List of unusual animal anecdotes

List of unusual animal anecdotes

This article provides a list of unusual animal anecdotes – unique or particularly absurd circumstances involving animals – recorded throughout history. This bestiary focuses mainly on exotic animals such as tigers, lions, crocodiles and monkeys but also includes more ordinary animals when the circumstances are especially unusual.

To be included on this list, an anecdote needs to be sourced, preferably by a primary source and should in some way be extraordinarily strange or notable. As anecdotes, they are commonly told through sources with some sense of a narrative rather than a simple statement of facts. They may not appear on other Wikipedia articles due to difficulty of categorizing.


In Rome

*252 BC: The first elephants seen in Rome were captured after the victory over the Carthaginians and looked upon with contempt. Approximately 140 of them were paraded into the Circus Maximus, whipped into a frenzy in order for the Roman people to properly hate them and then killed with javelins. [ Pliny the Elder, "Natural History Books 8-11", p. 15

*65 BC: When the giraffe was introduced to Rome, it was called "camelopard" because it appeared to be a combination of the two known species. [ Pliny the Elder, "Natural History Books 8-11", p. 53 The scientific name for the giraffe remains "Giraffa camelopardalis".

*61 BC: On September 19th, consul Marcus Piso pitted 100 bears against 100 Numidian tribesmen. [ Pliny the Elder, "Natural History Books 8-11", p. 93 "It is noted in the Annals that on 19 September...

*58 BC: A hippopotamus appeared in Rome alongside 5 crocodiles in the games of Marcus Scaurus in a special channel of water made to hold them. [ Pliny the Elder, "Natural History Books 8-11", p. 69

*50 BC: Lucullus built a fish pond that actually cut through a mountain near Naples in order to allow sea water to flow in. [ Pliny the Elder, "Natural History Books 8-11", p. 279 After his death, the fish from the pond were sold for 4,000,000 sesterces. Because of the ostentatiousness of his plan, Pompey referred to Lucullus during his life as "Xerxes in Roman dress." [ Pliny the Elder, "Natural History Books 8-11", p. 279

*48 BC: Mark Antony is said to have broken lions to a yoke and according to Pliny, was the first person in Rome to harness them to a chariot. He did this after the decisive battle in which Caesar defeated Pompey, in part to symbolize that wild spirits can bow to a master. [ Pliny the Elder, "Natural History Books 8-11", p. 43 "Mark Antony broke lions to the yoke and was the first person..."

*2 BC: On May 12th, Emperor Augustus held games that featured gladiators and the killing of over 260 lions.Fox, Robin "The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian" Basic Books. 2006 pg 464]

*39 AD: Incitatus was the name of Roman emperor Caligula's favored horse. Some have indicated that the horse was attended to by 18 servants, and was fed oats mixed with gold flake; according to Suetonius's "Lives of the Twelve Caesars", Incitatus had a stable of marble, with an ivory manger, purple blankets and a collar of precious stones. Suetonius wrote also that Caligula planned to make Incitatus a consul. Caligula even procured him a wife, a mare named Penelope. It has also been said Caligula claimed his horse to be a "combination of all the gods" and to be worshiped as such.

*39: Caligula performed a spectacular stunt by ordering a temporary floating bridge to be built using ships as pontoons, stretching for over two miles from the resort of Baiae to the neighboring port of Puteoli.Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Caligula [*.html#19 19] ] It was said that the bridge was to rival that of Persian King Xerxes' crossing of the Hellespont. Caligula, a man who could not swim, [Suetonius, "The Lives of Twelve Caesars", Life of Caligula [*.html#54 54] ] then proceeded to ride his favorite horse, Incitatus, across, wearing the breastplate of Alexander the Great. This act was in defiance of Tiberius' soothsayer Thrasyllus of Mendes prediction that he had "no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding a horse across the Bay of Baiae".

*50: Emperor Claudius used staged animal fights to show his hunting skills to the Roman public. At Ostia, in front of a crowd of spectators, he fought a whale trapped in the harbor.Fox, Robin "The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian" Basic Books. 2006 pg 576]

"A killer whale was actually seen in the harbor of Ostia, locked in combat with the emperor Claudius. She had come when he was completing the construction of the harbor, drawn there by the wreck of a ship bringing leather hides from Gaul, and feeding there over a number of days, had made a furrow in the shallows: the waves had raised up such a mound of sand that she couldn't turn around at all, and while she was pursuing her banquet as the waves moved it shorewards, her back stuck up out of the water like the overturned keel of a boat. The emperor ordered that a large array of nets be stretched across the mouths of the harbor, and setting out in person with the praetorian cohorts gave a show to the Roman people, soldiers showering lances from attacking ships, one of which I saw swamped by the beast's waterspout and sunk.' …"— From "On Natural History" by Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) [ [ Translation of] Pliny's "On Natural History"]

*77: Pliny tells the story of a literate elephant who could write the phrase "I, the elephant, wrote this" in the sand with its trunk. [Grimes, William [ Where Wild Things Are the Perks of Power] "The New York Times" August 5th, 2006 "Pliny told the story of an elephant who once wrote in the sand, in Greek letters, “I, the elephant, wrote this.”] Pliny, who felt that elephants were exceptional learners, wrote of one who was so embarrassed by its inability to master its lessons that it stayed up late to practice alone. [Belozerskaya, Marina "The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power" (2006) Little Brown and Company. New York. pg 82.]

*117: The Roman emperor Hadrian was a passionate hunter. In northwest Asia, he founded and dedicated a city to commemorate a she-bear he killed.Fox, Robin "The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian" Basic Books. 2006 pg 574] It is documented that in Egypt he and his lover Antinous killed a lion. In Rome, eight reliefs on a monument celebrating the kill feature Hadrian in different stages of the hunt.

