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DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images

20 Pieces of Etiquette Every Royal Wedding Guest Needs to Follow

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images

If you were lucky enough to score an invite to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, you'd better know what to do once you get there. And no, we’re not talking about just knowing which fork is the salad fork (though that’s important, too). Royal events come with their own set of rules—some of them obvious, others anything but. So that you don’t embarrass yourself on Harry and Meghan’s big day, here are 20 etiquette rules you’ll definitely want to follow.

1. IF YOU FORGOT TO RSVP, DON’T BOTHER SHOWING UP.

Invitations for the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle are pictured, after they have been printed at the workshop of Barnard and Westwood in London on March 22, 2018
VICTORIA JONES, AFP/Getty Images

While it stands to reason that you should never show up to any wedding—royal or otherwise—if you did not RSVP to let the couple know you'd be coming, don’t expect to show up at Windsor Castle and watch the royal family scramble to make room for you. In 2011, the King of Cambodia forgot to respond to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding invitation, and was left to watch the ceremony on television like the rest of us (not sitting alongside his fellow global royals).

2. RESIST THE URGE TO WEAR WHITE OR CREAM. OR BLACK.

Young woman in a white dress
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This rule, too, is pretty standard and universal. But the Queen herself made a point of reminding guests to William and Kate’s 2011 wedding—via a 22-page Etiquette Book issued by Buckingham Palace—that “Wearing cream or white is not appropriate. That must be left to the bride.”

“We steer clear of white because that's considered to be stealing the bride's thunder,” CNN royal commentator Victoria Arbiter told Us Weekly, though she clarified that since the wedding is a daytime affair taking place in the springtime, wearing a floral or other printed dress with a white or cream base is fine, just as long as the pattern overwhelms the base.

On the opposite side of the color spectrum, you shouldn't wear black either (unless it’s a jacket or accessory worn over a brighter color). “Black is considered a funeral color, so you wouldn't wear all black,” Arbiter added. “Victoria Beckham wore navy to Prince William and Kate's wedding and it looked very elegant and sophisticated, that was fine since she wasn't in black.”

For the men in attendance, “Navy or grey suits are customary at weddings, and garish waistcoats or ties should be avoided,” Lucy Hume, an etiquette expert and publisher of Debrett's Peerage, told Town & Country Magazine.

3. WATCH THE HEIGHT OF YOUR HEELS.

 David Beckham and Victoria Beckham arrive to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England
Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images

Speaking of Victoria Beckham: Don’t make the same mistake that she did at William and Kate’s wedding and go too high with your heel height. “Don’t wear huge heels,” etiquette tutor William Hanson told Town & Country. “It’s not practical as well as not being etiquette. Victoria Beckham wore huge stilettos [to William and Catherine’s wedding]. Now, they were going into Westminster Abbey—a church floor is not a smooth floor.”

4. BARE LEGS WON'T IMPRESS THE QUEEN.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha outside Westminster Abbey after attending the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton in London, on April 29, 2011
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

Bare legs have never flown in the royal family, a fact that came to very public light when Kate Middleton brought pantyhose back in a big way. So if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a royal affair, you’d best follow the rules—lest you become an object of hosiery-shaming. “Wear tights,” Hanson told Town & Country. “[Former British Prime Minister] David Cameron's wife didn't wear tights [to the Royal Wedding in 2011], which was a bit of a shame.”

5. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A HAT, BUT NOT TOO MUCH HAT.

 Princess Beatrice of York (L) with her sister Princess Eugenie of York arrive to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Nothing screams “royal event” like loads of fancy headgear, and that’s because it’s a required part of the day’s uniform. According to the Evening Standard, wearing a full hat—not a fascinator—is standard for all female attendees. (The guess is that the tradition has biblical origins.) And while fashion fans like to have fun with their millinery, there are rules of etiquette that apply here, too.

