This Portuguese Library Relies on Bats to Preserve Old Books and Manuscripts

The Joanina Library of the University of Coimbra Alta and Sofia is one of two Portuguese libraries to house colonies of bats as natural deterrents for bugs that would otherwise feed on old books and manuscripts.

As unusual as having a colony of Common pipistrelle bats living behind the bookshelves of one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, the curators of this historical marvel swear that the flying rodents provide an indispensable service – they feast on bugs that would otherwise damage or feed on old books. And with some of these ancient manuscripts being virtually priceless, it’s no wonder that the bats are regarded as helpful guardians.

Read More »

Falabella – The World’s Smallest Horse Breed

Named after the Argentinian family who developed the breed in the middle of the 19th Century, Falabella is widely regarded as the world’s smallest horse breed, with an average height of just 70cm.

The origins of the Falabella breed are shouted in the mists of legend. Some say that their bloodline can be traced back to the Andalusian and Iberian breeds that the Spanish conquistadores brought with them to South America. When the Spanish were driven off, the horses were left to fend for themselves in a harsh, resource-poor environment. As a result, by the mid-19th century, smaller, inbred animals were being observed in the herds of Mapuche, in southern Buenos Aires province. It was these specimens that were specifically bred to create even smaller animals, which eventually led to the creation of the modern Falabella breed we know today.

Read More »

This Small Snake Uses Farts as a Defense Mechanism

The western hook-nosed snake, a small snake endemic to the deserts of the United States and Mexico, is famous for the shape of its snout and for farting to confuse its enemies.

Cobras and rattlesnakes have their deadly venom, constrictors like pythons and Boa have their strong musculature, but the western hook-nosed snake doesn’t have either, so it relies on a more unusual defense mechanism – farting. When threatened, it emits rumbling air bubbles from the cloaca – the common opening for excretion at a snake’s rear end. Known and cloacal popping or defensive flatulence, this strange means of defense is designed to confuse predators long enough for the snakes to escape.

Read More »

The Thriving Parakeets Taking Over London

Ring-necked parakeets are native to the foothills of the Himalayas and temperate regions of North Africa, but for the past century and a half, they’ve also made a home for themselves in London.

No one knows exactly when and how London became a home for feral parakeets. In fact, there are so many urban myths tied to these green exotic birds that it’s hard to settle on just one explanation. Many of the theories going around on the streets of London as well as on the internet involve legendary artists like Jimi Hendrix or Audrey Hepburn, but no one can truly say how the birds came to the English capital. One thing is for sure, though – London’s parakeets are here to stay, they are thriving, and they are expanding, with recent estimates placing their number in the tens of thousands.

Read More »

Dog Goes to the Beach Every Day to Wait for Fisherman Owner Who Will Never Return

Vaguito, a dog who spends his days on a beach in Punta Negra, Peru, waiting for his fisherman owner to return from his last fishing trip has melted the hearts of millions around the world.

Vaguito’s heartbreaking story was made public by Jolie Mejía, a Peruvian woman who happened to be walking on the coast of Punta Negra, one of the districts of Lima Province, when she noticed a dog staring pointedly at the ocean. The animal looked clean and well-fed, so Jolie assumed that his master would come back to get him. She spent minutes petting the dog and talking to him, but no one came. Eventually, a man walked by, who, noticing the concerned look on the woman’s face, proceeded to tell her the animal’s sad story.

  Read More »

Animal Lover Has Spent the Last 30 Years Running “World’s Loneliest Zoo”

Luo Yingjiu, an 81-year-old man in China’s Hubei Province, has spent the last three decades of his life taking care of sick and disabled animals at the “world’s loneliest zoo”.

It was during the 1980s that Luo Yingjiu started buying animals and taking them home with him. He wasn’t doing it as a pet collector, but as an animal lover sick of seeing all sorts of disabled and visibly sick creatures being kept in cages and sold on the streets. So he bought them and took them home with him, where he did his best to nurse them back to health. The lucky ones that made a full recovery were eventually released back into the wild, but some were in such bad shape that they required constant care and attention, which Luo was more than happy to provide…

Read More »

Meet Yakei, the Macaque “Queen” Who Became the First Female Alpha in Her Pack’s History

Yakei, a 9-year-old female Japanese macaque at the Takasakiyama natural zoological garden, shocked staff by fighting her way through several strong males to become the first female alpha in the troupe’s 70-year history.

The story of Yakei’s rise to power sounds like the plot of a Hollywood epic. Born into the 677-strong troupe B at the Takasakiyama zoo in Japan’s Oita city, the female inherited the rank just under her mother, as per the rules of macaque society. The higher an individual’s rank, the greater its access to food, mates and resting locations. Last March, Yakei fought her own mother and won, becoming the leader of the other females in her group. For most females, this would have been more than enough, but for Yakei it was only the first step to a much more ambitious goal – leader of the entire troupe.

Read More »

Onagadori – A Japanese Chicken Breed With Majestically Long Tail Feathers

The Onagadori (‘honorable fowl’ in Japanese) is a rare chicken breed known for its exceptionally long tail, which can reach over 10 meters, putting even peacocks to shame.

