University of Houston Digital Library
University of Houston Digital Library

12 Fantastic Drawings of Fictional Creatures from a 17th Century Book

University of Houston Digital Library
University of Houston Digital Library

Published in 1658, The History of Four-Footed Beasts, Serpents and Insects presents a catalog of the known animals at the time in several volumes (that link takes you to Volume 1). Compiled by English clergyman Edward Topsell, the collection is based largely on the earlier Latin work by Konrad Gesner. Interspersed among the imaginative depictions of all sorts of animals from the antelope to the wolf and many different kinds of goats are more fictional fauna like satyrs and dragons.

1. Aegopithecus

Aegopithecus looks more like our traditional understanding of a satyr than the entry for half-man half-goat later on. The name later got applied to an early anthropoid that lived around 33 million years ago.

2. Monster

At first you may think it's the eerily human-like profile on this unnamed monster that makes it especially frightening, but a second look reveals giant chicken feet only on the hind legs. Which should terrify anyone who's ever ticked off a rooster.

3. Dragon

These dragons don't have legs like modern interpretations; they are literally giant winged serpents.

4. Gulon

As you may notice in the picture, the artist has chosen to depict the gulon excreting amid a pile of bones. This was not some random slander against the mythical Scandinavian creature. The gulon, who is described as a cross between a cat and a dog, was best known for his bizarre eating habits. After violently gorging himself beyond the point of satiation,"he seeketh for some narrow passage betwixt two trees, and there drawth through his body, by pressing whereof, he driveth out the meat which he had eaten."

5. Hydra

By the time the catalog was collected, there were no living hydras, but rumors of a seven-headed serpent carcass in Venice seemed enough to corroborate the tale of Hercules and Hydra.

6. Lamia

The catalog admits that the term "lamia" has historically been applied to a range of beasts and even fish. Topsells explains that perhaps this stems from a myth about a beautiful young woman, Lamia, who caught the eye of Jupiter and bore several sons by the god. When Juno learned of her husband's infidelity, she cursed Lamia, killing her sons and condemning her to perpetual sleepless mourning. Jupiter, in turn, granted his ex-lover the ability to shape-shift—which still doesn't explain why she chose the image you see above.

7. Man Ape

Half man, half ape. Looks like a cross between a scarecrow and a wooden human model from art class.

8. Mantichora

With the head of a man, the body of a lion and the tail of a dragon, the mantichora was often used in medieval times as a symbol of the Devil.

9. Satyre

Topsell writes that, unlike the Aegopithecus above, real satyres do not have goat-like features but are rather a breed of ape, often thought to be the shape taken by the Devil on earth.

10. Sea Serpent

Looks like an eel to me.

11. Sphinga or Sphinx

"If a man do first of all perceive or discern these natural sphinges, before the beast perceive or discern the man, he shall be safe," Topsell writes, "but if the beast first decry the man, then it is mortal to the man."

12. Unicorn

Of all the creatures, Topsell dedicates perhaps the most time to the unicorn. Accounts of the curative properties of the horn are detailed and varied but, the author admits, it is precisely these almost unbelievable claims that call into question the existence of such a magical creature.

All photos courtesy of University of Houston Digital Library

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Authorities Want This Roadside Bear Statue in Wales Removed Before It Causes More Accidents
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There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

Wooden bear statue.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner
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The bickering between cat people and dog people is ongoing and vicious, but in the end, we're all better off for loving a pet. But if anyone tries to poo-poo your pooch, know that there are some scientific reasons that they're man's best friend.

1. YOU GET SICK LESS OFTEN.

Dog snuggling on a bed with its person.
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If cleaning commercials are to be believed, humanity is in the midst of a war against germs—and we shouldn't stop until every single one is dead. In reality, the amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker; since our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix of germs, our entire microbiome is messed up. Fortunately, dogs are covered in germs! Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found "dog-related biodiversity" is especially high on pillowcases). In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets.

2. YOU'RE MORE RESISTANT TO ALLERGIES.

Child and mother playing with a dog on a bed.
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While dog dander can be a trigger for people with allergies, growing up in a house with a dog makes children less likely to develop allergies over the course of their lives. And the benefits can start during gestation; a 2017 study published in the journal Microbiome found that a bacterial exchange happened between women who lived with pets (largely dogs) during pregnancy and their children, regardless of type of birth or whether the child was breastfed, and even if the pet was not in the home after the birth of the child. Those children tested had two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, that reduce the risk of common allergies, asthma, and obesity, and they were less likely to develop eczema.

3. YOU'LL HAVE BETTER HEART HEALTH.

Woman doing yoga with her dog.
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Everything about owning a dog seems to lend itself to better heart health. Just the act of petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure. A 2017 Chinese study found a link between dog ownership and reduced risk of coronary artery disease, while other studies show pet owners have slightly lower cholesterol and are more likely to survive a heart attack.

4. YOU GET MORE EXERCISE.

Person running in field with a dog.
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While other pets have positive effects on your health as well, dogs have the added benefit of needing to be walked and played with numerous times a day. This means that many dog owners are getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. YOU'LL BE HAPPIER.

Woman cuddling her dog.
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Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners. Even for those people who are clinically depressed, having a pet to take care of can help them out of a depressive episode. Since taking care of a dog requires a routine and forces you to stay at least a little active, dog owners are more likely to interact with others and have an increased sense of well-being while tending to their pet. The interaction with and love received from a dog can also help people stay positive. Even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the "feel good" chemical, in the brain.

6. YOU HAVE A MORE ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE.

Large bulldog licking a laughing man.
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Not only does dog ownership indirectly tell others that you're trustworthy, your trusty companion can help facilitate friendships and social networks. A 2015 study published in PLOS One found that dogs can be both the catalyst for sparking new relationships and also the means for keeping social networks thriving. One study even showed that those with dogs also had closer and more supportive relationships with the people in their lives.

7. YOUR DOG MIGHT BE A CANCER DETECTOR.

Man high-fiving his dog.
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Your dog could save your life one day: It seems that our canine friends have the ability to smell cancer in the human body. Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence has been backed up by scientific studies, and some dogs are now trained to detect cancer.

8. YOU'LL BE LESS STRESSED AT WORK.

Woman working on a computer while petting a dog.
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The benefits of bringing a dog to work are so increasingly obvious that more companies are catching on. Studies show that people who interact with a pet while working have lower stress levels throughout the day, while people who do not bring a pet see their stress levels increase over time. Dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, to play with or walk the dog, which makes them more energized when they return to work. This, in turn, has been shown to lead to much greater productivity and job satisfaction.

9. YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY.

Man running in surf with dog.
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The kind of dog you have says a lot about your personality. A study in England found a very clear correlation between people's personalities and what type of dogs they owned; for example, people who owned toy dogs tended to be more intelligent, while owners of utility dogs like Dalmatians and bulldogs were the most conscientious. Other studies have found that dog owners in general are more outgoing and friendly than cat owners.

10. YOUR KIDS WILL BE MORE EMPATHETIC.

A young boy having fun with his dog.
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Though one 2003 study found that there was no link between pet ownership and empathy in a group of children, a 2017 study of 1000 7- to 12-year-olds found that pet attachment of any kind encouraged compassion and positive attitudes toward animals, which promoted better well-being for both the child and the pet. Children with dogs scored the highest for pet attachment, and the study notes that "dogs may help children to regulate their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child's attachment related behavior." And, of course, only one pet will happily play fetch with a toddler.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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