10 Unusual Studies And Stories About Dogs

There is a world of weird hiding inside your Maltese—or any other dog for that matter. In recent years, scientists have uncovered the strange things that dogs use.

Besides having special muscles to manipulate people, they tap into the planet’s magnetic field to poop. Then there are the dogs that track killer whales, shoot hunters, and return from extinction as the most primitive canines on Earth.

10 The Dog That Shot A Hunter

In 2019, ex-LSU player Matt Branch and his friends went duck hunting. They took along a Labrador named Tito. The former lineman for Louisiana State University left a loaded shotgun in the back of his pickup. The safety was on, rendering the firearm safe.

The group moved a few yards away to prepare for the start of their hunting trip near Eagle Lake in Mississippi. Tito the dog decided to jump onto the bed of the truck. In doing so, he managed to step on the 12-gauge shotgun’s safety and pull the trigger.[1]

The blast went through the side of the truck and hit the 29-year-old Branch in the left thigh. He underwent several surgeries, but the damage was too severe. Doctors eventually had to amputate his leg.

9 The Oil Rig Rescue

In 2019, oil rig workers were stunned to find a dog in the water. Their workspace, a Chevron oil rig, was 220 kilometers (135 mi) from the coast of Thailand. The lost creature managed to paddle toward the rig where it desperately clung to the bottom. The crew fashioned a loop and fished for 15 minutes before they got it around the animal’s neck and hauled him to safety.

Some spoiling was in order. The dog was dried, fed water and meat, and given a flower garland to wear. The crew also gave him a kennel and the name “Boonrod.” In Thailand, the term is used for survivors with good karma.

Once Boonrod returned to land, veterinarians declared that he was in good health and homed him with an animal rescue group. One of the oil rig workers, Vitisak Payalaw, said that he would adopt Boonrod if nobody offered him a permanent home. It remains unclear how the dog ended up miles from land, but he probably fell off a fishing vessel.[2]

8 Dog Owners With Broken Hearts

In 2016, Joanie Simpson from Texas went through a rough patch. The 62-year-old’s son faced surgery, her daughter’s husband had lost his job, and a property deal was turning hairy. Worst of all, her beloved Yorkshire terrier had congestive heart failure. Joanie doted on the Yorkie, but her pet’s health failed so much that a euthanasia date was arranged.

When the day arrived, Meha the dog seemed fine and Joanie canceled the appointment. The Yorkie died naturally the next day but in a terrible manner witnessed by her owner.

One morning, Joanie woke with all the symptoms of a heart attack. She was airlifted to a hospital in Houston where emergency personnel were preparing for her arrival. However, it turned out that Joanie never had a heart attack. Instead, she experienced a real medical condition called “broken heart syndrome.”

The sometimes-fatal condition mimics heart attacks and can be triggered by emotions like grieving. Since dog owners often mourn their pets intensely, it should come as no surprise that Joanie’s was not the first recorded case where somebody developed the dangerous condition after a dog’s death.[3]

7 Loving Dogs Could Be Genetic

In 2019, researchers wondered if a fondness for dogs was genetic. Sweden was the perfect place to find out. The country holds the largest twin registry and requires all dogs to be registered with the Swedish Board of Agriculture. Twin studies allow scientists to compare genetic, behavioral, and environmental data among people who share 50–100 percent of their DNA.

The 2019 study was thorough, combing through the data of 85,542 adult twins. Next, the team riffled through 15 years’ worth of dog ownership records. Only 8,503 people owned a canine pet. Remarkably, computer models found that genetics and environmental factors could equally predict those more likely to adopt a pooch.[4]

While the exact genes remain unidentified, the dog-loving DNA patterns were slightly higher in women. The study added an interesting layer to previous research into the health benefits of dog ownership. It suggested that health perks such as better fitness and mood could be partially explained by genetics.

6 Robotic Mail Dogs

Boston Dynamics is a Google-owned firm that specializes in technology. One of their fields is robotics. In recent years, the company revealed plans to use robot dogs to deliver packages to clients. Unimaginatively called “Spot,” one machine indeed resembled a dog. It walked on four legs, traveled upstairs, and was nimble enough to resist a shove.

The company was unclear about combating the theft or abuse of the metallic mutt once it meandered off to deliver somebody’s mail. Spot had a smaller sibling named “SpotMini” which looked like a dog-giraffe hybrid. This smart creature mapped the world around it, which allowed SpotMini to skirt around obstacles.

Boston Dynamics also tested the two canines as workers at factory production lines. In retrospect, this might be a safer option for the robots.[5]

5 A Surprising Neolithic Dog

In 1901, researchers investigated a Neolithic tomb. The burial was located in Scotland’s Orkney Islands at Cuween Hill. Around 24 dog skulls were discovered inside. A later study found that the animals were interred around 4,500 years ago when the tomb was already 500 years old.

As unusual as that seemed, the real surprise came in 2019 when one skull was reconstructed. Scientists wanted to know what Scotland’s dogs looked like during the Neolithic period. After a 3-D scan measured the skull’s particulars, the details were used to craft a “real” head using forensic techniques.[6]

The result was a wolflike creature. As the dog was domesticated, its resemblance to the European gray wolf was unexpected. The animal, which was about the size of a collie, also lacked the high forehead of modern dogs. Besides providing a curious glimpse at ancient Scottish dogs, the skull also showed their importance in ritual burials.

4 Rarest Dog Rediscovered

For decades, nobody saw the New Guinea highland wild dog. General opinion declared the canines extinct. Nevertheless, two unhelpful photographs taken in 2005 and 2012, respectively, suggested that the dogs might still be alive.

Then, in 2016, a doglike footprint surfaced in the New Guinea highlands. Trail cameras were rigged all over the place, and within two days, the devices took 140 images of at least 15 different wild dogs.

Even better, the researchers encountered the animals face-to-face. Males, females, and playful pups proved that there was a viable population. Most had golden coats, upright ears, and tails curling toward their backs.

The DNA samples returned interesting snippets. The wild dogs are officially the world’s most primitive and ancient canids in existence, having lived on the island for around 6,000 years. They are also related to the Australian dingo and the New Guinea singing dog. Only 300 singing dogs still exist, and they are the captive-bred version of the highland wild dog.[7]

3 Dogs Have Manipulative Eyebrows

Fido destroys the couch. While sitting between swathes of sponge and being berated, the dog gazes up at the owner with a certain look. The raised eyebrows make the chair killer look confused, regretful, and vulnerable. It creeps underneath our best defenses.

