Friday, February 29, 2008

Leaping Animals

Happy Leap Day!

Today we crown the best leaper in the animal kingdom. Think you can guess what it is? The grasshopper? No. The Flea? You're getting warmer.

The Froghopper, or Spittlebug, is the world's greatest leaper. Only about the size of a pencil's eraser, the froghopper can jump more than 2 feet. That's like a human leaping over the St. Louis Arch—690 feet into the air! How does the froghopper do this? It stores large amounts of energy in its muscular hind legs. It does not use these legs for basic locomotion, but drags them along behind its body, leaving them constantly poised for liftoff. When danger nears, the froghopper accelerates itself at 400 times the force of gravity (400 gs). Most humans pass out if they accelerate faster than 3gs without a specially designed g-force suit.

Spittlebugs (or froghoppers) are found worldwide. They are considered a common farm pest because they pierce plant stems and drink the juice, destroying the crop. The spittlebug covers itself with white foamy bubbles made from its own saliva. This protects it from the sun and predation. You've probably seen the "cuckoo spit" as this substance is called, but if you saw the spittlebug I bet you didn't see him for long.

Thank you Wikipedia commons for the photo.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leaping Animals

Every animal we've celebrated so far this week has been a land lover. For our next featured leaper, we're going to the ocean.

If you've been to an aquarium or to Sea World, you've probably had the opportunity to watch a dolphin show. In these events trainers take a natural dolphin behavior (one the dolphin exhibits in the wild), highlight it and expand upon it. The twists, acrobatic leaps and extreme jumps from the water are not that common for the average wild dolphin to perform. Think of these entertainers as professional athletes.

In the wild, dolphins leap for any number of reasons. While surfing in the prow wake of a boat, leaping helps the dolphin conserve energy (it's easier to move through air). Some scientists believe a good leap may help dolphins get a different view of prey; dolphins see as well above water as they do below. Other scientists believe it’s the splash the dolphin is looking for. Crashing back into the water dislodges unwanted aquatic "hitchhikers." Whatever the beneficial reasons, there is another reason that scientists, naturalists and ordinary observers all agree on—dolphins leap for the sheer joy of it.

The Jungle Store has an Animal Fact article about the dolphin. Click on the link to read it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Leaping Animals

If you want to talk about grace and beauty in leaping, I don't think anything can beat a lemur. Lemurs are prosimians (primitive primates) and are distantly related to apes and humans. They are not monkeys.

All 88 species of lemurs are found on the small island of Madagascar or the surrounding Comoros islands off the Southeast coast of Africa. They are arboreal, meaning they live in trees and bushes. Lemurs stick to a mostly herbivorous diet and the need to travel from treetop to treetop has made them incredibly skillful at leaping. Lemurs have adapted so well to this form of locomotion that even when grounded they do not walk, but leap along, involving their entire body in a ballet of bounding and balance.

Watch the clip below to see what I mean.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leaping Animals

Did you know Kangaroos can't walk backwards? But we're not celebrating walking - backwards or otherwise. We're celebrating LEAPING, and kangaroos can definitely do that!

Red kangaroos, (the biggest kangaroo species), can reach leaping speeds of over 40 mph. Each bound propels them well over 25 feet - forward. Surprisingly, when a kangaroo increases its speed, it does not need to increase its effort. The large, stretchy tendons located in the roo's hind legs perform an elastic-like function. It is the spring action of the tendon that produces the leap, not the muscles. The kangaroo is built to cover a lot of ground efficiently, and comfortably "cruises" along at speeds of 23mph. They ramp up to that speed quickly and maintain it for miles.

Watch the effortlessness of this little kangaroo.

We've just included other interesting facts about the kangaroo on our Animal Facts page. Click on the word link to read more.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Leaping Animals

This week we add a day to our calendar to acknowledge Leap Year. Let's celebrate by showcasing animals that Leap!

We all know horses are good jumpers. There are shows and competitions held throughout the world, and Horse Jumping is one of the events in the Summer Olympics. Although led through the course by a rider, the horse's leaping ability is valued so highly both horse and rider receive medals.

