Animal Bites

The following quotes give some engaging glimpses into the lives of our "furry, scaled, and feathered" friends.

Fascinating facts

"Pigs are highly sociable and active creatures who will in a natural setting travel 30 miles a day grazing, rooting, and interacting with their environment.  In the evening, groups of pigs will prepare a communal nest from branches and grass in which they will spend the night together." 1

"Horses have excellent memories and can recall pleasant or unpleasant memories many years after they occur." 2

"Geese stay with the same mate for life."3

"A bee who has found flowers performs a dance when she returns to the hive, which tells other bees how far away the food is and in which direction." 4

Humpback Whales
"Most bird species have only one song, always the same.  But humpbacks change their songs...In addition, the whales often sing in rhyme, just as the words of human songs or poems regularly repeat certain sounds.  Scientists suspect that rhyme helps the humpbacks remember long songs." 5

"Otters are among the few mammals that use tools.  As they swim on their backs they keep a flat stone on their bellies.  They bang clams, abalones, mussels and other shellfish against the stone to crack the shells....One female wild otter in Monterey Bay carries a glass cola bottle on her stomach.  She found the discarded bottle in the water and uses it to pry shellfish out of rock crevices." 6

"Year-old beavers typically remain with their parents and help take care of their younger siblings.  Francois Patenaude, who observed wild beavers in Quebec, saw the yearlings grooming the babies and fetching food for them.  During the winter, the entire family was largely confined to the lodge.  On more than one occasion, when an infant beaver fell into the water in the entrance to the lodge, a yearling picked it up and carried it in its arms to the dry floor of the lodge.   (Beavers can walk on their hind legs and carry things, including very small beavers, in their forelegs.)  The yearlings then played with their younger and helped perform every aspect of parental care except, of course, suckling." 7

Thoughts and feelings

"On a couple of occasions, I've seen very real grief on the faces of elephants.  The first time was when I watched a young female, Tonie, stand guard over her stillborn baby for three days.  The first day she tried over and over to revive him by lifting him with her trunk, tusks, and forefoot.  The, she simply stood by him.  Throughout, her face and body expressed what I recognized from my own experience as grief.  Her head, ears and trunk drooped, the corners of her mouth turned down, and her movements were quiet and slow.  I know that Tonie was experience a sense of loss." 8

"Part of empathy comes from self-care and self-comfort being extended to others... One of my most poignant early experiences of empathy was witnessing a street dog in Kashmir, India licking the sores of his emaciated mate and snapping at the flies around her face.  When I gave them food, he let her eat first." 9

"Charles, a small octopus, was the subject of an experiment to see if invertebrates could learn conditioned tasks as vertebrates do.  With two others, Albert and Bertram, each housed in a small tank, Charles was to be trained to pull a switch so that a light went on and then swim over to the light to be reward with a minute piece of fish.  Albert and Bertram learned to perform this task and Charles seemed at first to be doing the same.  But Charles rebelled.  He began anchoring himself to the side of the tank and yanking on the lever so that he eventually broke it.  Instead of waiting under the light to receive his smidgen of fish, Charles reached out of the water, grabbed the light, and dragged it into the tank.  Finally, he took to floating at the top of the tank, with his eyes above the surface, accurately squirting the experimenters." 10

"From Washoe I learned the greatest secret of working with chimpanzees and human children: make an activity a game and they'll do it forever.  Ask them to do it, or force it on them, and they lose interest immediately.  If I wanted to engage Washoe's attention for a while, I would "accidentally" leave a screwdriver out on the counter.  She would find it and spend the rest of the morning trying to take the cupboards apart." 11

African Gray Parrot
"Alex, an African Gray Parrot, has been teaching researchers at Northeastern University about parrot intelligence.  Alex seems to have a lot of it.  "Tickle me!" Alex demands when he is in the mood.  If he asks for a cracker and you give him a nut instead, he throws the nut on the floor: "I want a cracker!" he says.  And when he wants to be sprayed with water from a bottle, he says: "Want a shower!" 12

"George Schuller describes a two-year-old panda at a Chinese breeding center being given a rare chance to go into an outdoor enclosure.  The panda burst from its darkened cage, trotted up a hill with a high stepping gate, and somersaulted down.  Again and again it raced up the hill and rolled back down.  It 'exploded with joy,' Schuller wrote." 13

"At one time the gold leaf on the domes of the Kremlin was being scratched off by hooded crows.  The crows were not indulging in their fabled penchant for theft.  They had simply found that it was enormous fun to slide down those onion domes, and their claws did significant damage." 14


 1Robbins, J., The Food Revolution, Conari Press, 2001, p. 172.

 2World Book Encyclopedia, 1996, p. H-279.

 3Ibid, p. G-371.

 4Masson, J. M. & McCarthy, S.,  When Elephants Weep, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1995, p. 217

 5 Wilkomer, J. R. & Wilkomer, R., Junkyard Bandicoots and Other Tales of the World's Endangered Species,  John Wiley & Sons, 1992, p. 36.

 6Ibid, p. 46.

 7Masson & McCarthy, op. cit., p. 77.

 8Bekoff, M.(Editor), The Smile of a Dolphin:  Remarkable Accounts of Animal Emotions.  Discovery Books/Random House, 2002, p. 142.

 9Ibid, p. 177.

 10Masson & McCarthy, op. cit., pp. 121-122.

 11Fouts, R., Next of Kin: What Chimpanzees Tell us about Who We Are,  William Morrow & Co., 1997, p. 24.

 12Wilkomer & Wilkomer, op. cit., p. 69.

 13Masson & McCarthy, op. cit., p. 121.

 14Ibid., pp. 126-127