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
14 Bold Facts About Bald Eagles
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Bald eagles are powerful symbols of America—but there’s a whole lot more to these quirky birds.

1. YOUNG BALD EAGLES AREN'T BALD.

A young bald eagle with a brown head on a beach.
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So obviously adult bald eagles aren't really bald, either—their heads have bright white plumage that contrasts with their dark body feathers, giving them a "bald" look. But young bald eagles have mostly brown heads. In fact, for the first four or five years of their lives, they move through a complicated series of different plumage patterns; in their second year, for instance, they have white bellies.

2. BALD EAGLES SOUND SO SILLY THAT HOLLYWOOD DUBS OVER THEIR VOICES.

A red-tailed hawk.
A red-tailed hawk's screech is usually dubbed over the bald eagle's weaker scream.
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It's a scene you’ve probably seen countless times in movies and on TV: an eagle flies overhead and emits a rough, piercing scream. It's a classic symbol of wilderness and adventure. The only problem? Bald eagles don't make that sound.

Instead, they emit a sort of high-pitched giggle or a weak scream. These noises are so unimpressive that Hollywood sound editors often dub over bald eagle calls with far more impressive sounds: the piercing, earthy screams of a smaller bird, the red-tailed hawk. If you were a fan of The Colbert Report, you might remember the show's iconic CGI eagle from the opener—it, too, is making that red-tailed hawk cry. Listen for yourself and decide who sounds more impressive.

3. THEY EAT TRASH AND STOLEN FOOD.

Two bald eagles guard their prey against two magpies on a snowy field.
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Picture a majestic bald eagle swooping low over a lake and catching a fish in its powerful claws. Yes, bald eagles eat a lot of fish—but they don't always catch it themselves. They've perfected the art of stealing fish from other birds such as ospreys, chasing them down until they drop their prey.

Bald eagles will also snack on gulls, ducks, rabbits, crabs, amphibians, and more. They'll scavenge in dumpsters, feed on waste from fish processing plants, and even gorge on carrion (dead, decaying animals).

4. BALD EAGLES USUALLY MATE FOR LIFE.

Two bald eagles perched on a tree.
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Trash and carrion aside, they're pretty romantic animals. Bald eagles tend to pair up for life, and they share parenting duties: the male and the female take turns incubating the eggs, and they both feed their young.

5. … AND THEY LIVE PRETTY LONG LIVES.

Two bald eagles sitting on a rock.
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Those romantic partnerships are even more impressive because bald eagles can survive for decades. In 2015, a wild eagle in Henrietta, New York, died at the record age of 38. Considering that these birds pair up at 4 or 5 years of age, that's a lot of Valentine's Days.

6. THEY HOLD THE RECORD FOR THE LARGEST BIRD'S NEST.

Two bald eagles in their large nest.
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Bald eagles build enormous nests high in the treetops. The male and female work on the nest together, and this quality time helps them cement their lifelong bond. Their cozy nurseries consist of a framework of sticks lined with softer stuff such as grass and feathers. If the nest serves them well during the breeding season, they'll keep using it year after year. And, like all homeowners, they can't resist the thought of renovating and adding to their abode. Every year, they'll spruce it up with a whopping foot or two of new material.

On average, bald eagle nests are 2-4 feet deep and 4-5 feet wide. But one pair of eagles near St. Petersburg, Florida, earned the Guinness World Record for largest bird’s nest: 20 feet deep and 9.5 feet wide. The nest weighed over two tons.

7. FEMALES ARE LARGER THAN MALES.

Two bald eagles in their large nest.
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In many animal species, males are (on average) larger than females. Male gorillas, for example, dwarf their female counterparts. But for most birds of prey, it's the opposite. Male bald eagles weight about 25 percent less than females.

Scientists aren't sure why there's such a size difference. One reason might be the way they divide up their nesting duties. Females take the lead in arranging the nesting material, so being bigger might help them take charge. Also, they spend longer incubating the eggs than males, so their size could intimidate would-be egg thieves.

If you're trying to tell male and female eagles apart, this size difference may help you—especially since both sexes have the same plumage patterns.

