Saturday Surprise — Animal Myths

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!  In all honesty, I almost took a pass on Saturday Surprise this week, for my humour is dark and I wasn’t in the mood for light-hearted or humorous.  But then, I came across this file I tucked away a week or so ago for future use, and it seemed perfect for this morning.  The topic, of course, is animals, but not just cute little animals.  Today we shall look into some of the ‘myths’ surrounding animals, like an elephant’s memory, or lemmings suicidal tendencies, and find out, as Paul Harvey used to say, “… the rest of the story”.

The story, from ThoughtCo, is titled …

12 Animal Stereotypes and the Truth Behind Them

… but in the interest of time and space, I am only sharing 7 of the 12.  However, you can see the whole lot here if you feel so inclined!


Are Owls Really Wise?OwlFolks think owls are wise for the same reason they think people who wear glasses are smart: unusually big eyes are taken as a sign of intelligence. And the eyes of owls aren’t only unusually big; they are undeniably huge, taking up so much room in these birds’ skulls that they can’t even turn in their sockets (an owl has to move its entire head, rather than its eyes, to look in different directions). The myth of the “wise owl” dates back to ancient Greece, where an owl was the mascot of Athena, the goddess of wisdom — but the truth is that owls aren’t any smarter than other birds, and are far surpassed in intelligence by comparatively small-eyed crows and ravens.


Do Elephants Really Have Good Memories?elephant“An elephant never forgets,” goes the old proverb — and in this case, there’s more than a bit of truth. Not only do elephants have comparatively bigger brains than other mammals, but they also have surprisingly advanced cognitive abilities: elephants can “remember” the faces of their fellow herd members, and even recognize individuals whom they’ve met only once, briefly, years before. The matriarchs of elephant herds have also been known to memorize the locations of watering holes, and there is anecdotal evidence of elephants “remembering” deceased companions by gently fondling their bones. (As to another stereotype about elephants, that they’re afraid of mice, that can be chalked up to the fact that elephants are easily spooked — it’s not the mouse, ​per se, but the sudden wriggling movement.)


Do Pigs Really Eat Like Pigs?pigWell, yes, tautologically speaking, pigs really eat like pigs — just as wolves really eat like wolves and lions really eat like lions. But will pigs actually gorge themselves to the point of throwing up? Not a chance: like most animals, a pig will only eat as much as it needs in order to survive, and if it does appear to overeat (from a human perspective) that’s only because it hasn’t eaten for a while or it senses that it won’t be eating again any time soon. Most likely, the saying “eats like a pig” derives from the unpleasant noise these animals make when chowing down their grub, as well as the fact that pigs are omnivorous, subsisting on green plants, grains, fruits, and pretty much any small animals they can unearth with their blunt snouts.


Are Lemmings Really Suicidal?lemmingsTrue story: in the 1958 Walt Disney documentary “White Wilderness,” a herd of lemmings is shown plunging heedlessly over a cliff, seemingly bent on self-extermination. In fact, the producers of a subsequent meta-documentary about nature documentaries, “Cruel Camera,” discovered that the lemmings in the Disney picture had actually been imported wholesale from Canada, and then chased off the cliff by a camera crew! And we thought Disney was kind??? By that point, though, the damage was already done: a whole generation of movie-goers was convinced that lemmings are suicidal. The fact is that lemmings aren’t so much suicidal as they’re extremely careless: every few years, local populations explode (for reasons that haven’t quite been explained), and rogue herds perish accidentally during their periodic migrations. A good — and extremely miniaturized — GPS system would put the lie to the “lemming suicide” myth once and for all!


Do Crocodiles Really Shed Tears?crocodile.jpgIn case you’ve never heard the expression, a person is said to shed “crocodile tears” when he’s being insincere about the misfortune of someone else. The ultimate source of this phrase (at least in the English language) is a 14th-century description of crocodiles by Sir John Mandeville: “These serpents slay men, and they eat them weeping; and when they eat they move the over jaw, and not the nether jaw, and they have no tongue.” So do crocodiles really “weep” insincerely while they eat their prey? Surprisingly, the answer is yes: like other animals, crocodiles secrete tears to keep their eyes lubricated, and moisturization is especially important when these reptiles are on land. It’s also possible that the very act of eating stimulates a crocodile’s tear ducts, thanks to the unique arrangement of its jaws and skull.