“Wearing the right hat and not overdoing it is important,” was the simple advice written in Buckingham Palace’s Etiquette Book. (We’re guessing Princess Beatrice of York, seen above, didn't get the memo.) “Resist novelty elements or anything that will draw too much attention away from the bride,” Hume said. Equally important is making sure that the hat isn't so large or distracting that it blocks the view of those sitting behind you. Which is why Buckingham Palace instructed male guests that, “A top hat should be carried, not worn, inside the church.”

6. LEAVE YOUR TIARA AT HOME.

Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, wave as they travel in the 1902 State Landau carriage along the Processional Route to Buckingham Palace, in London, on April 29, 2011
ODD ANDERSEN, AFP/Getty Images

Speaking of headgear: Wearing a tiara if you’re anyone but Meghan Markle is a very bad idea, even if you’ve earned the right to wear one (or just feel like royalty). “You wouldn't wear a tiara to a daytime British wedding unless you were the bride," Arbiter explained, adding that, “Meghan may choose to forgo that tradition since it's not a hard and fast rule, but chances are the Queen will offer to loan her a tiara and if the Queen is offering to loan you something, it's rare that somebody would say no.” (Which takes care of the “something borrowed” part of the bride’s outfit.)

7. SHOWING SHOULDER IS A NO-NO. SAME GOES FOR TOES.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C), Carole Middleton (L) and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall talk as they come out of Westminster Abbey in London, following the wedding ceremony of Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, on April 29, 2011
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

When choosing a wedding outfit, it’s always best to err on the side of a more conservative style. “Ladies must dress appropriately for church,” notes the Palace’s Etiquette Guide. “This rule includes covering one's shoulders, wearing a hat to cover one's head, and not wearing anything garish or to garner attention. It is the bride's day.” If you’re thinking, “Great, I’ll wear my favorite pant suit,” think again! “Pants suits are frowned upon,” according to the official guide.

Bare toes can also be considered a bit too revealing. “Shoulders should be covered, hemlines should be on the conservative side, and closed-toe shoes,” Myka Meier, the Plaza Hotel's etiquette expert, told Town & Country.

8. KEEP YOUR HANDS AT YOUR SIDES (AND DEFINITELY OUT OF YOUR POCKETS).

Britain's Prince Harry (R) and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge walk to the church for the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews at St Mark's Church in Englefield, west of London, on May 20, 2017
JUSTIN TALLIS, AFP/Getty Images

The Palace's Etiquette Book is nothing if not thorough, even going so far as to tell guests what to do with their limbs: “Keep your hands at your sides when standing,” it advises. “Gentleman, keep your hands out of your pockets. Europeans consider this act rude.”

9. ARRIVE AN HOUR EARLY.

Man in suit looking at watch
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What could be worse than arriving to the church after the bride has already started her procession down the aisle? In the case of a royal wedding: getting there after the Queen has made her entrance. According to Cosmopolitan UK, guests should arrive an hour before the wedding’s official start time to ensure that they’re not tripping over Queen Elizabeth II as they make their way in. “You don’t want to turn up after her,” Duncan Larcombe, the former Royal Editor for The Sun, said. “She will get there five minutes before Meghan will arrive.”

10. BRING YOUR CELLPHONE IF YOU MUST, BUT DON'T PLAN ON USING IT.

 Patricia Ford from Tamworth talks on the phone in the Village of Bucklebury on April 29, 2011 in Bucklebury, United Kingdom
Jamie McDonald, Getty Images

The official Etiquette Book was pretty straightforward when it came to mobile phones: “Needless to say, turn OFF your cell phone.” Larcombe underscored this point to Cosmopolitan UK, saying that while guests will likely be allowed to have their phones on their person, “Under no circumstances are they allowed to use them.”

11. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT SNAPPING A PHOTO.