A Steeplechase is a horse race specifically designed to test a horse's jumping abilities. In its origins, horses and riders raced from one town's church steeple to another (the steeple being the tallest landmark available), traversing over fences, hedges, streams and whatever other obstacles the countryside might produce. Steeplechases now take place on a track with the course of "fences" more defined.

But, perhaps the most awe inspiring display of a horse's talent in leaping can be found among the world famous Lipizzaner Stallions of Austria. These incredible horses have been bred for hundreds of years to take a natural ability and turn it into an art form. What first started as defensive and offensive tactics to be used on the battlefield has now become a ritualized display complete with choreography and music. With grace and power that rivals the best ballet dancers, Lipizzaners truly showcase the agility of horses.

Watch this Lipizzaner perform the Capriole under saddle.

Want to know what else they can do? Visit their official site and watch the
"Airs Above the Ground" demonstrations.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Calvin Coolidge's Many Presidential Pets

President Calvin Coolidge once said “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about, does not deserve to be in the White House.” This probably went for other animals as well, for Coolidge and his family acquired even more pets than the Roosevelts.

During Coolidge's two terms in office, the White House almost literally became a zoo. Exotic animals such as lion cubs, bears, an antelope, wallaby, bobcat and a pygmy hippo were all part of the menagerie. And, of course, there were more typical pets, over 12 dogs, 4 cats and at least 3 canaries.The Coolidges owned a beloved donkey named Ebeneezer, and commandeered one of the White House trees to build a special house for their 2 raccoons—Rebecca and Horace.

Rebecca was quite lively and enjoyed playing in the First Lady's bathtub with "a little water in it and a cake of soap." Another one of Rebecca's favorite games was climbing up the President and draping herself about his neck. The picture below shows First Lady, Grace Coolidge, out at the Easter Egg Roll with Rebecca.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Presidential Pets

President William Taft brought a growing family into the White House and with them came a Holstein Cow named Pauline Wayne. Besides providing for the practical dairy needs of the presidential family—Pauline produced about 16 gallons of milk a day—she was also considered a pet. Pauline was given free range of the White House lawn and there are a number of pictures of her peacefully grazing there.

When William Taft gratefully left the presidency, Pauline also went into retirement. Her final home was the Wisconsin farm of Senator Isaac Stephenson. She did have one last moment in the headlines when she was featured at the International Dairy Show in 1911. Her milk was sold to souvenir hunters for $0.50 /small bottle. The net result was $80/day for President Taft. Pauline was the last presidential cow to live at the White House. Below is a picture of Pauline in front of the then Navy building, now known as the Eisenhower Executive Office building.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Presidential Pets

President Theodore Roosevelt was a devoted father and animal lover. When it came to his six children, he could deny them nothing and so, from the average to the exotic, the White House teemed with well over 35 different pets.

Daughter Alice had a Garter Snake who was named Emily Spinach because the snake was "as green as spinach and as thin as my Aunt Emily." While on a trip to the Far East, Alice was gifted a black Pekingese puppy by the last Empress of China. Alice called the dog Manchu, and claimed he danced in the moonlight on his hind legs.

The family hosted a macaw named Eli Yale, a badger named Josiah, and five bears, one of which was named Jonathan Edwards. Kangaroo rats, lizards, raccoons and a even a lion were just some of the animals that graced the grounds of the White House.

When Roosevelt's third son, Archie, took ill, his brothers attempted to cheer him by bringing his pony, Algonquin, up to his sick room for a visit. Algonquin got so intrigued with his own reflection in the elevator mirrors, that the boys had a difficult time getting him out. Below is a picture of a healthier Archie astride his Shetland pony, Algonquin.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Presidential Pets

President Benjamin Harrison's most recognized pet was a goat named His Whiskers. Below is a photograph of His Whiskers pulling President Harrison's grandchildren about the White House grounds in a goat cart.

One particular day, His Whiskers decided to explore more of the city and darted through the White House gates, pulling the children behind him. President Harrison, who had been waiting for his carriage, took off after the run-away goat. The President made quite a sight—frock coat flying, cane waving—as he raced down Pennsylvania Avenue, yelling for His Whiskers to stop. President Harrison never did catch His Whiskers, who eventually tired of the game and stopped of his own accord.