*180: Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, is known as one of the only emperors to actually fight on the floor of the Colosseum. There, often to the horror of the Roman people, he would systematically slaughter large, rare animals. According to Gibbon, Commodus once killed 100 lions in a single day. [ Gibbon pg 106 "disgorged at once a hundred lions; a hundred darts"] Later, he decapitated a running ostrich with a specially designed dart [Gibbon, Edward "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire': Volume I' Everyman's Library (Knopf) New York. 1910. pg 106 "with arrows whose point was shaped in the form of a cresent"] and afterwards carried the bleeding head of the dead bird and his sword over to the section where the Senators sat and gesticulated as though they were next.Fox, Robin "The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian" Basic Books. 2006 pg 446 "brandishing a sword in one hand and bloodied neck...He gesticulated at the Senate."] On another occasion, Commodus killed 3 elephants on the floor of the arena by himself. [Scullard, H.H "The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World" Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 252 ] Finally, Commodus killed a giraffe with his own hands, which Gibbon comically describes as the "the most useless of the large quadrupeds" in a footnote. [ Gibbon pg 107 "*1 Commodus killed a camelopardalis or giraffe...the most useless..."]

*1514: As a gift, King Manuel I of Portugal gave a white elephant named Hanno to Pope Leo X.Silvano A. Bedini, "The Pope's Elephant", Carcanet Press, 1997, ISBN 1-85754-277-0] The Pope loved the elephant and featured Hanno in two processions. It was said that when the elephant saw Pope Leo it would genuflect loudly and could "cry like a woman and shed tears." [ Bedini pg 78] After two years in Rome, the elephant fell ill. He was given a purgative containing gold, but died shortly after with the Pope by his side. Leo X commissioned Raphael to create a life-sized painting of Hanno above the animal's tomb and wrote a eulogy to commemorate him. Hanno was also the subject of the satirical pamphlet "The Last Will and Testament of the Elephant Hanno", which catapulted the author Pietro Aretino into fame. [ [ Pope Leo X] on Center for History and New Media] Robert Greene, "The 48 Laws of Power", Viking Penguin, 1998, ISBN 0-14-028019-7 pg. 232 "He summoned the great painter Raphael and ordered him to create a life-sized painting of Hanno above the elephant's tomb..."]

*1514: Pope Leo X also possessed a cheetah which was trained as like a hunting dog. The cheetah made its debut in Rome riding on a horse alongside a procession consisting of princes and noblemen. Cheetahs have been trained to hunt in other instances; Rudolf II had one himself. They are led on leashes with their head covers, similar to hunting falcons, and rewarded when they catch prey. [Belozerskaya, Marina "The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power" (2006) Little Brown and Company. New York. pg 208]

In history

* 800 BC: Ashurnasirpal II writes in a proclamation "I slew 450 might lions... I cut down 200 ostriches like caged birds and 30 elephants I cast into the pit." [Scullard, H.H "The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World" Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 29]
* 344 BC: Bucephalus, a horse, was offered to King Philip of Macedonia for purchase. After dismissing the horse as unmanageable and impossible to tame, his ten-year old son Alexander (who would later become Alexander the Great) offered to pay for it if he failed to tame it. According to Plutarch, Alexander spoke soothingly to the horse and turned it away from its shadow, and so tamed the horse. The horse accompanied Alexander into many battles. It died at the Battle of the Hydaspes between the ages of 28 and 30, a long life even by today's standards. After its death, Alexander founded a city, Bucephela in the horse's name.
* 323 BC Alexander the Great and Aristotle were said to be passionate about animals and natural history. During his campaigns, Alexander ordered his new subjects to report anything of zoological interest to Aristotle. [ Pliny the Elder, "Natural History Books 8-11". Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1940. p. 35 "King Alexander being fired with a desire to know the natures of animals and having delegated the pursuit of this study to Aristotle..."] Also, the surveyors, scientists and botanists — namely the Greek philosopher's nephew Callisthenes — sent their information back to Aristotle. This may have been how he was able to write his "History of Animals". [Scullard, H.H "The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World" Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 50]
* 312 BC: Ptolemy I staged a parade led by 24 chariots drawn by elephants and a procession of lions, leopards, panthers, camels, antelopes, wild asses, ostriches, a bear, a giraffe and a rhinoceros. According to scholars, most of the animals were in pairs — as many as eight pairs of ostriches — and though the ordinary chariots were likely led by a single elephant, others which carried a golden statue of Alexander may have been led by as many as four. [Scullard, H.H "The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World" Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 125 "At the head of an imposing array of animals (including...)"]
* 1261: The first giraffe brought to Europe was a present to Fredrick II of the Two Sicilies in exchange for a white bear that he had given to the sultan of Egypt. [ [ Audience for a Giraffe: European Expansionism and the Quest for the Exotic] by Erik Ringqmar, National Chiao Tung University pg 381; (4/23)]
* 1470: Leonardo Da Vinci not only believed in Unicorns but wrote on how they could be captured. [cite news
last =Moore
first = Malcolm
title = Unicorn Born in Italy
publisher = The Telegraph
date = November 6, 2008
url =
accessdate = 9/02/2008
] Believing in their "lack of temperance", he wrote that a young virgin could be used as bait. When the unicorn is overcome with desire and goes to sit in the lap of a young maiden, he believed that hunters could take it. [ Borges, Jorge Luis "Book of Imaginary Beings" Penguin Classics. pg 201] Da Vinci later sketched a profile of a woman and a leashed unicorn kneeling next to her, presumably tamed by her touch. [ [ A Maiden with a Unicorn] Da Vinci]

