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WE SUPPORT SHELTER ORGANIZATIONS, especially the Ottawa Humane Society (where Bobbi adopted Terzo in October, 2006), the Aylmer SPCA (where Bobbi adopted Q.T. Penny in 2015), as well as many others. See the Fan Club page for all the links.

The World Wide Fund says populations of more than 4,000 mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian species declined 60% between 1970 and 2014. The report blames deforestation, pollution and climate change caused by humans for the rapid wildlife declines.

The ASPCA was founded in 1866. It was the first animal welfare organization in the Americas. Canada's first SPCA was established in 1869 in Montreal.

Canada's Animal Cruelty Act dates back to 1892. But it's never been revised. However, animal cruelty is now a federal felony in the U.S. President Trump signed the bipartisan PACT Act into law, saying the measure would help us be "more responsible and humane stewards of our planet." PACT stands for Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture, and the act expands on a law passed in 2010. Animal cruelty previously was only a federal crime if the wrongdoers created and sold videos depicting it. Now, people can be punished for the act itself. All 50 states have active laws against animal cruelty, but making it a federal crime allows federal authorities to prosecute acts committed on federal property.

The first zoo in the U.S. was established in Philadelphia.

Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten is the largest zoo in the world both in terms of number of species (1,500) and animal population (14,000). Germany boasts more than 400 registered zoos.

Switzerland considers denying your guinea pig a companion an act of cruelty.

A recent study analyzed the brains of dogs as they listened to human speech. It revealed that dogs understand both the meaning of words and the intonation used to speak them. They are able to match hundreds of objects to words and learn elements of grammar, and processed familiar words regardless of intonation, using the left hemisphere, just like humans. Tone, or the emotion behind the word, on the other hand, was analyzed in the auditory regions of the right hemisphere — just as it is in people.

Dalmatians are the official firehouse dog because, in the 1700's, they would run alongside horse-drawn carriages keeping pace, even at full sprint, and protect the horses from other dogs or animals that could spook them.

Most scientists now accept that animals have distinct personalities, traits that endure over time and differ between individuals of a species. Researchers have found evidence of personality in practically every species they’ve examined, including sea anemones and insects.

        In most mammal species, the cortex accounts for between 10 percent and 40 percent of brain size. In primates, it accounts for more than 50 percent, and in humans for as much as 80 percent. Humans are exceptional for the sheer number of their cortical neurons. They have about fifteen billion, or more than twice as many as chimpanzees (with about six billion).
       Whales and elephants, the next in line after humans on the most-cortical-neurons list, have about ten billion cortical neurons, but they have smaller brains than chimps relative to body size.
       Large brains mean that primates are wizards at acquiring, storing, and using information about their surroundings.It has long been understood that some animals can teach their peers to perform new tasks. But the most famous examples involve primates or birds like ravens: Japanese macaques show other monkeys how to wash sweet potatoes in streams. A certain group of chimps knows to fish for insects by prodding termite mounds with sticks, nibbled into brushes for maximum scoopage.
       But new research suggests that bees are also capable of intricate form of communication, and can teach these to other bees. They have something called a waggle dance, with which they signal the location of nearby food. Every 75 milliseconds a waggle lasts, roughly speaking, indicates to other honeybees that a nectar source is an additional 330 feet further from the colony. In recent experiements, bees were taught how to pull a string to reach a sugar-filled flower substitute, and then they taught this to other bees.

A team of determined bees was captured on camera working together in perfect harmony in order to remove the cap from a bottle of honey that was left outdoors. The buzzing insects worked tirelessly as a single entity in order to get the job done. If plants aren’t flowering, a pollen-hungry bumblebee will make tiny incisions in their leaves to nudge the process along—a discovery that has stunned bee scientists. The researchers showed that bumblebees can force plants to bloom up to a month earlier than usual. If humans can figure out how to replicate that process, it would have big implications for our food supply, Virginia Morellwrites for Nat Geo.

The BBC Earth/PBS series Animals with Cameras, a clever female chimp who wanted clean the mud from her hands, determinedly climbed a tree to visit a water source known to her and washed her dirty hands. Cameras also captured other chimps using leaves to brush their teeth and to weave into a comfy place to relax.

An incredibly clever chimpanzee at the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami used a smartphone to watch a video on Instagram from a few days before when the chimp and caretaker Mike Holston were horsing around. The chimp not only watched that specific clip but also exited out of the video, scrolled and clicked through to other images.

Monkeys can understand written numbers and can even count. They can also understand basic parts of arithmetic and even, in rare cases, multiplication.

In some parts of the world geese are used instead of guard dogs. They apparently have excellent eyesight, are very territorial, and can discern unusual people or sounds.

It seems otters are playful creatures. They tussle, slide and have been filmed playing piano. But researchers wanted to know why a few species are known to "juggle" rocks—swiftly passing one or more stones around between their chest, hands and mouth. New research suggests the otters’ parlor trick may just pass the time between meals. Otters tend to fiddle with rocks more often when hungry, which made the researchers wonder: Do these wanton displays of dexterity make otters better at certain mealtime tasks, like picking crab meat from a shell? The team decided to test this theory by making the otters solve food puzzles, according to the study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Paternal care,  where fathers care for their children, is rare among mammals. Humans fall into that category, along with species like mice and lions. There are also a number of South American monkey species where males take on equal or greater childcare burdens than females. But these species are the exceptions, not the rule. Among mountain gorillas, found in the mountains of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, some of the strongest social bonds are between adult males and infants,  even when the infants aren’t the males’ own offspring. From the time that young gorillas are old enough to move away from their mothers, they follow males everywhere. Males, in turn, are extremely tolerant. Some regularly hold, play with, groom, and let infants sleep in their nests with them.

Raccoons wet their food to gather more sensory information about it from nerve endings in their paws. Moistening food enhances a raccoon’s understanding of what it is eating. Unlike humans, who gather most of their information about the world around them from their sense of sight, raccoons gather information primarily through their sense of touch. When a raccoon touches an object, it gathers nearly two-thirds of its sensory data from cells that interpret various types of sensations from touch. Their paws have four to five times more mechanoreceptors than most other mammals. This enables raccoons to hold, manipulate, and interpret objects as well as humans and other primates.

Kathy Brader, senior bird keeper at the National Zoo, which in 1975 bred the first kiwi outside its native New Zealand, says the North Island brown kiwi  female lays an egg that is 15 to 22 percent of her weight. A male then incubates the egg for 68 to 91 days. When the chick hatches, it is soon self-sufficient and won’t imprint on its parents.

      Craig Saffoe, curator of great cats at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, says It’s always a matriarch who actually leads a lion pride. Although male lions appear much bigger and more aggressive, females are more dominant. They do the important decision-making, are in charge of the majority of hunting and cub-raising, and also have to protect their territory against other intruding females and decide when to let in new males.
      In a typical African pride, there are three to six adult females. Most daughters are recruited to stay with their mother’s pride until they die, so there are often several generations of related females in this matriarchal society.
      Two or three adult males also live with the females. They are usually brothers or pride-mates who have formed a coalition to help protect the females. But they spend only a few years with the pride — long enough to produce more offspring — before they go out and seek a new one. However males are usually very affectionate with all the cubs in the pride, as they have no way of knowing which are carrying their genes. When adult males return from patrolling the pride territory, they seem to enjoy the cubs, with lots of licking, head rubbing and purring.

A crocodile cannot stick out its tongue.

A dragonfly has a life span of 24 hours.

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.

A snail can sleep for three years.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

Butterflies taste with their feet.

Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson reveal, in The Elephant In The Brain, describe Bowerbirds, a family of 20 species scattered across the forests and shrub lands of Australia and New Guinea. "What's distinctive about these birds are their eponymous bowers -- the elaborate structures built by the males of the species to attract females. Different species build their bowers in different shapes and sizes. Some are long avenue-like walkways flanked by walls of vertically placed sticks. Others are more like a maypole, circular structures propped up against a small sapling. Perhaps most impressive are the expansive gazebo-like bowers built by the humble (10-inch long) Vogelkop bowerbird. These structures tower up to nine feet off the ground, with an opening large enough for a large human to crawl inside. The zoologists who first encountered these structures couldn't believe they'd been built by such a tiny bird, assuming instead that the local villagers had built them for their children to play in.  These bowers serve only a single purpose: they're built by the males to attract females. Crucially, they aren't used by the females for laying eggs and raising young. After mating with a male, the female flies off to build her own (much smaller) cup-shaped nest up in a tree, and she raises her chicks entirely on her own, without any help from her mate.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden trained ravens to use a simple machine where they dropped a rock in a tube to earn a food reward. Later, they were put in a room with the puzzle box (but no rock), which was then removed. An hour later, the birds were presented with a row of objects: the rock, and several distractions. Nearly all of them chose the rock, and 86 percent managed to successfully use it to open the machine when it was presented to them 15 minutes later. Even more remarkable is that one raven in the experiment figured out how to work their rock/box contraption first, then began teaching the method to other ravens, and finally invented its own way of doing it. Instead of dropping a rock to release a treat, the future Ruler of the Raven Kingdom constructed a layer of twigs in the tube, and pushed another stick down through the layer to force it open. The bird had to be removed from the experiment before it could teach any other birds how to do it.

