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12 Amazing Dogs to Remember on National Dog Day

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

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. 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.

3. 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.

4. & 5. 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.

6. LAIKA

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.

7. 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.

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. 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.

10. 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’ 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.

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. 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.

This piece originally ran in 2014.

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Animals
Watch as Hummingbirds Fly, Drink, and Flap Their Tiny Wings in Slow Motion
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Hummingbirds have more feathers per inch than nearly any other bird, but it’s hard to fully appreciate their luminescent colors when they beat their wings between 70 to 200 times per second.

For the enjoyment of birders everywhere, National Geographic photographer Anand Varma teamed up with bird biologists and used a high-speed, high-resolution camera to capture the tiny creatures in slow motion as they flew through wind tunnels, drank artificial nectar from a glass vessel, and shook water from their magnificent plumage.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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9 Wild Facts About the Bronx Zoo
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Even if you’ve never set foot in New York, you almost certainly know of the Bronx Zoo. Opening its doors for the first time in 1899, this sprawling 250-acre wildlife reservation has over 4000 different animals and 650 species. Take a look at a few things you might not have known about one of the world’s most famous zoological retreats.

1. IT WAS CO-CREATED BY A TAXIDERMIST.

William Temple Hornaday was working as a taxidermist for the Smithsonian Institution when he noticed that the nation’s population of bison was shrinking. Eager to promote conservation efforts, Hornaday used his voice with the Smithsonian to spread the word about the threatened species. After a spat with the Institution, he was approached by the New York Zoological Society in 1896 to serve as director of the Bronx Zoo. In doing so, Hornaday helped bring the bison back from the brink of extinction by sending several of the Zoo's bison back out west in 1906. He remained with the zoo for 30 years.

2. IT ONCE HOUSED TASMANIAN TIGERS.

Thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers, were nearing extinction in the early 1900s, but the Bronx Zoo was able to acquire several for exhibition beginning in 1902. The first lived for six years; the next two, arriving in 1912 and 1916, lived only a short time in captivity before perishing. The zoo's last thylacine was secured in 1917. The species was thought to have died out in 1936, but in early 2017, several eyewitness accounts of the distinctive animals were reported in Australia. Zoologists are working to determine if the thylacine might still be alive.

3. THEY EXHIBITED A MAN.

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In the most ignoble chapter in the zoo’s history, organizers opened an attraction in 1906 that featured a "Mbuti pygmy” or “bushman”—an African man named Ota Benga. Benga and other tribesmen had been brought to America by anthropologist Samuel Verner at the behest of organizers of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair so visitors could gawk at them in mock-up villages. When the fair was over, Verner brought Benga and others back to Africa: the two struck up a friendship, and Benga reportedly asked to come back to the States. Verner approached the Bronx Zoo with the prospect of Benga becoming a fixture: Hornaday agreed to let him live on and roam the grounds. Public outrage followed, and Benga was released after just two weeks to the care of an orphanage. He committed suicide in 1916.

4. THE ZOOKEEPERS HAD TO BE TOLD NOT TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE BEARS.

Too much children’s literature about cuddly bears may have proven disastrous for early zookeepers at the park. In 1919, Hornaday told the New York Tribune that he had to constantly warn his employees not to try and befriend the mammoth bears housed on the property. Two keepers ignored his advice; both had to be pried from the clutches of the bear and suffered “severe” injuries.

5. IT’S HOME TO A REMNANT OF THE ICE AGE.

Not all of the Zoo’s attractions are feathered or furred. The Rocking Stone sits near the World of Darkness exhibit and packs 30 dense tons into a formation standing 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The boulder was carried by glaciers in the last Ice Age. The “rocking” label came from the fact that the stone was so perfectly balanced that it could be moved with slight pressure. The Zoo, fearing someone might one day push it too far, eventually shored up the base to keep it on firmer footing.

6. THEY ONCE SAVED A SPECIES OF TOAD THAT WAS DECLARED EXTINCT.

The kihansi spray toad was in dire circumstances in 2009: A hydroelectric dam in Tanzania had dried up mists showering a five-acre area near Kihansi Gorge, the toad's only known micro-habitat, and the species was officially declared extinct in the wild. Fortunately, Tanzanian authorities had seen the situation coming and allowed the Bronx Zoo to come in and obtain 499 toads to bring back to America. A portion went to the Toledo Zoo; both facilities spent nearly a decade breeding them in a captive assurance population. The Zoos replicated their habitat while Tanzania created a gravity-operated misting system that would restore water. Roughly 100 toads were returned in 2010 as test cases; a full-scale reintroduction followed in 2012.

7. A COBRA ONCE ESCAPED (AND SIGNED ONTO TWITTER).

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Animal escapes have been few and far between at the Zoo. One of the most publicized was the the disappearance of a 20-inch venomous Egyptian cobra in 2011. Zoo officials weren’t certain how the reptile broke out of her habitat, but felt confident she would remain in the building. She did, and was found after a week’s search. In the interim, someone on Twitter engaged 203,000 followers with the freed snake’s fictional exploits. It’s still tweeting.

8. IT SET AN ORIGAMI ELEPHANT WORLD RECORD.

In 2016, the Zoo was recognized by Guinness World Records as having the largest displayed collection of origami elephants in the world: 78,564. The display, which was briefly open to the public, was intended to draw attention to the plight of the creatures and their poaching rivals through their 96 Elephants campaign meant to stop the trafficking of ivory. The Zoo is down to just three live elephants, and has vowed not to acquire any more once they pass. On August 3, 2017, Zoo organizers plan to crush two tons of ivory in Central Park as part of the awareness campaign.

9. IT HAS PLANS FOR YOUR POOP.

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With thousands of daily visitors, the Bronx Zoo could probably make use of its own sewage system. Instead, the park unveiled an eco-friendly restroom on park grounds in 2006 that captures human waste and diverts it into compost. The system, which uses only six ounces of water per flush, is estimated to save a million gallons of water a year.

Want to learn more about the Bronx Zoo? Catch The Zoo, a documentary series now airing on Animal Planet. New episodes premiere in February.

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