* 1500's: Bear-baiting was popular in England until the 19th century. From the 16th century, many herds of bear were maintained for baiting. In its best-known form, arenas for this purpose were called bear-gardens, consisting of a circular high fenced area, the "pit", and raised seating for spectators. A number of well-trained hunting dogs were set upon a chained bear, being replaced as they tired or were wounded or killed. The main bear-garden in London was the Paris Garden at Southwark. ["The Every-day Book and Table Book; or, Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements, Sports, Pastimes, Ceremonies, Manners, Customs, and Events" [ "The Old Bear Garden at Bankside, Southwark] ] Henry VIII was a fan and had a pit constructed at Whitehall. [cite encyclopedia
title = Bear-baiting
encyclopedia = Encyclopedia Britannica
volume = 3
pages = 575
publisher = Encyclopedia Britannica Company
year = 1910
url =
accessdate = 2007-02-15
] Elizabeth I was also fond of the entertainment; it featured regularly in her tours. In 1575, a baiting display for her had 13 bear, and when an attempt was made to ban baiting on Sundays, she overruled Parliament.
* 1500's: Englishman created a breed of dogs to do household work, specifically to turn meat on a spit. ["Cesar's Way" by Cesar Millan. 2006. Published by Three Rivers Press.] These Turnspit Dogs ran in a wheel, powering a rotisserie loaded with slow-roasting meat and which spun over an open flame. Now extinct, a few stuffed, preserved specimens remain.
* 1516: King Manuel I of Portugal sent a rhinoceros as a gift to Pope Leo X on board a ship. Its journey was ravaged by horrible storms. The ship struck rocks off the coast of Italy and was quickly shredded and sunk. As the crew swam to safety, the rhinoceros drowned, chained to the ship. When it later washed to shore, the captain had it stuffed with straw and sent to the Pope anyway. It arrived just as the Pope learned that his cousins Giuliano de Medici and Lorenzo de Medici had been assassinated and was largely ignored aside from obscure cameos in papal art. For instance, the rhinoceros is seen grazing behind Jesus' father Joseph in a Granacci painting. Few know what happened to the beast - it could have been as big as 13 feet long - except for that it is not in Rome. The Lisbon rhino was likely transferred to the collection of Duke Francesco but from there, it continued to haunt museum inventories for almost 500 more years, making an appearance in a footnote in the Smithsonian's annual report in 1982.
* 1600: One of the popular past-times in Medieval Europe was "cock throwing." A rooster was tied to a post and participants pelted weighted sticks at it until it died.cite web|url=|title=Gentleman's Magazine:An Enquiry into the Original Meaning of Cock-Throwing on Shrove-Tuesday|year=1737|accessmonthday=19 January|accessyear=2007] Oftentimes, the rooster's legs would break, in which case it was supported by blocks, increasing the length of the game. Variations include "goose squealing", where the rooster is replaced with a goose, and "cock thrashing", where the rooster is put in a pit and blindfolded participants try to hit it with a stick. "Utopia" author Thomas More referred to his ability to cast a cokstele as a boy.
* 1630: Hanksen was a female elephant that toured through Europe, demonstrating circus tricks. She could wave a flag, fire a pistol, strike a drum, hold out her front feet, pinch money from pockets, put on a hat, carry a bucket of water, and pick up coins from the ground.
* 1816: One of the first elephants imported to America, named Old Bet, was ambushed and murdered by a man named Daniel Davis in Alfred, Maine while traveling between circus appearances. Davis was jailed for two days for trespassing, then released and never tried. Old Bet's owner, Hack Baily responded by building a three story memorial called the Elephant Hotel which now serves as a town hall. [Scigliano, Eric "Love, War, and Circuses: The Age Old Relationship Between Elephants and Humans" Houghton Mifflin. 2002. pg 182]
* 1835: In the early 19 century, apes were still foreign to Britain. Queen Victoria called them "frightful, and painfully and disagreeably human." The first ape to arrive in London, a male named Tommy, was dressed in a sailor suit. The second, a female named Jenny, was put in a dress. Both were taught to eat with spoons. [ [ Descent of Man] Carl Zimmer]
* 1877: Jack, a baboon, performed railroad duties for his paraplegic owner. In addition to household chores, Jack learned how to operate the levers that set the railroad signals and the tower controls that opened and closed switches, effectively performing the duties of a human signalman. [du Pleiss, Pieter [ Jack the Signalman] ] [ [ The Monkey That Worked for the Railroad] ""]
* 1900s: On a trip West, Theodore Roosevelt killed more than 119 animals in less than 30 days, including a grizzly bear "right through the brain" and a jack rabbit "cut nearly in two." [Morriss, Edmund "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" pg 278]
* 1929: When the hills around Hearst Castle caught on fire, the groundskeepers ran from cage to cage freeing the animals in William Randolf Hearst's private zoo. One of his employees wrote in their diary that while most of the animals immediately ran away, Hearst's pet tapir ambled to the Neptune Pool where it swam and rested until the fires were put out. [Belozerskaya, Marina "The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power" (2006) Little Brown and Company. New York. pg 345.] [Grimes, William [ Where Wild Things Are the Perks of Power] "The New York Times" August 5th, 2006 "Then she made a beeline for the Neptune Pool, reserved for special guests, and slipped in the water, where she swam contentedly until the fuss died down.”]
* 1930: Researchers digging beneath the London Tower unearthed the skulls of two lions, 19 dogs, and one leopard.cite news
last =
first =
title = Big cats prowled London's tower
publisher = The Telegraph
date = October 24, 2005
url =
accessdate = 8/10/2008
] They were likely part of the "lion tower" built by King Edward I in 1276. The tower later became part of the Royal Menagerie which lasted until 1835. Carbon dating done in 2005 estimated that the first skull was the oldest known medieval lion in Britain. Although the animals were part of the Royal Menagerie that housed the king's private collection of bear, tigers and other beast, they were unceremoniously skinned and dumped into the Tower's moat when they died.
* 1934: Hitler's German shepherd "Blondi" was used as a key feature in Nazi propaganda. Blondi slept in Hitler's bedroom in the bunker, a privilege that not even Hitler's longtime partner Eva Braun was given. Before Hitler's suicide, Blondi was given a lethal dose of cyanide, a sight that Hitler "couldn't bear to watch." Later, in the trial of Charles Manson, Manson told prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi that he loved animals and would never hurt one. Bugliosi retorted that he heard that Hitler had loved his dog Blondi very much. [Bugliosi, Vincent "Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders" W. W. Norton & Company]
* 1964: Jack Ruby the killer of U.S. President John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, had a dachshund named Sheba who he often referred to as "his wife." At the time he committed his infamous murder, he had four of them - though he'd had as many as ten.Bugliosi, Vincent "" Norton. 2007 pg 8]
* 1989: When the King of Thailand banned logging, the price of timber soared and led to guerrilla and illegal deforesting. Because heavy machinery is too noisy, poachers used elephants to drag and lift heavy logs. In attempt to speed up the efforts, many were fed amphetamines and later became addicted. Thailand's zoos and veterinary facilities received an influx of ill elephants suffering from anorexia, hypertension, blurred vision and gastric ulcers. [Scigliano, Eric "Love, War, and Circuses: The Age Old Relationship Between Elephants and Humans" Houghton Mifflin. 2002. pg 104 Heavy Machinery is too bulky and noisy..."]
* 2001: The state of Texas passed the Dangerous Wild Animal Law that banned the ownership of tigers, lions, bear and alligators.cite news
last = Millow
first = Ross
title = Banning Lions and Other Large Pets
publisher = The New York Times
date = December 10, 2001
url =
accessdate = 2008-08-26
] At the time of its passing, Texas estimated that there were over 5,000 privately owned wild tigers in the state and more than 60,000 across the country. Animal rescue centers were immediately flooded with hundreds of full grown wild animals that their owners were forced to give up.

