unofficial holidays related to animals

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March 1 is National Pig Day

national pig day

Princess Cali – credit: ctpost

Mary Lynn Rave and her sister Ellen Stanley created National Pig Day in 1972 “to accord the pig its rightful, though generally unrecognized, place as one of man’s most intellectual and domesticated animals.”

Pigs are intelligent, using various oinks, grunts, and squeals to communicate with each other. They excel in tests requiring the location of objects and can use mirrors to do so, a talent they share with chimpanzees.

They are social and learn from each other, cooperating to accomplish tasks such as breaking out of a pen or finding food. A pig can be trained to manipulate a joystick with its snout and play a simple game, meaning it could probably kick our butts at Pong.

Unfortunately, somebody figured out long ago that pigs are delicious. They are the only honorees we know of that have the dubious distinction of being enthusiastically consumed on the holiday that celebrates them.

Should you show your appreciation by forgoing bacon, chops, and ribs today? (We know what Princess Cali would say.) Have a happy National Pig Day!

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 29 is National Cat Day (and International Internet Day)

Today is International Internet National Cat Day

National Cat Day Hell Yeah Kyrie because I said so!

Hell, yeah, it’s National Cat Day! Sure, it’s International Internet Day, too. On October 29, 1969, a few months after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the first message was sent across the Internet. The system crashed after the first two letters of the word “login” were shared, but that was enough to make history and change the world forever.

Approximately forty percent of the world’s population has an Internet connection today, up from less than half a percent in 1993, the year when a Web browser named Mosaic was introduced. Its development was funded through a U.S. government initiative championed by Al Gore. Yes, that Al Gore and no, he never said he invented the Internet.

In December 1999, there were 16 million Internet users. By the end of 2005, that number had topped 1 billion. In March 2011, it had grown to 2 billion; in June 2014, 3 billion. Three years later, in June 2017, the total stood at 3.885 billion.

So why are we looking at a cat right now? Because, in a cruel twist of fate, these brilliant innovators unwittingly created the medium that the furry monsters would eventually conquer. To be fair, Thomas Edison did get the ball rolling in 1894 with the first known cat video. 

First domesticated in the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent 12,000 years ago, cats have been waiting to pounce on humanity ever since. With the rise of agrarian societies, cats became indispensable for keeping grain stores rodent-free.  Today, cats can be found in 34% of American households, making them the most popular house pet in the United States.

And so they bide their time, transmitting coded missives uploaded by their hapless documentarians.  It’s been estimated that over two million cat videos have been uploaded to YouTube, with a total of almost 25 billion views. (Those statistics are from 2014, the most recent we could find. Who knows how many there are now?) The Internet Cat Video Festival toured the world from 2013 through 2016 but its creator, the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis, MN, has discontinued it to focus its funding efforts elsewhere.

Perhaps that’s because there’s no need to leave home to experience the stupefying, hypnotic power of our cuddly overlords. Need proof? Just watch the following video.

If we’ve whetted your appetite, here is another one. And another. Okay, one more and that’s all, we promise.

Just be sure to close your windows and doors so these adorable demons cannot get in and gnaw on your soft parts as you doze contentedly, lulled into a helpless state by a seemingly meaningless parade of cat hijinks.

If they learn how to open a can, none of us stand a chance.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 26 is Mule Appreciation Day

mule appreciation dayAccording to numerous sources on the Internet:

President Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1985, designating October 26th as Mule Appreciation Day. Two hundred years before on this date, a ship docked in Boston, bearing the gift of a donkey from King Charles III of Spain to President George Washington.

We went a little crazy researching this holiday, delving into government records and scrutinizing proposed bills and signed laws. We can report that the bill did exist:

S.J.RES.39
Latest Title:
A joint resolution to designate October 26, 1985, as “Mule Appreciation Day”.
Sponsor: Sen Gore, Albert, Jr. [TN] (introduced 2/5/1985)
Related Bills: H.J.RES.76

Yes, that’s right. Al Gore, senator from Tennessee, submitted this bill. (An identical bill was proffered by Representative Jim Cooper, also of Tennessee.) Both have this notation:

Latest Major Action: Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

We can find no confirmation that Reagan did indeed sign the bill into law. So that part of the story surrounding Mule Appreciation Day is probably bunk. But the actual story is still fascinating.

