12 Amazing Dogs to Remember on National Dog Day

An effigy of Laika, the first living creature in space, inside a replica of satellite Sputnik II
An effigy of Laika, the first living creature in space, inside a replica of satellite Sputnik II
MLADEN ANTONOV, AFP/Getty Images

Dogs can do some pretty amazing things. Just look at your own, who comes when you call, sits when you say so, and knows enough to only chew up your last-season footwear. History is filled with tales (and tails) of highly accomplished canines, all of whom are worth remembering on National Dog Day (today). Here are 12 of them.

1. BUD

Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson's dog, Bud
Mary Louise Blanchert, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1903, Dr. Horatio Nelson set out to become the first man to drive across America in a newfangled invention known as the automobile. Though Sewall K. Crocker was Nelson’s official co-driver, a goggle-wearing pit bull named Bud also came along for the ride, making him the first dog to drive across America.

2. AND 3. BALTO AND TOGO

Balto may score the bigger headlines—not to mention a famous statue in Central Park—but the famous sled dog who helped deliver a shipment of antitoxins to Nome, Alaska during a 1925 diphtheria outbreak had a lot of help. Particularly from Togo, whose own team of fellow sled dogs traveled twice the distance of Balto’s and crossed the 674-mile trek’s most treacherous parts. But as it was Balto’s team who finished the final leg of the record-setting five-and-a-half-day journey, he's the one who grabbed most of the glory.

4. SERGEANT STUBBY

The military title in this pit bull mix’s name isn’t just there to be cute; it’s a well-earned honor. During World War I, the former stray served with the 102nd Infantry alongside his owner, John Robert Conroy, who had smuggled him into France when he was deployed. But Stubby’s keen sense of smell and hearing proved to be quite valuable to the unit; he would alert the men to incoming gas attacks and helped rescue many wounded soldiers. But it was by sniffing out a German spy that Stubby earned the rank of sergeant.

5. SWANSEA JACK

Swansea Jack is a legend in Wales, where he lived with his owner, William Thomas, near the River Tawe. It’s here that the black retriever’s superhero reputation began when he jumped into the river to save a drowning boy. A few weeks later, he did it again. And then again. And again. All told, it’s believed that Jack saved a total of 27 people during his lifetime.

6. RAGS

Rags is another pooch who saw his fair share of combat during World War I, where he accompanied the 1st Infantry. Private James Donovan found the terrier mix as a stray in Paris, and brought him back to his unit as a mascot and carrier dog, who would traverse dangerous grounds to deliver notes to the front lines. Rags and Donovan returned to America after a gas attack, which Donovan did not survive. Rags, however, went on to become a bit of an A-list name and was buried with military honors.

7. BOBBIE THE WONDERDOG

Also known as Silverton Bobbie, this Scotch Collie-English Shepherd mix gained worldwide fame in 1923 when he walked from Indiana to Oregon—a full 2551 miles—to reunite with his owner, six months after getting lost in the Hoosier State while on a family road trip. In 1924, a silent film—The Call of the West—was made about Bobbie; the pup played himself.

8. ROLF

Dog owners are never shy about showing off their pooch’s smarts, and Paula Moekel was no exception. Her Airedale terrier Rolf became famous around the world for his ability to “speak” by tapping out letters with his paws. She also claimed that he was a great mathematician, poet, theologian, and philosopher. Veracity of those assertions aside, what is known is that it’s because of Rolf that the Nazis attempted to train an army of super-smart talking dogs.

9. LAIKA

A close-up of Laika, the dog used to relay biomedical information in the Soviet 'Sputnik II' outer-space investigation programme
Keystone/Getty Images

Yuri Gagarin may have been the first human being to journey into space, but that historical 1961 feat would not have been possible without Laika, the terrier-turned-cosmonaut who was literally picked up off the street in Moscow to become the first living being to orbit the Earth. And while she has enjoyed several decades of fame for her accomplishment, Laika did not survive the mission so never had the chance to enjoy her celebrity status. Though Soviet officials said she survived for at least a few days, she actually died less than two hours into her mission due to overheating and stress.

10. ROBOT

Sure, it was probably just a case of pure luck. But in 1940, a quartet of teenagers and one dog in Dordogne, France set off to try and find a mythical tunnel that was said to run under the Vézère River. Instead, what Robot sniffed out (literally) were some of the world’s most significant Paleolithic cave paintings, which had not been seen by human eyes in thousands of years.

