If you ask around, few would be capable of telling why there’s usually a whole month dedicated to weddings, which varies widely according to the country, and doesn’t prevent anyone from marrying any other time of the year. But as senseless that it may be, the tradition is pretty bland, comparing with the thousands of crazy rituals surrounding marriages. The Internet is full of them, and also of old billionaires marrying teenagers and whole wedding parties winding up locked up in jail, after a bloody brawl. We’ve heard of three particular cases, though, that may have taken the cake, if you’d let us: a brutal nose-drip diet for brides to be; an Indonesian tradition, preventing newlyweds from going to the bathroom; and a dog wedding.
Come again? Somehow, we’re not surprised, for if you really get into the deep end of the issue, you’ll learn some pretty weird, if not downright insane, rituals people submit themselves, or are forced to by their communities, in order to move in together for as long as whatever unites them lasts. Or the local law would allow it.
Weird and unrealistic expectations aside, though, one should never think such exotic preferences are confined to primitive societies, insulated by cultural or political factors or just by plain geography. That would take a whole Wikipedia worth of entries, just to list the ones that have survived thousands of years and still frighten people into follow them.
In fact, apart from the age gap, weddings between decrepit billionaires and babes are a staple of our own rich societies, and in the case of the $4.7 billion-worth nonagenarian Karl Wlaschek, it’s his fifth attempt at Continue reading →
Attacking Hippos, Upside Down Rhinos & One Depressed Elephant
And you thought vegetarians were not aggressive. Tell that to a charging 6.000 pounds angry herbivore. It happens all the time. In other news, there’s a novel way to relocate rhinos. Hint: it’s off the ground. Is that why elephants get depressed?
What’s about hippopotamuses, rhinoceros and elephants that makes us see them as kindred spirits? Their weight, size and diet? Social organization? Or just our plain ignorance?
Despite all we now know about these three species, they each preserve a certain mysterious quality and intelligence, evident in the ways they interact with each other and with us.
They still fight viciously among themselves in the wild, of course. Still, somehow gentleness is a word generally associated with, at Continue reading →
From Screen Heroes to Public Menace, a Beloved Dog Breed Faces its Sunset
German shepherds, once considered a perfect symbol of loyal nobility and animal intelligence, now face a disconcerting fall from the public’s grace. But that may be a good thing.
In a recent New York article, author Susan Orlean summarized the breed’s distinguished career at the German cavalry, to which it was created, and popularity in the U.S. generated by the 1950s Rin Tin Tin TV series.
Orlean also noted how the breed suffered the consequences of its early fame, a point central to her book about that canine star brought as a puppy to the U.S. by an American soldier.
Almost as if on cue, word came about the sad story of Emmi, a German shepherd sent back in an one-way Continental Airlines ticket to a kennel in Seattle, by an unsatisfied buyer.
As it turned out, the 80-pound, $7,500 dog, bought Continue reading →
Don’t ask us why, but people have been stuffing all sorts of small animals down their pants for years now. They get caught all the time with hairy spiders, rare scorpions, slithering snakes, even live lobsters moving down their legs. Some kind of genetic freak calling the shots on this one, that’s what we say. But when they start beating each other up with frozen armadillos, well, that’s when we step in and draw the line, for crying out loud.
So smugglers do that for a living. Fine. So two-time crooks do that on a dare, or for dope money. We understand. But even if these deviants show more nerve than noodles, we’re not about to give them a free pass to start pushing us around.
After all, these critters fetch a lot of dough in the black market, and one is never at loss for grifters out for a quick buck. The thing that gets to us, though, is when it gets personal and, instead of throwing a cellphone, as any sophisticated supermodel would, they throw a pet at Continue reading →
Freedom Fighters Catch a Break; The Internet Is Safe Again for Cats
It was a great, collective effort, the kind of which hadn’t yet been seen before. Most people knew that something should be done about it, but when the conditions were finally right, and it was time to act, there was no hesitation. In the end, it was a great victory for those of us who believe that it should be our duty to fight the good fight. We’re referring, of course, to the decision by the Israeli legislature last November, to outlaw the declawing of cats.
