10 Historical Animals You Should Know: 1 - 5


Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class from howstuffworks.com.

Katie Lambert: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Katie Lambert.

Sarah Dowdy: And I'm Sarah Dowdy.

Katie Lambert: And our subject for today is 10 historical animals you should know but it's a little bit of a tease because we're only going to give you 1 through 5 this episode. We'll give you 6 through 10 in another one.

Sarah Dowdy: It'll be coming up soon.

Katie Lambert: But, of course, Candace and I had talked about historical dogs in a different podcast and Sarah and I had talked about military battle horses which is probably still one of my favorites mainly because of incontadis.

Sarah Dowdy: I loved that episode and I loved brainstorming it with you. We were, like, jotting down famous horse names.

Katie Lambert: It was a little bit of a last minute idea.

Sarah Dowdy: It was, it was a fun one though. But this topic is actually courtesy of Robert Lamb, who is one of our co-workers.

Katie Lambert: Right, he does the Stuff From the Science Lab podcast.

Sarah Dowdy: Yeah, and as most of you know, we're all editors and writers here at How Stuff Works, too, we don't just do podcasts so when we have articles coming out, we all get together and brainstorm about what they'll cover through email and so one article in particular Robert made a suggestion to maybe cover some cool historical pets and Katie and I immediately emailed each other and decided this would be an awesome history podcast idea.

Katie Lambert: Well, we were thinking about things that we've mentioned in earlier podcasts, too, like, Josephine Baker's cheetah on the Sen and Lord Byron's bear, you know how dearly we love bears and something about Hurst, was it zebras?

Sarah Dowdy: Yeah, just weird menageries I think we've mentioned before, Hurst and Queen Elizabeth certainly has some weird, if slightly unfortunate animal histories attached to her, bear-baiting, stuff like that.

Katie Lambert: Anti-bear. We have a whole list of royals and other historical figures that we consider to be anti-bear so just so you know.

Sarah Dowdy: You don't want to be on the list.

Katie Lambert: No, you don't want to be on the list. So, let's bring you number one which is Henry III of England the Tower of London Menagerie.

Sarah Dowdy: So, Henry was a child king but somehow or another, he managed to not get murdered or imprisoned which -

Katie Lambert: Hey, good job.

Sarah Dowdy: - as you know from our podcasts, that's pretty impressive but the barrens of course, as always, were rebellious.

Katie Lambert: Right, this was during the 1200s by the way.

Sarah Dowdy: Yeah, we should give you a little date on this and they weren't very fond of this young king, surprise, they were firmly behind the Magna Carta which sort of took away some of the kinds divine exclusive power and they didn't really like his appointments that - you know, the people he was putting in power.

Katie Lambert: No, and they also didn't like his extravagance. He had some pretty heavy taxes, which people never like, for building churches for these unsuccessful battles that he waged in France. He also tried to get one of his sons to be the king of Sicily and ended up taking on the pope's debts in his quest to fight the Holy Roman Emperor so, in other words, he wasn't particularly popular but he fought for the rights of the monarch against the barrens during this time when England was just sort of coming together and managed to strike a little bit of a balance between the nobility and the people and the king and that's what he's known for. Just a brief bio.

Sarah Dowdy: He's also known for another thing though and he's very closely associated with the famous Tower of London Menagerie and so we'll start with how this who thing got going because a menagerie is not made in a day. Henry was given leopards by Frederick the II who was the Holy Roman Emperor and the leopards didn't do so well. This is unfortunately going to be a theme with some of these -

Katie Lambert: We didn't know a lot about how to treat animals in captivity, how to keep them safe, how to feed them and you will see some sadder stories of that a little bit later.

Sarah Dowdy: Yeah. So, these leopards died pretty soon after they were given to Henry but their presence inspired him to bring in other animals from his family, lynxes, camels and a lion and over the next six centuries, all sorts of animals were added to this menagerie, building it up over time.