Bees have also been proven to be smarter than anyone thought. In experiments where bees had to select numbers on cards in order to obtain food rewards, bees performed at a level consistent with that of nonhuman primates by understanding that zero is lower than one.

Similar experiments have shown that dolphins and parrots understand the concept of zero. But given that bees have only about one million neurons in their brains, compared to 86 billion in humans, it’s especially impressive that they are such sophisticated mathletes.

A study conducted by animal physiologist Désirée Brucks and zoologist Auguste von Bayern involves a pair of African grey parrots who had been trained to exchange tokens for food. Wanting to see if the birds would share, the entire lot of tokens was given to only one bird. The parrot with the tokens saw that the neighboring parrot didn’t receive anything and began passing some over to the neighbor’s side, allowing them to buy a walnut. This type of altruistic behavior had not been seen with birds ever before.  Animals often share food, but these birds understand that metal rings can be exchanged for treats, and they share the rings with no promise of reward This sophisticated behavior, which requires an understanding of both currency and the needs of others, has only been described before in primates.

Researchers at the University of Auckland have discovered that the native New Zealand species of alpine parrot, known as Kea, has an incredible capacity for understanding probabilities and social cues. After performing several experiments that tested intelligence abilities, the researchers determined that the kea can perform certain tasks as well, or better than monkeys. They use probabilities to predict which hand a black token is most likely to be in based on where the token is picked from and on who is doing the picking, even combining information from different contexts.

Chimpanzees have been observed providing a partner the appropriate tool they’d need to access a treat. 

There are many instances of interspecies bonding and interaction. SCARS, a Greek rescue organization, provided the following example:
        While out on a walk near the mountain town Ymitos, Greece, a wonderfully gallant dog named Aragon led his human directly a box of tiny kittens who had been abandoned by an unknown person, like so many other vulnerable animals had before. Luckily, Aragon was with a Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS) volunteer who knew exactly what to do and who to contact. Since that day, Aragon has become their biggest fan, fostering the little felines and loving them like they were his very own. The kittens are adorable, playful, healthy and available for adoption through SCARS.
        Then there's the black cat who befriended eight orphaned hedgehog babies Keepers at Sadgorod Zoo in Vladivostok, Russia, worried as cubs refused bottles. But Musya, the zoo's resident cat, still had milk left after taking care of several foster kittens. The hedgehogs took to her immediately and she started producing milk for them.

A seminar called “animal-assisted education” was offered for the 2016 summer semester at a German university, teaching students the benefits of using animals at day care centers, youth centers, and schools, for example, with regard to the assumption of responsibility and mutual respect. It may just be a coincidence that Campus cat Fräulein Sinner has chosen Hildesheim University over shelters and family homes as her place to live, eat, sleep, and study, and has sat in on lectures for the past 13 years, since she turned up as a thin, injured stray.

Hermit crabs rely on shells to protect their soft abdomens from predators and the elements. They are always on the lookout for shells that might better suit their size and situation since, as the video states, “To be left without a shell is a death sentence.” Mark Laidre published a study in 2012 that found that hermit crabs congregate around a smaller hermit crab, form a “conga line” smallest to largest, and then take turns moving into a larger shell.

President John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator.

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has captured portraits of more than 5,000 creatures to date, with more to come. Photo Ark is a multiyear National Geographic project with a simple goal— to create portraits of the world’s species before they disappear and to inspire people to care. Each image is a visual connection between the animals and people who can help protect them.

A new book, Ten Million Aliens: A Journey thought the Entire Animal Kingdom, contains a wealth of fascinating facts, especially about the 90% of all living creatures have no backbone. That means that mammals and vertebrates make up only a small minority of the animal species.

Researchers in the U.K. have discovered the strongest biological material ever recorded—in a breed of aquatic snails. Limpets, which are snails with shells that have no obvious coiling, possess teeth made of goethite, an iron-based mineral that is threaded into fibers. It is five times stronger than spider silk and is now deemed the world's strongest material. "These teeth are made up of very small fibers, put together in a particular way," the study's lead author Asa Barber said. "And we should be thinking about making our own structures following the same design principles."

It seems the octopus has been overlooked until its genome was decoded recently. It turns out they have the largest genome of all invertibrates, similar is size to the domestic cat, and more genes than humans. They have large brains which allow them to learn and solve puzzles and use tools.

Octopuses, along with cuttlefish and squid, have far larger, more complex nervous systems than any of their molluscan relations—or indeed, than any other invertebrates. They have eight arms, each lined with scores of suckers capable of grasping and tasting. Octopuses lack bones or an external shell (though they have a piece of cartilage that protects the brain). As a result, their bodies are soft, flexible, and stretchy—properties that allow them to vanish through tiny gaps. A small octopus can easily get inside an empty beer bottle. And in some species at least, the animals have an astonishing capacity for camouflage, instantly changing color, texture, and posture so as to blend in with lumps of coral on a reef or the blankness of the sand.

Jean Cousteau and his team were the first to spend a lot of time in the water observing and filming wild octopuses and getting to know different individuals by visiting them regularly. Before long, some of the animals would come out to greet the divers, even climbing onto them and going for a ride. Others were shy, and would stay in their holes. Some appeared to develop preferences for particular humans. The divers wanted to know whether octopuses steal fish from fishermen’s nets, so they set up a net complete with several fish, and settled back to watch. Sure enough, an octopus came and helped itself to the lot. Another octopus opened a jar containing food, while a third seemed disturbed by its reflection when shown a mirror. Octopuses have 500 million neurons. This is more than five times the number in a hamster, and approaches the number in the common marmoset, a kind of monkey.

Smart animals tend to be long-lived, since a large brain both takes a long time to grow and helps an animal avoid danger. Apes, elephants, whales and dolphins, crows and other corvids, parrots: They all share these traits. Except the octopus.

A killer whale at MarineLand learned to regurgitate fish and let it sit on the surface to attract seagulls. When a seagull takes the bait, the whale would come up from the water and eat the bird. Four other whales copied that behaviour.

In just seven years, a single pair of cats and their offspring could produce a staggering total of 420,000 kittens.

Dr. Elizabeth Devitt, DVM, writing about cat color in, describes the black and white cat as born to be an ambassador. There is always a black and white cat in residence at 20 Downing Street, residence of the British Prime Minister.

An article in Cat Fancy about cats predicting earthquakes cited the experience of Simon Teakettle II (Tiki) just before the huge tsunami which devastated southeast Asia, which was detected by seismographs on the other side of the world (including Canada's national capital, where we live). In the aftermath of that disaster, it was revealed that most coastal animals left for higher ground hours before the quake causing the tsunami hit. Now scientists have discovered that a certain species of toad fled a town in central Italy just before an earthquake struck there. How many animals in Haiti and Chile predicted the quakes that hit there recently, or are these areas so quake-prone that the animals no longer react?

The National Zoo documented strange behavior in several of its animals in the minutes before the August 2011 earthquake struck the east coast of the U.S. Five to 10 seconds before the quake, many apes ditched their food and began climbing their tree-like structure. Flamingos also seemed to know it was coming, gathering into a group before the shaking began and remaining huddled throughout the quake. Most impressively, red ruffed lemurs let out an alarm call 15 minutes before the quake and then again just before it struck.

Dogs, cats, monkeys, and all other vertebrates all yawn. The giraffe is the only exception, and nobody seems to know why.

A giraffe can clean its ears with its 21-inch tongue. 
                        Giraffes have no vocal chords.
                                    Giraffes don't yawn.
                                            A giraffe has only seven bones in his neck, like all mammals.

Giraffes sleep only 1.9 hours a day in five- to 10-minute sessions. Koalas, however, are the longest-sleeping mammals, sleeping up to 22 hours a day.

The giraffe has been added to the international watch list of threatened and endangered species. The tallest land animal is now “vulnerable” to extinction after its population shrunk about 40 percent in 30 years. In 2015, there were only about 97,562 giraffes in the world, reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Scientists blame habitat loss, in part, for the decrease in population.

Giraffes give birth while standing up. Their babies must drop more than five feet (1.5 meters) to the ground as they're born.

Only one half of a dolphin’s brain goes to sleep at a time. Dolphins are capable of what is known as unihemispheric sleep, in which one hemisphere of the brain goes into a deep sleep while the other hemisphere remains awake. This allows dolphins to sleep under water without drowning. Dolphins spend approximately one third of their lives asleep.

Inside some whales and dolphins are small bones that show they once had back legs and that their ancestors walked on land. These occasionally reappear as tiny rear flippers.