Wedding guest snaps photo of wine glasses during the reception
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What happens at Windsor Castle stays at Windsor Castle—unless the royal family is the one releasing the information or images. “There will be no photography in Windsor Castle if they follow the precedent of the 2011 wedding,” Hume told Town & Country. “And with any wedding,” added Hume, “you shouldn't take photographs and release them before the official photographs are released.”

“Guests will be told not to take pictures at any [time during] the day, particularly during the evening reception at Frogmore House," Larcombe said. "No pictures ever emerged from William and Kate’s party—anyone who broke this rule would certainly end up in hot water with the happy couple.” (Not to mention being on the wrong side of the Queen.)

12. PLAN TO TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA VACATION.

 Queen Elizabeth II sends her first Tweet during a visit to the 'Information Age' Exhibition at the Science Museum on October 24, 2014 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

If the same rules apply to Harry and Meghan’s wedding as did William and Kate’s, the official stance of Buckingham Palace is: “Do not take photos of the Queen as she passes by with your cell phone … Enjoy the moment instead of holding the camera in the Queen's face as she walks in front of you and trying to capture the moment with a photograph. Do not update your Facebook status. Do not tweet.” Got it?

13. DON'T JUST GRAB ANY SEAT YOU CAN FIND AT THE CHURCH.

A general view shows the choir in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle
DOMINIC LIPINSKI, AFP/Getty Images

If you think that arriving to St. George’s Chapel a couple of hours early will nab you a front-row seat to the nuptials, we’ve got bad news: “The seats are all allocated,” Larcombe explained to Cosmopolitan UK. “They are numbered to match the number given on the invitation.” And being that this is a royal wedding, tradition dictates that the royal family calls dibs on the right side of the church (whether or not it’s the bride or groom who is the official royal).

“The entire royal family will be seated to the right-hand side of Harry and Meghan,” Larcombe continued. “Meghan's parents, co-stars, and friends will be given priority seating on the left. In a way, they will be trying to make it as normal a wedding as possible. So, when they look around they will both see their families.”

14. IF YOU WERE THINKING OF BUYING A BLENDER AS A GIFT, THINK AGAIN.

A wrapped gift
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Royal wedding gifts are a tricky topic: Buying a toaster for a couple who occupies a royal residence seems strange, and probably unnecessary. But showing up empty-handed feels rude. (This conundrum might explain the long list of strange gifts that other royals have received over the years, like the tandem bike Boris Johnson gave to William and Kate.)

“For this kind of a wedding—for any kind of a royal wedding—it is considered a great honor,” Lisa Gaché, a manners expert at Beverly Hills Manners, told the Los Angeles Times. “In order to show or convey respect and that gracious feeling for being invited, the ante is a bit more.” She suggests that making a charitable donation of $500 to an organization close to the couple’s heart is appropriate.

Even if you do decide to bring something tangible, “Don’t bring [the gift] to the wedding itself,” Hanson said, though he added that Markle’s status as a divorcée adds one more layer of complication to proper etiquette: “This is a second wedding for Meghan Markle. The etiquette in both America and Britain, especially Britain, is that you don’t normally ask for gifts, because it’s your second wedding. They’ve already got toasters and French presses, etc. It would not surprise me if they choose donations for charities instead.” Indeed, in early April, Kensington Palace announced via Twitter that:

“Prince Harry & Ms. Meghan Markle are incredibly grateful for the goodwill they have received since their engagement, & have asked that anyone who might wish to mark the occasion of their wedding considers giving to charity, instead of sending a gift. The couple have personally chosen 7 charities which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women's empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces.”

15. PREPARE TO BOW AND CURTSY.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry bow as they see off Britain's Queen Elizabeth II leaving after the Royal Family's traditional Christmas Day church service
ADRIAN DENNIS, AFP/Getty Images

When you're in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, it’s appropriate to curtsy and bow. “Americans are not required to bow or curtsy as the Queen walks by, but may do so out of respect,” according to the Etiquette Book, which included tips on how to do it correctly. “Ladies, place your right ankle behind your left ankle and dip at the knee, arms at your sides, and bow your head slightly. Gentleman, bend your elbow and place your hand, palm in, at your waist. Bend slightly at the waist and bow your head slightly.”

