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Horses Befriending Goats

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It may look like an odd coupling, but race horses and goats have been befriending each other for centuries. For whatever reason, the goats seem to have a greatly calming effect on race horses, who are often extremely temperamental. Even Australia's top horse, Black Caviar, has a billy goat friend (appropriately named Billy). Trainer Peter Clarke says the bond was "instrumental" in the horse's unbeatable form:

"He's always up for a rumble and he rears up and rolls on his back and she rears up and spins around and he'll rear up and buck away. But when she's out of the paddock, he just stands at the gate and waits for her to come back. It seems to me that he knows she is special and he's always looking out for her."

There's even a rumor that the expression "get your goat" started being used at the track where thieves would steal the goat of a favored horse in order to make the horse perform poorly. While the tale might be a fiction, its proliferation shows just how strong the bond between horses and goats can be.

[Image courtesy of Meir Jacob's Flickr stream]

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Food
This Couple Has Spent the Past 30 Years Visiting Every Cracker Barrel in the U.S.
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Ray and Wilma Yoder are probably America's foremost amateur experts on Cracker Barrel restaurants. As Eater reports, the Indiana couple is on a 30-year quest to eat at every single Cracker Barrel in the U.S. And they’ve almost completed it.

Ray Yoder of Goshen, Indiana, first started going to Cracker Barrel regularly when he worked delivering RVs across the country. Soon, Wilma was coming along, too, and the couple began hunting down Cracker Barrel locations in earnest, a pastime they’ve pursued for the past three decades.

Cracker Barrel got its start in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1969, and according to Ray, visiting the restaurants while on the road felt like being at home. “It has a down-home spirit, and everybody is friendly,” he told the Lebanon Democrat. He told the paper that stopping at Cracker Barrels helped relieve boredom when he was on the road.

Ray and Wilma Yoder stand in front of two RVs outside a Cracker Barrel.
Now, he and Wilma are celebrities to those in the Cracker Barrel know. Cracker Barrel’s corporate leadership invites them to opening day at new stores. Employees know of them, and sometimes they receive gift baskets when they come in to cross a new Cracker Barrel off their list. People ask to take their picture when they visit.

The 80-year-olds have just two rules for their visits: At each location, they always buy something, even if it’s just a cup of coffee, and leave a tip. There’s no limit on how many Cracker Barrels they’ll go to in a single day, though. They once visited 10 different locations on a drive along the East Coast. Overall, their Cracker Barrel adventure has taken them more than 5 million miles across 44 states.

The Yoders recently visited their 644th Cracker Barrel, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new location in Lavonia, Georgia, in early July. They’re hoping to hit up the last Cracker Barrel on their list—until the next one opens, that is—by heading to Tualatin, Oregon, sometime later this year.

Update: Portland news station KGW reports that the Yoders have now completed their quest, stopping in at the Tualatin Cracker Barrel on August 28. The company flew them to Oregon for the occasion, which marked the end of their 645-restaurant journey. For now, at least.

[h/t Eater]

All images courtesy Cracker Barrel

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Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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