In 2019, researchers discovered that dogs evolved to manipulate humans with their eyebrows. They mimic human emotions to trigger a nurturing response. This was not an evil plot against humanity but more likely natural selection driven by owners.

For thousands of years, people would have better cared for the dogs to which they felt connected. As a result, dogs developed special muscles around the eyes. Completely absent or underdeveloped in wolves, the muscles allow dogs to lift their eyebrows intensely to pluck at human heartstrings.[8]

The Siberian husky is excluded from this behavior. As a close relative of the wolf, the husky’s “puppy gaze” eye muscles are also underdeveloped.

2 Professional Poop Trackers

In 1997, the Conservation Canine program was founded. Also known as CK9, it trains dogs to find the poop of wildlife. Most of the dogs are rescues with a strong ball drive. This ball obsession is the key requirement for picking new CK9 candidates. The toy serves as both a training tool and a reward.

The program offers a noninvasive way to gather information about threatened and endangered animals. Scats are unusually crammed with personal details. A single deposit can reveal the animal’s gender, stage of pregnancy, diet, and health. It can even allow scientists to recognize individuals.

Some dogs track caribou, cougars, and owls. Rarer species like the giant armadillo, tiger, and Iberian wolf also have ball-addicted pooches after them. The most remarkable tracking feat involves orcas off the shores of Canada. While standing on the deck of a research boat, CK9 dogs have located the floating (but quick to sink) scats of orcas on multiple occasions.[9]

1 Dogs Use Earth’s Magnetic Field

It is a well-established fact that birds migrate by using the planet’s magnetic field. In a study that concluded in 2014, researchers announced that dogs also tap into this field. However, what they use it for is weird.

The study ran for two years, observed 70 dogs from 37 breeds, and recorded their bathroom habits. In an attempt to find a link between canine relief and the Earth’s magnetic field, the team watched 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations.[10]

Bizarrely, the dogs preferred their business to be done along a north-south axis. This was most obvious when the Earth’s magnetic “weather” was calm. The strangest find was that the dogs actively avoided squatting along the east-west axis. Despite suffering through thousands of bathroom moments, the researchers cannot explain why dogs do this.


10 Shocking Procedures Done To Animals

Although many of the procedures we perform on animals are for their own welfare, other times, we might just cut off a body part because it looks good. (Or we humans like to think so, at least!)

Putting things in animals (or taking them out) can also make the critters more manageable. Or make us a lot of money. But even when a procedure is done for the animal’s own good, our actions are still unbelievable sometimes.

10 Bile Bears

Bear bile has been used in Chinese medicinal remedies for hundreds of years, with believers claiming that it can cure a wide range of ills. (It cannot.) Even for what limited benefits it can have, there are better alternatives.

Nevertheless, bile bear farms are big business in countries that have not outlawed the practice. There are many ways that bile is extracted from a bear’s gallbladder, but none of them are pleasant for the animals.

Some bears undergo regular extractions. This involves immobilizing them, often with physical restraints, and then extracting the bile surgically (although the term “surgically” is being used rather loosely in this case).

Other bile farmers eliminate the need for regular “procedures” by leaving a catheter inserted into the bear’s gallbladder at all times. Some give the bears “torture vests,” as the rescuers of one bear called them, that constantly drain the bile into a box for easy recovery. Other farms do away with the need for restraining the bears by keeping them in “crush cages” where they live their entire lives without the freedom to move.[1]

Bile farming has been banned in some countries, but the practice continues throughout many nations in Southeast Asia. As bears are captured in the wild, poaching and habitat destruction is leading to a population decline of wild bears in the region that experts fear will only get worse.

9 Holey Cows

To better understand what is happening in a cow’s digestive tract and increase the health of an entire herd, some researchers and farmers drill holes in their cows’ sides to create permanent portholes to their stomachs. The procedure is done under anesthesia, so it’s said that the cows don’t feel any pain.

A rubber plug is inserted into the hole, which can then be removed to monitor the cow’s digestive system. (It’s large enough to stick a human hand in.) As far as keeping the hole free from infections, agriculturists claim that the cow’s own gut microbes protect it from “bad” bacteria because the “good” bacteria prevent any from taking hold.

Animal rights activists call cannulating cows, which is the term used for this procedure, animal abuse. Agriculturists claim that it is done for the welfare not only of the cannulated cow but of the entire herd. As researchers can observe the cow’s stomach directly and insert or remove matter being digested, they can analyze it to create more nutritious diets for the cow.[2]

Also, the material in its digestive microbiome plays an extremely important part in a cow’s health. When a cow is sick, the digestive system is often the last area to recover. But when farmers give material from a healthy cannulated cow’s gut to a sick cow, it dramatically speeds up the sick cow’s recovery.

8 Ear Cropping

To the surprise of many dog lovers, the upright ears of some breeds, like the Doberman pinscher, are not their ears’ natural shape. These dogs are not born with small, erect ears but receive them from a procedure known as “ear cropping.” It’s performed to make them have a more desirable look—to humans. (The dogs don’t seem to care one way or the other.)

Ear cropping is controversial among veterinarians and animal rights activists because they claim it has no value except cosmetic (again, to humans) and that the animal must endure pain and possible complications from cutting large sections of their ears off.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, no medical evidence confirms the claims of adherents who say that dogs benefit from ear cropping because it lessens the likelihood of ear infections. Assertions that the procedure improves hearing or can help the dog avoid future ear injuries are likewise not proven.

In fact, one of the problems with the procedure is that a dog’s ears can get infected as a postoperative complication. The ears must also be taped upright to remain in the desired position, and retaping can cause pain for the dogs. If the ears fail to remain upright, further cropping must be done, increasing the risks of infection and producing more pain for the dog.[3]

7 Cutting Off Sheeps’ Butt Skin

Flystrike is one of the worst things that can happen to a sheep. The animal’s wool is thick all over its body, including the area around its anus, and its feces can start to build up around the area. This attracts flies. It’s such an inviting area to the insects that they can lay their eggs in the skin of the sheep, leading to them being eaten alive by maggots.