Now it can be said that it’s once again safe and a birthright to every citizen of the world to enjoy hours of cats frolicking online, without Continue reading →
Perhaps only on the Improbable Research blog you could find two reports that, despite being both about farm animals, couldn’t be more diametrically disparate. One, about cows and their tendency to emulate each other when eating or lying down. The other, about the brutal and disgusting idea that two farmers had to castrate some lambs with their own teeth.
In other farm news, also covered by the I.R. blog, it turns out that truffles, traditionally found with the help of hogs or dogs, can also be spotted by squirrels.
With the outrageously expensive prices they reach in markets around the world, it’s only natural that connaisseurs will search for ways of finding the buried specialty at the lowest possible cost. FLYING TRUFFLERS
What pigs, canines and squirrels have in common is, of course, a highly accurate sense of smell. Hogs have been used to find truffles since Continue reading →
Perhaps that’s the kind of news about horses we’ve been longing to hear for quite some time now. For, as only those galloping on the same track know, these have been particularly stablefull of bad news times for equines of all strides. From corruption and drug overuse at race tracks, to being rounded up and shot in the Middle West and abandoned to starvation in Ireland, horses have been getting it pretty rough lately.
Then, along comes Neville Bardos, an Australian thoroughbred, who’s been twice at the final line but managed to come back and win prizes and hearts in both sides of the pond. A HORSE WITH A FRIEND
To be sure, this is as much a story about the horse as it is about Boyd Martin, who bought the 7-year old for only $800, off a truck Continue reading →
We breed them. We treat them as equals, as gods or slaves. We love and we fear them. And we’ve been eating them for ages. Since we’ve been around, we’ve done with animals as we damn well pleased. Including being killed in our wars, often instead of us.
Elephants, horses and dogs. Dolphins, sea lions and pigeons. Primates and pigs. Even cats and bats have died in wars or in weapon labs.
Now, like the canary in the mine, dogs are sounding the alarm. Some of those deployed in combat are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. DAMAGED HOUNDS
It’s a disturbing, if predictable, consequence of their loyalty to the military. And more so than with the troops, these warriors may have been psychologically hurt for life.
Counseling therapy, of course, won’t work with them. In fact, in many cases, treatment is a guess work, at best, and to expect a full Continue reading →
A Million-Mile Freeway for the Jaguar, Amazon’s Shadowy Lord
The mythology of many pre-Columbian societies regard the jaguar both as the Guardian of the Forest and the Keeper of the Underworld. For the native peoples of the jungle, the largest cat of the Western Hemisphere has always been a mysterious creature, associated with death and renewal. There’s even an old shamanic folktale that portrays the jaguar as a purifier, a character who’s capable of “devouring negative energies of anger, fear and grief.” He’s also the one entrusted with the task of easing your soul into its voyage to the great beyond.
That quality seems to still ring true to this day, as anyone who happens upon this phantom rarely comes back to tell the story. So elusive is this creature that many researchers dedicated to study them rarely have a chance to see one of them up close in the wild.
Now Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization, has conceived the Jaguar Corridor Initiative to connect 90 distinct populations of this Continue reading →
What Your Cat Sees in Your Face (But Can Not See in Your Testicle)
People see what they want to see, wise men have been saying for ages. The religious-bent, for example, is prone to see proof of their faith on everything. Like, is that baby Jesus on the toilet seat? or is the Virgin Mary I see on this toast? But science is also working overtime, trying to see what could only be imagined before. Say, what’s my cat actually seeing, when he looks at me? Or, does that ultrasound picture of your testicle show the face of a desperate man?
It’s a weird world out there, folks, and if you can believe your eyes and ears, then it’s only natural that machines we create may confirm what you already were expecting.
Take the research being developed to create a reliable interface to translate what the brain sees into computer programs. A lot of ground has been covered so far.
Not satisfied with using human subjects to tap into the brain’s ability to Continue reading →
Roadkill is all that an Englishman has been eating for 30 years. While in France, don’t ask for ketchup. And during the war, nothing beat serving your family a whole wolf.
Food is a crucial ID for any culture, and it can be source of praise and pride, or war and mayhem, depending on what side of the table you sit.
No wonder that what fueled the Discovery Era was the European drive to control the spice trade of the Far East. Besides flavor, in the 16th century spices helped to extend the food’s shelf life.
