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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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Pig Island: Sun, Sand, and Swine Await You in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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13 Secrets From the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London
Christine Colby
Christine Colby

Christopher Skaife is a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, an ancient fortress that has been used as a jail, royal residence, and more. There are 37 Yeoman Warders, popularly known as Beefeaters, but Skaife has what might be the coolest title of them all: He is the Ravenmaster. His job is to maintain the health and safety of the flock of ravens (also called an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy”) that live within the Tower walls. According to a foreboding legend with many variations, if there aren’t at least six ravens living within the Tower, both the Tower and the monarchy will fall. (No pressure, Chris!)

Skaife has worked at the Tower for 11 years, and has many stories to tell. Recently, Mental Floss visited him to learn more about his life in service of the ravens.

1. MILITARY SERVICE IS REQUIRED.

All Yeoman Warders must have at least 22 years of military service to qualify for the position and have earned a good-conduct medal. Skaife served for 24 years—he was a machine-gun specialist and is an expert in survival and interrogation resistance. He is also a qualified falconer.

Skaife started out as a regular Yeoman Warder who had no particular experience with birds. The Ravenmaster at the time "saw something in him," Skaife says, and introduced him to the ravens, who apparently liked him—and the rest is history. He did, however, have to complete a five-year apprenticeship with the previous Ravenmaster.

2. HE LIVES ON-SITE.

The Tower of London photographed at night
Christine Colby

As tradition going back 700 years, all Yeoman Warders and their families live within the Tower walls. Right now about 150 people, including a doctor and a chaplain, claim the Tower of London as their home address.

3. BUT HE’S HAD TO MOVE.

Skaife used to live next to the Bloody Tower, but had to move to a different apartment within the grounds because his first one was “too haunted.” He doesn’t really believe in ghosts, he says, but does put stock in “echoes of the past.” He once spoke to a little girl who was sitting near the raven cages, and when he turned around, she had disappeared. He also claims that things in his apartment inexplicably move around, particularly Christmas-related items.

4. THE RAVENS ENJOY SOME UNUSUAL SNACKS.

The Ravenmaster at the Tower of London bending down to feed one of his ravens
Christine Colby

The birds are fed nuts, berries, fruit, mice, rats, chicken, and blood-soaked biscuits. (“And what they nick off the tourists,” Skaife says.) He has also seen a raven attack and kill a pigeon in three minutes.

5. THEY GET A LULLABY.

Each evening, Skaife whistles a special tone to call the ravens to bed—they’re tucked into spacious, airy cages to protect them from predators such as foxes.

6. THERE’S A DIVA.

One of the ravens doesn’t join the others in their nighttime lodgings. Merlina, the star raven, is a bit friendlier to humans but doesn’t get on with the rest of the birds. She has her own private box inside the Queen’s House, which she reaches by climbing a tiny ladder.

7. ONE OF THEM HAS EARNED THE NICKNAME “THE BLACK WIDOW.”

Ravens normally pair off for life, but one of the birds at the Tower, Munin, has managed to get her first two mates killed. With both, she lured them high atop the White Tower, higher than they were capable of flying down from, since their wings are kept trimmed. Husband #1 fell to his death. The second one had better luck coasting down on his wings, but went too far and fell into the Thames, where he drowned. Munin is now partnered with a much younger male.

8. THERE IS A SECRET PUB INSIDE THE TOWER.

Only the Yeoman Warders, their families, and invited guests can go inside a secret pub on the Tower grounds. Naturally, the Yeoman Warder’s Club offers Beefeater Bitter beer and Beefeater gin. It’s lavishly decorated in police and military memorabilia, such as patches from U.S. police departments. There is also an area by the bar where a section of the wall has been dug into and encased in glass, showing items found in an archaeological excavation of the moat, such as soldiers’ discarded clay pipes, a cannonball, and some mouse skeletons.

9. … AND A SECRET HAND.

The Byward Tower, which was built in the 13th century by King Henry III, is now used as the main entrance to the Tower for visitors. It has a secret glass brick set into the wall that most people don’t notice. When you peer inside, you’ll see it contains a human hand (presumably fake). It was put in there at some point as a bit of a joke to scare children, but ended up being walled in from the other side, so is now in there permanently.

10. HE HAS A SIDE PROJECT.

Skaife considers himself primarily a storyteller, and loves sharing tales of what he calls “Victorian melodrama.” In addition to his work at the Tower, he also runs Grave Matters, a Facebook page and a blog, as a collaboration with medical historian and writer Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. Together they post about the history of executions, torture, and punishment.

11. THE TOWER IS MUPPET-FAMOUS.

2013’s Muppets Most Wanted was the first major film to shoot inside the Tower walls. At the Yeoman Warder’s Club, you can still sit in the same booth the Muppets occupied while they were in the pub.

12. IF YOU VISIT, KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR MONEY.

Ravens are very clever and known for stealing things from tourists, especially coins. They will strut around with the coin in their beak and then bury it, while trying to hide the site from the other birds.

13. … AND ON YOUR EYES.

Skaife, who’s covered in scars from raven bites, says, “They don’t like humans at all unless they’re dying or dead. Although they do love eyes.” He once had a Twitter follower, who is an organ donor, offer his eyes to the ravens after his death. Skaife declined.

This story first ran in 2015.

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