A sheep with flystrike can die in just a few days. To prevent this, sheep farmers came up with a procedure known as mulesing (after John Mules who invented it) in which they cut away the skin that grows wool around a sheep’s anus. This keeps the area free from feces and urine buildup.

Activists object to this procedure because the farmers actually cut away the animal’s butt skin, often without anesthetics or any postoperative procedures. Mulesing did not receive much attention until PETA found out about it and began posting videos and images of a sheep getting mulesed.[4]

The sheep itself shows no indication of feeling any pain, But the blood from mulesing and further tests which show the animal’s astronomical increase in stress hormones tell a different tale. (As sheep are prey animals, it’s believed that they do not show pain.) PETA organized a boycott on Australian wool to combat the practice.

6 Tail Docking

Many breeds of dogs with short tails do not receive them from genetics but from a procedure known as tail docking. Basically, it’s a partial amputation of a tail. As with ear cropping, the main reasons are purely cosmetic, like when a dog’s breed standard has the image of a short, stubby tail.

Tail docking has been shown to have some value in rare cases. In working dogs, such as guard dogs and hunting dogs, tail docking can have some positive effects. It can keep the dog from getting injured when it travels through brush that could harm its tail. A guard dog could likewise avoid getting its tail yanked by an intruder.

However, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stresses that tail docking rarely has justifiable benefits even among working dogs. The organization does not support the practice. It is not so much that tail docking is harmful to the animal (aside from the pain of the procedure), but there is usually no benefit for the animal itself. So the AVMA does not believe it is necessary. It is illegal in countries like the UK.[5]

Tail docking is not confined to canines, however. Docking cows’ tails, once routine in the US dairy industry, has likewise shown no benefit to the animal or dairy worker. It only adds to discomfort during fly season as the animals have more flies and a harder time dealing with them because the cows cannot swish their tails to swat the flies.

As a result, US dairy industry manuals discourage it. Young lambs and some horses also have their tails docked to prevent situations like flystrike or getting entangled in equipment. Unlike with other animals, tail docking in these situations has been proven to have some benefit to the lambs and horses.

5 Shoving Ginger Up Horse Butts

Different styles of show horses are held to different standards. In some categories, a “lively” tail is seen as a qualification to compete. The horse is supposed to keep its tail up and at the ready to be considered at the peak of its breed.

However, not all horses are as enthusiastic about keeping their tails up as their owners would like. So, some humans take the situation into their own hands, as it were, by shoving ginger up their animals’ butts.

The ginger acts as an irritant that makes the horse lift its tail. “Gingering” is the term used because the original technique was to pack horse buttholes with raw ginger, but other substances have been administered as well. Cayenne pepper or even kerosene is likewise applied to the horse’s anus and perineal/vaginal region to give the animal’s tail that extra perk.

Naturally, the practice of gingering has been banned at shows. It is harmful to the animal, and it doesn’t give a real representation of the breed. Swabbing for ginger and any other substance that might irritate a horse’s nether regions is a common practice. For testers who don’t want to get up close and personal with horse butts, thermal imaging is another option.

But some horseshow people have opted to cheat not with chemicals but with a practice called “nicking.” This cuts certain ligaments in the horse’s tail and then resets them at a higher position. Anything for a win.[6]

4 Getting High (Steps)

Horses have more to worry about than their owners putting chemicals up their butts. As the Tennessee Walking Horse is known for its leg movements, some unscrupulous breeders in competition have been artificially producing the hallmarks of these horses by searing their legs with chemicals.

“Soring” a horse is harming the animal’s legs, often by putting chemicals on or around a horse’s hooves/leg area to make stepping painful. The irritant is put on the front legs and causes the horse to recoil in pain when it walks. This creates a much higher step that looks pleasing to an audience.

Officials have been critical of Tennessee Walking Horse shows for soring their horses. They clamped down on these practices in accordance with the Horse Protection Act of 1970, but then the officials ran into another issue. After a horse is sored, the practice can be covered up by adding even more chemicals to numb the pain until the horse enters the show.

At the 2013 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, 67 percent of horses tested positive for chemicals that could have covered up evidence of soring. A spokesman for the Performance Show Horse Association said that the findings were incorrect. He added that the information did not come from USDA veterinary inspectors but from other outside organizations.

According to a veterinarian representing the organization, there was no scientific support for the findings and it was unreasonable to think that a horse’s legs wouldn’t have trace amounts of the substances. They say their goal is full compliance and that they don’t want the “Big Lick” competition ruined by cheaters.[7]

3 Nose Rings Hurt (That’s Why They’re There)

Nose rings are placed in the nostrils of animals for several reasons. But whatever the endgame of the farmer is, nose rings were meant to cause pain. For animals like cows, a nose ring can be used to control an animal that is in close proximity to humans.

The cow can be led around by a rope tethered to the nose ring, or pulling on the ring can cause pain which discontinues the undesirable activity. Temporary nose rings are also placed on calves to wean them. The rings prevent them from nursing but allows them to eat food like adult cows.

Perhaps the most common images of nose rings in animals involve pigs, but they are also the most discouraged. The rings are seen as harmful to the pigs’ welfare. While nose rings can be used to lead a pig somewhere, the main purpose of nose rings in these animals is to stop them from rooting.

A herd of pigs rooting can destroy the plant life around an entire farm. However, many animal researchers believe that rooting is a behavioral need in pigs and to prevent that activity would be harmful to their welfare. Given that, other methods of rooting prevention are recommended. Nose ringing pigs is discouraged or even banned in several countries.[8]

2 Chickens With Rose-Colored Glasses Or Blinders

Many people agree that chicken makes a very tasty meal, but unfortunately, that sentiment is shared by the birds themselves. They are cannibals. Each year, chicken farmers can lose up to 25 percent of their stock to chickens killing each other.

When one chicken draws blood, the sight of the blood draws other chickens to the injured bird. They attack it, too. So when a chicken bleeds, it often dies quickly at the beaks of its flock.

Chicken farmers use a range of methods to avoid losing their stock this way. Interestingly, this includes giving spectacles to their birds. These rose-colored glasses make it difficult for the chickens to see blood, which prevents mobs of them from attacking a lone bird.

