes use rude Russian slang. In total Batyr had a vocabulary of around 20 phrases. In 1980 a recording was made of Batyr saying “Batyr is good” amongst other words. [Source]

The Dead Zoo

The Natural History Museum of Ireland, sometimes called The Dead Zoo, is a branch of the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin which houses around 10,000 taxidermy specimens from around the world, some of which have since gone extinct.

Remaining largely unaltered since it opened in 1857, leading some to call it a ‘museum of a museum’, many of the specimens are faded and display the bullet holes that originally killed the animal. 

Unfortunately the upper floors were closed during my visit, and I understand they will remain closed while urgent repair work is undertaken, but there’s still plenty to keep one occupied on the ground floor.

Postcards from the Alligator Farm

I had long suspected that these images were merely imaginative artwork, similar to tall tale postcards. Today I learnt that, in fact, they’re halftone photographs with applied colour depicting fun for all the family at the Los Angeles Alligator Farm in the early 20th century:

Originally located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Joseph ‘Alligator Joe’ Campbell’s Alligator Farm was relocated to tourist hotspot Lincoln Heights, California in 1907. The animals were loaded onto a train and a banner was hung from the side advertising the advent of the attraction.

After paying their 25 cents admission fee, visitors could enjoy the hundreds of alligators, of various sizes and ages, that lived in the back garden - and, as the postcards show, there were opportunities to ride the reptiles. In time, the farm began to supply alligators for the movie industry and feature in such films as ‘King Solomon’s Mines,’ ‘The Adventures of Kathleen,’ Walt Disney’s ‘The Happiest Millionaire’, and numerous Tarzan films.

Most famous was an alligator called Billy. Visitors to the farm would witness Billy sliding down chutes and wrestling underwater with famed alligator wrestler George Link, and, until the 1960s, most of the alligator jaws seen in films belonged to Billy, as he would automatically open his mouth when a piece of meat was dangled above him, just out of view of the camera. Billy was one of the alligators so domesticated that his owners could put a saddle on him and give their visitors a ride. Another highlight was 250lb Galapagos tortoise, Humpy. The owners’ children would put a saddle on Humpy and Billy each and race them around the garden. Humpy would regularly stray off the path but was invariably the winner.

In it’s hey day the farm was the most complete reptile collection in the world, as various other species of snake and lizard were introduced over time, and would entertain 130,000 visitors a year. 

[Mice Chat | Iconic Muse | Image Archeology | Image Sources: 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 | More black and White photographs]

The Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguins
The Sexual Habits Of The Adélie Penguins is a 100-year-old paper graphically describing the bizarre sexual practices of Adélie penguins written by George Levick, who joined Captain Scott on his Terra Nova expedition in 1911. He spent an entire Antarctic summer studying the reproductive behaviour of the species. 

As a post-Edwardian gentleman, Levick was understandably taken aback by the “astonishingly depraved” acts he saw, and struggled to describe them. Douglas Russell, of the Natural History Museum’s zoology department, says “He witnesses things that profoundly shock him, to the point of being incapable of even writing them in English — he was so worried about it he started to encode it in Greek.” Nevertheless, he took to the task at hand and wrote in extraordinary detail of the “hooligan cocks … whose passions seemed to have passed beyond their control”.

Surrounded by tens of thousands of rampantly copulating birds - “sometimes more than once a day”, Levick notes with awe - he depicted a city under attack by delinquents on the verge: “Many of the colonies … are plagued by little knots of ‘hooligans’ who hang about their outskirts, and should a chick go astray it stands a good chance of losing its life at their hands. It is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment, these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness.”

He also gives accounts of apparent necrophilia, however, necrophilia, as Levick perceived it, is a human term, and therefore hardly likely to explain penguin behaviour. Low temperatures in the Antarctic did preserve countless dead birds and, male or female, if their frozen corpses happened to be assuming the position, a passing penguin could not pass up the opportunity to mount it. You can understand Levick’s suspicions.

Levick went on to witness what he struggles to describe as a kind of gang rape, with one female paralysed by the cold water [which is] spotted by [a male] and, “after a short inspection, he deliberately copulated with her, she being, of course, quite unable to resist him,” before six more try their luck, with varying degrees of success. The behaviours themselves can all be explained away now, of course, and are detailed here.