Bottlenose dolphins develop an individual vocal label known as their signature whistle, which they use to broadcast their identity. They have been shown to remember the signature whistles of other individuals even after 20 years of separation.

The longest living mammal is the blowhead whale, which can live more than 200 years.

But the ocean quahog, a hard shelled clam often found off the coast of New England, is the longest living animal in the world, often reaching 500 years

Nine out of ten humans are right-handed. Most animals are closer to ambidextrous than right-or left-pawed, clawed, etc. Terzo favored his left paw, and so does Penny.

An important difference between wild and domestic animals is that animals who live with humans have flatter faces, more range of colors, things like floppy ears and curly tails (to use dogs as an example). Wolves have larger brains than dogs, which allows them to have flashes of insight so they can solve problems on their own. Dogs, on the other hand, rely on humans to solve problems, so are much better than wolves in noticing and interpreting the gaze and gestures of humans.

Unlike other animals, wolves have a variety of distinctive facial expressions they use to communicate and maintain pack unity.

Wolves and humans are among the three to five per cent of mammalian species that pair-bond, and the less than one per cent that engage in multi-generational co-operative breeding and communal nursing, with a female wolf caring for any pup in need as well as her own.  According to author/researcher Rick McIntyre, yearling pups play ambush with one another or catch-me-if-you-can or tug-of-war with bones. “There are just endless similarities between how wolves behave with each other and what anyone would recognize as human behaviour.”

The Vikings wore wolf skins and drank wolf blood to take on the wolf's spirit in battle. There were referred to as Berserkers, which is where that word came from.

The Greeks believed that if someone ate meat lamb that a wolf had killed, he or she ran a high risk of becoming a vampire.

Under certain conditions, wolves can hear as far as six miles away in the forest and ten miles on the open tundra.

Animals began to be domesticated about 15,000 years ago, when agriculture began. Humans no longer had to move around to follow game, and their settlements produced a lot of garbage, which attracted animals who had to learn how to co-exist with humans.

Most experts believe humans domesticated dogs before donkeys, horses, sheep, goats, cattle, cats, or chickens. Researchers speculate that early dogs crept up to the human campfire to beg or steal meat. Humans began to share their bread, so that these early species developed the ability to digest starches. If wolves had wanted to get human food, they would have needed to evolve both trusting behaviors and mechanisms for digesting starch. Dogs, in other words, evolved a mechanism for digesting starches that wolves don’t have.

All dogs can be traced back 40 million years ago to a weasel-like animal called the Miacis which dwelled in trees and dens. The Miacis later evolved into the Tomarctus, a direct forbear of the genus Canis, which includes the wolf and jackal as well as the dog.

As a single species, the domestic dog embodies one of the largest collections of phenotypic diversity for any species living on earth.

The shape of a dog’s face suggests how long it will live. Dogs with sharp, pointed faces that look more like wolves typically live longer. Dogs with very flat faces, such as bulldogs, often have shorter lives.

During the Middle Ages, Great Danes and Mastiffs were sometimes suited with armor and spiked collars to enter a battle or to defend supply caravans.

Dalmatians are completely white at birth.

Branford, Connecticut, where Bobbi used to spend summers growing up, began to license dogs in 1908.

The Westminster Dog Show is the longest-running continuously held sporting event in the country, second only to the Kentucky Derby. It began in 1877, prior to the invention of the light bulb or the building of the Washington Monument. It predates the admission of 12 states to the Union.

The corn fritters known as hush puppys earned their name because they were tossed to barking dogs in order to quiet them down.

The Beach Boys’ song, Shannon, was written about guitarist/singer, Carl Wilson’s Irish Setter.

Police in Queensland, Australia tried their best to make a tough K-9 cop out of a puppy named Gavel, but the young German Shepard flunked out of his training program because, as the BBC reported, instead of tackling hardened criminals, [Gavel] liked to meet strangers, and police in Australia felt he did not display the necessary aptitude for a life on the front line. Fortunately, Gavel found a gig that seems far better suited to his temperament... he's now the Vice-Regal Dog at Government House in Queensland.

Many animals seem to take on a more juvenile state as they are domesticated, getting bigger eyes, smaller faces and less aggressive demeanors. One common way of achieving a domesticated form of a species might be to slow down the development of the animal, Axelsson says. It appears that it’s the development of the nervous system that’s affected, gives some support to this theory.

Some animals possess the amazing ability to turn white during the winter: the arctic fox, arctic hare, ptarmigan, barren-ground caribou, and ermine all change colors as winter approaches, given them protection from predators in the snow.

Raccoons will back down during feeding to let a a mother and her cubs eat before any others.

The only two animals that can see what's behind them without turning their heads are the rabbit and the parrot.

Four of the five fastest land animals reside in Africa: the cheetah, the wildebeest, the lion, and the Thomson’s gazelle. All of these animals can run at speeds above 50 miles per hour, with the cheetah reaching a top speed of about 70 miles per hour.

              The world's fastest land animal, the cheetah, is a successful hunter not only because it is quick, but also because it can hold an incredibly still gaze while pursuing prey. For the first time, researchers have investigated the cheetah's extraordinary sensory abilities by analyzing the speedy animal's inner ear, an organ that is essential for maintaining body balance and adapting head posture during movement in most vertebrates. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports and led by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History, finds that the inner ear of modern cheetahs is unique and likely evolved relatively recently.
             "This distinctive inner ear anatomy reflects enhanced sensitivity and more rapid responses to head motions, explaining the cheetah's extraordinary ability to maintain visual stability and to keep their gaze locked in on prey even during incredibly high-speed hunting," said coauthor John Flynn, the Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals in the Museum's Division of Paleontology.
             Cheetahs are also typically solitary animals. While males sometimes live with a small group of brothers from the same litter, females generally raise cubs by themselves for about a year.

Bridget, a lioness was born at the Oklahoma City Zoo in 1999, lived a fairly typical zoo lion life for most of her first 18 years. Then she grew a mane.  Jennifer D’Agostino, the zoo’s director of veterinary services, thinks it may be an overproduction of testosterone, the hormone that makes male lions develop manes at around one year of age. An overproduction of that hormone is also implicated in the lush locks of wild maned lionesses in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It's possible that the lionesses’ mothers had abnormally high levels of male sex hormone during pregnancy, he said. Researchers who study the Botswana maned lionesses say they have never become pregnant, which can be a consequence of elevated testosterone.

Lions can run up to 50 mph, but only in a straight line and only for a few seconds at a time. Consequently, lions get as close as they can to their prey before they start the chase.

Birds evolved from dinosaurs and both are descended from reptiles. The closest living reptilian relation of a bird is the crocodile.

The common, or northern, mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is well known as a mimic; it has been known to imitate the songs of 20 or more species within 10 minutes.

According to Nature World Report, birds that ended up choosing their own mates had 37 percent more offspring than those that were paired up by humans.

Swiftlet nests are made from strands of saliva from the male swiftlet bird. Swiftlet nests collected from Thai caves can fetch more than $900 per pound. It is one of the world’s most coveted and expensive food items.

There are about 10,000 bird species in the world. About 925 have been seen in the U.S. and Canada. About 1,000 have been seen in Europe. By far the largest concentration of bird species are found in South America. Over 3,200 species have been seen there.

The brains of songbirds and parrots have twice as many neurons of primate brains of the same mass and two to four times more neurons that rodent brains of the equivalent mass. Ravens and kea parrots have 1.2 billion neurons in their cerebral cortex, a brain area associated with consciousness, more than capuchin monkeys have. The blue-and-yellow macaw has almost 2 billion neurons in the cerebral cortex — more than the rhesus macaques found in India and China.

Birds can mimic complex sounds due to their fascinating physiology, which is specifically designed for sound. Parrots are especially tuned into communicating from birth. They listen closely and recreate sounds from their flock in the wild. In captivity, the domesticated parrot sees humans as their adopted flock and will try to speak a common language through mimicry. Additionally, parrots are uniquely able to move their beaks to help shape sounds much in the way that humans use their lips.

Chickadees amplify the alarm calls of others, but they are careful not to vocalize more specific information about the predator until they can verify it, a new study says. The warning mobilizes other birds to jump out en masse and harass a potential predator, writes Brian Gutierrez for Nat Geo. The word chickadee itself comes from the warning sound the bird gives out when a predator is nearby—Chickadee-dee-dee-dee-dee. The more “dees,” the more dangerous the predator.

The Hairy Woodpecker's name comes from hair-like feathers that cover the bird's nostrils to keep out sawdust when it is drilling through tree bark. Woodpeckers use their tails as a "third leg" to brace themselves as they pecks at r trees. It allows them to hit even  even harder when drilling.

When male white bellbirds want to mate,  they go up to a female and scream directly into her face. Their calls are the loudest ever recorded in the avian world, peaking at roughly 115 decibels, the approximate equivalent of shoving your head into “a speaker at a rock concert,” researchers have said. While belting out multi-note ballads, the males will strut around and whip their wattles (fleshy outgrowths that dangle over their beaks) so vigorously that they sometimes slap their dates in the face.