Some glasses were designed to swing open when the chicken ate so that it had a normal view of its food. Then the spectacles would swing back down once the chicken lifted its head again.[9]

Other kinds, called blinders, are opaque and prevent the chicken from seeing in front of its head. The chicken can’t see to attack another chicken, so deaths are prevented. There were even attempts to give the chickens permanent red-colored contact lenses. However, these only harmed the chickens and made some go blind.

Although some blinders and spectacles are temporary clip-ons, others are permanent. These are pinned directly into the nasal cavities of the birds and are listed as “mutilations” by the UK government. The practice is illegal there because it is deemed detrimental to the welfare of the birds.

1 Cutting Off The Eyes Of Prawns

Female prawns only like to reproduce under the right conditions. They want everything to be perfect when they lay their eggs. But their tendency to only reproduce when they’re satisfied with their little prawn lives poses a huge problem for most farmers.

Prawns in farms are generally under more stress than in the wild, so their bodies prevent them from sexually maturing. However, farmers need the prawns to reproduce. One way to encourage them is to create conditions where female prawns feel safe enough to allow their ovaries to mature. Another method is cutting their eyes off. (Or just slicing them open.)

Female prawns have a gland in their eyestalks that control the maturation rate of their ovaries. If females won’t reproduce, then farmers simply have to remove this gland. Without it, the prawn’s ovaries begin to mature.

As the gland is in the prawn’s eyestalk, gland removal is generally done in one of two ways. Complete amputation of the eyestalk extracts the gland with it, and the prawn starts making babies.

But blinding a prawn is not necessary in the procedure known as eyestalk ablation. Farmers only need to slice the eye open and then squeeze the eyestalk to get rid of the gland. The eye will heal, but we don’t know how the prawn’s vision fares after having their eyes sliced in half. Science says it probably hurts, too.[10]

Mike lives on the East Coast and pays too much for beach parking.


10 Times Animal Sanctuaries Turned Borderline Bizarre

Most zoo visits happen without incident, but sometimes, things go wrong. Visitors scale enclosure walls, and chimpanzees lure people closer for bad reasons.

However, it is when zoos close for the day that things truly get weird. From strange thefts and maulings to bizarre drills, this behind-the-scenes strangeness cannot beat the time when three zoos stole a herd of elephants.

10 Kaln’s Egg

A sanctuary in Gloucester, England, rehabilitates wild species of birds rescued as pets or captive working individuals. For the past 23 years, the haven has taken care of a male eagle owl called Kaln.

In 2019, he laid an egg. The declaration of motherhood was unexpected because the staff never considered the owl as female. Even Kaln looked surprised by the egg.

The sanctuary cannot be faulted for mistaking the bird’s anatomy. Determining the gender of an owl is difficult. Males and females often look identical, and their chromosomes are similar enough to foil genetic tests.

The sanctuary has no interest in such tests. Their priority is not breeding but rehabilitation. Should a bird behave like a male or female, that is how it is viewed.

Kaln carried on like a guy. She tried to mate with everything and never laid the usual six eggs that female eagle owls deposit during the winter. These days, Kaln is seen as the sanctuary’s “tomboy.”[1]

9 The Two Dads

The Sea Life Sydney Aquarium homes several penguins. Among them were Sphen and Magic. The gentoo penguins were inseparable. They courted and even built a nest together. They were also both male. Seeing that the birds were devoted to each other, the staff provided them with a fake egg.

They did such a good job that the aquarium gave them a real egg in 2018. Thinking that they were new dads, Sphen performed security patrols while Magic incubated. After a while, Magic guarded the nest while Sphen warmed the egg.

Their foster chick hatched on October 19, 2018. Weighing no more than an apple, little “Sphengic” was doted on by both of its fathers. When it comes to penguins, same-sex pairs are nothing new. However, it remains exceptionally unusual for them to raise a chick.[2]

8 Santino’s Game

At the Furuvik Zoo in Sweden, Santino is the dominant male of a group of chimpanzees. He developed the habit of pelting visitors with “ammunition.” The latter included stones from his enclosure’s moat and concrete lumps that he pilfered from an artificial island.

His stockpiles proved that chimps could plan a future event, something previously considered an exclusively human trait. Why Santino bombarded people was not a mystery. He likely tried to dominate them. Dominant males from other zoos have done the same.

However, in 2012, Santino did something unexpected. After a zoo guide removed a group of visitors from the chimp’s enclosure for safety reasons, he was left without admirers for hours. Santino decided to lure them back.

He hid his projectiles near the visitors’ area, and when the trusting humans returned, he resumed his rudeness. This was the first recorded instance of deception in chimps. The remarkable part was that Santino had made plans about people he could not see and also predicted their behavior.[3]

7 The Valentine’s Day Offer

In 2019, the El Paso Zoo in Texas warmed the hearts of revenge-oriented people—more specifically, anyone who despised their ex and wanted to do something about it. The zoo asked for the first name and last initial of an ex. This title was then transferred to a cockroach. The insect was destined to be fed to a meerkat.

Those who submitted the names could watch the live-streamed event on Valentine’s Day. Called “Quit Bugging Me,” the stunt was a success. Soon after the project was announced, over 1,500 names were submitted, a little too much for the zoo’s meerkat population.

The bugs are rich in nutrients, and each mongoose received a single cockroach. To make up for the fact that most of the names would never end up inside a meerkat’s digestive system, the zoo revealed all the names on social media.

Other institutions followed suit. El Paso offered the name-a-cockroach service for free, but those who really wanted to see an ex consumed could pay between $2 and $15 for the privilege at three other zoos.[4]

6 Zoo Jeans

A pair of jeans remains a fierce fashion choice, although few manufacturers can beat the wild way in which Zoo Jeans makes their pants. In 2014, Mineko Club needed a fundraiser idea for conservation.

The Japanese volunteer group came up with a solution that was both marketable and entertaining for zoo animals. They wrapped tires with denim material as toys for the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi City. The denim wheels were given to tigers, lions, and bears. The predators quickly took to the curious objects and started tearing away at the cloth.