Take this quick tour of culinary trends to see that, when it comes to what we eat, we remain as parochial and insular as any small village Continue reading →
We may be closer to find out whether that cat that Schrödinger imagined 76 years ago is either dead or alive. It’s now both but we won’ attempt to explain how: we need to be somewhere else. At a Shop of Cats in Tokyo. We can’t wait to have a tea and hope one of them will accept our petting. They really know what’s their place: somewhere above you.
For now, cat-deprived New Yorkers can have a virtual playdate with a trio of them, through Bideawee. Just press some controls on your computer to move the toys, and be ready to be ignored by the resident stars.
During the few minutes that your session lasts, you may notice two Continue reading →
Most people know that cats are highly selective when it comes to humans. Sometimes, even your own can makes you feel, let’s say, unimportant, specially when the corner deli is out of his favorite food, and you have to improvise. Nothing of the sort happens with Graeme, an Australian feline, who’s very popular at the Hurtsbridge station as a trainspotter. Seen everyday by the side of the tracks he is, of course, always wide open to demonstrations of affection by commuters.
What it’s taken most locals some time to realize, though, was that Graeme had a reason to hang around twice a day at the station: he likes to drop off his friend Nicole, and to come back late afternoon, to walk her home.
Believe us, it’s all documented in the video someone shot at the two. Continue reading →
A funny thing has happened with our relationship with birds: we’re beginning to hate them. Except when we love them. In any case, the whole thing became very complicated.
Since the beginning of times (and that’s the kind of intro many an epic has started; not in this case, though), humans have looked upon birds and dream.
As our imagination soared, hoping that one day we could ourselves fly and be as free as we thought they should be, our collective mood towards them kind of soured.
Fine, so we couldn’t fly like birds? No matter, we invented the several-tons heavy airliner to fly even higher and faster than them.
The birds counterattacked by letting themselves be swallowed whole by the plane’s turbines, and down we came crashing.
Oh, yeah? Let’s shoot them cold, specially near airports, and Continue reading →
Just when you thought that goats on a tree are sort of cute, in comes news that such pacific creatures may in fact represent a serious health and environmental threat.
But we’re purposely mixing everything up, just for a good intro’s sake. Now that we’ve caught your eye, it’s time to establish the particulars. A GOAT ON A TREE
As it turns out, Moroccan goats are aces when it comes to climbing Argan trees. Who knew?
They do cut a striking figure, all propped up atop of the branches. The problem with this picture, though, is Continue reading →
Sometimes it’s fun to pick and choose and put together far out news stories, even when they have nothing to do with each other. It’s all in the interest of our readers, of course, and also because we have absolutely run out of related news to report.
In fact, Colltales does have a soft spot for the odd, the weird and the crazily abnormal, which often go unnoticed in our daily grind. So grab a cup of coffee and jump-start your day with another smart conversation piece to impress your friends over the weekend. INHIBITED RESEARCH
One of the winning entries of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize Awards was a study on the relationship between the urge to urinate and the ability to make sound financial decisions. Come again? You heard it right: a multi-disciplinary team of scientists actually drank an excessive amount of liquids to gauge issues of self-control in relation to cognitive activities. What’s surprising is that what they concluded most likely was not what you’d expect.
The paper, Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains, was the result of obviously-arduous efforts by Drs. Mirjam Tuk, Peter Snyder and Paul Maruff, among many others, to prove the, Continue reading →
It turns out most people tend to underestimate the exciting world of cows and bulls.
Perhaps in response to the extremely bad press of late, pointing fingers to cow farts for the increase in global greenhouse gases, the vegetarian beasts seem to have made a pact to generate some new spins of their own.
Leading the heard is Yvonne, the Bavarian cow who escaped her enclosure hours before being driven to the slaughterhouse a Continue reading →
It’s an unforgiving world out there. Especially if you’re a British cow. (No, not that one, you incorrigible anti-Anglophile.) But if you’re from Queens, things are looking up.
Last Friday, a brown cow was caught on tape fleeing a slaughterhouse in the New York borough, running at top speed on, you guessed it, Liberty Avenue. It all ended well, but for a moment, people feared for the worst.
That’s because of what happened in 2008, also in Queens, Continue reading →
Every year, the end of the summer spells relief
for lobsters all over (and under) the northern seas.