Of the seventeen chicken breeds considered Japanese national treasures, the Onagadori is the only one to have “special” status. Ever since it received this status in 1952, exports of Onagadori birds and eggs were forbidden, so there are very few specimens, if any, found outside of Japan today. The breed is famous for the non-molting, and thus incredibly long tails of roosters, which, if kept in the best conditions with high levels of animal husbandry, can grow for the lifetime of the bird.

Read More »

This Fascinating Bird Looks Like a Feathered Dragon

What do you get if you mix a bird, a squirrel and a lizard? Well, I think you’ll have a tough time finding a better answer than the Great Eared Nightjar.

Seeing a great eared nightjar for the first time, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a squirrel or even a lizard. The fact is it kind of looks like a combination of animals, or even a real-live version of Toothless, the dragon from DreamWorks Studios’ hit animation “How to Train Your Dragon“. You could say it’s living proof that birds are more closely related to dinosaurs than reptiles.

Read More »

The Perfect Cat House Doesn’t Exis…

A feline lover in California spent several decades and over $100,000 turning his home into the ultimate house for cats.

House of Nekko is a 3,000-square-foot home just north of Santa Barbara. It looks pretty ordinary from the outside, so few know that this is probably the world’s most amazing cat house. Featuring over 300 feet of catwalks, 15 feet of tunnels, 8 bridges, individual feeding spots suspended on the walls giant hamster wheels and giant scratching posts, among other feline attractions, House of Nekko is unlike any other house we’ve ever seen before.

Read More »

Klee Kai – The Husky Miniature You Probably Didn’t Know Existed

Klee Kai – literally “little dog” in an Alaskan indigenous dialect – is a fairly new dog breed designed as a smaller version of the popular Alaskan Husky.

The husky is one of the world’s most beloved dog breeds, but it’s no secret that their medium-to-large frame requires a lot of space, making them less-than-ideal apartment pets. Luckily, if you can’t settle for any other dog breed, you’ll be happy to know that there is such a thing as a miniature husky. Developed in the 1970s by an Alaskan breeder, the Klee Kai is a considerably smaller version of the Alaskan Husky that features the same iconic appearance and developed intellect that huskies are famous for.

Read More »

Woman Fined for Not Picking Up Dog Poop in Town 400 Miles Away

A Spanish woman got the shock of her life when she received a $570 fine from a town she visited six months ago, for failing to pick up her dog’s poop from a sidewalk.

The unnamed woman from Paterna, in Spain’s Valencia region, had all but forgotten about that time when she chose not to pick up her Bull terrier’s poop while vacationing in Benalmadena, last August, when she received a fine for it last month. So how did authorities in the seaside town located 650 kilometers away, in the province of Malaga, know about it after all this time? They clearly knew it was her dog, as the notice she received in the mail featured the street that the excrement had been found on and the date, August 26. Little did she know that her “crime” had been discovered thanks to advanced DNA analysis…

Read More »

The Japanese Bobtail – A Rare Cat With the Tail of a Bunny Rabbit

The Japanese Bobtail is a rare car breed whose distinctive feature is the presence of a short, bunny-like tail, instead of the long, flexible tail of most other felines.

No one knows exactly when this unusual cat breed arrived in Japan, but it has been a part of Japanese culture for at least several hundred years, being frequently featured in traditional art and folklore. In the early 1600s, the breed played a major role in preserving Japan’s silkworm production, by taking on rodents, and by the next century, the bobtail was already the dominant cat breed being kept in Japan. No one knows whether it was because of its distinctive tail, which looked like it had been bent and broken, its friendly personality, or its talkative nature, but the Japanese Bobtail became extremely popular in the Japanese country and remains so today. However, it remains extremely rare outside the borders of Japan.

Read More »

Modern Game Bantams – Poultry Fashion Models With a Fighting Spirit

Because of their slender physique, incredibly long legs and upright pose, Modern Game Bantams are considered by many the fashion models of the poultry world, but few know that they also have a mean streak.

Modern Game chickens take their name from the ‘old English game’, a chicken breed brought to the English Isles in the 1st century by the Romans. Bred exclusively for cock fighting, the old English game grew immensely popular over the century because, well, raising a chicken was relatively affordable, and cockfighting was a “sport” anyone could partake in. However, things changed in 1849, when cock fighting was officially banned in England, by order of the Queen. All of a sudden, the old English game was retired, and a new, modern variant took its place.

Read More »

Swedish Startup Trains Crow to Pick Up Litter in Exchange for Food

Corvid Cleaning, a Swedish startup specializing in training crows to pick up litter in exchange for food, claims that its program could save communities a fortune in cleaning costs.

According to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, over a billion cigarette butts are left on Sweden’s streets every year which represents about 62 percent of all litter. Teaching humans not to throw cigarette butts on the street has so far proven impossible, but a Swedish startup claims it can teach crows to pick up after us and save local communities millions of krone in cleaning fees every year. Corvid Cleaning teaches wild crows to do our dirty work through a step-by-step learning process, that involves rewarding the birds with food for every cigarette butt they collect.

Read More »