Here are six legendary animals that lived a lot longer than most pets.
1. Adwaita the Tortoise (1750-2006)
Even with the long life expectancy of giant tortoises, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise named Adwaita blows all others away with a life lasting around 255 years. Estimates put his birth date around 1750, making him an entire generation older than the United States of America.
The tortoise was originally owned by a man named General Robert Clive, an important member of the East India Company, who got addicted to opium and killed himself in 1774. Barely a toddler at that time, Adwaita bummed around for a bit before eventually being transferred to an Indian zoo in 1875, where he spent the rest of his life eating and...that's pretty much it. After his death in 2006, carbon dating on his shell confirmed his age, making him quite possibly the oldest living creature ever, and almost certainly the oldest living vertebrate.
2. Lin Wang the Elephant (1917-2003)
The average lifespan for an elephant can be anything from 50-70 years, but the oldest elephant ever was named Lin Wang, who died in a Taiwanese zoo at the ripe old age of 86. But he managed to fit a whole lot of awesome into his life before then.
During World War II, the young pachyderm was recruited to move supplies for the Japanese army before being captured by the Chinese along with a dozen other elephants. At the end of the war, Lin Wang managed to survive the trek back to China from Burma, which was so difficult that it killed six of the other elephants. For the next few years, he was used to build monuments and joined a circus.
When China fell to the Communists in 1949, many people fled to Taiwan, and they brought Lin Wang along with them; within two years he was the only elephant out of the original 13 captured during the war that was still alive. Once safely in Taiwan he was finally placed in a zoo to live out his retirement in peace.
As he grew older, Lin Wang became famous and received the absolute devotion of the Taiwanese. Starting in 1983, his birthday was celebrated every year. Even his transfer from one zoo to another brought thousands of people out to watch. When he finally died in 2003, tens of thousands of people left cards and flowers outside the zoo, including the then President of Taiwan.
3. Big Bertha the Cow (1944-1993)
While most cows consider 25 years to be extremely old age, Big Bertha was born while World War II was still raging and died after most of the people reading this were born. In between, she managed to fit in a lot more excitement than a normal cow. Besides pushing out 39 children, for which she was awarded a Guinness World Record for most calves from one cow, she also managed to help raise $75,000 for cancer by making celebrity appearances at cattle fairs.
Being a true Irish lass, Bertha regularly led her local St. Patrick's Day parade, but since the noise and all the people were a bit much for her, her owner always calmed her nerves by feeding her whiskey beforehand.
Bertha was eventually awarded her second Guinness honor for Oldest Ever Cow. When she died, the locals held a wake for her in her favorite pub, which was "packed to suffocation" with people toasting her memory. If you ever want to go see her, her stuffed body is on display at a farm in Ireland.
4. Charlie the Macaw (1899(?)-present)
Charlie is a crotchety old blue macaw that may have already lived through three centuries and is still going strong. While it’s impossible to know the exact date he was born, estimates put it around the very end of the 19th century, and even if those estimates are off by a few decades, he has still lasted a lot longer than the average 50 year life span of normal macaws.
His current owner claims he was a favorite pet of Winston Churchill’s, who supposedly acquired Charlie in 1937 after the macaw had already managed to outlive two previous owners. While the Churchill claim is hotly debated, what is certain is that whoever did own Charlie during World War II taught him to say some very dirty phrases, mostly about Hitler and the Nazis.
His speech is so vulgar that his current owner, who says he purchased Charlie from the Churchill estate after Winston died in 1965, was forced to keep him instead of selling him in his pet shop as he had originally intended.
5. Tish the Goldfish (1956-1999)
Remember those fair games where you could win a goldfish? These are an important part of childhood, because they teach kids about the briefness of life, when the fish inevitably dies 3 days later. If you are lucky it might live a year or two. That's probably what Mr. and Mrs. Hand where expecting when they let their son Peter try to win a pair of fish in 1956. Little did they know they would be taking care of one of those fish into their 70s.
After a few suicide attempts in his youth, Tish settled down with his bowl mate Tosh. That carnival worker must have been feeding all of his fish something pretty amazing, because Tosh didn’t expire until 1975. Normally that would be pretty impressive for a goldfish if his friend Tish hadn’t made lasting 19 years look pathetic, by living until the ripe old age of 43.
A year before he died, Tish was awarded the title of Oldest Goldfish by the Guinness Book of World Records.
6. Matilda the Chicken (1990-2006)
Keith and Donna Barton bought Matilda for $10 at a fair in 1990. Instead of putting her in a chicken coop or eating her or any of those normal things you expect people to do with chickens, they put Matilda to work as a part of their magic act.
They probably expected to replace their poultry assistant a lot sooner than they did, though; while most chickens only live 7-8 years, Matilda was still kicking after 15. She never laid a single egg in all that time, an abnormality that some chicken experts think may have directly contributed to her long life.
In 2001, Matilda became the first chicken to place in the Guinness Book of World Records as "World's Oldest Living Chicken." This led to the second horrible thing her owners put her through: a spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
In her later years, Matilda used her celebrity for good, attending many charity functions. She died in 2006.
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Kathy Benjamin's new book Funerals to Die For: The Craziest, Creepiest, and Most Bizarre Funeral Traditions and Practices Ever is coming in April. Here are just a few of the amazing funerary facts we can look forward to:
The remains of a loved one can be launched into deep space for only $1,000.
In Taiwan, strippers are hired to entertain funeral guests throughout the ceremony.
Undertakers for the Tongan royal family weren't allowed to use their hands for 100 days after preparing a king's body.
In the late 1800s, New Englanders would gulp down a cocktail of water and their family member's ashes in order to keep them from returning as vampires.