16. DON'T ATTEMPT TO WIN THE QUEEN'S AFFECTION.

Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she shakes hands with Dean of Windsor, David Conner (R) after attending the Easter Mattins Service at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on April 1, 2018
TOLGA AKMEN, AFP/Getty Images

Just because you’ve been invited to sit in a room with the Queen doesn't mean that you’ll get a chance to meet her—and if you do, it should only be at her bidding. “Normal protocol suggests you shouldn't approach the Queen or ask her any questions,” Larcombe said. Myka Meier echoed this sentiment when she advised, “Enthusiastic fans beware: Never approach the Queen unless she approaches you. One should never touch the Queen unless she extends her hand to you.” And definitely don’t ask if you can take a selfie with her, no matter how much you’ve had to drink. Speaking of which …

17. DON'T GET DRUNK. BUT DO KNOW THE CORRECT WAY TO HOLD YOUR CHAMPAGNE GLASS.

Glasses full of champagne
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As lavish as a royal wedding may be, overindulgence is never appropriate. “Do not gobble up food and gulp up drink at the reception,” noted the Etiquette Book, “and for goodness sakes, do not get drunk.”

Of course, a wedding just wouldn't be a wedding without a bit of bubbly, but don’t embarrass yourself by clasping your glass incorrectly. “There will be champagne flowing and you’ve got to hold the glass properly, by the stem,” royal etiquette expert Jean Broke-Smith said. “During the formal dinner a lot of people won’t know how to use a knife and fork properly, let alone which cutlery to choose from. You must eat from the outside in and if you have a mass of glasses in front of you, it helps to know which to use. With tea cups, lift the cup not the saucer and hold it very gently with your index finger and thumb, returning the cup to the saucer after every sip.”

18. IF YOU DO MEET THE QUEEN, KNOW HOW TO ADDRESS HER.

 Queen Elizabeth II arrives for the state banquet in her honour at Schloss Bellevue palace on the second of the royal couple's four-day visit to Germany on June 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

If you do get the chance to meet the Queen, don’t make an idiot of yourself. “When you meet the Queen, she puts her hand out first and you address her as Your Majesty,” Broke-Smith said. “In conversation you address her as Ma’am, to rhyme with jam or ham, not palm.”

The Etiquette Book is even more direct with its dos and don’ts:

“Do not touch the Queen.

Do not shake the Queen's hand unless she holds her hand out first to shake your hand.

Do not speak to the Queen unless she speaks to you first.

If the Queen addresses you first, answer her ending your first response with ‘Your Majesty.’ End your second response with ‘Ma'am’ to rhyme with ‘jam.’”

If you think you’ll have trouble controlling yourself from hugging Her Majesty, just remember how Australia's former prime minister Paul Keating was dubbed “The Lizard of Oz” by the press when he dared to place his arm on the Queen’s back.

19. KEEP YOUR HAND GESTURES TO YOURSELF.

Prince Harry gives the 'thumbs up' ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on October 31, 2015 in London
Phil Walter, Getty Images

You might be tempted to give Harry a thumbs up or flash Meghan the “OK” sign once they’ve said “I do,” but don’t do it. “Do not make any gestures with your hands,” the Etiquette Book warns. “In Europe, the ‘O.K.’ and ‘Thumbs Up’ hand gestures have very different meanings, and these hand gestures are extremely insulting and rude.”