In politics

*1400: At the Palazzo Vecchio Cosimo the Elder kept a "lion house" with over 25 lions. [ [ Audience for a Giraffe: European Expansionism and the Quest for the Exotic] by Erik Ringqmar, National Chiao Tung University pg 381] He often fought them or baited them against other animals in large festivals for visiting Popes or dignitaries that traveled to Florence. [Bedini, Silvio "The Pope's Elephant" (1997) 83.]

*1900: Upon arriving at Archduke Franz Ferdinand's country seat, château Konopiste, on a semi-official visit, Wadl and Hexl, Kaiser Wilhelm II's famous pair of ferocious dachshunds, promptly proceeded to do away with one of the Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince's priceless golden pheasants, thereby almost causing an international incident.Fact|date=February 2007

*1806: Lewis and Clark presented President Thomas Jefferson with two bear cubs as a gift, his only listed presidential pets besides a mockingbird [ [ FactMonster: Presidential Pets] "two bear cubs, a gift from Lewis and Clark."]

*1824: As an attempt to soften France's alliance with Greece in the Greek War of Independence, Mehmet Ali Pasha, the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, presented Charles X of France with a female giraffe, only the third seen in Europe at that time. [ Home by a neck; a giraffe's epic journey from Cairo to Paris] on "bnet". 1986] After transporting the giraffe to Marsailles via boat (with a hole cut through the deck to fit her neck), she embarked on a 900 km walk to Paris. [ Audience for a Giraffe] "A Giraffe in Paris" pp 383-389] Covered with a two-part yellow coat and shoes, the giraffe was a spectacle in each town she passed through. Upon her arrival to Paris, she was greeted by a crowd of 100,000, approximately one-eighth the population of Paris at that time. When she died in Paris 18 years later, her corpse was stuffed with straw and displayed in the foyer of the Jardin des Plantes before being moved to the museum at La Rochelle, where it remains.

*1934: City planner Robert Moses redesigned and upgraded the Central Park Zoo as a personal favor to his patron, former New York governor Al Smith.Caro, Robert A. "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York" Knopf. New York. 1974. pgs 380-383] After the governor had fallen from power, Moses heard he was depressed and lonely, prone to cages at the zoo while talking to the animals. Smith was horrified to learn that in case of a fire, the animals were to be shot rather than rescued and was said to have deeply missed the small menagerie he'd kept at the governor's mansion. Moses directed funds from other projects to make the zoo a top priority, intending to make it especially attractive to children. At the Zoo's grand reopening less than eight months later, the audience watched as two large packages were opened to reveal a lion and a gorilla. Al Smith was paraded into the Zoo by a group of 300 cheering school children. He was given the title of "Honorary Night Superintendent of the Central Park Zoo," given a masterkey to the animals cages and informed that he could enter the zoo day or night as he pleased for the rest of his life.

*1965: Cornelius the First was a Canadian black rhinoceros from the Granby Zoo in Granby, Quebec, who was the nominal leader of the satirical Rhinoceros Party of Canada from 1965 to 1993. The party attracted a considerable number of votes in Canadian elections, sometimes even coming in second place in some ridings, but never elected a candidate to the Canadian House of Commons. The Granby Zoo eventually traded Cornelius to the San Diego Zoo in exchange for a giraffe. [cite news|url =|title = After years of near-extinction, the whacky Rhino party is back|author = Ingrid Peritz|publisher = The Globe and Mail|date = August 8 2007]

*1993: Republican Congressman Dan Burton publicly questioned the use of White House staff and taxpayer dollars to answer letters addressed to President Clinton's cat Socks.Walsh, Edward [ "Burton: A Pitball in the Chair"] "Washington Post" March 19, 1997] He later admitted that this was a "mistake" and blamed one of his staff members.