George Washington wasn’t just our first president; he was also an avid mule breeder and wanted Andalusian donkeys (known as jacks) to mate with his mares. But Spain forbade their export. In 1785, when word of Washington’s wish reached King Charles III, he dispatched a ship carrying two of the prized animals.

Only one of the jacks, dubbed Royal Gift, survived the sea voyage. Most accounts omit this detail and report the shipping of only one,  perhaps because it is a sad footnote to the story.

In 1786, the Marquis de Lafayette sent Washington a jack and two mares (jennies) from a famous breed in Malta. These three historical figures influenced the breeding of mules forever.

Of course, Washington wasn’t the only person breeding mules. The Andalusian and Maltese breeds, along with the Catalonian, Majorcan, and Poitou, were incorporated over time into the development of today’s American Mammoth jack.  According to the North American Saddle Mule Association (NASMA):

There are no longer any real populations of true donkey breeds in the United States. The registries are bound by size, not breed type….The tall, slender black jack may be used for saddle mules, and the heavy-boned, drafty dappled red roan used for draft mules.

Some say a mule is more intelligent than either parent. While that’s debatable, renowned veterinarian Robert M. Miller, a mule breeder, says the hybridization “accounts for his amazing strength and stamina.”  A mule exhibits the best qualities of both parents.

A mule is generally sturdier than a horse, with stronger feet less likely to need shoeing, and will often live and work longer. His legendary sure-footedness and stability make him the animal of choice for those who pack or hike on steep mountain trails.

Because a mule inherits a strong sense of self-preservation from the donkey side of the family, he reacts differently to perceived threats. Miller states that when frightened, a horse will usually panic and flee blindly, often hurting himself in the process. “A frightened mule, on the other hand, will usually assess the situation, and avoid injuring himself,” according to Miller.

Maybe that’s what makes mules the preferred mode of transport on the precipitous trails that descend to the floor of the Grand Canyon. Legend has it that Brighty (a burro) accompanied President Theodore Roosevelt there when he hunted mountain lions.

That last part is a dodgy bit of Internet lore. Brighty (short for Bright Angel) did live in the canyon from about 1892 to 1922 and inspired a book and a movie. Roosevelt visited in 1903. Whether they came in contact with each other is a question for the ages.

We know this much is true: Visitors who ride all the way down to Phantom Ranch can send postcards from the bottom that say Mailed by Mule from the Bottom of the Grand Canyon. 

Mules have played a significant role in our country’s history and deserve to be appreciated year-round. So the next time we see a mule, we’re going to pay him some respect. After all, he might just be looking back at us, thinking we’re jackasses.

Happy Mule Appreciation Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 11 is Cephalopod Awareness Day

Technically, there are five International Cephalopod Awareness Days (ICAD) in the annual celebration of the most intelligent invertebrates in the world.

Cephalopod Awareness Day

The first Cephalopod Awareness Day was established in 2007 by members of The Octopus News Magazine Online forum (TONMO) to bring attention to the diversity, conservation, and biology of the world’s cephalopods.

Octopi have eight arms while squid and cuttlefish have eight arms and two tentacles. So the eighth day of the tenth month was chosen to show appreciation for animals with a combination of 8 or 10 appendages. Then four days were added to the holiday to celebrate all cephalopods.

Let’s Call it Kraken Day (please?)

October 11 is Myths and Legends Day, celebrating all the fantastical cephalopods of movies, literature, and legend.  Since ancient times, cephalopods have been a recurring motif in myth, arts, and literature and they remain a subject of popular culture today.

Cephalopod Awareness Day

Things to do today:
Stop by TONMO. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a live feed of the conference.
Check out https://www.facebook.com/CephDays/
Put Clash of Titans (the original) on your Netflix queue and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on your Kindle reader.

Happy Cephalopod Awareness Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays