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Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

20 Adorable Photos from Meet the Breeds 2013

Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

Every year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and The International Cat Association (TICA) gather more than 200 breeds of adorable puppies and kittens in New York City's Jacob Javits Center. Here's what we learned at the 2013 show. (And if this isn't enough cute for your Monday, check out last year's post.) 

Photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

1. Napoleon

This gentle, affectionate breed of cats dates back to 1996, when Joe Smith decided to breed doll-faced Persians with Munchkins. He called the new breed—which has a low-slung body and short legs—Napoleons after the famously petit Napoleon Bonaparte. They come in both long- and short-haired (top) varieties.

2. Xoloitzcuintli

These dogs, which hail from Mexico, have been around for over 3000 years. They can be hairless or coated. (It’s pronounced “show-low-eats-queen-tlee,” by the way.)

3. Egyptian Mau

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

You might recognize this spotted breed from Ancient Egyptian heiroglyphics; it’s the oldest domesticated cat, and the only natural spotted breed, according to TICA. Maus have five distinguishing characteristics: Their gooseberry green eyes; the brow line and eye set that gives the breed a naturally worried appearance; a “tiptoe” stance (because the hind legs are longer than the front legs); and a flap of skin extending from the posterior of the ribcage to the hind leg. The cat has three colors: Bronze, silver, and smoke (above).

4. Pomeranian

These pint-sized pups get their name from Pomerania, an area that now lies in northern Germany and Poland. Originally, the dogs weighed between 20 and 30 pounds, but they were miniaturized and popularized by a royal—England's Queen Victoria!

5. Minskin

These playful cats look like a sphynx, but not quite. Minskins—recognized as a “preliminary new breed” by TICA—have short legs and fur points on the face, ears, nose, legs, and tail. The body is sometimes fuzzy, but the belly is always hairless. The breed was created in Boston in 1998 by Paul McSorley, who crossed a Munchkin with short legs and hair with a Sphynx; Devon Rex and Burmese cats were also used in the breeding program. The first Minskin was born in July 2000.

6. Schipperke

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

These cute little dogs come from the Flemish provinces of Belgium; they're a smaller version of black sheepdogs called Leauvenaars. Their name means “little captain” in Flemish and is pronounced “sheep-er-ker.”

7. Burmilla

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

These pretty cats, which are rare in the United States, came about by accident. In 1981, a baroness purchased a Chinchilla Persian named Jemari Sanquist for her husband. Shortly before he was due to be neutered, Sanquist met up with a Lilac Burmese female named Bambino Lilac Faberge (a housekeeper had left Faberge’s door open!). After Faberge had four beautiful female kittens—all short hair, black shaded silver—a breeding program began.

8. Basenji

These short-haired African hunting dogs are one of the oldest breeds; the first specimens were found in ancient Egypt, where they were given as gifts to the Pharaohs. Basenjis don't bark, but that doesn't mean they're silent: In fact, they have vocalizations that sound like yodeling

9. Australian Mist

This breed is new to the United States—there are only about 20 Australian Mist cats in the whole country. They were created in 1976 by crossing Burmese, Abyssinian and Australian Domestic shorthair cats, and come in two patterns (spotted or marbled) and seven colors (brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, caramel, gold or peach). The name changed from Spotted Mist to Australian Mist in 1998, when cats with marbled fur were accepted as part of the breed.

10. Bergamasco Sheepdog

These mop-topped dogs are an ancient breed that hails from the Alps. Their fur is composed of long, cord-like mats called flocks, which don't shed.

11. Snowshoe

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

These cats are named for their white feet. The breed originated in Philadelphia in the 1960s, when Dorothy Hinds Daugherty found three kittens in a litter of Siamese that had white feet. She liked the combination of markings so much that she started a breeding program, crossing the kittens with American shorthair cats that had tuxedo markings.