Are Sloths Really Lazy?sloth.jpgYes, sloths are slow. Sloths are almost unbelievably slow (you can clock their top speeds in terms of fractions of a mile per hour). Sloths are so slow that microscopic algae grows in the coats of some species, making them virtually indistinguishable from plants. But are sloths really lazy? No: In order to be deemed “lazy,” you have to be capable of the alternative (being energetic), and in this regard sloths simply haven’t been smiled on by nature. The basic metabolism of sloths is set at a very low level, about half that of mammals of comparable sizes, and their internal body temperatures are lower as well (ranging between 87 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit). If you drove a speeding car straight at a sloth (don’t try this at home!) it wouldn’t be capable of getting out of the way in time — not because it’s lazy, but because that’s how it’s built.


Are Hyenas Really Evil?hyenaEver since they were cast as the heavies in the Disney movie “The Lion King,” hyenas have gotten a bad rap. It’s true that the grunts, giggles and “laughs” of the spotted hyena make this African scavenger seem vaguely sociopathic, and that, taken as a group, hyenas aren’t the most attractive animals on earth, with their long, toothy snouts and top-heavy, asymmetrical trunks. But just as hyenas don’t really have a sense of humor, they aren’t evil, either, at least in the human sense of the word; like every other denizen of the African Savannah, they are simply trying to survive. (By the way, hyenas aren’t only negatively portrayed in Hollywood; some Tanzanian tribes believe witches ride hyenas like broomsticks, and in parts of western Africa they’re believed to harbor the reincarnated souls of bad Muslims.)


And that is all I’ve got for today, folks!  I hope you all have a terrific weekend!happy dog Saturday

58 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — Animal Myths

  1. Good selection Jill.
    The lemming ‘myth’ goes back beyond the Disney scandal, so I’m guessing Disney knew about it and wanted to film one happening.
    Herd instinct can lead to all sorts of problems, like with lemmings over-population leading to those mass-migrations, similar events can be observed with wildebeest when a herd crosses a river, if there’s panic, pity help the ones which stumble.
    And what other species is prone to mad rushes and trampling its own in crowds….why here we are!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Roger! Yes, as soon as I read the words “herd instinct”, it reminded me of that ‘tribalism’ we’ve all been discussing of late. Nature is fascinating … I keep thinking that someday … say around the year 4000, super-scientists of a species as-yet-unknown on earth will be studying the remains of the humanoid era and they will be so puzzled. “Well, it appears that they developed mechanisms by which they killed their fellow humans for no discern-able reason that we can discern. And they ate almost all the other species, going to great length to kill and cook them … even sometimes traveling thousands of miles to catch a food, when there were plenty of plants and small animals in their own backyard.” Scientist #2: “Yes, but what puzzles me is all these numbers that they kept adding up all day long, as if the numbers signified something. And all the shiny things … of course they are no longer shiny, but we keep digging up these sparkling things that they seemed to worship. What a strange breed they were!”

      Liked by 1 person

        • Oh Roger … I love your confidence in me, but you are betting on a horse with only two legs. I’ve tried for 4 hours today to do what I thought would be a GREAT humour piece. Trump claims, in response to the Bob Woodward book and the OpEd by “Anonymous” that he will write his own book about how great the White House is running. Great food for the humour mill, right? I started … I was motivated … I was on a roll … for one whole paragraph. Seriously, four fribbin’ hours later, I had one whole paragraph plus one whole sentence. I just … can’t. I am a complete dud at fiction or humour. My inner muse, if ever I had one, ran away to the Himalayas. I really, really thought I could make something of that one, but … SPLAT! Instead, I explain the 25th Amendment. That, I can do. Sigh. 😞

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I would not have lasted long in that camera crew of Disney’s but put your other hat on brother think how many children he has made happy.
    Lurking behind some of our happiest moments is a brutal savagery.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Dear Jill,

    I learned the facts about life regarding lemmings from rawgod when I made the error of describing President Trump’s followers as lemmings which was unfair to lemmings.

    I would love to work/ see elephants as they are my favorite animal behind pussycats. There use to be a saying, clumsy as an elephant but the elephant is very sure footed.

    Remember that saying, she/he eats like a bird but birds eat lots when considering what they take in versus their sizes.

    In Florida, we are in alligator heaven. I don’t want any tears shed over me.

    I just can’t picture an exploding pig. I once watched a sloth cross a dirt road. It is amazing how slowly they move. It’s like you are watching them in a slow motion movie.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha ha ha … you too, eh? Yes, rawgod has gotten onto me more than once for using the analogy of lemmings to define Trump supporters, and I try to be ever so careful now! And I must admit … lemmings are a heck of a lot cuter than Trump supporters!!!

      No, let’s not have any tears shed while a crocodile eats you! I rather cherish your friendship and would be lost without you! As for the exploding pig … that would give me nightmares for weeks, if not longer!

      Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love Elephants and have visited a Thai elephant sanctuary many times. The Elephant Nature Park was founded by a tiny Thai woman called Sangduen (Lek) Chailert, a hill tribe woman in Chang Mai Northern Thailand. This is a small clip of me at the park where Lek has rescued 90 Elephants from abusive situations

      You can see her Lek’s work on YouTube.
      Just recently, Lek has started changing the program, allowing her Elephants more freedom away from people and rehabilitating them as much as she can to family life in the forest. She used to allow visitors to feed them and bathe them in the river, but this was not really her goal, which was ultimately to release the else’s back into the forest. She has to fence an area to protect them of course… All very expensive.
      Lek employs over 300 locals and provides free vetinary care to Elephants owned by other operations and hill tribe locals who still use Elephants for hard labour. Some of them have donated their Elephants to Lek.

      Liked by 3 people

      • PS Jill… Lek would make a good person for your ‘Good People’ section. She is featured in YouTube under ‘Elephant News’ channel. The park has been featured by National Geographic and a popular Australian actor, Tom Oliver, has been an avid spokesperson for Lek. With proceeds from the Thai Park, and donations, Lek has transformed many elephant trekking operations across Thailand into caring better for the Elephants. Lek has also started parks in Vietnam and Cambodia. Her work is tireless.
        My most favorite movie is of her lying with one of her Elephants, singing to him to calm him down. She is definitely an elephant whisperer!

        Liked by 2 people

      • What an amazing woman and an awesome venture!!! Thank you so much for sharing Lek’s story and the video! Great to finally see my friend Colette! I plan to do some more research into both Lek and the Thai elephant sanctuary … thanks again!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill, I am glad you decided to write this after your earlier consideration not to. As for that owl thing, I have felt it was due to old male professors whose eyebrows thinned on the ends, giving an owlish look. So, smart professor means smart owl. This look is accentuated further if the professor peers over reading glasses. I will need to let Professor Curtler opine on this hypothesis. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Interesting. I love that about elephants and would be honored to meet one that remembered me. 😊Sloths, yes, in Costa Rica the locals say they will eat themselves into an inebriated state so much so that id not careful, they will fall out of the tree while sleeping it off. I have a piggie tale for you though. My Mother-in-law, now deceased, grew up on a farm. She once watched a young pig eat until it popped. Literally. Its belly split open. Yup. 🙈

    Liked by 2 people

      • Right? She was so matter-of-fact about it. Living the farm life is full of horrors. Just wringing a chicken’s neck would do me in. Lucky for her, the primary role she played (aside from helping to pick their cotton) was helping her mother in the house. She had brothers and sister ps working the farm wopith her father that had to be fed all day. People these days don’t often conside that back then work was W.O.R.K. Just to produce food enough to keep themselves alive and hopefully then some to sell. How quickly things have evolved in this country…

        Liked by 1 person

        • That reminds me of a story of my own. I was raised a city girl, in NYC and San Francisco, but after marrying my husband, he dragged me (literally) to live in rural Virginia. Up a little dirt road where every home belonged to one of his relatives, we lived in his mother’s house for a few months. One morning, I awakened to the most horrible racket. I shook him awake, certain that the world must be ending, and he just matter-of-factly said, “Aw, that’s just Uncle Jimmy castrating his hogs”. I knew then that I was NOT cut out to be a country girl!

          Yes, you are right … times have changed, as they were destined to do. Technology, better methods for producing food, etc., most of which have value. What disturbs me, though, is people have changed. They have become lazier, for one, but also less compassionate, less concerned for their fellow humans. Even in the 10 years since I retired, my daughter tells me of some of her employees … no work ethic … it’s more of a game to see who can do the least work, rather than taking pride in doing the best possible job. Sigh.

          Liked by 1 person

          • And if one is honest and hard working, they are an enemy of the general work force, cuzzz…you make em look bad! If ine is honest, they are up to something and must be stopped. And if you are nice…😞…you might as well have a bullseye painted on your back…cuz that’s where they put the knife. Cynical? Me? Naaaahhhh…..

            Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s Saturday and that’s a surprise

    So we learn big_eyed owls are very wise

    Animal myths are not
    Except ‘lemmings’ (I forgot)

    So love them all regardless of size

    I hope you have some time out from the big bad world today Jill. I know the news just doesn’t stop coming these days. 🙄 But do try to have a happy weekend. ☺️❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for adding to our humour today with the limerick, my friend! Yes, I am hoping to try to put some of this behind me for a day anyway … it is turning me into a dark and humourless soul. Sigh. Thanks and have a good weekend yourself!!! ❤

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