Katie Lambert: A white bear, from the King of Norway, which may have been a polar bear, was allowed to fish in the tembs. I think they would attach a rope to it and just sort of let it go out and see what it could do. Imagine walking by and that's what you're seeing in the morning. It died early as well along with an elephant that was a gift from the King of France but it was Elizabeth the 1st that opened this menagerie to the public and in the 18th Century, this was the thing to do. You would go see the lions, the tigers, the bears, the hyenas, the rhinos, the antelopes. At one point, it was pretty expensive so you could donate a cat or a dog to feed to the lions to get in.

Sarah Dowdy: Ohh.

Katie Lambert: Yeah, I know. And you could also get climbed all over by monkeys in the monkey room if you so desired.

Sarah Dowdy: Sounds like a nightmare.

Katie Lambert: I know. Really, I would love that. Have a little monkey sit on my shoulder and play with it.

Sarah Dowdy: The menagerie was really well-known for its lion tower which was a separate enclosure and at one point; it actually housed Barbary lions which are now extinct in the wild -

Katie Lambert: Yeah, I think there are a couple in captivity but that's pretty much it.

Sarah Dowdy: But not everything is fun animal sightseeing in the menagerie. There's some ghoulish tales from it, too.

Katie Lambert: Yeah, King James may have added some eagles and jackals to the collection, thanks James, but he also liked to throw in a lamb or a dog and just sit there and watch a lion completely tear it apart. And George III fed an ostrich iron nails to see if it could digest them and, you know, when it died, they figured it out that you know, it couldn't.

Sarah Dowdy: That's such a terrible thing to do.

Katie Lambert: Well, apparently, they thought, at the time, that ostriches could. I don't know where that came from but I guess I should give them credit for at least trying it out?

Sarah Dowdy: I don't know. I'm not going to give them credit for anything.

Katie Lambert: I'm not sponsoring animals - I'm not promoting animal experimentation here.

Sarah Dowdy: And we also have sort of a sad elephant tale from this menagerie, too. It turns out that the elephants were often fed nothing but gallons of wine so they obviously died because elephants can't live on wine.

Katie Lambert: Well, and this went on for a while. It wasn't just like it happened with one elephant -

Sarah Dowdy: It wasn't like the ostrich incident.

Katie Lambert: - and, like - well, exactly, and they couldn't figure out? You would think with - I don't know, you might want to take a scientific approach and try to figure out why elephants that are only fed wine keep dying.

Sarah Dowdy: Well, especially even if you don't look at it from being kind to the elephant itself, I'm imagining it would be a pretty big investment to bring an elephant to England; you'd want to take care of it.

Katie Lambert: You would think, Sarah, but you would be wrong. So, the menagerie was shut down in 1835 by the Duke of Wellington and many of the animals went to the London Zoo. And now let's bring you No. 2 on our list; Cosimo I de' Medici - sorry, Cosimo the First de' Medici and a monkey.

Sarah Dowdy: Since there's a lot of Cosimo's.

Katie Lambert: There are a lot of Medici period but, yeah, there are a lot of Cosimo's.

Sarah Dowdy: But this guys around from 1519 to 1574, he is of course the Duke of Florence and the Grand Duke of Tuscany and we've talked about the Medici so much, we're not going to get too much into Cosimo's life.

Katie Lambert: Well, and he's not the most interesting one to me so I started outlining his biography and then just kind of stopped and decided I was more interested in the story we're about to tell you.

Sarah Dowdy: In his monkey.

Katie Lambert: So, this Medici animal story isn't a nice one. Cosimo was in the audience for a fight. It was a fight between a court dwarf who was only dressed in his underpants and a monkey. We know this from letters and court records at the time from Medici.org -

Sarah Dowdy: Which is a great website.

Katie Lambert: It is a fantastic website.

Sarah Dowdy: I think we've mentioned it before.

Katie Lambert: It's a pretty brutal fight; both participants are injured. The dwarf in the shoulders and arm and the monkey in the legs and this is the confusing part, somehow, the monkey gave a sign that it was ready to surrender and Cosimo interpreted it as such but the dwarf did not and tried to beat the monkey to death so Cosimo stopped him and the dwarf won the fight and was rewarded but the monkey was saved.