Levick’s thinly veiled judgement demonstrates a common practice that many fall into. “There is a dreadful habit of anthropomorphising penguins, dominantly because they are bipedal,” says Russell. Levick was therefore appalled by the behaviours he saw, holding the Adélie population up against human standards of morality: “There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins,” he comments at one point. One reviewer of Levick’s published paper put it well when he said in 1915: “The book is unique, and will appeal to… the public at large for whom these strange, erect, man-like little birds have a strange fascination.” 
[Source]

The Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguins

The Sexual Habits Of The Adélie Penguins is a 100-year-old paper graphically describing the bizarre sexual practices of Adélie penguins written by George Levick, who joined Captain Scott on his Terra Nova expedition in 1911. He spent an entire Antarctic summer studying the reproductive behaviour of the species. 

As a post-Edwardian gentleman, Levick was understandably taken aback by the “astonishingly depraved” acts he saw, and struggled to describe them. Douglas Russell, of the Natural History Museum’s zoology department, says “He witnesses things that profoundly shock him, to the point of being incapable of even writing them in English — he was so worried about it he started to encode it in Greek.” Nevertheless, he took to the task at hand and wrote in extraordinary detail of the “hooligan cocks … whose passions seemed to have passed beyond their control”.

Surrounded by tens of thousands of rampantly copulating birds - “sometimes more than once a day”, Levick notes with awe - he depicted a city under attack by delinquents on the verge: “Many of the colonies … are plagued by little knots of ‘hooligans’ who hang about their outskirts, and should a chick go astray it stands a good chance of losing its life at their hands. It is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment, these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness.”

He also gives accounts of apparent necrophilia, however, necrophilia, as Levick perceived it, is a human term, and therefore hardly likely to explain penguin behaviour. Low temperatures in the Antarctic did preserve countless dead birds and, male or female, if their frozen corpses happened to be assuming the position, a passing penguin could not pass up the opportunity to mount it. You can understand Levick’s suspicions.

Levick went on to witness what he struggles to describe as a kind of gang rape, with one female paralysed by the cold water [which is] spotted by [a male] and, “after a short inspection, he deliberately copulated with her, she being, of course, quite unable to resist him,” before six more try their luck, with varying degrees of success. The behaviours themselves can all be explained away now, of course, and are detailed here.

Levick’s thinly veiled judgement demonstrates a common practice that many fall into. “There is a dreadful habit of anthropomorphising penguins, dominantly because they are bipedal,” says Russell. Levick was therefore appalled by the behaviours he saw, holding the Adélie population up against human standards of morality: “There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins,” he comments at one point. One reviewer of Levick’s published paper put it well when he said in 1915: “The book is unique, and will appeal to… the public at large for whom these strange, erect, man-like little birds have a strange fascination.” 

[Source]

600 years ago technology was rather more limited and armies had to make the very best of their resources - in whatever shape or form they may take. One such quest to steal a march on the enemy led to the publication of a whacky manuscript from 16th Century Germany which even considered using cats and birds to bomb opposing forces.
Called Feuer Buech, which translates from old German as Fire Book, the 235-page treatise from 1584 contains a drawing of a feline and his feathered friend with ‘rocket packs’ strapped to backs as they ran and fly past a castle.
It’s not clear whether they were actually used, but animals have for centuries been deployed in warfare, often to deliver messages or for transportation, but sometimes as weapons. In the 16th Century, a German artillery officer once presented a plan to use cats to spread poisonous gas among enemy soldiers, although it was never enacted.

600 years ago technology was rather more limited and armies had to make the very best of their resources - in whatever shape or form they may take. One such quest to steal a march on the enemy led to the publication of a whacky manuscript from 16th Century Germany which even considered using cats and birds to bomb opposing forces.

Called Feuer Buech, which translates from old German as Fire Book, the 235-page treatise from 1584 contains a drawing of a feline and his feathered friend with ‘rocket packs’ strapped to backs as they ran and fly past a castle.

It’s not clear whether they were actually used, but animals have for centuries been deployed in warfare, often to deliver messages or for transportation, but sometimes as weapons. In the 16th Century, a German artillery officer once presented a plan to use cats to spread poisonous gas among enemy soldiers, although it was never enacted.