It is no secret that torn jeans are hot favorites, but those mauled to shreds by dangerous creatures are even more so. After the material was rescued, it was sewn up as designer jeans. Buyers had a choice between the lion, tiger, or bear model. The fundraiser held an online auction, and jeans ravaged by a tiger received the best bid of $1,200.[5]

5 Tilda’s Humanlike Calls

Orangutans utter a wide variety of sounds, but a female called Tilda does something unique. The Bornean orangutan lives at Germany’s Cologne Zoo. When she wants more food, Tilda calls for the menu in two different ways. The remarkable thing is that it resembles human vocalizations.

Researchers who analyzed the noises compared one call with clicking sounds used by the Bushmen of Africa. The second consisted of rapid grumbles that mimicked vowel sounds.

Tilda is the first orangutan born in the wild that learned to “speak human” to communicate her needs to people. How she did it remains unknown. But before the ape arrived at the zoo, she was in show business and perhaps was taught as part of an act.

The research might help to understand the origins of speech. If Tilda’s anatomy allows her to make vowel sounds and other humanlike noises, then so could the common ancestors of the great apes. Further investigation might one day pinpoint when and how the first words were spoken.[6]

4 The Butt Slapper

Wanted: Man who slapped a hippo’s bottom. True story.

In 2018, a visitor to the Los Angeles Zoo went to the hippopotamus enclosure. Even though entering zoo enclosures is prohibited and punishable by law, the man clambered over a railing and approached the two hippos. He soundly smacked four-year-old Rosie on the butt.

She flinched, and the other hippo—her mother, Mara—was startled by the whole thing. Before Mara could experience parental rage, the man fled. The trespasser’s bizarre behavior was caught on film. Although it became widely circulated on social media and was shown to police, the slapper remains at large.[7]

In a way, the incident was funny and at least the animals were not hurt. However, a hippo is capable of being exceptionally dangerous. In fact, they are one of Africa’s most lethal—and surprisingly nimble—animals. To take one by surprise, as the man did, is even more deadly.

3 The Monkey Cage Incident

John Owen Casford had a brilliant idea. To impress his girlfriend, he was going to give her a squirrel monkey. As one cannot purchase the tiny primates at Walmart, he decided to steal one.

In 2018, Casford strolled through an unguarded gate at a New Zealand zoo. He broke open two locks meant to secure the monkey cage and entered. After that, the details got hazy.

Things got violent at one point. Not only were the monkeys hurt and traumatized but Casford also had his own problems. The thief was found the next morning with fractured teeth, a twisted ankle, a bruised back, and a broken leg.[8]

The 23-year-old was charged and sentenced to almost three years in prison. The verdict included punishment for prior crimes that summer, including several assaults on other people. Although Casford was man enough to plead guilty to the zoo incident and explained that he had broken his leg trying to get over a fence, nobody knows how he received the other injuries.

2 A Bizarre Escape Drill

Japanese zoos believe in being prepared. Every year, they hold drills for events like earthquakes and escaped animals. In 2019, the Tobe Zoo in Ehime decided to train its personnel to deal with a lion on the loose.

A local news station captured the training, and the video went viral. Not because the drill was good, but because it was so bizarre. Since Tobe Zoo could not use a real animal, a staff member dressed up as a lion. The giant puppet, looking more like a mascot than an object of serious training, wandered around the zoo.

At one point, keepers cornered it with nets. The lion-guy knocked several of them to the ground and ran away. The staff changed tactics and took off in hot pursuit in a vehicle.[9]

As they drove by, the fake lion was shot with a fake tranquilizer. The cat keeled over, and the staff demonstrated how to correctly handle a sedated lion. Needless to say, the online community found the whole thing hilarious.

1 The Stolen Herd

In 2016, three US zoos absconded with a herd of elephants. The zoos expressed an interest in removing the animals, stating that the deteriorating conditions in Swaziland were a danger to them.

Indeed, there was a severe drought and removing the elephants would relieve the pressure of finding food for other animals, like rhinos. At worst, the zoos feared that the 18 elephants would be culled.[10]

Animal rights activists took the zoo officials to court because the activists believed that the herd had to be relocated elsewhere in the African wilderness. A date was scheduled in US federal court, but the zoos decided to make their move anyway. During a daring mission, a large cargo plane touched down in Swaziland. The elephants were sedated, placed in crates, and loaded onto the plane.

When the news broke, the activists were not understanding. Some claimed that it was the most underhanded thing they had ever witnessed. Even so, the US Fish and Wildlife Service provided a permit to import the elephants legally. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums also sided with the zoos.


Top 10 Exotic Pets That Killed Their Owners

Have you ever dreamed of owning an exotic pet? Some people have lived that fantasy, keeping wild animals as companions. We’ve already told you some uncomfortably odd stories involving some of the strangest pets on the planet.

But the weird and wacky can give way to nightmares in the waking world. Unfortunately for you, if you have ever dreamed of riding around on the back of an unusual creature, this list reveals 10 times when those cherished companions have turned deadly.

10 Cassowary

The world’s most dangerous bird is the cassowary, edging out both the emu and the ostrich for the win. Although a cassowary is as tall as a person, the real threat is closer to the ground.

The bird has 10-centimeter (4 in) swords for claws on the end of its ridiculously powerful legs. A kick from a cassowary can kill you both by blunt force trauma and blood loss. So naturally, they are sometimes sought out by exotic animal collectors as pets.

In Florida, a 75-year-old man was a breeder of these birds until one of them attacked him in 2019. According to officials, he fell to the ground by accident and then the bird struck. The man was probably doomed from the moment he hit the ground as a cassowary can run up to 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) and jump 2.1 meters (7 ft) into the air despite being flightless.[1]

This isn’t the first time that a cassowary attack has made headlines. In 2012, a man was chased by a cassowary and cornered on a cliff above a pool of water in Australia. The bird then kicked him in the back, sending him rolling down the embankment into the water below.

He survived but with bruises and a ripped shirt. He hadn’t done anything to upset the cassowary other than being nearby, but it decided to attack anyway.

9 A Red Deer And Elk Hybrid

On his farm in Australia, Paul McDonald was killed by a hybrid of a red deer and an elk (aka a wapiti). His family had kept the normally docile animal for years before it attacked Paul in 2019.

The deciding factor in the sudden mood shift appeared to be mating season. The animal’s hormones were acting up. Red deer stags live as social animals for 10 months of the year, but for two months, they enter a period of “rutting” in which they display more aggression and other sexual behaviors.