In war

*278 BC: When early Roman soldiers fought King Pyrrhus - of the pyrrhic victory - and his small regiment of elephants, they were terrified. It wasn't until a soldier hacked off the trunk of one that they were said to have realized that "the beasts were mortal."Fox, Robin "The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian" Basic Books. 2006 pg 296-297] The Romans later fought successfully against the elephants by setting squealing pigs among them, which had been greased and lit on fire. [Scullard, H.H "The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World" Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 114 "The animals had been smeared with fat and set on fire."]

*162 BC: At the Battle of Beth-zechariah, Eleazar Maccabeus died while attempting to kill a royal War elephant. Seeing one in special armor, he presumed it belonged to the Seleucid King Antiochus V and so, charging in to battle, Eleazar rushed underneath the elephant, thrust a spear into its belly, and when it collapsed upon him, he died with it. [Scullard, H.H "The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World" Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 186]

*1942: An orphaned bear named Wojtek became part of the Polish army when adopted by soldiers. [ [ The Hero Bear] Globe and Mail] The orphaned bear was found by an Iranian boy and sold to the soldiers for a few cans of meat. As the bear grew, he was used to carry mortar rounds in battle. The only way for Wojtek to travel with them was to officially enlist him - so he was given a name, rank and number. He traveled with the army to Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and southern Italy. The bear was fed with fruits, marmalade, honey and syrup, and was often rewarded with beer, which became his favorite drink. He also enjoyed eating cigarettes. Years later, after the war, Wojtek was stationed in the Edinberg Zoo, where he became a popular attraction. Polish soldiers visited him, and upon hearing their Polish accents, Wojtek would sit on his backside and shake his head, reportedly his way of asking for a cigarette. [ [ Tribute to Voytek the Smoking Bear] The Scotsman]

*1942: In World War II, the Soviet Union trained German shepherds as "anti-tank dogs." The dogs were trained to find bones underneath tanks. They were then starved and deployed in battle with explosives attached in a backpack. When the dogs approached German tanks in search of food, the explosives were detonated. [ [ Anti-tank Dog Mine] "".]

*1945: One of the lesser known side-plots in World War II was the rescue of the Lipizzan horses, a rare breed exclusive to Vienna and associated with the Spanish Riding School. During World War II, Alois Podhajsky, leader of the Spanish Riding School, relocated the horses to St. Martin in Upper Austria due to bombing raids in Vienna. Although safe from bombing attacks, there was little food for animals or people, and starving refugees sometimes attempted to steal the horses, viewing them as a source of meat. In 1945, the United States Army took control of St. Martins. General George S. Patton of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Group had been a fellow equestrian competitor with Podhajsky in the Olympic Games prior to the war. The two men renewed their acquaintance, and the Americans agreed to place the stallions under the protection of the United States until they could safely be returned to the people of Austria after the war.

*2008: German shepherds are trained by British special forces to jump from aircraft. They will be used in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek out insurgent's hideouts with the use of cameras attached to their head. [cite news
last =Dunn
first = Tom
title = They're Britain's Dogs of War
publisher = The Sun
date = 2008-07-21
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-21

*2008: Nils Olav, an emperor penguin at Scotland's Edinburgh Zoo, was knighted for longtime service as the mascot of the Norwegian King's Guard. In the formal ceremony, Nils walked through rows of soldiers, stopping occasionally to peer at the soldier's uniforms, before having the king's sword dropped on both flippers. [ [ King Penguin Receives Norwegian Knighthood] "". August 15, 2008.]

*2008: In the midst of the war with Georgia, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin took a visit to a wildlife reserve in Siberia to observe how tigers are monitored. On this visit, an Ussuri tiger escaped from its restraints and threatened those in immediate vicinity, including a television camera crew. Before the tiger could do any damage, however, Putin intervened, shooting the tiger with a tranquilizer gun. [ [ Putin shoots a tiger as Europe grapples with Russian aggression] "The Guardian". September 2, 2008.]

In science

*1626: Francis Bacon died of pneumonia contracted while filling a chicken with ice in order to prove that freezing preserves food. [ [ "The Ghost Chicken of Highgate, London"] , "BBC", October 31, 2006]

*1787: French naturalist Comte de Buffon asserted that the climate of North America with its "stagnant waters" and "unproductive soil" would have weakened the stature of its primitive animals.Bryson, Bill "A Short History of Nearly Everything" Broadway Books. 2004 pg 81] Because of this, he said that the country would have had almost no large mammals. These remarks incensed Thomas Jefferson, who immediately dispatched twenty soldiers to the New Hampshire woods to find a bull moose for Buffon as proof of the "stature and majesty of American quadrapeds." It took over two weeks and when shot, the moose lacked imposing horns. Before being shipped back to France, a rack of antlers from a different stag were attached.

*1799: When the platypus was first discovered, it was believed to be a hoax. Naturalist George Shaw was sent a specimen of the animal, which looked like the bill of a duck had been sewn onto the body of a mole. He wrote that it was "impossible not to entertain some doubts as to the genuine nature of the animal, and to surmise that there might have been practiced some arts of deception in its structure." The surgeon Robert Knox theorized that since the specimens arrived via the Indian Ocean, that Chinese sailors -- known for their skill at stitching together creatures, may have falsely produced the specimens. [ [ Duckbilled Platypus] "Museum of Hoaxes".]