20. DON'T CUT OUT EARLY.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry leave a reception for young people in the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, during their visit to Scotland on February 13, 2018
ANDREW MILLIGAN, AFP/Getty Images

Between the wedding itself and not one but two receptions—a post-ceremony luncheon at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Hall and then a more intimate evening event at The Frogmore House—it’s going to be a long day for the happy couple and their guests. And if the bride and groom decide to keep the party going into the wee hours of the morning, you’d better be prepared to celebrate right alongside of them. “You shouldn't leave before the newlyweds,” Hanson told Town & Country. “They will be the most senior members of the royal family in the room at that time.” Better get a good night’s sleep!

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
6 Priceless Treasures Lost in Shipwrecks
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In the lore around treasures lost at sea, most of the excitement goes to pirate’s gold and the sunken luxuries of the Titanic. But in the centuries of human seafaring, many lesser-known priceless objects, from literary manuscripts to scientific research, have been claimed by the depths. Here are some tales of those losses, from a lifetime of work by a 19th-century woman who was an expert in cephalopods, to a rare book by Dickens that went down with the Lusitania.

1. LOUIS DE JAUCOURT'S ANATOMICAL LEXICON

Always, always, always back up your work. Of course, that's easier now than it was in the 18th century, when French scholar Louis de Jaucourt dispatched his six-volume Lexicon medicum universale to his Amsterdam publisher, a move intended to evade French censorship. The medical dictionary, on which he'd spent 20 years, was completely lost when the ship it was on sank off Holland's coast. Luckily, Jaucourt rebounded when Denis Diderot asked him to contribute to the Encyclopédie, now considered one of the greatest works of Enlightenment thought, for which he used his notes from the lost manuscript. Jaucourt became the publication's most prolific author, penning 40,000 articles—so many he was nicknamed l'esclave de l’Encyclopédie, or the "slave of the Encyclopedia."

2. THE FIELDWORK OF ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE

Portrait of Alfred Russel Wallace, Welsh naturalist and explorer
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1852, following four years of research in the Amazon, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was ready to return to England. He loaded his copious notes, animal and plant specimens, and drawings onto the brig Helen. Just 26 days into the voyage, the vessel caught fire. Wallace only had time to hastily fill a tin box with a few drawings of fish and palms and some scientific notes before joining the crew in the lifeboat. After 10 days marooned at sea, they were rescued by the brig Jordeson—but most of Wallace's work was gone forever. As he lamented in an October 19, 1852 letter, "The only things which I saved were my watch, my drawings of fishes, and a portion of my notes and journals. Most of my journals, notes on the habits of animals, and drawings of the transformations of insects, were lost.” While he continued as a leading naturalist—albeit one overshadowed in his evolution research by Charles Darwin—Wallace was never able to reconstruct those years of fieldwork.

3. THE CEPHALOPOD RESEARCH OF JEANNE VILLEPREUX-POWER

Before Jeanne Villepreux-Power’s 19th-century research, most scientists thought the Argonauta argo, or paper nautilus, scavenged its shell from other animals. But by inventing the modern aquarium, Villepreux-Power could study the species first-hand, and witness how it grows and repairs its own shell. The breakthrough was one of many discoveries made by the pioneer in cephalopod research, one of the few women to achieve prominence in Victorian science. She might be better known today if it weren't for the fact that when she and her husband decided to move from Sicily to London, the vessel on which they’d shipped their possessions—including the majority of her drawings, notes, and equipment—foundered off the coast of France in 1843. After the devastating loss, she never published again.

4. A COPY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL OWNED BY CHARLES DICKENS

Sinking of the Lusitania
Three Lions/Getty Images

When Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat realized the RMS Lusitania was doomed that fateful day in 1915, he dashed to his cabin, using the light from a few matches to try to find the literary treasures he’d brought aboard. These included original drawings by Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray, as well as an edition of A Christmas Carol owned by Charles Dickens himself. The edition was irreplaceable, since it included Dickens’s notes related to his 1844 copyright suit against the illicit republishing of his story. In the book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson vividly describes Lauriat’s harrowing experience when the ocean liner was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland: Lauriat grabbed the leather briefcase containing the Dickens, but left the Thackeray sketches behind. Rushing out to the deck, he saw a lifeboat packed with women and children that was being dragged down by the sinking ship. He jumped in with the briefcase, yet was unable to free the lifeboat, and in the escape into the water he lost the precious cargo. Out in the waves, he managed to evade entanglement with an antenna, swim to a collapsible lifeboat, and survive. One of the few items he managed to save were photographs of his baby, which he told his wife were his "mascot."