According to research on wild populations of deer, violence is connected to changes in testosterone. So, both castration and social isolation are useful in preventing dangerous outbursts in the animals during mating season. Unfortunately, this animal became unexpectedly violent despite its relative isolation from other deer.

One morning, Paul had gone to feed the hybrid breakfast when his wife and son heard a commotion coming from the animal’s area as the beast attacked. His wife attempted to intervene, but she was injured by the animal.

Their son went to get help. After paramedics and police arrived, they treated the injuries and shot the hybrid. Paul died from his injuries, but his wife survived. She was moved to a hospital where she eventually recovered after several operations.[2]

8 Hippo

In 2011, headlines were made when a South African man named Marius Els was killed by his pet hippopotamus, which he called Humphrey. The death was notable because Els and Humphrey had appeared in media and videos together demonstrating their seemingly friendly bond.

A video called “My Pet Hippo: I Love Humphrey” was uploaded to YouTube earlier in the year that Els was killed. He had rescued Humphrey as a calf from a flood. Around six years later, Humphrey killed Els by repeatedly biting and gouging him.

It was not the first time that Humphrey, the 1,179-kilogram (2,600 lb) mammal, had killed. He had previously destroyed multiple cows that had been owned by a business partner of Els.[3]

Friends of Els reportedly knew that it was only a matter of time before the deadliest animal in Africa would off a person. Hippos kill more people each year than several more dangerous-sounding species combined, including elephants, lions, leopards, and rhinos.

Els was known for performing dangerous stunts with Humphrey, especially posing for photographs while riding on the animal’s back. At one point before Els’s death, Humphrey had attacked two canoers who passed too close to him on the river, forcing them to climb a tree for safety and remain there for hours.

7 Southern Pig-Tailed Macaque Monkey

Monkeys may not sound like the most dangerous animals in the world. We often associate them with funny behaviors like eating bananas and throwing feces. But the bites of monkeys can be deadly—especially in this case from Malaysia in 2019 when the monkey bit through a major artery.

A 72-year-old man and his son were both attacked by their pet monkey as they were attempting to get it to climb trees and retrieve fruit. It was the older man who died, although the son received an injury to his neck.

The monkey had been trained to gather coconuts from palm trees by going to something called a monkey school. In Malaysia, monkey schools teach a species called the southern pig-tailed macaque to retrieve these fruits to assist the local economy.

The monkeys have been trained this way for at least 100 years, and each one is typically taught at a school for 2–3 weeks before getting a job as a coconut picker. The training begins by creating an interest in coconuts by encouraging the monkey to play with them. Then it proceeds in stages during which the monkey is taught movements and command words.[4]

The murdering monkey in question was older than the ideal age for these animals to begin their training, which may be why the schooling did not turn out so well for this monkey. The son discovered that his father was lying in their coconut grove and so went to investigate when he was attacked by the monkey as well.

A neighbor heard the screaming, and the son was rescued. But it was too late for the father. It is unknown whether the monkey mistook their heads for coconuts in need of harvest or if it was in a neck-biting mood for some other reason.

6 Black Bear

In 2009, a pet black bear named Teddy killed one of its owners. Despite the animal’s soft-sounding name, this was not a particularly cuddly murder. Kelly Ann and Michael Walz lived in Pennsylvania, and Michael had previously held a license as an exotic pet dealer. That license had expired by the time that his bear killed his wife.

Earlier, the Walzes had kept various animals in cages on their property. These included a lion, a tiger, a jaguar, a leopard, some relatively small savanna cats called servals, and the bear.

But even though Michael had received the animal permit, it was Kelly Ann who was cleaning the black bear cage one Sunday night when the accident occurred. To keep the bear occupied, she tossed a shovelful of dog food to one side of the cage while she cleaned the other side. The bear attacked her while she was cleaning.[5]

Kelly Ann had been raising the bear for nine years—ever since it was a cub. Bear cubs are relatively easy to handle. But according to experts, any relationships that may be formed with a cub are destroyed when the bear reaches about four years old and reveals violent outbursts of behavior.

Bears have never been successfully domesticated despite attempts (especially in Russia). They are considered wild and unpredictable animals even if they have lived among humans for long periods of time.

5 Camel

Hypothetically, what would you give your wife for her 60th birthday? Jewelry? Flowers? How about a baby camel?

That was the birthday present that Pam Weaver’s husband gave her in 2007. Living in Australia, Weaver was an animal lover who had previously raised goats, kangaroos, emus, and rabbits.

Having a camel in Australia is not as strange as it may sound. Many wild camels have lived on the continent since they were brought there in the 1800s as pack animals. In fact, there are well over a million feral single-humped camels roaming the wilds of Australia as an unusual invasive species. They cause millions in damages to property each year and are a general nuisance.

The pet camel is believed to have knocked Pam Weaver to the ground and then straddled her body, killing her. Pam had raised the camel almost from birth, and it was just 10 months old when the tragedy happened. Reportedly, the camel had displayed erratic behavior before—such as straddling Weaver’s pet goat.[6]

One expert stated that the strange behaviors were undoubtedly sexual in nature and that the young camel was attempting to engage in some type of mating behavior. Of course, the headlines wasted no time with their insensitive puns, declaring that the woman had been humped to death.

4 Crocodile

In January 2019, an Indonesian woman fell into an outdoor enclosure containing an illegally kept crocodile named Merry. The woman’s name was Deasy Tuwo, and she was the head of a pearl farm laboratory that produced beauty products. It was unknown what a crocodile was doing on the laboratory property because these creatures are not known for their beauty. But apparently, it was being fed like a pet.

It is believed that Tuwo fell into the enclosure by accident or the crocodile was able to leap far enough up the 2.4-meter (8 ft) concrete wall of the enclosure to snatch her. Crocodiles make powerful leaps using their tails to propel them almost entirely out of the water in which they are swimming.

In some places, taunting crocodiles by holding meat above the water and forcing them to jump to grab it is a popular tourist attraction called a “jumping crocodile cruise.”[7]

By the time that Tuwo’s body was found, Merry had eaten one of her hands and most of her abdomen. To remove the dangerous and illegal reptile from the property, the police, the army, and conservation officials all pitched in.