8. TO IDENTIFY THEM, LOOK AT THE WINGS.

A bald eagle flies across the water.
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People often get excited about a big soaring bird and yell "It's an eagle!” just before it swoops closer and … oops, it's a vulture. Here's a handy identification tip. Bald eagles usually soar with their wings almost flat. On the other hand, the turkey vulture—another dark, soaring bird—holds its wings up in a shallow V shape called a dihedral. A lot of large hawks also soar with slightly raised wings.

9. THEY'RE COMEBACK KIDS.

Baby eagle chicks in a nest.
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Before European settlers arrived, bald eagles were abundant across the U.S. But with settlement came habitat destruction, and the settlers viewed the eagles as competition for game and as a threat to livestock. So many eagles were killed that in 1940 Congress passed an act to protect the birds.

Unfortunately, another threat rose up at about that time. Starting after World War II, farmers and public health officials used an insecticide called DDT. The chemical worked well to eradicate mosquitos and agricultural pests—but as it traveled up the food chain, it began to heavily affect birds of prey. DDT made eagle eggshells too thin and caused the eggs to break. A 1963 survey found just 471 bald eagle pairs in the lower 48 states.

DDT was banned in the early 1970s, and conservationists began to breed bald eagles in captivity and reintroduce them in places across America. Luckily, this species made a spectacular recovery. Now the lower 48 states boast over 9700 nesting pairs.

10. THEY'RE UNIQUELY NORTH AMERICAN.

An African fish eagle flies over the water.
The African fish eagle is a relative of the North American bald eagle.
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You've probably heard of America's other eagle: the golden eagle. This bird lives throughout much of the northern hemisphere. But the bald eagle is only found in North America. It lives across much of Canada and the U.S., as well as northern parts of Mexico.

Though it may be North American, the bald eagle has seven close relatives that are found throughout the world. They all belong to the genus Haliaeetus, which comes—pretty unimaginatively—from the Latin words for "sea" and "eagle." One relative, the African fish eagle, is a powerful symbol in its own right. It represents several countries; for example, it's the national symbol of Zambia, and graces the South Sudanese, Malawian, and Namibian coats of arms.

11. THEY'RE AERIAL DAREDEVILS.

A bald eagle carries a fish off in its talons.
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It seems too weird to be true: While flying, bald eagles sometimes grab each other's feet and spin while plummeting to the Earth. Scientists aren't sure why they do this—perhaps it's a courtship ritual or a territorial battle. Usually, the pair will separate before hitting the ground (as seen in this remarkable set of photographs). But sometimes they hold tight and don't let go. These two male bald eagles locked talons and hit the ground with their feet still connected. One subsequently escaped and the other was treated for talon wounds.

12. THEIR EYES ARE AMAZING.

Close-up of a bald eagle's face.
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What if you could close your eyes and still see? Besides the usual pair of eyelids, bald eagles have a see-through eyelid called a nictitating membrane. They can close this membrane to protect their eyes while their main eyelids remain open. The membrane also helps moisten and clean their eyes.

Eagles also have sharper vision than people, and their field of vision is wider. Plus, they can see ultraviolet light. Both of those things mean the expression "eagle eye" is spot-on.

13. THEY MIGRATE … SORT OF.

A bald eagle sits in a snowy tree.
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If you're a bald eagle that nests in northern Canada, you'll probably head south for the winter to avoid the punishing cold. Many eagles fly south for the winter and return north for the summer—as do plenty of other bird species (and retired Canadians). But not all bald eagles migrate. Some of them, including individuals in New England and Canada's Maritime provinces, stick around all year. Whether or not a bird migrates depends on how old it is and how much food is available.

14. THEY CAN SWIM … SORT OF.

A bald eagle
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There are several videos online—like the one above—that show a bald eagle swimming in the sea, rowing itself to shore with its huge wings. Eagles have hollow bones and fluffy down, so they can float pretty well. But why swim instead of soar? Sometimes, an eagle will swoop down and grab an especially weighty fish, then paddle it to shore to eat.

Note that the announcer in the video above says that the eagle's talons are "locked" on a fish that's too heavy to carry. In fact, those lockable talons are an urban legend.

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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