Photgraph courtesy of the Library of Congress, Frances Johnston - photographer

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Presidential Pets

It seems appropriate that the President who gave us Thanksgiving, should also be the one who had a Turkey as a pet. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be a day of thanksgiving. In preparation, a live turkey was added to the White House menagerie. President Lincoln's son, Tad, grew fond of the bird and named him Jack. When the time came for Jack to be served for supper, Tad pleaded for his life. Abraham Lincoln obliged and granted Jack, the turkey, an official pardon.

This tradition has continued from at least the 1970s. Two presidential turkeys, destined for the table, receive a last minute Presidential Reprieve and live out their lives in comfort. In the last few years, the American public has been asked to name the birds. In 2007 they were dubbed May and Flower. Voting takes place on the White House website.

Thank you Nanette for the delicious Turkey picture

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Presidential Pets

Thomas Jefferson owned a beloved Mockingbird named Dick. Dick was housed in the White House study although he could frequently be found riding about on Thomas Jefferson's shoulder. This bird was such a favorite he was also allowed to join Jefferson at mealtimes and would snatch food from between the President's lips.

It is also known that Jefferson received two Grizzly Bear cubs from the Lewis and Clark expedition. They were not considered pets although there is a report of Jefferson walking about the White House lawn with them. Once the cubs started to mature, they were sent to Philadelphia to live in a museum/zoo.

Grizzly photograph courtesy of Jean-Pierre Lavoie and Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidential Pets

In honor of President's Day, we're taking this week to blog about Presidential Pets. The White House has been home to a multitude of cats and dogs, but more varied animals have roamed the halls and the grounds than you may be aware of.

In George Washington's world, animals had purpose and function and were esteemed more for their capabilities and breeding than for sentiment. Regardless, Washington was devoted to his animals and perhaps to his horse, Nelson, most of all.

Nelson was George Washington's favored mount during the Revolutionary War and carried our first President through many battles. Strong enough to bear Washington's 6'3" frame and steady under the most intense cannon fire, Nelson earned a reputation as a superb warhorse. When General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, it was Nelson whom Washington rode.

Portraits of George Washington frequently show him astride a gray, and Washington did have one with him during the war - Blueskin. But Nelson was a sorrel – a horse of reddish-brown color with a lighter mane and tail.

In recognition for his service during the Revolutionary War, Washington "retired" Nelson to the fields of Mount Vernon. The steady Nelson lived out the remainder of his life there, having served his master well.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Animals Associated with Love


The idea of the Dove as a symbol of love probably originated in Greek Mythology. Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, took a dove as a pet, thereby making it sacred. The bird soon came to represent her and thereby, love.

In Christianity a dove brought an olive branch back to Noah after the flood. Hence, a dove and olive branch now represent both love and peace. The dove is also used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and is frequently seen above Christ’s head in paintings of His baptism. The dove is the representation of God’s love for his Son.

Many weddings now include the releasing of white doves in the ceremony, further linking these birds with fidelity, purity and love.

Thank you to Lightfoot for the photograph.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Animals Associated with Love


Besides being a symbol of beauty and fidelity, swans are also known as a representative of love. It is perhaps the swans’ practice of mating for life which has inspired this connection.

The famous ballet, Swan Lake, tells the story of Princess Odette, swan by day, woman by night, who requires the faithful love of a man to break the enchantment cast over her. Siegfried is that man. The ballet has various endings, some tragic, some redeeming, but all centering around the swan and around the idea of true, abiding love.

A common romantic image of these birds show swans face-to-face, long necks arched, beaks touching. In such a pose, the birds create the shape of a heart. Their beauty and elegance easily lend them to the idealization of romance.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Animals Associated with Love


Birds are very popular in Feng Shui decorating and are used to promote positive relationships. Under these guidelines, peacocks are used as symbols of loyalty, fidelity and love. If you are looking to enhance those qualities in your marriage, place peacock figures, imagery or feathers in the southwest corner of your home.