*1820's: Reverend William Buckland, the renowned geologist who was the first person to catalog a dinosaur fossil, claimed to have eaten his way through the animal kingdom: zoophagy. The most distasteful items were mole and bluebottle; panther, crocodile and mouse were among the other dishes noted by guests. He is said to have found the mole to be particularly disgusting.Bryson, Bill "A Short History of Nearly Everything" Broadway Books. 2004 pg 69]

*1825: Richard Owen, who first used the word dinosauria, was such an expert on animal anatomy that he was granted right of first refusal on any freshly dead animal at the London Zoo.Bryson, Bill "A Short History of Nearly Everything" Broadway Books. 2004 pg 88] His wife once arrived home to find the carcass of a newly deceased rhinoceros in her front hallway.

*1935: Schrodinger's Cat was a famous thought experiment by Edwin Schrodinger. If a cat is put into a sealed box with a flask of poison that is to be released at a random time, to the outside observer, the cat is in both alive and dead states. [Schrodinger, Edwin [ The Present Situation in Quantam Mechanics] ]

*1960: Oliver, a chimpanzee, sparks controversy for its bizarre combination of human and ape morphological features.cite news
last = Smith
first = Jordan
title = Legendary "Humanzee" Oliver, his friends, and the bitter fight over animal welfare at a Texas refuge
publisher = Austin Chronicle
date = December 15, 2005
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-22
] He possessed a flatter face than chimpanzees, walks bipedally, and prefers human females over chimpanzee females.

*1976: Hanako was a 226 year-old koi fish. [ [ Hanako, the fish who lived to 226] "BoingBoing". August 20, 2008.] She is the longest-lived vertebrate on record.

*1995: A team of wandering scientists in Riwoche Valley of Tibet stumbled upon an undiscovered breed of tiny, ancient horses.cite news
last =
first =
title = Tibetan discovery is 'horse of a different color'
publisher = CNN
date = November, 17, 1995
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-22
] The horses unseen since pre-historic cave paintings were still in widespread usage among the villagers.

*2001: In the tomb of a woman who helped rear King Tut archaeologists unearthed the first known mummified lion.cite news
last = Rincon
first = Paul
title = Mummified lion unearthed in Egypt
publisher = BBC News
date = January, 14 2004
url =
accessdate = 08/10/2008
] It was found with laying on a rock and the bone measurements are among the largest ever recorded for a male lion. The wear on the teeth of the animal indicate that it was very old and likely kept in captivity until its burial in the 1400 BC. Inscriptions indicate the lions were commonly bred is special areas and bred in sacred ceremonies, but none have ever been found by scientists.

*2007: The first footage of a frilled shark is caught on tape. [ [ Prehistoric shark caught on film] "YouTube"] The frilled shark is sometimes referred to as a "living fossil", due to the fact that fossils of the species have been dated back to 800 million years ago. It is rarely viewed alive as its natural habitat is up to 1,000 feet underwater, deeper than humans can dive. [ [ Rare "Prehistoric" Shark Photographed Alive] "National Geographic". January 21, 2008.]

*2008: Nearly 30 hungry bear surround and attack a team of Russian geologists in the town of Kamchatka. [cite news
last =
first =
title = Team of Geologists Trapped By Russian Bears
publisher = Red Orbit
date = 22 July 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-22
] The scientists were trapped in their survey site as the bear laid siege until they were given permission to shoot and kill them.

*2008: A polar bear who swam over 200 miles from Greenland to Iceland was shot immediately upon landing in front of a horrified crowd of 60 people. Authorities didn't wish to wait for a tranquilizer dart to arrive. It was the first polar bear to appear in Iceland since their disappearance from the country. [ [ Polar bear shot dead after 200-mile swim] The Guardian. Allegra Stratton June 5, 2008]

*2008: A 3,300 pound stingray was caught off the coast of Eastern China. The stingray, which measured 16 1/2 feet in width, is believed to be one of the largest stingrays ever caught. [ [ Giant 3,300 Lbs Stingray Caught by Local Asian Fisherman] "Weird Asian News". August 11, 2008]

In religion

* 943 BC: The Ancient Egyptian city of Bubastis is built as a city of worship for the feline-goddess Bast. Large parts of the city are dedicated to tombs for cats. In 1888, an Egyptian farmer accidentally discovered a large tomb hosting tens of thousands of mummified cats. [Herotodus [ The Temple of Bubastis] The Histories]
* 0: In the second book of Kings, Elisha, a biblical prophet, traveled to Beth-el after healing the waters of Jericho. As he was traveling, children mocked him saying "Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head." Elijah cursed them and two she-bears came out of the wood and killed all forty-two children. ["The Bible". 2 Kings 2:20-25.]
* 1254: Louis IX gave Henry III an elephant as a gift. Henry organized elaborate plans to build a house 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep at the royal menagerie in the Tower of London. The elephant, believed to be one of the first seen in England, was given a diet of prime cuts of beef and expensive red wine. The elephant died in 1257 after drinking too much red wine. [ [ Plantagenet Dynasty] Henry III's Elephant]
* 1514: Pope Leo X, the owner of the short-lived Hanno, had an extensive menagerie before he got the elephant. When he was installed in the Vatican, he brought with him civet cats, leopards, bear and monkeys. Bedini pg 83-84] He kept them near the Cortile del Belvedere. Leo also imported Renaissance Rome's first chameleon for his zoo for the purposes of his "delight." (In 77 AD Pliny had stated that the chameleon was the only animal that did not eat or drink but survived on the 'nutriment from the air' [ PLINY THE ELDER PG 87) The courtyard, cages and sloping hill next to the Vatican is where Leo kept almost all his animals, including Hanno and multiple lions (a common state gift), all at papal expense.
* 1999: In Western Thailand, a Buddhist temple hosts tigers, which walk freely around the grounds and can be petted by tourists. The temple was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for numerous wild animals. In 1999, the temple received its first tiger cub, which was found by villagers. Several tiger cubs were later given to the temple over time, typically when the mothers had been killed by poachers. [ Tiger Temple] Q&A. 2003
] The tigers are fed with cooked meat, which keeps them from developing a taste for blood. This, combined with the fact that many are hand-raised since childhood, allows the tigers to interact freely with humans. As of 2007, over 21 cubs have been born at the temple and the total number of tigers is about 12 adult tigers and 4 cubs.