Not that they would tell you that themselves, mind you, but this has been a particularly trying year for these maritime bugs.
Despite your eventual oblivion to it, there were plenty of news about lobsters these past few months, and some of them had a truly out of the ordinary character to them.
Beyond the usual giant catch of the season, there was, for instance, a reported hoax, and a guy caught literally red-lobster with some in his pants, to name but a couple.
There were hardly any better fodders for the kind of copious Continue reading →
For anyone who’s ever tried to bathe a feline, the species seems to be peculiarly averted to water. But, as with many things about these creatures, this too couldn’t be farther than the truth. Nothing beats the U.S. Naval Services to set the record straight. Its voluminous archives tell the story of their bravery and fearlessness through the years, in fiery deep blue sea battles.
But way before any modern navy came to be, records show that for thousands of years, cats have been part of human exploration of faraway lands.
Ancient Egyptian seafarers, for example, were known to carry felines in their ships, not just to get rid of vermin, but for companionship.
Of course, what may have made them appealing to early humans may have been, at least at first, that extraordinary hunting skill. WHO LET THE CAT IN?
The earliest evidence of this human-cat partnership has been traced back to a burial site in Cyprus dating from 7,500 BCE, which means Continue reading →
Three Takes of the Condor, the Peacock & an Angry Hawk
In Cotabambas, Peru, the condor may soar majestically above the giant Andes mountain chain, but on the ground, the species still faces the threat of extinction. In New York City, another beautiful bird, a peacock, went for a ride above the canyons of Manhattan, but has returned safely to the Central Park Zoo. And in Pendlenton, Oregon, an angry hawk shares something with your typical cab driver: they all hate bikers. THE CONDOR MAY INDEED PASS
Every year, Peruvians celebrate the Yawar Fiesta, a remnant of the colonial struggle between the Spanish invaders and the Continue reading →
Missing Pet in New York & the Subway Strays of Moscow
A hunt is on for a lost cat at the JFK Airport. In the meantime, dogs have been riding Russian trains for ages. First things first: Jack, the cat, disappeared from his kennel at JFK and missed the plane to California that his human companion boarded last Thursday.
The last we heard, he’s still missing and heartbroken Karen, the New Yorker who was flying to San Jose, is willing to lose her job to find Jack. Our Continue reading →
Do We Still Need Animals to Build a Better Aspirin?
Four lab workers were indicted on animal cruelty charges against beagles in North Carolina, last week, a decision considered groundbreaking because it’s still legal to test on dogs in the U.S.
About 70,000 canines are routinely experimented on by the U.S. cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries, the majority of which beagles, chosen for their size and docility.
At the same time, in the U.K., a government report said that animal testing increased three percent there in 2010, to a staggering 3.7 million experiments on animals.
We’re most definitely not going to describe exactly what these Continue reading →
Just when San Francisco is considering a ban to all pet sales, focus groups for monkeys, a thinking parrot and pot head rabbits are making news around the world.
While to the untrained eye, these events wouldn’t amount to much on the “liberal-biased media,” for Colltales this is serious stuff, lest not forget the majority of Americans households is the domain of a pet or two. NO FUR OR FEATHER FOR SALE
At the city named after the patron saint of the animals, a ban on the sale of cats, dogs and the eventual hamster is in the works since last year.
The idea was to curtail the ever increasing puppy mills trade, Continue reading →
In one of those rare instances when the U.K. followed a trend set months ago by China, and then some, the British Parliament voted last week to ban wild animal in circuses, overcoming fierce opposition from its current conservative government.
It was a victory for the animals and their advocates, who have been waging battle against a system and an industry never short in claims of indiscriminate abuse and cruelty against the defenseless creatures.
Last year, in a surprised move, China had declared all wild animal circus acts illegal, even though issues of enforcement Continue reading →
A Non-Electric Sheep, Some Loose Goose & the Roosters
Since it’s Friday, let’s have our latest roundup of the furry, the featherly and the far out there. After all, birds and bees do it and we’re not above getting high with animal antics.
But not too high. Just like the sheep who wound up on the roof of a house in Pontycymer, Wales. Firefighters took almost an hour to bring him down, unharmed, but no one knows for sure how he got there. Climbing the garage? We don’t think so. Not even if he were of the electric kind.