Sarah Dowdy: So, I'm not sure exactly how Cosimo spoke monkey language -

Katie Lambert: Yeah, that's not really known as something that Medici were fantastic at but there's also another Medici animal story.

Sarah Dowdy: Yeah, the Medici giraffe and we could've talked about Julius Caesar because he's another famous -

Katie Lambert: Another giraffe owner. Yeah.

Sarah Dowdy: - giraffe lover.

Katie Lambert: I couldn't find enough information about him in time but the Romans are the ones who named it the camel leopard and that's still in its scientific name.

Sarah Dowdy: Yeah, but Lorenzo de' Medici who we've talked about extens ively had a giraffe in the 1400's which of course no Florentine had ever seen a giraffe. This is just the kind of thing that can add to your reputation as a Medici, bringing in a giraffe in Italy.

Katie Lambert: Exactly. And it was possibly a present from a sultan who needed help against the ottomans but we are going to go from one of the illustrious Medici to a U.S. President, Teddy Roosevelt and a badger.

Sarah Dowdy: So, Teddy Roosevelt was a young president; he was only 43 when McKinley was assassinated he rose to power and his famous quote was, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," but he wasn't a stay in office kind of politician.

Katie Lambert: Behind a desk.

Sarah Dowdy: Not at all. He's a rancher, a hunter, a big fan of going on safaris. That's probably one of the things he's best known for and also a conservationist.

Katie Lambert: Yeah, not to mention a roughrider in the Spanish-American War but his political reputation; he's known for being a trust buster, he's known for being very involved in foreign affairs and before that, we were a little more less a faire but as Sarah mentioned, yeah, he's also known for being a conservationist and for being a naturalist. Candace and I talked a little bit about that in, "Was Teddy Roosevelt the First Green President," an earlier podcast, but if you remember Roosevelt's great trip out west, that's when he discovered places like Yellow Stone and the Grand Canyon and decided to save them from development and that's where our story is from.

Sarah Dowdy: So, on that trip, he stopped in Sharon Springs, Kansas in May 1903 to this reception of odd Americans - you know, you can just imagine that he's coming in on this fancy train, it's the president, all this splendor, super exciting for all the people in this little town. So, everyone came out to meet the train including a little girl who asked him if he was interested in having this little baby badger she caught.

Katie Lambert: Which is the sweetest present.

Sarah Dowdy: Badgers are mean and nasty but I imagine -

Katie Lambert: But it's such a cute idea. She's, like, what is the coolest I currently have -

Sarah Dowdy: A baby badger.

Katie Lambert: Oh, I know, a baby badger.

Sarah Dowdy: Maybe the president would want it.

Katie Lambert: And he's totally into it. Oh, yeah, he says yes to her offer and he lets her and her friends tour this fabulous train and he gives them flowers and this badger named Josiah continued on the journey with Teddy who fed it potatoes and milk and it even lived at the White House for a while until his nasty badger behavior -

Sarah Dowdy: Until he grew up -

Katie Lambert: - caused him to be sent to the Bronx Zoo and that was the end of the badger in the White House. So, we're going to go from Roosevelt to a very different kind of man, Columbia drug lord, Pablo Escobar and his hippos.

Sarah Dowdy: So, Escobar was an incredibly wealthy Columbia drug lord. It's estimated that at one point he was in charge of perhaps half of the U.S.'s cocaine market in the 1970s.

Katie Lambert: When cocaine was extremely popular so we're talking billions and billions of dollars.

Sarah Dowdy: Yeah.

Katie Lambert: And, of course, you don't get to the top without some ruthlessness and without making quite a lot of enemies. Escobar was assassinated in 1993 after he had a government official killed for proposing to extradite him but he really enjoyed the wealth he had. You know, he's living it up. His favorite estate was this 5,500 acres called Hacienda Napali s. I think I'm saying that right. I'm sorry if I'm not. And he threw the usual drug-fueled parties but he also had quite the menagerie full of elephants, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, and hippos.