In 2008, Care for the Wild International, a U.K. conservation group, criticized the temple for poor living conditions and for their alleged involvement in the black market. [ [ Exploiting the tiger for tourist dollars] on "Care for the Wild". June 20, 2008] [ [ Black Market Tigers Linked to Thai Temple, Report Says] "National Geographic". June 20, 2008]


In pop culture

*1924: William Randolf Hearst was an avid lover of dachshunds. He had as many as 70 of them in kennels at his castle in San Simeon. When his own dachshund Helena died, he eulogized her in his "In The News" column. [Belozerskaya, Marina "The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power" (2006) Little Brown and Company. New York. pg 371.]

*1969: Two Australians living in London, John Randall and "Ace" Bourke, purchased a lion named Christian from Harrods department store. [Moore, Victoria [ Christian, the lion who lived in my London living room] mailonline] The lion lived in the basement of their furniture shop and they often drove it around in their Bentley. After a year, Christian had grown to 185 pounds, too big for the basement. His owners sent him to Kenya as part of a conservation program. After Christian was successfully rehabilitated in the wild, Randall and Bourke visited Kenya to see Christian. The video of their reunion became a internet phenomenon with over 6 million views. [ [ Christian the Lion - the full story] on "YouTube"] [ [ Lion Hug] July 7th, 2008]

*1992: Damien Hirst, a British artist, preserved a 14 foot tiger shark in a formaldehyde-filled vitrine and titled it "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living." The piece sold for $8 million dollars in 2004. The shark began to deteriorate and had to be replaced, leading to a debate about whether it constituted a new piece of art. [Barber, Lynn [ Bleeding Art] on "The Observer"]

*1992: Artist Jeff Koons created a 43 foot tall sculpture of a puppy called Puppy that featured 70,000 fresh flowers and 25 tons of soil. The modern art experiment was an immediate sensation and was eventually displayed in Rockefeller Center nearly a decade after its completion. [ [ Public Art Fund] Press Release. Jeff Koons. 2002]

*2003: A female wild turkey named Zelda has lived in New York's Battery Park since mid-2003. It is presumed that she entered Manhattan's north end from the Bronx and then journeyed south (downtown). During Spring 2003, there were several turkey sightings in Manhattan at points progressively further south, all prior to Zelda's taking up residence in the park. In 2004, she ventured out of the park to Tribeca before being captured and returned to Battery Park. [ [ Zelda's journey south] New York Times. May 23rd, 2003]

*2004: Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch featured a zoo with giraffes, elephants, snakes, orangutans, tigers and crocodiles. Animal rights organization PETA accused Jackson of neglect, but an investigation by the US Department of Agriculture ruled that the animals were living in appropriate conditions. [ Officials: Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch animals not mistreated] on CourtTVNews]

*2006: The lions in Disneyworld's Safari Adventure ride are kept out on Pride Rock by strategically located air-conditioning that keeps the sunny area cool. [cite news
last = Hendrix
first = Steve
title = Hidden Mickeys & other secrets revealed
publisher = Newsweek
date = 23 July 2006
url =,0,1239597.story
accessdate = 2008-08-13
"sworn-to-secrecy dish as how they keep the Safari Adventure lions on that viewing rock (air conditioning)..."

*2007: Reggie, an alligator believed to have been raised in illegal captivity, became feral and eventually took residence in South Bay, Los Angeles.cite web | title=No. 3: Reggie | url= | accessdate=2007-08-16] "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin pledged that if the gator ever emerged, he and his crew would go to the lake and attempt a capture. Irwin's tragic death in 2006 prevented this from happening, though Reggie was later caught and moved to the Los Angeles Zoo.

*2008: Artist Damien Hirst listed a collection of animals in formaldehyde including a zebra, unicorn, bull's heart, shark and a calf with golden horns and hooves for sale at around $65 million dollars. [Kennedy, Maev [ Golden calf, bull's heart, a new shark: Hirst's latest works may fetch £65m] The Guardian. July 29th, 2008]

*2008: Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion hosts a private zoo with monkeys, rabbits, pheasants, flamingos, parrots and exotic birds. [ Mind Your Manners] "E! Online".] It is the only private residence in Los Angeles County with a zoo permit. [ [ Legendary Homes of the Westside: Playboy Mansion] "Westside Today".]

