Despite the staid image of religion in the Middle Ages, those who created books of religious and cultural significance weren’t always so boring. In fact, they had pretty darn good senses of humors, often drawing beautiful and unusual pictures in the texts’ borders. These images, called marginalia, w Read more
In 1956, the space race was in full swing. World War II was a turbulent memory that the world was still trying to forget as Soviet and US leaders whipped their respective countries into an amphetamine-fueled Cold War. The Soviets were cut out of the development of the atomic bomb by the US and its o Read more
It’s no surprise that some of history’s most famous writers have had a thing for cats. But who was the most obsessed with the furry beasts? To answer this extremely important question, we combed the archives to discover which literary giant was most devoted to felines. Honorable Mention: Jean-Paul S Read more
In recent years, and especially since the release of Blackfish, many people have begun to reconsider the morality of keeping aquatic animals in tanks for entertainment. But when, and why, was the aquarium invented in the first place? Over at Aeon, Bernd Brunner walks us through the surprisingly long Read more
Ever heard of the “great snake controversy” of 1867? Shortly after the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1866, its President, Henry Bergh, wrote P.T. Barnum a strongly-worded letter requesting that he stop feeding live rabbits to his boa constrictors. The c Read more
Most people don’t know that camels used to pull lawn mowers in Central Park. Taken in 1869, this magical photo (pictured below) proves that actually used to be a thing. Here’s some background: Central Park’s Sheep Meadow was home to a flock of pure bred sheep from 1864 until 1934. As part of their t Read more
Has a police officer ever worried about slipping on black ice or getting across frozen tundra? Well, not in Norway, thanks to the reindeer police! Yes, you heard me–reindeer police. A Sami man with a reindeer. Not just Santa’s sleigh-draggers in Norway, the cute quadrupeds are utilized to patrol the Read more
You can see a lot of wonderful things from the comfort of your couch thanks to live webcams. Puppies. Bears. This blind Ohio deer who has her own teen-dream bedroom. Now, as the history internet has discovered, you can waste away your workday watching the most weirdly compelling live-stream star yet Read more
In the 4th century C.E., Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, included in his Hexameron a strange anecdote about how hunters stole tiger cubs, likely in order to sell them for arena shows: “When the tigress finds her den empty, her cub stolen, she instantly pursues the tracks of the thief. But, although bo Read more
As awards season draws near, expect to hear a lot of buzz about the top film and television performances of 2015. Will this finally be Leonardo DiCaprio’s year? Maybe—but his (possibly CGI) ursine Revenant costar has no chance. Fifty years ago, though, a bear would have had a fighting chance at reco Read more
Boasting over 230 artifacts from 38 world-class museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom” is spectacular by any measure. While it includes a little something for everyone, you’re especially in luck if, like the ancient Egyptians themselves, you have a Read more
Here’s one of the strangest stories you’ve never heard: chicken heads rained down on the Swiss countryside from 1979 to 1984. Why? The government was desperate to stop an epidemic of rabies carried by red foxes. Infected with a weak strain of the virus, the vaccine-infused chicken heads proved irres Read more
Whatever your opinion on her divisive domestic policy, French Empress Joséphine had excellent taste in pets. In April 1799, she purchased the Château de Malmaison as a private retreat for her, Napoleon, and her menagerie. Her exotic collection of animals included kangaroos, emus, ostriches, zebras, Read more
Mice certainly aren’t the only animals used in laboratory experiments, but, along with rats, they are the most common. While there are no statistics on the number of lab mice used by scientists every year, it’s estimated that mice and rats make up 85 to 90 percent of all laboratory animals in the Un Read more
Mary, Queen of Scots is best known as the Renaissance monarch who got the short end of the royal stick. She was married to a sickly king of France who was the son of Catherine de Medici; fell in love with a selfish fop who tried to make himself king of Scotland; and finally became the disputed Catho Read more
We’ve already talked about how mummies don’t have to be scary. If you’ve ever spent time in a museum’s Egyptian collection, you’ve probably also noticed that they don’t even have to be human. Among the many species mummified by ancient Egyptians are cats, crocodiles, bulls, falcons, and monkeys. Ear Read more
In February 1962, a group of Italian construction workers found a giant jawbone in the Vatican’s Belvedere Courtyard. This strange discovery spawned all sorts of theories (they were convinced they’d found a dinosaur). The Vatican eventually determined that the gargantuan skeleton belonged to an elep Read more
More than two years after the 2013 release of Blackfish, a searing exposé of SeaWorld’s treatment of orca whales, the aquatic theme park empire has announced that it will begin phasing out its controversial killer whale shows at its San Diego location. The New York Times reports that SeaWorld’s lead Read more
Aside from his close companion and possible lover Hephaestion, Alexander the Great probably didn’t have a ton of people to whom he could confess all his secrets…except for his absolute best friend – his horse, Bucephalus. This wasn’t any ordinary steed, however, as we’ll soon see… Alexander and Buce Read more
The Greek biographer Plutarch opens his Life of Pericles with a story about the Roman emperor Augustus. On seeing certain wealthy foreigners in Rome carrying puppies and young monkeys about in their bosoms and coddling them, Caesar [i.e., Augustus] asked, we are told, if the women in their country d Read more
Barry der Menschenretter stands out in the annals of dog history. Known simply as “Barry” to his intimates, the canine legend is credited with saving more than forty people (“Menschenretter” means people rescuer in German). Barry spent his life working as a mountain rescue dog for the Great St Berna Read more