The southwestern corners of rooms are also considered “marriage sectors.” Living rooms and bedrooms especially. Peacocks in those areas are said to promote marital bliss and romance and will add more passion to your relationship.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Story of the Teddy Bear

The Teddy Bear, an iconic and much beloved toy, is indeed named after our 26th President – Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. While traveling to settle a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana, Roosevelt took time out from politics to exercise one of his great passions - hunting. Having an unsuccessful day of it, other members of the hunting party wanted to make sure the President didn’t leave Mississippi empty-handed. They tied a captured black bear cub to a tree and offered it for Roosevelt to shoot. President Roosevelt was appalled and refused to harm the young, defenseless cub. Word got around and the next day the political cartoonist, Clifford Berryman, made the incident famous in a cartoon.

Our nation became enthralled by the story, and soon a toy manufacturer, Morris Michtom asked his wife, Rose, to make two plush bears for display in their storefront windows. Because the bears were inspired by the hunting story, Mr. Morris wrote to the President and asked permission to call his new creation Teddy’s Bears. Roosevelt agreed. The name stuck, the public adored them, and Teddy’s Bears became all the rage. Although the “s” was dropped in 1906, the popularity of Teddy Bears has never wavered.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Best in Show

Uno is indeed #1!

Uno, the 15inch Beagle, won America’s most prestigious dog show last night. As he strutted about the Westminster ring, Uno barked and bayed to the crowd, enveloping them in his enthusiasm. The judge rewarded him for his spirit, claiming him Best in Show, a designation that means Uno exemplified his particular breed more than the other dogs exemplified theirs. Uno’s buoyant personality made him an early audience favorite and when he was awarded the cup, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Uno is the only Beagle ever to win Best in Show at Westminster. Congratulations!

Three other groups were judged before the Best in Show competition. Those group winners were:
Marge, the Weimaraner from the Sporting Group
Vickey, the Toy Poodle from the Toy Group
Macy, the Akita from the Working Group

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Best in Group

We have some Winners! Westminster Kennel Club held 4 “Best in Group” competitions last night, paving the way towards Tuesday night’s Best in Show.

A 15 inch Beagle named Uno took the blue ribbon in the Hound Group. Beagles are sturdy, merry little dogs bred to hunt with men on foot. They are a scent hound of high intelligence and gentle disposition.

Charmin, the Sealyham Terrier won in the Terrier Group. Sealyham’s were bred as badger and fox hunters for land-owners in the Pembrokeshire county of Wales. Sealys are very workmanlike, but their fearless manner relaxes when the workday is done and they become a playful, friendly dog.

The white Standard Poodle, Remi, may have said "merci" to the judge who gave her Best in Group for the Non-Sporting Group. Although brought to fashion in France, poodles are German in origin and were used as water dogs, gundogs, and cart dogs. When they got to France, the poodle became more of a companion dog, and miniature and toy varieties came into prominence. The poodle is sweet tempered and intelligent.

An Australian Shepherd named Duece won the last competition of the night, taking the Herding Group. The Australian Shepherd actually originated in the United States where cattlemen in the west found a need for a loyal, attentive and agile dog who possessed both speed and stamina. Recognized as an official breed in the 1950s, the Aussie Shepherd has gained rapid popularity across the States, Europe and Australia.

The pictures are not of the actual winners. They are just representatives of the breed. Thanks to Mary R. Vogt for the photo of the Aussie Shepherd

Monday, February 11, 2008

Toy Dogs

Toy dogs have been bred for the sole purpose of providing their human companions with affection and joy. Although small in stature, they should not be considered meek, and require just as much training and socialization as larger breeds. Toy dogs are frequently devoted to their owners and truly need companionship to be happy. Their small size makes them easily transportable and they have recently become something of a fashion accessory. Ideal for apartment living, a Toy dog rarely needs more space than their loving owner’s warm lap. The Toy Group includes: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Maltese, Pugs, and Yorkies.

The Pug is one of the oldest breeds of dog; dating back to before 400 BC.

Photo courtesy of Mary R. Vogt

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sporting Dogs

Sporting dogs are naturally energetic and durable. They are eager to please and take well to training, making them well-rounded and faithful hunting companions. Owning a sporting dog requires a commitment of regular and invigorating exercise. Although many sporting dogs are still used for hunting, their even and gentle temperament has found them a permanent place in the heart of the family home. The Sporting Group includes: Brittanys, Labrador Retrievers, English Setters and Weimaraners.

Piper and Ed, enjoying the SoCal surf.