Deckard, main character of Philip K.Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, keeps one on his building’s rooftop, but dreams of being able to afford a real horse, instead. Strangely, director Ridley Scott got rid of the subplot when he adapted the story to make his classic Blade Runner.
Remember the slaughtered geese of Prospect Park? They had been accused of threatening to down airplanes in New York, but unlike most terrorists, they did get summarily rounded up and killed by the city. A public outcry followed it and then they hired collies, beautiful and smart dogs trained to drive the geese away. We haven’t heard anything about it but apparently that didn’t work either.
So this year the geese, or at least some of them, will be Continue reading →
Think Life Is Getting Hard? Just Wait Till You Cross Over
Death is a booming business, as my great-grandpa said before joining the rank-and-file for good. Or so whoever came up with the expression liked to proclaim. Unfortunately, such person too met an untimely end and we’re left to fend for ourselves.
That’s because we are running out of room to drop dead. New York has already sounded the alert and started enforcing an old provision of the law: no person may be buried in pet cemeteries. Yes, folks, that’s how low we’ve got. It turned out that some pet owners had already made arrangements to rest for eternity next to their most beloved companions, some of them still fetching balls in apartments and parks throughout this great state of ours.
No longer, said Albany. Behind its decision, there’s the not so playful reality that both people and pet populations are growing faster than Continue reading →
Many a pig farmer in Adelaide, Australia, have caught sight of an unholy mess lately: hundreds of tiny mice viciously attacking and dining on their prized, expensive stock right in front of their eyes.
The situation seems to be getting the best out of some of them, who’ve resorted to desperate (and frankly, bizarre) measures to put a stop to this carnage.
For instance, a father of four (children, that is) and owner of several swines decided that the best thing to do would be to slather them (the pigs, for crying out loud) with engine oil.
The mice seem to be turned off by the taste, he said. Smart creatures. What apparently no one told him is that the oil may Continue reading →
Keep No Time and Be Happy, or Serve Time for Your Follies
A tribe that can’t keep time and a family that can’t keep it straight. Both existing in parallel worlds where one of our dearest tenets of living in society simply doesn’t apply.
One never knew a clock or a calendar. The other simply lacks a moral compass. Somewhere in between, there must be some commonality with what we consider the human experience. Or is there? NO TIME TO SPARE - “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late!”
That’s what the White Rabbit says, in Walt Disney’s 1951 version of “Alice in Wonderland.” As it goes, the author Lewis Carroll worded it differently in the original story, but who has time to check that out?
The fact is that the concept of time, along with keeping date, or rather, being late and forgetting a certain anniversary on a Continue reading →
Two designers came up with very creative ways to reuse hair, feline and human: working independently, they developed a full line of beauty products that strike anyone for their originality.
Taiwanese hair salon owner Tsai Shiou-ying had already created some unusual brooches, a life-size pineapple and a rat sculpture, all using hair left over from her daily work.
But nothing pleased her as much as the pair of high-heel shoes she’s recently completed. It took the hair of three people (not all, just the hair they had already decided to cut, we hope) and a Continue reading →
Last year they rounded up hundreds of geese and shot them. Everybody got mad. So this time, they dialed up the Collies.
It’s fair to say that when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger successfully averted a major disaster over the skies of New York City, in 2009, safely landing a commercial U.S. Airways plane full of passengers in the Hudson River, everybody was happy. It was a major accomplishment of the veteran pilot, a feat of sheer skill and courage, and a great piece of positive news that made the rounds across the globe.
Soon after, though, the reasons for the emergency landing became clear and the culprits were identified: it was all the Canadian Geese’s fault. What not many had realized then was that flocks of geese had already collided many times with Continue reading →
When bison from the Lehigh County’s heritage was introduced to Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, one hundred years ago, the animal was still associated to its iconic role in the conquest of the West and visceral connection to native American culture. By then, the 50-plus million population that early Europeans settlers had encountered in North America was already considerably reduced and by 1890, the species was on the verge of extinction. It took an Continue reading →
Two former superstars found purpose and redemption in their relationship with animals, great and small. Tyson draws lessons of loyalty and transcendence in his connection with pigeons. May fulfills his sense of duty by caring for the animals he loves, including the badger. Both find ways for healing and regaining the humanity their fame and fortune almost stole from them. In no way either would exchange their current serenity and wisdom for their glorious past. THE COOP KEEPER
Having the billing of heavyweight champion of the world following his name may have helped Mike Tyson for the few years he was on the ring, dispatching adversaries as you would with most of your emails: swiftly and almost absentmindedly. That lasted less than 10 years.