The crow is actually a large songbird. Instead of a musical voice, it has more than 20 rough calls, each of which has a different meaning. Crows have 250 distinct calls, including two different vocal levels, loud as a public voice, and a softer voice for "chatting" with family.

The raven is a relative of the crow, the largest songbird of all, three times larger than a cardinal. Jays, magpies and nutcrackers also belong to this family.

Research with jays has shown them to have superior abilities to plan for the future. They will cache food in the place where they previously found breakfast, in anticipation of needing it then.  Jays live in multi-generational clans of up to about 20 birds. Every fall, about half of the clan flies south for the winter. The other half stays. Scientists don't know why or how the Jays do this but Steve Pitt, who provides so many facts for this page (and photos for the Fan Club) has a theory. Steve thinks that Jays spend the summer finding and caching food for the winter but even working together they probably can't find enough food to support the whole clan for 8 months so some go south where the food is plentiful. The ones who stay behind also perform an important function.  In most other species of birds, everyone goes south and then they all have to rush back north in the spring to grab the best nesting sites before competing birds get there. Because half the Jays stay behind, they are able to defend their home turf so that the returning clan will have a proven viable summer nesting site when they return.

Jays, ravens, rooks, and other corvids (as well as parrots) have a larger neocortex than other birds. Rooks, for example, will drop rocks into a tube where they can see a tasty worm just below the reach of their beaks, until the water level rises sufficiently.

Ravens will lead wolves to prey so that they can take a portion of the leftovers, play games of tail chasing with each other, and develop individual friendships. 

A team of researchers in northern Australia has documented kites and falcons, colloquially termed “firehawks,” intentionally carrying burning sticks to spread fire. While it has long been known that birds will take advantage of natural fires that cause insects, rodents and reptiles to flee and thus increase feeding opportunities, that they would intercede to spread fire to unburned locales is astounding.

Crows can recognize human faces and tell other crows which humans are friends are which are enemies. A recent study of crows in captivity suggested that these birds memorize the faces of the humans who had initially captured them — and they then warn their crow friends about them. “Even after going for a year without seeing the threatening human, the crows would scold the person on sight, cackling, swooping and dive-bombing in mobs of 30 or more,” wrote Stephanie Pappas in 2011 for LiveScience. And a follow-up study of crows using brain-imaging technology found that bird brains look a lot like human brains when it comes to recognizing the faces of people they know.

Crows memorize garbage routes for best times to find food, and learn from each other. They mate for life,  and babies spend a long time with the family, learning from parents and older siblings. This exended family helps the young thrive and learn, and a wider diet helps the brain develop. Omnivores have to learn how to find and deal with different foods. Crows learn, for example, the height from which to drop nuts so they will crack open but not smash. Social animals  have to learn relationships, which also require more brain power. Like elephants, crows gather to mark the site where a friend has died.

While waiting to buy a ticket at the Kinshicho Station in Tokyo, Yuzu resident Kinoshita Shoji captured very amusing footage of a clever crow hopping from one self-service machine to another, trying to figure out how to purchase a ticket. After watching the humans for a while, the wily bird stole a credit card from an unsuspecting commuter, but was unable to figure out how to put the card in the machine. The bird then very politely returned the credit card to the commuter upon her request.

In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge pardoned a live animal intended for his Thanksgiving dinner and adopted it as a pet. This was no turkey, however, but a raccoon.

Only elephants and chimps actually make tools. Crows make hooks, which chimps don't do. A crow will use a short stick to retrieve a longer stick that can reach the food.

The mother who gives birth to the largest baby on Earth is a mother elephant. After enduring 22 months of pregnancy, she gives birth to a blind, 200-pound calf. A mother orangutan never puts her babies down and typically nurses them for 6 or 7 years, which is the longest mother/child nursing dependence of any animal on Earth.

The Asian elephant is the second-largest land mammal on earth. Highly intelligent, immensely powerful, and with life spans as long as humans’, they have forged a unique relationship with us. Jacob Shell is a geographer whose new book, Giants of the Monsoon Forest, says that evolution has selected for similar capacities of intelligence, compassion, and sociality in both humans and elephants, and it is this coincidence that has allowed these two very different species to forge such close ties. An example is an elephant Shell describes loading a huge log weighing over a thousand pounds onto a flat-bed truck. The elephant began by pushing the truck, which was hopelessly bogged down, onto solid ground. He then built a ramp of smaller logs, which he kept adjusting through the loading process. Much precise maneuvering was required to get the log into place at the base of the ramp, and the loading required precision, calculation, and stupendous strength. What struck Shell about the performance was the way that both the elephant and his mahout contributed to the deliberations required to complete the task.

Some elephants have been known to use tools without any help from their mahouts. One remarkable instance occurred when an elephant was assisting in building a bridge in Burma during World War II. He was asked to lift a log onto a high platform but refused, knowing that the high lift involved a risk of the log rolling back and crushing his mahout. Eventually the elephant put the log down and sought out a sturdy club-shaped branch, which he pressed diagonally between his tusks so that the upper end protruded and prevented the log from rolling backward. This improvised safety lock kept the log in place; the human onlookers wondered why they had not thought of the solution themselves.

The only work more taxing than loading logs is the clearing of logjams, which requires a level of skill and bravery possessed by few elephants indeed. The elephant must approach the logjam from downstream and search for the key log—the one whose removal will break the jam—among the hundreds that are impeding the stream. Then, with enormous strength and know-how, it must dislodge the log and get out of the way before the force of the breaching barrier harms it. “The clearing of logjams obviously places elephants in tremendous danger,” says Shell. “And for anyone concerned for the elephant’s immediate welfare, it’s hard to defend the practice.” It seems to me that the elephants are aware of the danger, and perhaps take pride in their work.

Sokona was a female elephant deployed in crossing rivers. She had only recently been captured and was still only half trained when, accompanied by her calf, she was asked to cross a dangerously flooded river. Before entering the water she grasped her calf between her tusks and the base of her trunk, her mahout and an assistant riding on her back. The violence of the torrent caused the assistant to lose his footing and plunge into the water. Sokona rescued him by grabbing him with her trunk, continuing to the far bank with both calf and human held securely in her grasp.

Elephants can swim long distances, for up to six hours and 25 miles. They are so buoyant that if they tire in the water, they can just rest by floating and will not sink. They can also use their trunk as a snorkel and dive.

The King of Siam gave rare albino elephants to those who displeased him in hopes that the upkeep costs would financially ruin them.

China’s giant salamanders, which do not consist of a single species as experts have long believed. According to a new study published in Ecology and Evolution, there are in fact three species of Chinese giant salamanders, one of which may be the biggest amphibian in the world.

Researchers analyzing footage of chimpanzees at Burgers’ Zoo in the Netherlands aggressively attacking a drone say the primates planned their actions in advance and weren’t acting out of fear. The group of chimps noticed the drone during a preliminary flyby and immediately grabbed twigs and long sticks before climbing to the treetops. When the drone returned, they were prepared. “The use of the stick as a weapon in this context was a unique action,” study author Jan van Hooff, a primatologist with life-long ties to the zoo, said in a statement. “It seemed deliberate, given the decision to collect it and carry it to a place where the drone might be attacked.” The primates have not been taught to use tools, but have learned 13 unique skills by observing humans visiting the zoo.

There are 220 species of owls in the world. Owls can almost turn their heads all the way around, but it's not quite a 360 turn. They can turn their necks 135 degrees in either direction, which gives them 270 degrees total movement.  Owls are able to turn their heads without injury or cutting off blood to their brain because they have a blood-pooling system that powers their brain and eyes during a dramatic neck twist. An owl's eyes are so well-developed that they are not balls but rather tubes that are held into place by a bony structure. This means an owl can only look straight ahead. An owl must turn its head to look side to side. Owls ears are placed asymmetrically and are different sizes. This allows them to receive sounds at different times and pinpoint the exact location of the sound.

Parakeets are enjoying a population explosion in London suburbs, devouring seed from feeders, fighting with native birds, and possibly threatening crops. No one knows why the parakeets have flourished. Possible reasons include residents putting out more food for them, planting berries they like to eat, the death of a predator, or climate change. Or it could be simply that once there are enough parakeets, it’s easier for them to find mates, and they breed faster. In any case, the government is keeping an eye on them lest they begin to ravage crops as they do in India. “I was delighted when I first saw one in my yard, but when you have a flock of 300, it’s a different matter,” said Dick Hayden, a retiree volunteering to help take a census of London’s parakeet population. “They eat all the berries. They ate all the food from my feeder in one day; it was ludicrous.”

Penguins can identify the scent of close relatives, as well as their mates. This means they can reunite with their life partners (yes, they're among the birds who mate for life) in crowded colonies. 

There are 18 different kinds of penguins. 

You can't tell a penguin's sex even by examining them closely. The only way to tell is by DNA testing.

The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human is a fascinating book by Noah Strycker. One of the things he says about certain birds who seem to be able to find their way across long distances is: To be able to find their way home from an unfamiliar place, birds must carry a figurative map and compass in their brains. The map tells them where they are, and the compass tells them which direction to fly, even when they are released with no frame of reference to their loft. Researchers have gone to great lengths to confirm that pigeons don't merely memorize their outward trip. In one experiment, birds were transported in sealed containers filled with purified air, mounted on tilting turntables between coils that varied the magnetic field, and exposed to loud noises and flashes of light, so that, unlike a blindfolded person in the backseat of a taxi who might remember the twists and turns of the journey, they had no external cues. In another study, pigeons were anesthetized and unconscious during the outward trip. They still made it home, proving the existence of an intrinsic map and compass system.

Pidgeons can problem-solve, recognize individual human faces, count from one to nine, and tell the difference between cubist paintings and impressionist ones. Their homing and navigational skills have been prized for thousands of years, and domesticated racing pigeons can fly more than a thousand miles and at speeds upwards of 50 miles an hour.

While the ostrich lays the largest eggs on land, the whale shark lays the largest eggs in the world. An egg from a whale shark measuring 14 inches in diameter was found in the Gulf of Mexico in 1953.

Abraham Lincoln had two goats named Nanny and Nanko, and they often slept in his son Tad’s bed.

Researchers at the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University in China recently discovered that the endangered giant panda has a potent antimicrobial compound in its bloodstream. Known as cathelicidin-AM, the compound can kill a wide range of bacteria, including those that are resistant to antibiotics. According to the Daily Telegraph, cathelicidin-AM was able to kill bacteria in less than an hour — five hours faster than other widely used antibiotics. The discovery may lead to increased interest in preserving the population of wild pandas. There are about 1,600 left in the wild, and more than 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China. And for those worried that this scientific breakthrough will lead to pandas being killed for their amazing antibiotic blood: fear not. The compound can be manufactured synthetically in the laboratory.

From The Symbolic Seashell, by Krista Langlois:
          Before Neanderthals painted abstract designs onto cave walls in Spain, before people even mastered the art of making fire, someone created beauty by drawing on a shell, projecting some part of themselves onto the natural world.
          People also made the earliest-known jewelry from shells. Around 100,000 years ago, researchers believe that people in present-day Israel, Morocco, and Algeria drilled holes into marine snail shells to create beads, which they traded or carried inland, perhaps strung on lengths of fiber.
          Ashley Dumas, an archaeologist with the University of West Alabama, believes the reason so many cultures use shells in burial rituals is that shells are liminal. “They come from the seashore, which is neither fully land nor fully sea,” she says. “That ties in with a lot of cultures’ thoughts about what death is”—a state where you’re neither fully gone, nor fully of this world. Just as a shell persists after the creature it housed decomposes, so too might a person’s soul or spirit live on, an eternal thing more beautiful than the body it left behind.

A starfish uses its arms to force open shellfish, turns its stomach inside out onto the prey, and ingests it. Starfish can regenerate their entire body from a single arm, some can do so from just 1cm (0.4in) long and in some species of starfish, a large female can split in half, each half becoming male which changes back into female once they grow big enough.

Out of about 33,000 species of fish, 2,500 are venomous.

Researchers have successfully taught goldfish to play fetch, push levers, do the limbo, and even play soccer. If they are fed around the same time of day, they also remember that and will anticipate the feeding leading up to that time, which implies they have a very good sense of time. Goldfish also have been shown to be able to recognize their masters and even pick their favorites (usually the one who feeds them). Around certain people the goldfish is very familiar with, they will often be much more active when they see the person. them. Around strangers, on the other hand, the goldfish will often hide. Blind goldfish also exhibit this same type of behavior, except they respond to the voice of their owner, similarly to how the non-blind goldfish respond to the sight of their owner.

A male emperor angelfish lives together with up to five female mates. If the emperor angelfish dies, one of the females turns into a male fish and becomes the leader of the group.

One of Thailand’s most curious creatures is the mudskipper, which is a fish that is capable of walking on land and climbing trees. It uses its fins to “walk” and can absorb oxygen through its skin and lining in its mouth. It spends most of its time out of the water, eating the algae in tidal pools.

Unlike most other fish, the ocean sunfish does not have a tail. A female sunfish can lay 300 million eggs each year. Each egg is smaller than the period at the end of a sentence.

Since a fish’s jaw is not attached to its skull, many fish can shoot their mouths forward like a spring to catch startled prey.

Jellyfish are not fish. They have no eyes and no brain. Some types grow up to 80 feet long!

Dolphins and humans have many of the same basic traits: high intelligence, self-awareness, and sophisticated social skills. Some dolphins can understand as many as 60 words, which can make up 2,000 sentences. They are among the few mammals able to recognize themselves in a mirror, and one of the few species with cells that act as bridges between brain areas devoted to cognition and self-awareness. Dolphins don’t have a sense of smell, but they do have a sense of taste and, like humans, can distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter, and salty tastes.

Bats and dolphins both use echolocation­emitting sounds and listening for echoes to help locate prey­and both went through similar evolutionary changes to develop it, scientists say in a new study. They found that the two species, while evolving independently, underwent many of the same genetic and physical changes, with natural selection strongly preferring animals with more highly developed echolocation abilities. Overall, there were 200 genomic regions where dolphins and bats had similar genetic inventions.

A single bat can eat more than 600 bugs in one hour. 

A bat that dies while roosting will continue to hang upside until something shakes it loose. Most bats rest, sleep, mate, and give birth upside down.

Whales, dolphins, and porpoises move through the water by plunging their tails up and down in a vertical motion. This action distinguishes them from fish, which move their tails from side to side when swimming.

A female dolphin will assist in the birth of another’s baby dolphin, and if it is a difficult birth, the ‘midwife’ might help pull out the baby. Other dolphins, including bulls, will swim around the mother during birth to protect her.

A dolphin can produce whistles for communication and clicks for sonar at the same time, which would be like a human speaking in two voices, with two different pitches, holding two different conversations.

While ancient fishermen used the meat of whales for food, in the modern era whales were primarily hunted for oil and whalebone, a term used for the baleen. Whalebone was used to make corsets, umbrella ribs, handles, and brushes, while the oil was used for cooking, candle wax and, much later, making margarine.

Scientists in California believe that audio captured in 1984 was a whale imitating people. In fact, the whale song sounded so eerily human, divers first thought it was a human voice. Handlers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego heard mumbling in 1984 coming from a tank that sounded like folks chatting. An acoustic analysis revealed a beluga whale's sounds were several octaves lower than typical whale calls. Scientists think the whale's close proximity to people allowed it to listen to and mimic human conversation. This research was published online in Current Biology.

The eyes of frogs and toads bulge out enabling them to see in almost all directions. The close their eyes by pulling the eyeballs deeper into the sockets, which closes the upper and lower eyelids at the same time. Most species also have a thin, partly clear inner eyelid attached to the bottom lid. This inner eyelid is called the nictitating membrane. It can be moved upward when the eyes are open. It protects the eyes without completely cutting off the vision.

Butterflies have been sighted near the top of the Empire State building, and some species live in mountain areas at elevations up to 5,500 meters.

Over 3,000 species of mayfly are known worldwide, grouped into over 400 genera in 42 families. One, calls a  nymph, has a long tail and wings that do not fold flat over the abdomen. Their delicate four wings are the inspiration for Disney's Tinkerbell.

Austin, Texas is home to the largest bat colony in North America. Over 1.5 million bats roost beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge over Lady Bird Lake and eat between 10,000- 30,000 lbs. of insects a night.

The Mongolian pony is the only animal other than an elephant capable of fending off an attack by a healthy adult tiger.

Domesticated on the Eurasian steppes before 3500 B.C., horses carried the Huns, the Mongols, and the Pizarro brothers to victory over the Romans, the Chinese, and the Incas, remaking ancient cultures into societies dependent on high-speed mobility, and revolutionizing human transport.

Horses were introduced to American Indians by Europeans in the early 1500s. As ownership of horses spread, it created great disruption among Native American tribes, because the increased need for grazing lands caused an increase in wars among tribes.

Horses are not only intelligent, but they use both sides of their brains to process information. This may be because their eyes point to the sides instead of forward. This is why they sometimes don't appear to see something to the right of them as the go up the road, but may react to it coming back.

Horses have five highly developed senses: taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight. They also have an enigmatic sixth sense, heightened perception, which is very rare in humans.

Wild horses who live on the Outer Banks of North Carolina survive hurricanes by huddling together at a large tree with their backs to the wind. 

Like elephants, horses who have positive experiences with a human never forget that person. Horses also respond better to two-syllable words than to single syllables. 