Photograph courtesy of David and Cameron Barrett

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Working Dogs

Where would mankind be without Working Dogs? These invaluable companions take on such tasks as guarding property and livestock, pulling sleds and fishing nets, and rescuing their frailer human companions from water and avalanche. As a group they are quick to learn, solid and strong. Working dogs are happiest when well trained and their size can make this a necessity. The Working Group includes: Akitas, Boxers, Newfoundlands and Rottweilers.

Here is a picture of a beautiful Bullmastiff.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Herding Dogs

Herding dogs are known for their ability to control the movement of livestock. Whether by “heeling” cattle with a nip and bark as Corgis do, or silently “eyeing” skittish sheep across pastures like the Border Collie, these dogs are tireless, brave and intelligent workers. As more of these dogs find themselves off the fields and in our homes, their desire to work can cause them to gently herd other household pets or children they consider to be in their care. They are quick to learn and enjoy training, making them a canine “multi-tasker” who is happiest when taking on varied and interesting work. The Herding Group includes: Australian Shepherds, Belgian Tervurens, Collies, and German Shepherds.

Watch these Border Collies work. This is probably harder than herding sheep because they can’t let the ducks fly away.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Most Hounds were bred for hunting and are commonly considered pack dogs. Whether using their incredible scenting abilities to track down prey, or their gift of stamina to run down quarry, this group’s determination and single-mindedness can make them unaware of danger and difficult to train. Hounds encompass a diverse group of dogs, from the boisterous and baying Beagle to the massive yet gentle Irish Wolfhound. Most Hounds are considered excellent family pets and are wonderful with children, not as baby sitters, but as playmates. The Hound Group includes: Basenjis, Dachshunds, Salukis and Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Basenjis are known as the "Barkless" dog. That doesn't mean they are quiet.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

NonSporting/Companion Dogs

Non-Sporting dogs are also known as Companion dogs and make a diverse group. They rarely share size, coat, or appearance. The Non-Sporting Group may be considered a “catch-all” for dogs who don’t fit into the other groups. From the large, dominant Chow Chow to the comical, endearing French Bulldog the Non-sporting Group ranges from the obscure Schipperke to the well-known Poodle and Dalmatian. The Non-Sporting Group includes: Boston Terriers, Bichon Frises, Shar-Peis and Lhasa Apsos.

Watch this Dalmatian take his breeding seriously!


Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Terriers were bred to “go to ground” after their prey and were used across the British Isles to hunt vermin. Tough, fierce, and independent thinkers, Terriers controlled populations of rats, foxes, badgers and otters across their owner’s land. Due to their bravery and gameness, some Terriers have been bred as “fighting dogs,” which is unfortunate as they make great family pets. Terriers are generally loyal, and affectionate companions, who expect a firm but fair hand from owners, who match their lively personalities. The Terrier Group includes: Airedales, Cairn Terriers, Scotties and Wheatens.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Dog Show

The 132nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog show starts a week from today at Madison Square Garden in New York. This year four new breeds will debut: Plott (Hound Group), Tibetan Mastiff (Working Group), Beauceron and Swedish Vallhund (Herding Breeds). You can read about them here.

Check out this Tibetan Mastiff puppy below. Isn't he cute? But these puppies need lots of socialization, and, of course due to their great size and strong wills, need obedience classes.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dancing Dog

People often make comments about their dog dancing. But I doubt many of us mean it the way this gal does about her dog, Rookie. Check out this amazing video:

Rookie is a Golden Retriever and only one of the dogs Carolyn Scott has trained. This sport is called Canine Freestyle. For more info go to this website.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Flashy tail

The Ringtail also known as the ringtail cat, ring-tailed cat or miner's cat is a native to western North America. Ringtails have a white mask around black eyes and are smaller than a domestic cat. The ringtail is the state mammal of Arizona. They are nocturnal, solitary and rarely seen.

But I want to see one…


Friday, February 1, 2008

Another with rings on the tail

The cacomistle’s name means means "half cat" or "half lion." Cacomistles live in forests and like the previous entries are arboreal and nocturnal. Cacomistles are omnivores native to Central America. Adults weigh about 2 pounds.

Sometimes it is called the ringtailed cat, but that is a misnomer.