Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Terrifically Good Read

"The Book of Animal Ignorance" by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson Harmony Books 242 pages $19.95

This is an engaging series of short pieces on animals and their special peculiarities. The chapters are arranged alphabetically - "Aardvark, Ant Eater, Cane Toad" ending with the homely "Worm."

The albatross was fascinating. As soon as it's able to fly, it will stay in the air until it's ready to mate -- some 10 (ten) years later! They mate for life, developing a body language unique to only that couple. They raise only one egg every two years and parents take turns sitting on it or foraging for food.

Cats need to eat the quivalent of five mice per day. Even if they have access to a huge pile of food, they will eat only "one mice" at a time. When a cat exends its claws, its paws double in size. I would add that this goes along with an angry cat's appearance in general -- they puff up, extend all of their hair -- to look bigger and more formidable to the enemy.

Dogs evolved from wolves. Humans began keeping them 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. A dachshund's breed name comes from the German for badger - "dachs." Labs were bred to retrieve fishing nets in Newfoundland. Poodles were originally used for (drum roll) duck hunting! Poodle comes from the German word/phrase meaning "to splash in the water." Louise Doberman, a night watchman bred his namesake dogs for watchdog duty in the late 1800s. Toy-sized dogs were originally bred to be carried in the sleeves of Chinese noblewomen -- to keep them warm.

(Inside the frontispeace) Octopuses are dexterous enough to unscrew lids from jars. The bald eagle's feathers weigh twice as much as its bones.

The book is filled with entertaining details like this. The chapters are short - perhaps a page and half in most cases, with illustrations of special features. Memorize bits of this and you can dine out on the contents for months! Wonderful conversational tidbits.

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