The breastfeeding by humans of animals is a practice that is widely attested historically and continues to be practised today by some cultures. The reasons for this are varied: to feed young animals, to drain a woman's breasts, to promote lactation, to harden the nipples before a baby is born, to prevent conception, and so on.
English and German physicians between the 16th and 18th centuries recommended using puppies to "draw" the mother's breasts, and in 1799 the German Friedrich Benjamin Osiander reported that in Göttingen women suckled young dogs to dislodge nodules from their breasts. An example of the practice being used for health reasons comes from late 18th century England. When the writer Mary Wollstonecraft was dying of puerperal fever following the birth of her second daughter, the doctor ordered that puppies be applied to her breasts to draw off the milk, possibly with the intention of helping her womb to contract to expel the infected placenta that was slowly poisoning her.
Animals have widely been used to toughen the nipples and maintain the mother's milk supply. In Persia and Turkey puppies were used for this purpose. The same method was practised in the United States in the early 19th century; William Potts Dewees recommended in 1825 that from the eighth month of pregnancy, expectant mothers should regularly use a puppy to harden the nipples, improve breast secretion and prevent inflammation of the breasts. The practice seems to have fallen out of favour by 1847, as Dewees suggested using a nurse or some other skilled person to carry out this task rather than an animal.
Percy was a prize-winning racing pigeon with an odd habit:
At the drop of a hat — and even without that signal — he rolls on his back, tucks in his wings, curls up his legs and claws and to all intents and purposes is dead. Only his bright red eyes and an occasional craning of the neck show that Percy is playing possum.
No matter where he is or where you put him, Percy keeps up the pose. On the top of the television, on the rim of the cup he won at the Royal Welsh Show, or tossed in the air, he holds it.
Even putting him on the floor next to Suzie the cat doesn’t cause a twitch.
If the power goes out and you don't have any candles, no problem. At least, if you happen to be in the Shetland Islands. Just stick a wick down the throat of a dead stormy petrel, and it can be used as a candle. The McGill University Office for Science and Society confirms this strange factoid. In fact, it notes that in Denmark Great Auks used to be used for the same purpose.
Or, if you're in Alaska, a candlefish can be lit on fire and used for illumination. A National Geographic video (below) shows candlefish (aka eulachon) being caught, processed, and used as candles.
The website for Indlovu Gin describes it, somewhat euphemistically, as "The only gin designed by the African elephant from foraged botanicals." Put in plainer language, it's gin made with elephant dung. As the AP reports:
The creators of Indlovu Gin, Les and Paula Ansley, stumbled across the idea a year ago after learning that elephants eat a variety of fruits and flowers and yet digest less than a third of it. “As a consequence, in the elephant dung, you get the most amazing variety of these botanicals,” Les Ansley said during a recent visit to their operations. “Why don’t we let the elephants do the hard work of collecting all these botanicals and we will make gin from it?” he recalled his wife suggesting.
Weirdo was a giant among chickens. He weighed a colossal twenty-three pounds — about four times the size of an average rooster. Throughout much of the 1970s and 80s, he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the heaviest chicken in the world. He was said to have the strength and stamina of an ostrich.
"Grant Sullens holds his prize 23-lb. White Sully rooster. Note the gloves he is wearing for protection. Note also that the photographer stayed on the safe side of the fence." Source: Farm Journal - Nov 1971.
However, Weirdo had a temper and ferocity that matched his size. His violent exploits were legendary. He killed two cats and pecked out the eye of a dog. He routinely tore bits of metal off his feed bucket, demolishing feeders at a rate of one per month. When an ungloved visitor made the mistake of trying to touch him, he removed their fingertip. He shattered the lens of a camera. And, in his crowning achievement, he managed to rip through a wire fence and attacked and killed one of his own sons, an eighteen-pound rooster.
Just as unusual as Weirdo himself was the story of how he came to exist. He was the result of a seven-year chicken-breeding program conducted by a teenage boy, Grant Sullens, of West Point, California. Sullens had decided that he wanted to create a breed of "superchickens," and he actually achieved his goal, succeeding where highly paid poultry researchers had failed.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.