It took dozens of people to organize and complete the three-hour operation to evict Merry the crocodile. She was then strapped to a flatbed truck and driven away to a wildlife rescue center.

3 Elephant

A man named Ram Lakhan Verma was a politician affiliated with a political party in India called the Bahujan Samaj Party. The official symbol of the party is the elephant. As a gimmick of sorts, Verma kept an elephant as a pet that he would use during political campaigns.

In 2003, the elephant began behaving wildly. So Verma brought him to the outskirts of the village and tried to calm him down. At first, it seemed to be working, but then the elephant became enraged again.

At that point, Verma lashed out and tried to strike the animal on the forehead with a sharp iron rod. Eyewitnesses reported that the weapon ended up lodged in the elephant’s ear. Verma then lost his balance and fell to the ground.

The panicked elephant crushed him to death and then ran back toward the village. Unfortunately for the skittish animal, the villagers were ready. They opened fire on the elephant with their guns and shot him over 200 times in total.[8]

Did the massacre of their mascot hurt the chances of the political party?

Not so much. In the next countrywide election held in India after the death of the elephant and its owner, the Bahujan Samaj Party won the state assembly election with a non-coalition majority, the likes of which had not been seen in well over a decade.

2 Wildebeest

The gnu, a species of African antelope often called a wildebeest, weighs hundreds of pounds, and both the males and females grow large and intimidating horns. This did not deter one man in Indiana from keeping three wildebeests as pets: an adult male, an adult female, and a calf born to the adults.[9]

In 2004, Klaus “Dick” Radandt was trampled to death by one of his wildebeests behind his home. The animal had been made safer to handle by cutting off most of its horns, but that turned out not to matter in the end. The coroner declared that the wildebeest had inflicted blunt force trauma to its owner’s head and chest, probably first by ramming him and then by trampling him.

What most likely set the wildebeest off on its murderous rampage? It was the beginning of the mating season. He may have been extra aggressive to prevent Radandt from being around his mate. Radandt and his wife also kept emus, reindeer, and other exotic animals on the farm where he was killed.

His wife discovered Radandt’s body after realizing that he had not come back from the barnyard for quite some time. Presumably, she did not react well when she discovered his body among their implausibility of gnus. Yes, a herd of gnus is called an implausibility. At least you got that fun fact out of this sad story!

1 Black Mamba Snake

In Putnam, New York, a couple was keeping around 75 snakes, including a black mamba, in their home. The black mamba is considered the second-deadliest snake in the world based on its venom’s neurotoxin power.

The snakes were not just roaming free among the cabinets and furniture, of course. They were contained in various glass aquariums and acrylic snake pens. Unfortunately, the locks on the black mamba’s enclosure were mysteriously open one day.

In 2011, the 1.5-meter (5 ft) venomous reptile bit owner Aleta Stacey on her forearm. The snake is known for its venom because nearly 100 percent of bite victims will die within 20 minutes if not treated.

Stacey died from the bite, and it appeared that she had not tried to call for help of any kind. There was some discussion that the death may have been intentional, but proof of this was not found. Her boyfriend discovered her body and then found that the snake’s cage was unlocked.[10]

The possession of some of the snakes was illegal, especially because over half of them had venom known to be harmful to people (such as the cobra they also owned). In the end, the pile of snakes, including the black mamba, were turned over to the Bronx Zoo.

Alexander R. Toftness runs a science and history channel at https://www.youtube.com/artexplains and can be found on Twitter @ARTexplains for more strange facts.


Top 10 Unusual Facts And Stories About Giraffes

The giraffe ranks among the most familiar of the zoo and park animals. Even so, giraffes continue to harbor surprising facts. The creatures can turn black or white and make inexplicable noises at night. They even ogled a Chinese emperor during the 1400s.

There are funny things in their armpits and a puzzling disease creeping up their legs. Even though giraffes are endangered, it is often conservation breeding programs that decide whether they are allowed to live or die.

10 There Are Four Species

Until 2016, there was one species of giraffe. For those who cared to squint harder at subtle differences between ossicones (head “horns”), coat patterns, and different habitats, there were nine subspecies. As the classifications had been made between 1758 and 1911, modern researchers felt that the requirements were unreliable because giraffes had not been studied as deeply as other big African mammals.

Unlike lions and elephants, there is plenty that remains unknown about giraffes. To discover the truth, a five-year-long study became the first to genetically analyze all the nine subspecies.

The DNA tests proved that the “nine” were actually four distinct species—the reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata), Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi), northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis), and southern giraffe (G. giraffa). As they do not breed with each other, the correct identification of species is a positive step forward to ensure that all four survive.[1]

9 The Imperial Giraffes

During the 1400s, Emperor Yongle of China wanted to explore the world. He sent a fleet of ships on seven expeditions which made it as far as South Africa, landing at the modern-day Cape of Good Hope. Yongle liked to collect exotic animals, and foreign nations gave him rhinoceroses, peacocks, elephants, and bears as gifts.

During the fourth expedition, the Chinese arrived at Bengal and met with envoys from Malindi (Kenya). The latter handed over a giraffe, which was promptly stabled aboard one of the Imperial ships. The animal’s size was not a problem. The vessels that sailed during this expedition remain the biggest wooden vessels ever constructed in history.

Despite Yongle’s vast collection of strange animals, the giraffe made such an impression on the emperor that it became the only animal he asked the court artist to draw. The image added a mythical flavor, suggesting that it was a qilin—a creature comparable with the West’s unicorn.

A year later, a second giraffe arrived at the royal court. Despite the animals’ strange story, there is no record of what became of the spotty pair.[2]

8 They Like Carcasses

National Geographic photographer Corinne Kendall visited a reserve a few years ago. Once inside Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, she took photos of a macabre incident. Two adult giraffes were busy with a dead wildebeest. Not only did they mouth the carcass, but they occasionally tossed it into the air.

This grated against the giraffe’s image as a gentle herbivore. Experts reviewed the photographs and found the behavior was not as deviant as it first appeared. It was likely a case of osteophagy. To keep their own skeletons healthy, herbivores need calcium and phosphorus.[3]

For this reason, these mammals gnaw on bones. Recently, another giraffe was filmed licking the skull of a dead buffalo. One of the experts who assessed Kendall’s pictures also told National Geographic that he regularly witnessed the fascination giraffes have for carcasses during his fieldwork. An average of about six times a year, he would encounter giraffes nosing around bones.