5. WRITINGS OF JOSÉ ASUNCIÓN SILVA

Portrait of José Asunción Silva

Many Colombians can recite the first lines from the influential Modernist poet José Asunción Silva's "Nocturne III"—"A night / A night full of hushings, of the curled wool of perfume / And incanting wing"—and it’s even printed in microtext on the 5000 Colombian peso bill. The poem, written in 1892, is believed to be a tribute to Silva’s half-sister. Silva suffered another blow in 1895, when many of his manuscripts, including a draft of a novel, were lost in a shipwreck. He left his diplomatic post in Venezuela, and dedicated all his time to reconstructing the drowned novel. But his melancholy continued: After visiting a doctor to ask the exact position of his heart, he shot himself in 1896. His rewritten novel—After-Dinner Conversation (De sobremesa) —wasn’t published until 1925.

6. THE ART OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA LUSIERI

The South-east Corner of the Parthenon, Athens by Giovanni Battista Lusieri
Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Giovanni Battista Lusieri was a meticulous painter of the Italian landscape, particularly its classical ruins. In large panoramas and more compact watercolors, he depicted the Acropolis, views of Rome and Naples, and, his favorite, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Some of his most striking works captured the volcano at night, illuminating the darkness with its orange glow. Lord Byron called him "an Italian painter of the first eminence." Yet his name is now obscure. This is partly due to the years he stopped painting to help Lord Elgin remove and ship the Parthenon Marbles to London. But when Lusieri's artwork was being sent home from Greece after his death in 1821, a shipwreck destroyed nearly half of it (including a spectacular 25-foot-long panorama of Athens), helping to ensure his fall from fame.

BONUS: PEKING MAN

A replica of the Peking Man Skull
A replica of the Peking Man Skull

When paleontologists discovered the bones of "Peking man" in a dig near Beijing in the 1920s, they were the oldest hominid fossils ever found. However, scientists can now only study the bones—thought to be about half a million years old—from casts. The Peking Man fossils were last seen in December 1941, but vanished during the Japanese occupation of China while they were being sent to the United States for safekeeping. There are many conjectures on their fate, from being secretly stored away in Japan, to being under a parking lot in China. Yet one enduring theory is that they were lost at sea on the Japanese freighter Awa Maru: In 1945, the ship was torpedoed in the Taiwan Strait by the USS Queenfish despite being guaranteed safe passage by the United States, leading to the loss of more than 2000 lives—and, it's said, the priceless Peking fossils [PDF].

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Animals
7 Cases of Mistaken Dog Identity
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For decades, an enduring urban and internet legend has provided a cautionary tale for people seeking to adopt a pet. While details vary according to the storyteller, it goes something like this: A woman on vacation takes pity on a stray, hairless dog she finds in dire shape. Bringing him home, he doesn’t seem to respond to generous helpings of food and verbal assurance that he's a good boy. Instead, he’s rather aggressive. Taking him to the vet, she realizes she didn’t pick up a dog at all but a massive, sewer-dwelling rat.

While a delightful story, it's probably not true. These cases are. Take a look at seven people who experienced some alarming examples of animals they thought were dogs, and dogs they thought were other animals.