12. Chow Chow

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

The origin of these fluffy dogs is unknown, but they've been around as far back as China's Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 22 A.D.)—you can recoginze them in pottery and sculptures from that era. It's one of only two breeds of dog that have a blue-black tongue (the other is the Shar-pei). According to the AKC, the name Chow Chow most likely derived from 18th century pidgin English words for knick-knacks that came from the Orient. 

13. Balinese

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

These guys are basically Siamese cats with long coats—but although they’re vocal cats, they’re quieter than the Siamese.

14. Akita

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

These hunting dogs are a pretty big deal in their native Japan: Not only are they one of seven breeds designated as a national monument, but when a child is born, the family receives a statue of the dog, which signifies health, happiness, and a long life. The first Akita was brought to the U.S. in 1937 by none other than Helen Keller. 

15. Somali

These fox look-a-likes are long-haired versions of Abyssinian cats. The breed was named after Somali, a country that borders Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia).

16. American Shorthair

The American Shorthair came to this country with early settlers. They were known in early cat exhibitions as Domestic Shorthairs, but the name changed in the early 1960s.

17. Boykin Spaniel

This breed evolved from a small stray discovered wandering in Spartanburg, South Carolina, between 1905 and 1910. The dog, which had a good hunting instinct, was adopted and sent to Whit Boykin to be trained, where it developed into a good turkey dog and eventually a waterfowl retriever. Boykin Spaniels are now the state dog of South Carolina.

18. Munchkin

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

Though short-legged cats have a long, globe-spanning history, the current Munchkin line can be traced back to 1983, when Sandra Hockenedel found a pregnant short-legged female cat that she named Blackberry. Hockenedel gave a male from one of Blackberry's litters to a friend, and it's these two cats, crossed with domestics, that created the Munchkin breed.

19. Berger Picard

These French herding dogs were nearly extinct after World Wars I and II, and they're still very rare—there are only about 4000 of the dogs in the world today, and only 450 in the United States.

20. Cane Corso

Photo by Sean Hutchinson

This breed's name is derived from the Latin Cohors, meaning guardian or protector. Prior to 1988, the dogs were only known to Southern Italy. You can find them in many Italian artworks, including illustrations and engravings by Bartolomeo Pinelli.

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Animals
20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins
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To celebrate World Penguin Day (which is today, April 25), here are a few fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds.

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

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3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

Gentoo Penguin
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4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

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5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

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6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

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7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

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8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.

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9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

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10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

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11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

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12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

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13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguins nest
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14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

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15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

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6 Myths About Animals, Debunked
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It’s easy to think we understand animals: They’re present in every part of our culture, from the movies we watch to the clichés we use. But the way a species functions in the wild is often worlds apart from a stereotype or cartoon. This gulf between misconceptions and reality is the theme of Lucy Cooke’s new book, The Truth About Animals.

"We have a habit of viewing the animal kingdom through the prism of our own existence, and that trips us up and obscures the truth,” Cooke, a zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, tells Mental Floss. “I think it's time we rebrand the animal kingdom according to facts and not sentimentality.”

As Cooke examines in her book, the real world is one in which pandas are virile lovers and sloths are master survivalists. These are just a few of the myths that were debunked in The Truth About Animals.

1. PANDAS HAVE LOW SEX DRIVES.

Pandas have long been blamed for their own precarious position in the animal kingdom. The species is in danger, some people claim, because pandas are reluctant to or just plain bad at copulating. If only they would get off their furry behinds and get it on, there would be more of them.

In The Truth About Animals, Cooke debunks this modern myth. Pandas have been living in the wild for 18 million years—long before humans swooped in to act as their savior—and that wouldn’t be the case without healthy sex habits. It’s true that pandas are difficult to breed in captivity, and the several failed attempts of zoos to produce a baby panda throughout the 20th century is likely what led to this stereotype. But the bears are much more responsive to members of the opposite sex in the wild. The female chooses who she mates with, moaning from high in a bamboo tree while several males on the ground compete for her attention. Once the bears have paired off, they can have sex over 40 times in one afternoon.