Sarah Dowdy: So, after he died, the Columbian government took over the Hacienda - what are you going to do with this huge piece of land, let alone all the animals. It since has fallen into disrepair - complete disrepair. It's been taken back by nature. There's bamboo and insects. It's been looted. And the animals aren't there anymore. Most of them have either died or been sent off to zoo's except for the hippo collection.

Katie Lambert: So, Escobar's hippos, four of them, came from a dealer in New Orleans, $3,000 each. I don't personally know any hippo dealers in New Orleans but maybe I just don't have the right friends.

Sarah Dowdy: It's your loss, Katie.

Katie Lambert: And there are some things you should know about hippos. They're huge; they're up to four tons, 12 feet long and five feet tall, the males at least. They're faster than you if they're running on land which is something I did not know.

Sarah Dowdy: Even though they don't look it.

Katie Lambert: No, they look so ponderous I guess.

Sarah Dowdy: They're actually pretty quick.

Katie Lambert: They're a bit bad-tempered and they reproduce quickly when there aren't any enemies around so those four hippos quickly turned into more than 20 hippos. So, as Sarah mentioned, yeah, the government takes over this Hacienda and they're faced with this dilemma -

Sarah Dowdy: What are we going to do with the hippos?

Katie Lambert: - what do you do with a bunch of hippos? Transporting them would be so incredibly expensive so, for a while, they just left them alone.

Sarah Dowdy: In action. And of course, you get more and more hippos that way because they're not just sitting around and as the estate fell apart, the hippos that are increasing in numbers, started to leave and go roaming about looking for other sources of food so imagine a hippo stomping around in your neighborhood. It's -

Katie Lambert: Eating your crops. I was saying to Sarah earlier. It makes Peter Rabbit probably not look so bad to Mr. McGregor.

Sarah Dowdy: No, pretty fuzzy and cute.

Katie Lambert: After all. So, they've become a safety hazard around the area according to the government at least and some have suggested killing them while others have urged the government to give them to some kind of organization like a reserve or something.

Sarah Dowdy: [Inaudible] Preserve.

Katie Lambert: But there aren't any takers because, I mean, seriously, getting a hippo moved is a big, expensive deal so they're still roaming the Hacienda and menacing all the people who would like to develop the land because they're very territorial and that Hacienda is now their land so you're on notice.

Sarah Dowdy: Ah, that might be my favorite one. But, all right, our final for this first part of our series is Charles Darwin and Harriet the tortoise.

Katie Lambert: Darwin lived from 1809 to 1882 and he wasn't a great student growing up but that didn't mean he wasn't interested in the sciences. He loved the outdoors and chemistry and travel, nature histories, zoology, collecting insects, botany, geology and I personally would love to talk about his personal life in another podcast, especially his relationship with his wife, which I think is really cool but what we know him for, of course, are his contributions to the theory of evolution. So, it makes sense that we'd be talking about an animal friend of his.

Sarah Dowdy: So, Darwin's famous pet tortoise, Harriet, was known as the oldest tortoise in the world when she died of heart failure just a few years ago. She was a 176 years old, which, as you'll see, you get to experience a lot of stuff if you live for 176 years.

Katie Lambert: I don't think she actually was the oldest even though that was her reputation. She was beaten by an aldabra tortoise named Clive who lived to 255 and a Madagascar tortoise named, I think, Tu'i Malila at 188 and the latter tortoises other claim to fame was having been given to Tonga's royal family by Captain James Cook but Harriet, of course, has an even more impressive pedigree -

Sarah Dowdy: Even if she's not the oldest.

Katie Lambert: Well, she belonged to Charles Darwin or at least that's the story.

Sarah Dowdy: So, supposedly, Darwin bought Harry, at the time, from the Galápagos in 1835, he thought she was a boy, she wasn't, he was good at some stuff but maybe not turtle gender identification but this wasn't just any trip to the Galápagos, obviously, it was a voyage on the HMS Beagle and the mission of the voyage of course, in case you're a little fuzzy on it, was to chart South America's coastal waters and the captain was Robert Fitzroy who had invited Darwin along just for company. He was a fun guy to hang out with. A good conversationalist.