In literature

*1957: Author Jorge Luis Borges wrote "The Book of Imaginary Beings". The book models medieval bestiaries except that every animal in the book is fictional or mythological. The metafiction work speaks scientifically about dragons, axhandle hounds, hippogriffs, krakens, spinxs and unicorns, complete with footnotes and sources. [Borges, Jorge Luis "Book of Imaginary Beings" Penguin Classics. 2006]

*1971: On the final page of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" Thompson calls his attorney and demands that he order an albino Doberman because Denver is a "national clearing house for stolen Dobermans." He also inquires about buying an ape from a man at Circus Circus for $750. [ Thompson, Hunter S. "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream" 1971. pg 188 and 204]

*1984: In Jay McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City" the second person narrator breaks into the office of a literary magazine similar to "The New Yorker" and releases a wild ferret in his boss's office that he'd purchased from an exotic animal dealer off the street. [ McInerney, Jay "Bright Lights Big City" Vintage. 1984. pg 66]

*2006: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" features a scene where the nameless characters collect hundreds of snakes, pour gasoline, and set them on fire. After watching them burn, the group simply disbands and disappears. [McCarthy, Cormac "The Road" Vintage 2006 pg 188]


*1916: A circus elephant in Tennessee named Mary was sentenced to death by its owner as punishment for killing a circus employee. The elephant was hanged by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial crane. The first attempt resulted in a snapped chain, causing Mary to fall and break her hip. The severely wounded elephant died during a second attempt and was buried beside the tracks. [ [ Mary the Elephant] ]

*1935: Hachiko, an Akita dog, belonged to Hidesamurō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. Every morning, the dog saw his master off at the front step, and then waited for him at the nearest railroad station when his master was due to return. [ [ Dog faithfully awaits return of his master for past 11 years] on "digitaljournal". August 18, 2007.] In 1925, Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage while at the University and never made it home. The dog waited at the station until midnight, and then returned the next day and waited again. It did this every day for 11 years, until it died in 1934. The dog so touched passers-by, that a bronze statue was erected at Shibuya Station in Hachiko's memory. [Sicard, Cheri [ A Pilgrammage to Honor Hachiko, Japan's Most Faithful Dog] "".]

*1945: After having its head cut off by its owner, a rooster miraculously continued to live for over 18 months, during which time it toured as a sideshow attraction known as Mike the Headless Chicken. [ [ Guinness World Records] ]

*2000: A small city in Northern Spain was forced to abandon its tradition of tossing a goat from a belfry after participants were threatened with a $15,000 fine. [ [ Goat tossing] BBC News]
*2000: In Australia, a rhesus monkey named Johnnie drove a tractor as part of a sheep-farm. [Bathroom Readers' Institute, "Uncle John's All-Purpose Extra Strength Bathroom Reader". Ashland, OR: The Bathroom Readers' Institute. 2000. p. 162]

*2003: A domesticated badger named Boris went on a two-day rampage in England, attacking five people. One man needed surgery and two skin grafts to repair the damage done by Boris' bites. At one point, he forced two police officers -- who were trying to capture him -- to retreat back to the safety of their patrol car. [ [ Rampaging Badger's Reign of Terror]]

*2003: Police recovered a 400 pound Bengal Tiger and 3 foot alligator from a Harlem apartment after receiving an anonymous tip that stated "someplace in the city, there was a large wild animal."cite news
last =
first =
title = Tiger, gator removed from Harlem apartment
publisher = CNN
date = October 6, 2003
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-29
] The owner later sued the city for entering his residence without a search warrant. [ [ NYPD Is Allowed to Enter Your Home If There's a Tiger In It] August 8, 2006]

*2003: In a response to illegal exotic animal cases in the city, New York Post reporter Al Guart purchased a lion cub online as part of an attempted expose. [ NY Post Is Mean To Animals, Sez Daily News] October 13, 2003] The cub was likely weened too early and when it began having breathing problems, he dropped it off at wildlife reserve in Cleveland. A controversy erupted and the Post eventually donated $30,000 to care for the animal. [ [ Boomerang's Back] March 26, 2004]

*2004: A blue and yellow macaw named "Charlie" causes a media frenzy when it is reported that it once belonged to Winston Churchill. Believed to be the oldest parrot in England at 104 years old, Charlie's favorite sayings are "Fuck Hitler!" and "Fuck the Nazis!" Churchill's daughter denied that the parrot ever belonged to her father. [ [ Churchill's Parrot] Bob Congdon] [ [ Fuck the Nazis, Says Churchill's Parrot] Kuro5in]

*2008: Police recovered a three year-old lion from a Romanian man's backyard when his neighbor called the police after hearing a roar. They also found three deer and two peacocks. [cite news
last =
first =
title = Man Rears Lion In Garden Until Neighbors Complain
publisher = CBS
date = April 17, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-26

*2007: A prostitution village in Borneo employed an orangutan named Pony as a sex slave.cite news
last = Adams
first = Jack
title = Conclusive Proof: That There Is No God and Humans Are Essentially Evil
publisher = Vice Magazine
date = April 17, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-26
] According to Michelle Desilets, Director of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation: "If a man walked near her, she would turn herself around, present herself, and start gyrating and going through the motions." It took thirty-five police officers armed with AK-47's to rescue the orangutan.

*2008: The Telegraph published photos of the only known instance of a leopard attacking and killing a crocodile. [cite news
last =
first =
title = Leopard savaging a crocodile caught on camera
publisher = The Telegraph
date = 2008-07-18
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-18

*2008: After a Colorado man committed suicide in a remote wooded area, his dog kept watch over the body for six weeks. The dog, a German shepherd named Cash, survived by hunting mice and rabbits. [ [ Dog guarded owner's body after suicide] "Daily News". August 12, 2008.]

*2008: Off the Australian coast, a baby humpback whale formed a strong attachment to a yacht that it believed to be its mother, following it everywhere and attempting to suckle from it. The whale was later put down. [ [ Lost baby whale mistakes yacht for mother] "Tree Hugger" August 22, 2008.]

ee also

* Anthrozoology
* Bestiarii
* List of unusual deaths
* List of historical elephants
* List of medieval bestiaries
* List of megafauna recently discovered
* List of fictional animals
* Private zoos
* Hearst Castle

External links

* [ Audience for a Giraffe: European Expansionism and the Quest for the Exotic] by Erik Ringqmar, National Chiao Tung University


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