Raining Animals
Raining animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals “rain” from the sky. Such occurrences have been reported in many countries throughout history. One hypothesis offered to explain this phenomenon is that strong winds traveling over water sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs, and carry them for up to several miles. However, this primary aspect of the phenomenon has never been witnessed or scientifically tested.
Sometimes the animals survive the fall, suggesting the animals are dropped shortly after extraction. Several witnesses of raining frogs describe the animals as startled, though healthy, and exhibiting relatively normal behavior shortly after the event. In some incidents, however, the animals are frozen to death or even completely encased in ice. There are examples where the product of the rain is not intact animals, but shredded body parts.
Some cases occur just after storms having strong winds, especially during tornadoes. However, there have been many unconfirmed cases in which rainfalls of animals have occurred in fair weather and in the absence of strong winds or waterspouts.
See also Lluvia de Peces.
[Image: Raining Snakes (Oh the horror of it all!) during a Renaissance storm, 1680]

Raining Animals

Raining animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals “rain” from the sky. Such occurrences have been reported in many countries throughout history. One hypothesis offered to explain this phenomenon is that strong winds traveling over water sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs, and carry them for up to several miles. However, this primary aspect of the phenomenon has never been witnessed or scientifically tested.

Sometimes the animals survive the fall, suggesting the animals are dropped shortly after extraction. Several witnesses of raining frogs describe the animals as startled, though healthy, and exhibiting relatively normal behavior shortly after the event. In some incidents, however, the animals are frozen to death or even completely encased in ice. There are examples where the product of the rain is not intact animals, but shredded body parts.

Some cases occur just after storms having strong winds, especially during tornadoes. However, there have been many unconfirmed cases in which rainfalls of animals have occurred in fair weather and in the absence of strong winds or waterspouts.

See also Lluvia de Peces.

[Image: Raining Snakes (Oh the horror of it all!) during a Renaissance storm, 1680]

The Strange World of Professor Copperthwaite

The Strange World of Professor Copperthwaite was a taxidermy collection of all manner of weird and wonderful creatures billed in the 19th century as having been brough to the UK by the fictional Victorian adventurer Professor Copperthwaite. The collection includes bizarre stuffed animals including [2-7] a unicorn, a bat-duck hybrid, a winged cat, a "cheasant" or "phicken", a Cambodian woolly pig, and a yeti. It is thought Victorians were fooled by these mythical creatures because they appeared alongside real animals and other curiosities such as conjoined lambs.

(Source: telegraph.co.uk)

Physiognomy with Charles Le Brun

Charles Le Brun was a French painter and art theorist. Declared by Louis XIV ”the greatest French artist of all time”, he was a dominant figure in 17th-century French art. He also established a correlation between the human face and that of the animal whose spirit characterises a particular emotion.

The goal of physiognomy is to judge character according to features of the face. Le Brun studied the lines linking different points of the head in a complex geometry which revealed the faculties of the spirit or character. Thus, the angle formed by the axis of the eyes and the eyesbrows could lead to various conclusions, depending upon whether or not this angle rose toward the forehead to join the soul or descented toward the nose and mouth, which were considered to be animal  features. Here are some of the many drawings by Charles Le Brun which concern the correlation between the human face and that of the animal.

Image one, for instance, shows the relationship between human features and that of a camel.

[Images Source]

(Source: charleslebrun.com)

Earnst Haeckel’s Christmas Cards

All the sweet things that the squiddies,
Twittering in the dewy spray,
Wish each other in the springtime,
I wish you this happy day. 

Marine themed Christmas cards from Earnst Haeckel, the eminent German biologist, naturalist,  philosopher, physician, professor and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology, including anthropogeny, ecology, phylum, phylogeny, stem cell, and the kingdom Protista. [Wikipedia]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 16th

(Source: retronaut.com)

Harry Whittier Frees

Harry Whittier Frees (1879–1953) was an American photographer who created novelty postcards and children’s books based on his photographs of animals. He dressed the animals and posed them in human situations with props, often with captions; these can be seen as progenitors of modern lolcats.

[Images Source - there’s loads more]

(Source: Wikipedia)

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