Elephants communicate in all sorts of ways. They trumpet, of course, and flap their ears and rumble at frequencies so low you might feel it, but never hear it. Their feet and trunks are sensitive enough to pick up vibrations created by other elephants as far as 10 miles away. These messages convey more than the presence of food or danger. Elephants can tell if the stomper is a friend or a stranger, and use subtle differences in what each foot feels to triangulate the location. 

When one Asian elephant sees that another elephant is agitated, scientists have observed that the calmer one will respond by touching the distressed animal with its trunk. “I’ve never heard that vocalization when elephants are alone,” Joshua Plotnik, who led the study, told Discovery. “It may be a signal like, ‘Shshh, it’s okay,’ the sort of sounds a human adult might make to reassure a baby.”

The largest recorded lobster, caught off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1934, weighed 44.4 pounds and was at least 100 years old, according to scientists.

The largest fish caught with a rod and reel was a Great White shark. It weighed 2,664 pounds and was almost 17 feet long.

Sharks have been called “swimming noses” because their sense of smell is so good (they smell with their nostrils but don’t breath through them). Some sharks can smell one part of blood in 100 million parts of water and can tell which direction that smell is coming from.

Dog nose prints are as unique as human finger prints and can be used to identify them.

Wild animals are always fighting or fleeing to survive and that makes it hard for humans to get close but what if an animal was born with fewer of these neural crest cells&ldots;that animal would have less adrenaline. It would probably be less freaked out by humans and it would pas that behavior on to its offspring. This explains why domesticated dogs are more likely to have floppy rather than pointed ears, and shorter snouts.

According to Discover Magazine, dogs and cats have gotten really good at reading people, albeit in their own peculiar ways. Dogs are easily influenced human actions or what a new study calls "ostensive cues." These are the same cues — body language, gazes — an inarticulate infant picks up on when it's trying to figure out what the world's all about. Researchers working on this new study figured out that dogs, true sycophants that they are, make their decisions based on ostensive cues from people, preferring, in one instance, a plate of food preferred by a person even in that plate has less food than another.

Cats, however, run a different game on their doting human companions. In a paper titled, "The cry embedded in the purr," researchers explain different purrs cats employ to get people to do things for them. Certain purrs, they found, sound so urgent, grating, and generally pitiful that people will do anything — including pouring out dish after dish of Fancy Feast — to make it stop. The "solicitation purr" is inharmonic to boot, meaning that even veteran cat owners who think they know all of their cat's wiles are susceptible to the distressing sound.

A black Lab in New Zealand donated blood to a cat. When Macy’s cat friend, Rory, accidentally ate rat poison, a bold veterinarian took a drastic measure to save the cat’s life. With time working against them, the vet took a gamble that Macy’s blood would be a match with Rory’s.

Three dogs from First Class cabins survived the sinking of the Titanic – two Pomeranians and one Pekingese.

Some scientists believe our relationship with dogs goes back as far as 100,000 years. One theory says that man and dog have co-evolved through the centuries in untold ways; one scientist speculates that we lost our own, keen sense of smell by relying on the sharper sniff of our beastly hunting partners.

Recent research indicates that the first dogs lived about 33,000 years ago in Southeast Asia. Using whole genome sequences from 58 canids (wolf and primitive dog species), researchers determined that dogs from Southeast Asia have the greatest genetic diversity compared with populations from other parts of the world. They also exhibit the most genetic similarity to gray wolves, long believed to be dogs’ closest wild ancestor.

In his new book, The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson considers how a "mutual evolution" not only impacted dogs, but also the human capacity to love and to feel empathy for others.

Of the 650 dogs that have seen active combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 5 percent suffer from canine PTSD. The symptoms vary from hypervigilance and increased aggression to extreme timidity. The military is experimenting with desensitization treatment and anti-anxiety medication, but about half the dogs will half to be retired from service. They also stop being able to work.

There are five dog breeds that originated in Canada. The most famous are the Alaskan sled dog, the Newfoundland and the Labrador retriever. The Newfoundland dog evolved from the Tibetan Mastiff, which was crossed with a Viking bear dog in the first century. The Lab is thought to be descended from dogs abandoned by European fisherman.

Thirty percent of all Dalmatians are deaf in one or both ears. Because bulldogs have extremely short muzzles, many spend their lives fighting suffocation. Because Chihuahuas have such small skulls, the flow of spinal fluid can be restricted, causing hydrocephalus, a swelling of the brain.

In 2003, police in Warwickshire , England , opened a garden shed and found a whimpering, cowering dog. The dog had been locked in the shed and abandoned. It was dirty and malnourished, and had quite clearly been abused. In an act of kindness, the police took the dog, which was a female greyhound, to the Nuneaton Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary. Jasmine started welcoming all animal arrivals at the sanctuary. It would not matter  if it were a puppy, a fox cub, a rabbit or, any other lost or hurting  animal. Jasmine would just peer into the box or cage and, when and where possible, deliver a welcoming lick. Jasmine, the timid, abused, deserted waif, became the animal sanctuary's resident surrogate mother, a role for which she might have been born. The list of orphaned and abandoned youngsters she has cared for comprises five fox cubs, four badger cubs, fifteen chicks, eight  guinea pigs, two stray puppies and fifteen rabbits - and one roe deer fawn. See the full story and photos at:

The smallest dog on record was a matchbox-size Yorkshire Terrier. It was 2.5? tall at the shoulder; 3.5? from nose tip to tail, and weighed only 4 ounces.

Rin Tin Tin was part of a litter discovered in 1918 by an American soldier while serving abroad in World War I. He smuggled the pup into the U.S. from France, and trained him to jump so high he stood out from the many other German shepherd then working in Hollywood. His breakthrough film was Where the North Begins, based on a script by Duncan. He turned out to be one of Warner Brothers' most profitable commodities, and lived to the age of 14.

Helena Katz lives on an alpaca farm in the NWT. She says that their livestock dogs have different barks. "One is the doggie doorbell to let us know someone has pulled into the driveway. One is what we call the patrol bark because they do it to announce to the unassembled masses in the bush that they're on duty. They're telling bears, wolves, foxes and anything else out there to stay away. Then there's the angry bark they use if a wolf goes by. The dogs tend to work at night because that's when predators are out, but we don't usually go check unless we're hearing the angry barking, or the barking goes on for a bit. Livestock dogs are independent thinkers because they need to be able to analyze a situation without their handler telling them what to do. Consequently, we need to walk a fine line between demanding obedience and giving them enough room to think for themselves. "

There are several species of squirrels, including the grey and black, which are actually the same. They're sociable animals who live near deciduous trees, and we've hosted a family of black squirrels in our big maple tree for many years. Their relationship with Simon Teakettle II (Tiki) is on the Cat Facts page. For more about squirrels, click HERE.

The Latin name for squirrel is sciurus, borrowed from the Greek word skiouros, meaning critter living in the shadow of its tail.

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are a type of marmot, large rodents related to squirrels. They have a large habitat, extending throughout most of North America, from Alaska, as far south as Alabama. In the wild, groundhogs usually live two to three years, but have been known to live up to six years. In captivity, they can live much longer. The original Wiarton Willie - one of Canada's most famous prognosticating groundhogs - lived to be 22 years old.

Groundhogs are typically 16-26 inches long, and weigh 4-9 pounds. They have 22 teeth and manage the length of their incisors by actively gnawing on tree bark and brush.   Two coats of fur: a thick, wooly, grey undercoat and a longer coat of silky brownish hairs, help to keep them warm throughout the year.

Groundhogs prefer to eat wild grasses, leaves, berries, and food crops. They will also occasionally eat nuts, insects, grubs, snails, and other small animals. The average groundhog moves approximately 710 pounds of dirt when digging its burrow. Burrows can be up to 46 feet long and up to 5 feet underground. They hibernate during the winter, usually between October and March or April, depending on the climate.

If in danger, a groundhog will produce a high-pitched alarm whistle to warn the rest of its family. This is how they got the nickname "whistle-pig" in some regions. Other groundhog sounds include squeals, barks, and tooth grinding.

According to an article in the New York Times by Natalie Angier, pigs are better than many other animals at learning new things. They can perform many tricks, including jump through hoops, bowing, spinning, and making sounds on command that mimic words. They can be taught to roll out rugs, herd sheep, close and open cages, and even to play videogames with joysticks.

A characteristis that beavers share with alligators and hippos is having their eyes, nose, and ears are all in a line close to the top of the head. This allows the animal to float with only the top of the head visible above the water, and still have all sensory organs fully functional. In addition, beavers can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes because they can store a lot of oxygen and also reduce their heart rate.

Beavers take down large trees thanks to the top two incisors, which anchor the beaver's mouth while huge jaw muscles power the lower incisors. Only one lower incisor cuts at a time, which is how they cut trees at an angle.

The hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal after the elephant and white rhino. A hippo can live for up to 40 years.

Hippos can’t swim or float. They walk or stand on surfaces below the water like sandbanks, spending most of the day in water to protect their sensitive skin from the sun. They secrete an oily red substance that acts as a moisturiser, sunblock and protects them from germs. This also makes them look like they are sweating blood.