2. SLOTHS ARE LAZY.

Cooke was inspired to write her book by sloths, which she describes to Mental Floss as “highly successful, highly evolved” creatures. Not everyone agrees: More than perhaps any other animal, sloths have become synonymous with laziness and sluggishness, and today they’re held up as an example of evolutionary failure.

The reality is that sloths are much more impressive than their appearance suggests. They’ve been around since 64 million years ago—earlier than wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers—and they have their slow and steady nature to thank for their success. Sloths have a remarkably slow digestive system and a low-calorie diet, so they expend as little energy as possible, not out of laziness, but out of survival instinct. A sloth is awake for more than half the day, and when necessary it can scramble up a tree at speeds approaching 1 mph. It spends most of its day in a still, seemingly trancelike state, but it isn’t wasting its potential: It’s conserving energy so it can maintain its dominant spot in the evolutionary tree.

3. PENGUINS ARE LOYAL LOVERS.

Emperor penguins, the most famous of the bird group, are known for splitting parenting duties between mated pairs, with the father incubating the egg while the mother gathers food for her family. This has led some to praise penguins as the reflection of ideal, moral family dynamics in the animal kingdom, but these people should probably find a different analog. Though the parents of any given chick may raise their offspring together, penguins aren’t monogamous: 85 percent of emperor penguins find a new partner from one breeding season to the next. Penguins are also some of the only animals known to exchange goods for sex. Adélie penguins need rocks to build up their nests during warmer months when meltwater threatens their eggs. With no parenting duties to distract them, bachelor penguins end up collecting more stones than they need, so some females will sometimes trade a one-off sex session for one of their pebbles.

4. VULTURES STALK DYING PREY.

Watch enough survival movies and you’re bound to see a shot of a hungry vulture trailing behind the starving protagonist, waiting for them to lie down and die. The myth that vultures stalk their prey while it’s still alive and have the power to predict death is a persistent one, but that doesn’t make it accurate. The scavengers have no interest in living animals and will only seek out meat from dead and decaying corpses. Rather than reaper-like premonitions of mortality, turkey vultures and greater and lesser yellow-headed vultures use their noses to locate their meals. They join kiwis and kakapos on the small list of birds with highly-developed olfactory glands. Without a strong sense of smell, other New World vultures and all Old World vultures primarily rely on sight to find food. Some New World vultures like black vultures have adopted a different strategy: They'll follow turkey vultures to their prey, taking advantage of their sensitive noses.

5. ALL BATS ARE RABID BLOOD-SUCKERS.

Bats may be the animals most closely associated with the horror genre. They crave blood, so the myth goes, and though a bat latched onto your neck won’t be able to suck you dry, it will likely infect you with a nasty case of rabies.

According to Cooke, there are many problems with the statement above. Bats are poor stand-ins for their fictional vampire counterparts; only three species of bats drink blood—the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat—while most prefer fruit or insects. After climbing onto its prey, the vampire bat locates where the blood is flowing with the heat sensor on its nose, and then, using its sharp front teeth like shears, it cuts away any hair that might be blocking the skin. Rather than biting down and sucking like Dracula, the bat creates a small incision and laps up blood from the open wound. They can recognize an individual animal's breathing patterns and return to feed on it the following night, taking advantage of the reliable blood source.

Bats are rarely rabid, with just .05 percent of them carrying the disease—less than dogs or raccoons. The image of a bat getting tangled in your hair also has no basis in reality: Their sophisticated echolocation system signals them to turn long before they have a chance to collide with your head.

6. FEMALE HYENAS HAVE PENISES.

Hyena genitalia has been baffling scientists for centuries. Member of both sexes appear to have a penis, while in females there’s no external vagina to be found. Scientists originally thought that hyenas must be hermaphrodites, but the true explanation is even more unusual. Though it’s often referred to as a pseudo-penis, female hyena genitalia doesn’t produce sperm, technically making it a nearly 8-inch-long clitoris. This appendage is also saddled with all the same duties as a conventional female organ, including giving birth to hyena pups.

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