1. THE FOX IS NOT A HOUND

A screen capture of a fox that resembles a dog
Rachel White, YouTube

As contemporary pet breeding produces new strains of Franken-pups, it’s likely people will continue to be confused by animals that resemble exotic breeds. Case in point: In May 2018, a woman purchased what she thought was a Japanese Spitz puppy from a pet shop in China. With its long, pointed snout and fluffy coat, the dog at first appeared to be an adorable addition to the household. Within three months, however, it stopped eating dog food and began to sprout a long tail. Strangely, it also never barked. Its owner thought it might just be quiet and finicky, but a local zoo confirmed she had actually purchased a fox, which the Japanese Spitz is said to resemble. The animal’s new forever home is behind fencing at the zoo’s fox habitat.

2. CHARLIE THE LABRA-LION

Hysteria briefly gripped citizens of Norfolk, Virginia in 2013, when a rash of calls to 911 reported a lion loose within the city limits. One caller described it as a “baby lion,” while another believed it to be the size of a Labrador retriever. Close. The “lion” was a Labradoodle named Charlie, who got regular grooming visits that gave him a mane and improved his regal stature. His owner shaved him to resemble a sports mascot at Old Dominion University.

3. THE COYOTE AND THE SAMARITAN

When an unnamed resident of Bartlett, Illinois drove past a cowering animal on a busy stretch of roadway in May 2018, the person stopped and swept up what was believed to be a lost dog. Driving to the local police department, the resident dropped the alleged puppy off, only to discover that the rescue had been in the service of a coyote. The baby was taken to Willowbrook Wildlife for safekeeping.

4. A BEAR TO DEAL WITH

Despite the propaganda pushed by cartoons, bears are generally difficult to live with and might devour younger members of the household without warning. No one would likely live with one on purpose. By accident? That’s another story. In 2016, a family in the Yunnan province of China adopted what they believed was a Tibetan Mastiff puppy, a stout and noble breed. To their slowly-dawning surprise, it turned out it wasn’t a dog at all but an Asiatic black bear cub that skyrocketed to over 250 pounds in a matter of months. He also had a tendency to stand on his hind legs, a trait domesticated canines still lack. The family reached out to authorities and the bear—which is a protected species in China—was relocated to a sanctuary.

5. THE CAT MISTAKEN FOR A DOG

A screen capture of a cat with hypertrichosis
Moony strangecat, YouTube

Your standard orange tabby cats don’t have this problem, but certain feline breeds can wind up experiencing a real identity crisis. Snookie, a three-year-old Persian in Canada, has hypertrichosis, a condition sometimes referred to as “werewolf syndrome” because it causes excessive growth of hair, nails, and whiskers. As a result of her fluffed-up and rotund face, Snookie is often confused for a Shih Tzu puppy.

6. ACCIDENTALLY ADOPTING A WOLF

A wolf cub sits next to its mother
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It could happen to anyone. In 2016, a man in Arizona responded to an ad giving away a free “puppy” and took it home. The animal’s owner was sufficiently charmed by his new pet’s adorable face that he didn’t notice the pup, which he named Neo, avoided eye contact and didn’t seem to have much use for dog treats. When the man built a fence to prevent Neo from cavorting with the neighborhood dogs, the animal dug under it. When a neighbor took Neo to the local Humane Society for trespassing, officials discovered it was a wolf—an illegal animal to own without proper permits. Properly identified, Neo was relocated to a sanctuary named Wolf Connection.

7. THE RACCOON-DOG HYBRID

A tanuki dog resembles a raccoon
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The exotic animal trade in the UK has been trafficking tanukis, or raccoon dogs, for some time now. True to their name, the wild dogs resemble raccoons but are related to wolves and foxes. Unsuspecting owners purchase them for novelty’s sake, not realizing that they’re prone to wiping out frog populations and carrying hookworm and fatal fox tapeworms. Since they're nocturnal, they’ll also keep households up at night. Raccoon dogs are easily confused with actual raccoons and at least one distressed owner was afraid his pet would be harmed due to the likeness when his pet, Kekei, escaped in 2015. In the U.S., the only tanukis in residence are located in an Atlanta zoo. If you see a raccoon this large, run.

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