Although hippos can hold their breath for approximately seven minutes, most adult hippos resurface every three to five minutes to breathe. This is an automatic process – even sleeping hippo surface to breathe without waking. Hippos can close their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering. This is why hippo calves can suckle on land or underwater.

Monogamy, a pair-bond between a single male and female, is comparatively rare among mammals. Small songbirds, such as sparrows and warblers, are annually monogamous, forming new bonds each mating season. Perennially monogamous  animals include: ducks, eagles, geese, swans, gibbons, lynx, marmosets, mountain lions, wolves,  foxes, and beaver.

The prairie vole is monogamous; it forms long-term pair bonds after mating. But the montane vole, is polygamous; it mates and moves on.

Bob & Frances Walker have built what Publisher's Weekly has called, the ultimate cat-friendly fantasyland. See "the Cat House" at their website, where you can use your mouse to track the cat paths through the floor plan, buy their books, and take the tour.

The Elephant Listening Project at Cornell University has classified elephant sounds into distinct categories. These range from greetings, to protests, to reassurance, to annoyance, to get out of my way. But it turns out these vocalizations are just a tiny fraction of the sounds elephants make. Bob Simon, a correspondent for 60 Minutes, investigated this, and discovered that elephants talk to each other. They communicate in their own secret language, most of which is inaudible to humans because it is infrasonic. He also noticed that there's a protocol to meeting an elephant. He will offer up his trunk and he expects you to blow into it. That way, he will remember you forever.

New research indicates that elephants can differentiate between male and female voices, and between languages used by different tribes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences studied hundreds of wild elephants in Kenya, and discovered that the elephants reacted differently to the same phrase said in two different languages. They reacted defensively to the Masai, who often kill them, whereas when they heard voices of Kamba men, who are less threatening, they didn't react. 

Elephants are terrified of bees and actually have a special, distinct vocalization for Run away the bees are angry.

Elephants have a unique way of walking. Recent research indicates that they move each leg independently. Cats walk by moving their front and back legs on one side, then the other side. That is, the right hind leg moves forward, then the right foreleg; then the sequence is repeated on the left side. Only camels and giraffes move in the same way. Also, cats can rotate their front legs back and forth at a much greater range than other mammals. The elephant is the only animal with 4 knees.

An elephant’s trunk is extremely complex and sensitive, capable of performing delicate functions like picking up a coin from a flat surface or cracking open a peanut, blowing away the shell, and putting the kernel in its mouth. The trunk contains 40,000 muscles, but no bones.

Elephants are able to read the visual cue of pointing, picking the right bucket two thirds of the time­a slightly better rate than a 1-year-old human. The scientists say pointing could be a social thing, since elephants live in packs that require cooperation and communication, and it's logical they'd used their flexible trunks for that.

The longest gestation period of any mammal is the elephant, at 22 months.

The Elephant Company, The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II, by Vicki Constantine Croke, describes the Japanese occupation of Myanmar, then known as Burma, when Lt. Col. James Howard Williams and his company of elephants helped build bridges and evacuate refugees.

The book contains many additional facts about elephants. Their sense of smell is five times that of a bloodhound. They have six sets of teeth throughout their lives that move into place “not from underneath, but as if moved forward along on a slow conveyor belt,” and once they’ve used up their sixth set, they starve to death.

From The Memory of an Elephant: An Unforgettable Journey: An elephant sleeps very little at night, "usually standing, always on alert," and takes standing naps throughout the day. An adult elephant needs to drink 30 gallons of water a day and eat between 220 and 440 pounds of food depending on the season. Elephants can't jump and must have one foot on the ground at all times, and despite an enormous weight of about five tons, an elephant makes no noise while walking.

White lions are very rare. A female white lion cub, just a week old and yet to be named, made her debut recently at the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia. She weighs 2.8 pounds and traces her roots back to South Africa, where her mother, Masha, originated.

As herds of African lions wait for their prey, the oldest and weakest, no longer capable hunters, take their place in the tall grass and when the herd passes by, they roar. This sends the herds in the opposite direction, into the waiting pack of young lions. 

A tiger's stripes are completely unique to each tiger.  Tigers have the longest life span of all the big cats, and can live to up to 26 years in the wild. There are five different species of tiger - Siberian, Indochinese, South Chinese, Bengal and Sumatran.

The leopard is the most widespread of all the big cats. Leopards are so strong they can climb up a tree carrying prey twice their weight in their jaws.

Big cats have an acute sense of hearing and a mother cat can hear one of her cubs crying from anything up to a mile away.

The five rarest wildcats are the Bornean Bay cat, the Flat-headed cat, the Snow Leopard, the Andean mountain cat and the Iberian Lynx.

The blue whale can produce sounds up to 188 decibels.  This is the loudest sound produced by a living animal and has been detected as far away as 530 miles.

The Venezuelan brown bat can detect and dodge individual raindrops in mid-flight, arriving safely back at his cave completely dry.

Most people have more than 1,460 dreams every year. Animals also dream, although it's hard to tell what these contain. Simon II (Tiki), however, was a rescued feral kitten, and often had dreams that disturbed his sleep sufficiently to cause him to twitch as if he was trying to escape from something frightening. Terzo's naps, on the other hand, are always tranquil.

The “nine lives” attributed to cats is probably due to their having nine primary whiskers.

Camelids are a species of two-hoofed mammals related to the camel and the dromedary. They include the llama, which is quite a bit taller than the alpaca. They hum when they congregate, and hiss and spit when they get into fights.  See Brinks, who made it into the calendar put out by the Fort Smith Animal Shelter in the NWT, in Terzo's blog (August 13).

An African grey parrot named Alex was trained by scientist Irene Pepperberg to count, recognize shapes and colors, and identify different textures like wool, wood, and paper. Before he died, he had mastered more than 100 English words. Pepperberg has described her experiments in a book called Alex & Me, published by Harper Collins.

A parrot in Japan who escaped from his cage was brought to a veterinary hospital, where he told the staff his name and address. “I’m Mr. Yosuke Nakamura,” the bird told the veterinarian. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs. The Nakamura family told police they had been teaching the bird its name and address for about two years.

On average, a 4-year-old child asks 437 questions a day. Cats and grey parrots probably have just as many questions, but can't find the words to express them!

After observing the Kanyawara group of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park in Uganda for more than a decade, researchers have concluded that differences in their play behavior may be gender-driven. Over a hundred instances of young female chimpanzees playing with sticks as though they were dolls were observed over the years. This sort of behavior was very rarely observed in young males. They typically used sticks as weapons, shaking them to intimidate playmates.

Apes originated on Earth about 35 million years ago, and the first apelike men appeared about 10 million years ago. The modern human species of Homo sapien has existed on the earth for only 100,000 years.

The Barbary macaque population in Gibraltar is the only wild monkey population in the European continent, having been brought from North Africa by the Moors, who occupied southern Iberia, including Spain and Portugal, between 711 and 1492), who kept them as pets. Smaller than most other apes, this species resemble monkeys, but don't have tails.

Gibraltar's barbary macaque population was under the care of the British Army and later the Gibraltar Regiment from 1915 to 1991, who carefully controlled a population that initially consisted of a single troop. An officer was appointed to supervise their welfare, and a food allowance of fruit, vegetables and nuts was included in the budget. Births were gazetted in true military fashion, and each new arrival was named. They were named after governors, brigadiers and high-ranking officers.

However, since the Barbary apes are one of the top tourist attractions in Gibraltar, a few myths have sprung up, including that they're all named after members of the Royal Family. Tourists are also told the macaques were brought to Gibraltar by the Royal Navy in 1704, although they actually existed in the region long before that.

Humans share more similarities with orangutans than with chimpanzees. Researchers have identified 28 anatomical characteristics they share, a 98% genetic match, compared to a 97% match with the gorilla.

Chimpanzees freak out when one chimp gets more than his fair share, so zookeepers are careful about food portions. Chimps are hardwired to get angry when they think they’ve been cheated.

The bonobo, a pygmy chimpanzee, appears to use what’s akin to human baby talk. The closest relatives to humans have started to make a series of sounds that parallel those of human babies before they begin to learn language, according to new research from a psychologist at the University of Birmingham. The study analyzed the sounds of bonobos in the Congo forest and discovered that they made different noises based on positive, negative, or neutral stimuli. The chimps had to interpret their own sounds in different contexts, which suggests a potential origin for human language.

Georgia State University researchers have concluded that chimpanzees can communicate with meaningful gestures. During an experiment, two language-trained chimps used meaningful clues to help human researchers find hidden food. Researchers also noticed that the chimps use directional gestures. The study’s findings may provide clues about the basics of language development.

Recent research indicates that the reason why chimps can't speak has to do with a single gene that has two extra amino acids in humans. When this gene mutates, humans have difficulty with language. Evidently this gene doesn't function well in chimps. That may mean that chimps have the ability to compose rational thoughts, just not the means to express them, except by gestures, actions, and vocal sounds.