11. HACHIKŌ

That dogs are a loyal species isn’t breaking news, but the depths of some dogs’ fidelity is worth special mention. Especially when it comes to Hachiko, the Akita who made a habit of greeting his owner, University of Tokyo professor Hidesaburo Ueno, at the end of each work day at Shibuya Station. But in 1925, Ueno passed away suddenly from a brain hemorrhage and never returned home. Still, Hachiko waited. Every day. For the next nine years.

12. CHIPS

If you’ve ever seen the 1990 Disney movie Chips, the War Dog, you know the story of this brave German Shepherd-Collie-Husky mix, who served with the 3rd Infantry in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany during World War II. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips’s quick reflexes made him a valuable asset in defending his unit. He once forced four gunners to surrender to U.S. troops and, on the same day he injured his scalp and sustained powder burns, helped his men capture 10 Italian prisoners. Though his Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart were eventually revoked due to an Army rule on animal commendations, Chips remains one of the world’s most decorated war dogs.

This article originally published in 2014.

A Newly Discovered Species of Prehistoric Shark Was Named After the Video Game Galaga

Velizar Simeonovski, Field Museum
Velizar Simeonovski, Field Museum

Dinosaurs weren’t the only fearsome creatures who called North America their home millions of years ago. The recent discovery of pointy, fossilized teeth in rock that had been left over from an excavation in the ‘90s has led scientists to declare a new—yet long-extinct—shark species, Smithsonian reports.

North Carolina State University professor Terry Gates, who led the study published in the Journal of Paleontology, named the shark species Galagadon nordquistae after its triangular teeth, which he thought resembled the shape of the battleships in the video game Galaga. The second part of the name pays homage to Karen Nordquist, the retired chemist and volunteer at Chicago’s Field Museum who found the fossils in the first place.

Galagadon lived in what we now know as South Dakota’s Hell Creek Formation, an area known for having rocks and fossils that date back at least 65 million years to the Cretaceous Period. It’s the same place where scientists unearthed Sue the T.rex—the most complete skeleton of its species ever discovered. Not only did the shark live at the same time as Sue, but it also “lived in a river Sue probably drank from,” the Field Museum, where Sue can be seen on display, said in a press release.

In fact, the excavation that led to Sue’s discovery in 1990 is what enabled this latest find. The sediment that encased Sue’s bones, known as matrix, was removed and stored in an underground unit at the Field Museum. Scientists and museum volunteers have only recently begun to sift through it in search of smaller fossils.

Shark tooth fossils
Terry Gates, Journal of Paleontology

Sharks’ skeletons are primarily made of cartilage, which deteriorates over time. But the tiny teeth, measuring just a millimeter wide, helped scientists figure out what the shark looked like. "Galagadon was less than 2 feet long—it's not exactly Jaws," Pete Makovicky, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.

The species is believed to be similar to bamboo sharks, which can be found today in southeast Asia and Australia. This connection surprised researchers, who are now questioning their understanding of the area where Sue was found, which was thought to be a lake formed from a partially dried-up river. This latest discovery, however, indicates that there “must have been at least some connection to marine environments," Makovicky says.

[h/t Smithsonian]

12 Animals Named After the Noises They Make

A bobolink, said to have been named for the call it makes
A bobolink, said to have been named for the call it makes
iStock.com/PaulReevesPhotography

If you were asked to name an onomatopoeic word, then you’d probably come up with something like boom, boing, whizz, smash, or tick-tock. They’re all perfectly good examples, of course, but onomatopoeia is actually responsible for a lot more words than you might think. For instance, etymologists believe that pebble might have been coined to imitate the sound of flowing water. Laugh might have been invented to sound like, well, a laugh. Owl, crow, and raven are all descended from Old English words (ule, crawe, hræfn) that were meant to imitate the owl’s hoot and the crow’s and raven’s squawks. And the 12 names listed here are all meant to represent the bizarre whoops, chips, peeps and wows made by the animals they describe.

1. AI

An ai in Venezuela
Fernando Flores, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

As well as being a contender for the world’s shortest animal name, ai (which should be pronounced “ah-ee") is another name for a three-toed sloth, especially the pale-throated sloth, found in the far northeast corner of South America. Although sloths are generally fairly docile, the name ai is apparently meant to resemble the high-pitched cry they can make when they’re agitated or alarmed.