Katie Lambert: Nothing to do with his scientific accomplishments or his knowledge. It was just, like, it would be really nice to have someone to talk to while I'm doing this. Hey, there's good old Chuck over there, he should come with me.

Sarah Dowdy: Exactly.

Katie Lambert: But the voyage last five years and Darwin was just happy as a claim even though he's staying on land the whole time investigating the floor and the fona of the islands, he's observing, he's taking notes, he collects 1500 specimens and more importantly, he begins to develop his theory of natural selection so if Harriet was present for all of this, I'm going to count her as a very lucky tortoise indeed.

Sarah Dowdy: Yeah, I imagine them just - you know, he's working at night by candlelight, Harriet sitting there -

Katie Lambert: Smiling in a tortoise-like sort of way at him. She would've been about the size of a dinner plate when he took her home and a very young little creature. There are doubts about whether Darwin brought her back but nevertheless, that is the story that stuck with her and in later years, she lived at the Australia Zoo and Steve Irwin's family adored her. They considered her a member of the family which is pretty cute.

Sarah Dowdy: So, with these five entries, I bet you're wondering what we have coming up, how could it get any better, right?

Katie Lambert: So, you should tune in soon for 6 through 10. And that brings us to listener mail. And today's emails are all about the Essex. This one is from Jesse and I just listened to your race to the South Pole podcast and I was excited to hear something about Antarctic history. I've been working in the U.S. Antarctic Program in various capacities for many years so I thought I would share my real life Antarctic reading list. I, too, have been pinned down by terrible weather although definitely nothing as dire as what Captain Scott and his men experienced and have found that anything by Charles Dickens is great to have along. Dickens novels are interesting enough to keep me engaged and dense enough to take me a long time to get through. When you stand to face days without being outside, you don't want to be stuck with light reading that you can breeze through in a few hours. I read Martin Chesilight and Bleakhouse during a couple of my trips and also you perhaps don't know this or maybe it was intentional, but your podcast aired on the same day that the National Science Foundation started up the 2010-2011 USAP Summer Field Season at McMurdo Station, September 23rd, New Zealand Local Time, continuing the tradition of world-class scientific research that the early explorers like Scott pioneered. Nicely timed. And, actually, no, we didn't know that. That was completely coincidental. It was. It's great. And we have a couple more. We have got one from Kirk who said he had two take aways from the episode. First was that after centuries of whaling, this was the first and only time a whale had attacked a ship. The Nantucket boys had been slaughtering them for generations and the whales just swam along and took it so the whalers were flabbergasted and never saw it coming. Second, was that the whale managed to sink them at just the right spot, geographically, so they were farthest from land, anywhere on earth, smack in the middle of the pacific, 4,000 miles from anywhere in any direction so nice job Sitatia. So, which is a very good point. And we've also got one from Anson. He said greetings from the Yellow Knife Northwest Territories. I enjoyed the Race to the South Pole Podcast but I want to offer one correction. Inuit is the plural form for Inuit people not Inuit's as mentioned in your podcast. Sorry about that. We didn't know. And a single Inuit person is an Inu, two syllables, and also regarding the dreaded man hold sledge, this can be used to grate a fact as shown by John Ray. He mapped huge sections of the northern Canadian coastline as well as discovering the fate of John Franklins expedition. So, thank you for on e correction and two, the interesting piece of information.

Sarah Dowdy: We've gotten a lot of suggestions for Ray, too, especially after the Franklin podcast a year ago.

Katie Lambert: And Shackleton. We get a lot for Shackleton after the Essex so -

Sarah Dowdy: People like their polar explorers.

Katie Lambert: We're going to have to think about that one. But if you'd like to email us with any history facts that we've missed or would like to know, our email is historypodcast@howstuffworks.com. We've also got a Facebook Fan page and a Twitter feed at mistinhistory and going back to our historical animals of the day and their owners, we've got a great article on the site on Charles Darwin by Robert Lamb if you'd like to search our homepage at www.howstuffworks.com.

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