Could this be the case in other animals as well? Maybe those of us who think our cats, dogs, horses, parrots, and other domesticated animals (including the very intelligent pig) have the ability to form complex thoughts are not so silly after all.

Recent brain scans of dogs showed areas of their brains lighting up when their trainers used hand signals. There was little reaction to verbal commands.

Helena Katz lives on an alpaca farm in the NWT. She says that their livestock dogs have different barks. "One is the doggie doorbell to let us know someone has pulled into the driveway. One is what we call the patrol bark because they do it to announce to the unassembled masses in the bush that they're on duty. They're telling bears, wolves, foxes and anything else out there to stay away. Then there's the angry bark they use if a wolf goes by. The dogs tend to work at night because that's when predators are out, but we don't usually go check unless we're hearing the angry barking, or the barking goes on for a bit. Livestock dogs are independent thinkers because they need to be able to analyze a situation without their handler telling them what to do. Consequently, we need to walk a fine line between demanding obedience and giving them enough room to think for themselves. "Most of us had heard of the famous lowland gorilla, Koko, who was taught American Sign Language when she was about a year old. There were many stories about how she adopted a kitten. Now, at 40 years old, she has a working vocabulary of more than 1000 signs and understands about 2000 words of spoken English. Most remarkable is that she is always learning, and creates signs for new things in her environment. She often strings signs together to express something new, so that a hair brush became scratch comb, and a ring became a finger bracelet.

Zoo animals know when their day starts and ends, they line up ready to go on exhibit in the morning, they get tired and ready to get off exhibit at night. I observed a lot of this, and realized I hadn’t thought a lot about animal jobs. I began to wonder what would happen if we took these working creatures and tried to entertain them instead of forcing them to entertain us all the time. An animal's life can be enriched by giving them opportunities to learn and things to do.

Hyenas communicate clues about their social rank in the "laughing" sounds they make. Pitch reveals age,  and the "notes" and their frequency denote whether the hyena is dominant or submissive. They can call each other for help in hunting or defending their food from lions.

Scientists have identified more than 800 genes in the zebra finch that reveal the tiny birds learn to sing in a similar way to how human babies learn to speak. There's a possibility that this might lead to finding genetic components related to human speech disorders, such as autism and stuttering.

Finches are known for their fine singing voices. German criminals called snitches "finks" because they were prone to "singing like a bird" to police. The word followed German and German Jewish immigrants to America where it became part of our everyday vocabulary, primarily through films, tv and radio.

Many animals have what appear to be human-like impulses in their brain's higher centers. Researchers have identified seven basic emotional drives common to both humans and mammals in sections of the mid-brain called the PAG (periaqueductal gray). These include basic emotions, such as fear, rage, lust, and separation-distress, but also the desire to nurture and be nurtured, the drive to play, grief, despair, sadness, and joy. Some examples include elephants, who keep vigil over the dead, and have been known to collect the scattered bones of the dead family and friends.

Species from magpies to elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror, which some scientists consider a sign of self-awareness.

In a basic numeracy test, long-tailed macaque monkeys were able to understand relative quantities and to point out which of two plates contained more pebbles. Researchers initially performed the test using raisins, which the monkeys would then be fed as a reward; however, the monkeys’ impulsive desire to eat the raisins impaired their judgment, and they frequently chose wrong on that test. Once researchers swapped out the raisins for inedible items, the monkeys were able to successfully complete the task.

Capuchin monkeys use different vocal sounds to identify different types of predators. They have also been seen banging stones together to warn each other of approaching predators.

South American Titi monkeys are rare among primates because they are monogamous. They mate for life and become distressed when separated. They show affection by remaining close, grooming each other, intertwining their tails, holding hands, nuzzling, cuddling, and lip smacking.

Some grey parrots are as smart as a five-year-old child. A grey parrot who shares a birthday with Terzo (Simon Teakettle III) is Mrs. Doyle. Read about her on Terzo's blog.

From The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us, by Diane Ackerman: "We used to think that wall-climbing geckos must have suckers on the soles of their feet. But in 2002, biologists at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Orgeon, and the University of California at Berkeley released their strange findings, and science was agog. Viewed at the nano level, a gecko's five-toed feet are covered in a series of ridges, the ridges are tufted with billions of tiny tubular elastic hairs, and the hairs bear even tinier spatula-shaped boots. The natural force between atoms and molecules is enough to stick the spatulas to the surface of most anything. And the toes are self-cleaning. As a gecko relaxes a toe and begins to step, the dirt slides off and the gecko steps out of it. No grooming required.”

There are more insects in one square mile of rural land there are humans in the entire world.

Alligators are blackish/gray with a rounded snout and teeth that are not readily visible. They live in fresh water and are less aggressive than crocodiles.

Crocodiles are olivegreen/brown with a sharp snout and visible teeth. They're more aggressive and live in salt water.

South Florida is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist in the wild.

There are 8 species of bears:  American black, Asiatic black, grizzly, polar, panda, the Indian slothbear, Southeast Asian sun bear, and the South American spectacled bear.  Several of these bears have very long, sharp, curved claws that give them special advantages in climbing trees, digging in the earth, or catching fish.

Bears are three-gaited, meaning they walk, lope or gallop. It has been reported that a grizzly bear can run nearly as fast as a horse (33-34 mph) for a distance of 50 to 100 yards. This is definitely faster than a human being. The lope, slower than the gallop, is an easy, ground-covering, bounding gait that does not seem to tire the bear and can be maintained for a long time.

Bears have been known to eat almost anything, including snowmobile seats, engine oil, and rubber boots.

The black bear is not a color but a species. The North American black bear can be a variety of colors, and although black is dominant, other colors, such as shades of brown, can turn up no matter what color the mother is.

Bears, seals, and dogs are closely related carnivores but are on a different branch of the evolutionary tree than cats and hyenas.

Elk or wapiti are one of the largest species in the deer family. But moose are larger. The North American male moose can weigh more than 700 kilograms and stand up to 2.1 metres tall. Caribou are smaller, rarely exceed 300 k and 1.5 m at shoulder height. Unlike moose, both male and female caribou grow antlers.

Antlers are usually found only on male members of the deer family. Only reindeer (known as Caribou in North America) are the only females to have antlers, and these are normally smaller than those of the males. Male reindeer shed their antlers prior to winter, while female antlers are retained throughout the winter months. In most arctic and temperate-zone species, antler growth and shedding is annual, and is controlled by the length of daylight. Although the antlers are regrown each year, their size varies with the age of the animal in many species, increasing annually over several years before reaching maximum size.

Male and female reindeer antlers differ in several respects. Males shed their antlers prior to winter, while female antlers are retained throughout winter.

Mules are reputed to be more patient, hardy and long-lived than horses and are described as less obstinate and more intelligent than donkeys.

                                     A zedonk is a cross between a donkey and a zebra.

The American “buffalo” are actually bison.  The only true buffalo are the Asian water buffalo and the African buffalo.

Cows always face directly north or south while eating.

Swiss biologists determined that stupid flies live longer than smart flies because intelligence wears out flies' brains. Canadian researchers claim that straining to recall information which seems to be “on the tip of my tongue” makes us learn mistaken guesses instead of the correct answers we may (or may not) eventually remember.  (source: Harper's)

One in two mammal species on Earth are in decline and at least one in four are at risk of disappearing forever, according to a scientific survey which described the trend as an "extinction crisis in the making."

James Spratt, an Ohio electrician, who had gone to England to sell lightning rods in 1860,  saw British dogs being fed old ship biscuits, and thought he could make a better biscuit. His formulation, based on guesswork, not science, succeeded and he soon had a thriving business among English gentlemen who owned sporting dogs. In 1890 the company went public and came to the US. Thus, an American lightning rod salesman started the entire pet food business.  (written by Barbara Moss,

According to a recent survey:
Dog people: 15% more likely to be extroverts; cat people: 11% more likely to be introverts. 
Dog people: 30% more likely to enjoy slapstick humor and impressions; cat people: 21% more likely to enjoy ironic humor and puns.
Dog people: 67% more likely to call animal control if they happen upon stray kittens; Cat people: 21% more likely to try to rescue stray kittens.
Dog people: 11% more likely to say they'd support cloning, but only for animals or pets; Cat people: 17% more likely to have completed a graduate degree.
Both dog and cat people: talk to animals of all kinds, are equally likely to have a four-year degree, and dislike animal-print clothing.

A leveret is a young hare, especially one that is less than a year old.
A polliwog is a young frog or tadpole that has not yet grown legs.
A smolt is a young salmon in the midst of its first migration from fresh water into the sea. 
A shoat is a young pig that has recently been weaned off of its mother's milk and onto solid food.
The word spat refers to the spawn of an oyster or similar shellfish. 
An eyas is a young nestling hawk or falcon.
A whelp is the young of a tiger, lion, wolf, bear, or dog.