Public Transportation is for the Birds (and Dogs and Goats)

filed under: top-story
Image credit: 

We've all heard of snakes on a plane, but what about cats on a bus? Or dogs on a subway? Here are the stories of some crafty members of the animal kingdom who have found that public transportation is the only way to travel.

New Kid On the Bus

Just like Mary, who had a little lamb that followed her to school each day, Jordan Lamp of Ohio had her own four-legged tag-along, Nanny, a goat that repeatedly jumped on the school bus with her in 2008. The new "kid" in school was always quickly dismissed, despite protests from the rest of the students on the bus, but she became quite famous nonetheless. Thankfully, the school took the minor disruption in stride, offering to sign Nanny up during the Spring open enrollment period. However, as Superintendent Chuck Swindler pointed out, the arrangement probably wouldn't work in the long run: "The big problem he has is he tends to eat his homework..."

Where Everybody Knows Ratty's Name

As the Cheers theme song put it, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. And for Ratty the Jack Russel Terrier, that place was the Black Bull Pub in Dunnington, UK. At least twice a week, Ratty would hop on the No. 10 bus across the street from his house and take it five miles to the pub, where he had his own water bowl and was fed his favorite sausages. However, like so many barflies, Ratty could never seem to find his way back home. A friendly barmaid would usually give him a ride at the end of the night, or the pub's owner would simply call Ratty's owner to come get him. This went on for years, until 2006 when the Black Bull was sold and the new owners banned the dog from the pub.

But it wasn't long before the terrier found another pub to call home—the nearby Rose and Crown, where the owner said he was always welcome. Sadly, this April, 10 year old Ratty was struck down and killed while crossing the street to board the No. 10 bus for his regular trip to the pub.

A Different Kind of Passenger Pigeon

We all know the old joke, "I just flew in and, boy, are my arms tired." The pigeon comedians of London can't really use that joke, though, since many of them use the Underground subway system to save themselves some flapping. The birds, especially on the Northern and Piccadilly lines, will walk into the car at one station, ride it to the next, and then get off. The birds will even stand and wait patiently for the doors, indicating they know which side of the car will open for their stop.

But the Brit birds aren't the only ones who ride the rails. In New York City, pigeons have been seen on the A line for years. The train car stops for cleaning at the Far Rockaway station and the birds take the opportunity to get on board and scrounge for crumbs. As the train returns to service, it takes the birds with it, and the pigeons have simply learned to get off when the doors open again at the next station. Some employees say the birds will fly back to the Far Rockaway station so they can get back on when the train returns.

There's no question the YouTube sensation known as Henry, a pigeon on the Toronto Transit Commission subway, commutes like an old pro. As he waits for his stop, he patiently stays near the center pole. But he begins to pace around once the overhead voice indicates the train is arriving at Runnymede Station. And, as if he's done it a thousand times before, he simply walks right through the doors just before they close behind him. Obviously he's a native.

Percy Peruses the Penguins


If you were a cat, where would you take the train? To the aquarium, of course. That's exactly what Percy, a cat in Scarborough, UK, does when he hops the North Bay Railway and travels from his home to the nearby Sea Life Centre. There, Percy sits in front of the large tanks, watching the colorful fish swim by. And once he's done with the fish, he'll go watch the penguins until his presence makes them nervous and an employee has to shoo him away. After Percy's had his fill of marine life, he somehow knows when his train is coming, and heads back to the station to catch a ride home. The park and railway employees say he's one of the best-behaved visitors they have. [Image credit: Purr-n-Fur.]

Casper the Commuter Cat

Susan Finden was boarding the No. 3 bus across the street from her house in Plymouth, UK, when her cat Casper followed her on. She tried to shoo him off, but the driver informed her that Casper was a regular rider. According to the driver, Casper would consistently "queue up in line good as gold "“ it'd be 'person, person, person, cat, person'" for the normal 10:55am departure. Once on board, the cat took his favorite seat in the back, curled up, and slept through the 11-mile, hour-long journey. After the bus returned, Casper would simply get off, or, if he was still asleep, the driver would nudge him awake to remind him it was his stop. This wasn't a fluke thing, either "“ Casper had ridden the bus every day for going on four years, traveling an estimated 20,000 miles. Unfortunately, Casper's bus-riding days were numbered. In January 2010, Casper was hit by a vehicle while crossing the street for his daily commute.

Moscow's Metro Mutts

There are approximately 35,000 stray dogs living in and around Moscow today; about 500 of them live in subway stations where there's plenty of food and no dangerous vehicular traffic like on the street above. Of these 500, a few have developed a very special skill "“ riding the subway. The dogs generally take the train from the suburbs to the city center, where the best food can be scrounged and begged for. According to Andrei Neuronov, an animal behaviorist, the dogs have figured out how to ride the subway by using their keen instincts. They have memorized the different smells of the stations and can recognize the station names as they're called out over the loudspeaker. They even use their own internal clocks to know approximately when the train they want is coming, as well as when to get off when they return home that night.

While other cities might find the dogs a nuisance, many Muscovites show great admiration for their subway strays. For example, after the brutal stabbing of a well-liked subway dog nicknamed Malchik in 2001, money donated by Muscovites helped erect a bronze statue of the dog inside the station he once called home. Even today, it's not unusual to see flowers left there for the beloved canine.

Hachikō of Shibuya Station

Hachikō, a rare breed of Akita, never got on the train at Shibuya Station in Japan, but his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, boarded to go to the University of Tokyo where he was a professor. Every day, the dog walked with his master to the station and would be there again when Ueno got off the train that evening. This went on for a little over a year before a cerebral hemorrhage killed Ueno while he was at work. Although Ueno never came home again, Hachikō waited for him. Even after Hachikō had been taken in by new owners, the dog still came to the station every day for the next nine years to wait for his beloved master's return. As employees and commuters began to take note of Hachikō's vigil, his story spread and he became something of a role model to the people of Japan, admired for his loyalty.

On March 8, 1935, Hachikō was found dead in the streets of Shibuya. As an honor, his body was mounted and put on display at the National Science Museum of Japan in Tokyo. Additionally, a large, bronze statue was erected at Shibuya Station, where an annual ceremony is held on April 8 to commemorate this incredibly faithful dog. In 2009, his story was the subject of a Richard Gere movie, Hachi: A Dog's Tale.

So, a Monkey and a Bulldog Walk Onto a Train...

Still not impressed by these mass transit animals? Check out Pan-Kun, a chimpanzee, and his buddy, a bulldog named James, as they not only ride a train in Japan, but even figure out how to buy the ticket, with very little human assistance. It's all part of a TV show where Pan-Kun and James are given human tasks to accomplish and, more often than not, pass these tests with flying colors.

* * * * * *
Ever ridden the bus with a goat? Or the subway with a pigeon? How about an airplane next to one of those yappy-type dogs? Tell us all about your wildest animal travel experiences in the comments below.

twitterbanner.jpg

shirts-555.jpg

tshirtsubad_static-11.jpg

More from mental_floss...

August 18, 2010 - 8:51am
webby
submit to reddit