Saturday Surprise — Animal Myths

Somehow, I fell into the rabbit hole earlier this week and was struggling to find a bit of humour to share for this morning’s Saturday Surprise.  So, I took a trip back through the archives to September 2018 and found some fun there!  Surely, those of you who were following Filosofa’s Word way back then have forgotten this post and it will be as new to you, right?  Except Keith … Keith never forgets anything!

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

28 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — Animal Myths

  1. This is not a myth. Horses have great memories too, and they also hold grudges! I knew a particular horse, and often fed it apples and carrots. But its owner took it away for a few years and I forgot what it looked like. Arriving early at the barns one day a horse tried to get my attention, neighing to me over and over. But my eyes were not as sharp as the horse’s, and I just thought is was a horse looking for attention and I went about my business. Later that day I ran into its owner, who told me where she had stabled her horse when she arrived in the middle of the night. Apparently she had been too tired (drunk, hungover?) to feed and water her horse. So, when the horse saw me, it was calling for food and water, which it knew I could provide. But I ignored it, not knowing its plight. When I went to see it later that day it saw me coming and turned around in its stall, and refused to look at me. In fact, it never acknowledged me ever again. I had failed it in its time of need, and it never forgave me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The lemmings were NOT CHASED OVER A CLIFF, but rather they were put on a turntable and filmed falling over, then made to look like they were falling over a cliff. They actually fell about a few inches. But still Mr. Disney et al cannot be forgiven for spreading such lies about lemmings, and really should have to make a public apology. LEMMING DO NOT SUICIDALLY JUMP OFF CLIFFS, What exactly was gained by creating this myth? That I will never understand.
      Mind you, I have never heard what happened to the forced-labour lemmings who were brought to Disney Studios to be thrown off the turntable. I somehow doubt Disney returned them to their natural habitat!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is … I probably should have used one of the others and taken the one about the lemmings out, for it received several negative comments last time I posted this, too. Sigh. Humans seem to believe that every other species was put on earth for their pleasure, to do with as they please.


  2. Pingback: Saturday Surprise — Animal Myths | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

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