2. BOBOLINK

Bobolinks can produce very long and surprisingly complex songs, but their usual go-to noise is a brief four-note call that’s commonly said to sound like someone saying “Bob-o-Lincoln.” The name Bob-o-Lincoln eventually was shortened to bobolink in the 1800s.

3. CHIPMUNK

One theory claims that the name chipmunk is an English interpretation of a native Ojibwe word, ajidamoo, meaning something like “red squirrel.” But because chipmunks were originally known as “chipping squirrels” in English, it seems more likely that the name is actually an English invention, in which case it’s probably meant to describe their short “chipping” call.

4. CHOWCHILLA

A chowchilla
Seabamirum, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The chowchilla is type of logrunner, a small thrush-like bird, that’s native to Queensland, Australia. For a bird not much larger than a robin, the chowchilla has a particularly noisy call that to early European colonists and explorers apparently sounded like “chow-chilla-chow-chow.” The chowchilla was also once known as the “auctioneer bird,” apparently because (with a bit of imagination) its song sounds like an auctioneer's incessant chattering.

5. CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOW

A cousin of the better-known whippoorwill, the chuck-will’s-widow is another species of nightjar (a family of nocturnal birds related to swifts and martins) native to the southern United States and much of Central America. Dozens of different species of nightjar are found all over the world, and they all share incredible camouflaged plumage and strange whooping calls—so if the “whippoorwill” makes a noise that sounds like poor Will is about to be whipped, then the “chuck-will’s-widow” makes a sound like poor Will’s widow is about to be chucked.

6. GANG-GANG

A gang-gang cockatoo
iStock.com/JohnCarnemolla

The peculiar croaking noise made by the gang-gang cockatoo of southeast Australia has been likened to everything from a creaking wooden door to a cork being pulled from a wine bottle. However you might want to describe it, the onomatopoeic name gang-gang was adopted into English from a Wiradhuri name that was supposed to imitate it.

7. HOOPOE

Hoopoe bird on a branch
iStock.com/shurub

The hoopoe is a striking-looking songbird whose name is meant to imitate its strange whooping call. Their bizarre appearance has also helped make them the frequent subject of myths and folktales over time: the Ancient Egyptians worshipped them and drew pictures of them inside the pyramids; the Romans believed that they were filthy creatures because they fed on dung and frequently nested in graveyards; and at least one old European legend claims that the younger birds look after the older ones in their old age, restoring their youth by plucking out dying feathers and licking blindness from their eyes.

8. KATYDID

A katydid on a purple flower
iStock.com/blindsquirrelphoto

Katydids make their loud and often three-syllable “ka-ty-did” call by rubbing their forewings together. They hear each other, incidentally, with ears located on their front legs. There are more than 6000 species in the katydid family, found on every continent except Antarctica.

9. MACAQUE

The name macaque was borrowed into English via French in the late 17th century, but it’s thought to originally derive from an old Bantu name, kaku, for any of the numerous monkey species found in West Africa. The name kaku is in turn supposed to be imitative of a monkey call, and it’s from the plural form of kaku—namely makaku in Bantu—that the word macaque eventually evolved.

10. PEEWIT

A type of plover with characteristic green plumage and a long curled crest, the northern lapwing has a number of nicknames in English—including the peewit, the swipe, the peepsweep, the teewhit, and the teeack—every one of which is supposed to emulate its noisy alarm call. The common name lapwing, incidentally, refers to the bird’s tactic of feigning a broken wing in order to distract predators from their nest when they feel threatened.

11. PIET-MY-VROU

Piet-my-vrou is another name for the red-chested cuckoo, a species of cuckoo found across much of sub-Saharan Africa. Cuckoos are well known for their instantly recognizable call, and it’s the loud three-note descending call of the piet-my-vrou (which literally means “Pete my wife” in Afrikaans) that gives it its name.

12. WOW-WOW

A wow-wow, or agile gibbon

Gibbons are famous for their lengthy and surprisingly complex songs, and the whooping or “wowing” call of the wow-wow or wawa—a local Indonesian name for either the agile gibbon or the silvery gibbon—is no exception. Sadly both species are now listed as endangered, due to their localized distribution and on-going habitat destruction.

This story first ran in 2014.

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