7 Birds Sleep In Their Armpits

Snapshot Serengeti was a project that ran for years inside the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It involved camera traps that automatically took photographs when an animal moved nearby. At one point, a camera documented something that had never been seen before.

Researchers have always known that a brown bird called the yellow-billed oxpecker grooms giraffes and other large African mammals. The tiny creature removes ticks and even feeds on the host’s blood, eye goop, and nose mucus. However, this activity was only observed during the day.

One night, a giraffe triggered one of the traps, which took a series of snaps. They showed that the animal’s armpits contained clusters of sleeping oxpeckers. Never before had anyone realized that the birds sometimes chose to overnight on what was basically their food source.[4]

Although it was a surprising find, it was not hard to see why the oxpeckers did it. Apart from ensuring that they stayed with their food-providing host, the giraffe’s armpits were also safe and warm.

6 Males Turn Black

Giraffe dudes do something unusual. As they age, their blocks become black. In 2012, curious researchers studied 36 males, all from the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. They knew the precise age of 10 and estimated the ages of the rest based on how dark their patterns were.

The animals’ data had been compiled over 33 years, which provided a rich source to plumb about the color change and lives of males. A calf weans at two years old and leaves its birth environment between four and eight.

The darkening first becomes obvious when bulls turn seven or eight. The black starts in the middle of the brown patches and bleeds outward toward the edges. This process takes almost two years, and on average, males have a full set of coal-black spots by the time they are 9.4 years old.[5]

Although the 2012 study was the first to establish a timeline, it could not find the cause. As only males experience the change, it could have something to do with testosterone levels. Bulls mature around age 10, which is around the time that their transformation is complete.

5 A Mysterious Disease

In 2014, Arthur Muneza had to pick an animal to study for his master’s at Michigan State University. Like many others, he considered the popular choices—elephants and African predators. However, the biologist chose giraffes when he heard that they suffered from a strange and understudied skin condition.

Giraffes are somewhat neglected when it comes to megafauna studies. Even the affliction, which may be a contributing factor to their dropping numbers, received a casual name—giraffe skin disease (GSD).

However, Muneza was on fire. He dug into past research and cornered veterinarians as well as zoo and park officials. He scoured old studies for the symptoms, which include lesions on the legs and neck. The areas often turn gray, bloody, and crusty.

Just eight sources mentioned anything about it. The questionnaires he sent out to those working with giraffes only garnered 63 responses. Zoos reported 14 cases of GSD in their captive specimens. Frighteningly, the Ruaha National Park in Tanzania reported that 79 percent of their giraffes had the disease.[6]

Muneza’s collaboration with experts is ongoing to unravel what causes GSD, how it spreads, and how it can be cured.

4 Marius

In 2014, Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark considered euthanizing one of their giraffes. As Marius was a healthy 18-month-old, thousands signed a petition for his life to be spared until a new home could be arranged. The zoo’s reason was that Marius had nothing to add to their international breeding program. They also said they could not keep the growing male in case it led to fighting with others.

Despite the local and international outcry to make an effort to relocate the giraffe, Copenhagen Zoo refused to do so. On a Sunday morning, a staff member fed Marius his favorite meal of rye bread and then shot him. The giraffe was dismembered in front of visitors before his parts were distributed among the zoo’s predators and research facilities.

The demise of Marius caused such anger that the zoo’s staff received death threats against themselves and their families. Marius’s short life and public slaughter highlighted something of which few citizens are aware. It is a common practice for zoos to kill healthy animals when their genetics fail to meet breeding standards, when there is no space, or when they do not attract crowds.[7]

3 They Hum At Night

Giraffes are quiet creatures. So quiet, in fact, that scientists became suspicious. After all, they move in herds with social structures. This strongly suggested some sort of communication beyond the occasional kick and snort.

In 2015, a strange clue was captured at three European zoos. One theory was that giraffes get chatty on frequencies that humans cannot hear. To test this, researchers left recording devices near the creatures’ enclosures. After slogging through 1,000 hours of recordings, the researchers found that giraffes do make a sound—they hum.

The noise resembled something between a swarm of bees and monastic chanting. The humming happened at a very low frequency but still fell inside the range of human hearing. Despite this, zoo staff heard it for the first time only when they listened to the tapes.

The exact purpose of the sound remains mysterious. Since it happens exclusively at night, it could be a way for giraffes to stay connected in the dark. It could also be a passive sound related to sleeping, like snoring or dreaming.[8]

2 Kenya’s White Giraffes

In 2017, a villager in Kenya’s Garissa County saw two white giraffes. He told conservationists about the bleached pair, and soon, the animals were tracked down. They lived in the best place for such rare creatures—the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy.

The species was identified as the vulnerable reticulated giraffe. The two animals were also family—a mother and her calf. When the cow noticed the rangers, she calmly hid her baby in the bushes and positioned herself between the infant and the humans, who stood filming a few yards away.[9]

Not only did the camera capture the curious beauty of white giraffes but it was also the first footage of specimens with leucism. This genetic condition prevents the normal formation of pigment inside skin cells. It differs from albinism in that dark pigment can still flourish inside soft tissues, which was why the mother and calf had dark eyes and some body coloring.

1 They Are Critically Endangered

The plight of the African elephant is well-known. There are only about half a million of the creatures left in the wild. That being said, elephant numbers look fantastic against the remaining wild giraffe population—90,000. The last 15 years saw a 40 percent die-off thanks to habitat loss and poachers. Giraffes are now extinct in seven African countries.

Despite these glaring warning signs, their official conservation status remains merely “Vulnerable” as opposed to the “Endangered” African elephants. However, there is hope in small pockets.

In 2016, conservationists learned that oil had been discovered in Uganda and that prospectors planned to move into Murchison Falls National Park. A particularly vulnerable group of giraffes lived on only one side of the Nile, and unfortunately, it was the side where the oil was.

A daring mission floored 20 of the awkward but dangerous animals, packed them onto a ferry, and released them on the other side. Not only did the small herd thrive, but as researchers followed them, they filmed an unknown behavior for the first time. At night, the animals took turns watching for predators while the rest slept with their necks folded over their backs like swans.[10]