But for the rest of his life, it has been more like a curse. It may Continue reading →
Let’s picture you walking into a beauty salon by recommendation of a friend, who insisted you definitely must try it at least once. It’s Friday late afternoon, work is over, give yourself a relaxing time, he said, you deserve it, and you finally agree to give it a shot.
So you go and sit comfortably, close your eyes and let them work their magic.
As your mind drifts away, they wash your sweaty feet, gently massage them, soak them in some warm, soapy water, while you just sit there, taking it all in, letting it all go.
Until you feel some odd brushing on the tip of your toes. Almost like a soft picking, just enough to give you an unusual sensation. And again. And again.
Suddenly, a thought crosses your mind and you jump, alarmed. You open your eyes and look down and there they are, Continue reading →
For 2,000 years, Cyprus cats have had a sacred haven in the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas. It was built in 327 ACE by Kalokeros, the island’s first Byzantine governor, at a time when a terrible drought somehow caused Cyprus to be overrun by poisonous snakes.
To prevent people from leaving the island for good, no less than Saint Helena, mother of Alexander the Great, came up with the brilliant idea of having a thousand cats brought Continue reading →
She came in after the rain, wet, salty and covered in seaweed. She appeared on the shore of Governor’s Island and immediately set up the island abuzz. Would it be possible that this seemingly harmless little calico managed to swim all the way from New Jersey, perhaps after being swept up by last week’s torrential rains, to wind up a whole mile away from home?
Whatever happened, she’s not telling a soul, of course. But Continue reading →
You saw that coming. After days of intense news coverage, the very young and highly poisonous cobra who’d vanished from the Bronx Zoo last week was found at… the Bronx Zoo. But at least for a few days, he was not alone on the lam: a rare Indian Star Tortoise is missing from a Colorado Springs zoo.
For frantic animal recovery teams, the brief double escape Continue reading →
She’s a 12-year old, she’s kinda small, and the picture of her round tabby face is making the rounds for all to see. That’s because when she purrs, she thunders. It actually sounds as loud as a 737 coming at you from a mile away. Seriously, people measure these things.
Now Smokey may purr all the way to the Guinness Book of Records. To give you an idea of how loud she sounds, most cats purr in the 25 decibels range, while she clocks at up to 90 decibels easy, regardless whether she’s eating, dreaming or just Continue reading →
Every Sunday, a pub in Burton, Staffordshire, hosts a special regular: Basil the horse, who’s known to love a pint after a refreshing ride. The nine-year old steed has been coming in for years and never once made a fool of himself.
In fact, he became a hit among the locals, who enjoy his company and admire his restrain. Now, just look around the pub you’re at right now and think about how many of the presents you could say the same.
As for that old saying, you can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make him drink, it’s got it all wrong. Never mind the water; just make sure to invite Basil for an ale that he’ll drink it, no fuss about it.
Scientists Finally Prove What Cat Lovers Already Knew: They Do Rule
Ok, so we got carried away with this headline. Then again, haters need not to apply. The fact is, we’ve got impressive news to report and won’t let a small detail, such as who cares? get in the way. Breaking: Cat lovers are being controlled by a parasite that ‘manipulates’ their personality. That’s why we’re so weary of rats. Just in case, the Chinese have an imprint of a cat hidden on their money. It’s all true, honest to heaven. Or, as a dog lover would say, that figures. No wonder these people go berserk at the sight of kittens playing on the Internet. There’s got be a name for that. Oh, yes, it’s called insanity.
Yes, cat people do believe they’re the ones who’re owned, not the other way around. That’s why they run when the masters call, but can’t make a single command work to their advantage.
Hopefully these three examples will settle once and for all this matter. Of course, you’ll hear loud barks against it in weeks ahead, but not to Continue reading →