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9 Spunky Facts About Dachshunds

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Here’s the lowdown on everyone’s favorite vertically challenged dog. 

1. Dachshunds are fierce.

The little dogs were bred 300 years ago in Germany to hunt badgers—their name literally means “badger hound” (dachs means badger; hund means dog). Their short legs allow them to enter badger dens, and their fierce gusto gives them the courage to take on the 15-pound mammals.

2. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

Originally all dachshunds were black and tan, but today, they sport a variety of looks. According to the American Kennel Club, dachshunds come in 12 standard colors and exhibit three different kinds of markings; some interesting colors include blue and tan, cream, and wild boar, a mixture of brown and gold. Their coats can be smooth, long, or wire-haired. They come in two sizes: standard and miniature. With so many options, dachshunds are the canine version of snowflakes.

3. Anti-Germany hysteria led to a temporary name change.

Before there were freedom fries, there was the freedom pup. Thanks to their German heritage, during World War I dachshunds were often used to portray Germany in propaganda. Although often humorous, these ads led to a widespread contempt for the breed. The American Kennel Club tried to rebrand the breed by renaming them “badger dogs,” while others referred to them as “liberty pups.”

Unfortunately, this didn’t do much to help the breed’s wartime image. Kaiser Wilhelm II was known for his love of doxies and actually had his five pets buried at the Huis Doorn park. Two of his poorly behaved dachshunds, Wadl and Hexl, had previously made headlines after attacking Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s prized golden pheasants during a visit.

4. The Nazis claimed they taught one to speak.

If World War I was tough on dachshunds, what came next was just weird. Nazi scientists boasted that they successfully taught the dogs to speak, read, spell, and even communicate telepathically. Germans believed that dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans, so they set up a special program called Hundesprechschule Asra to tap into that asset. Some of the outlandish feats claimed by the program included a dog that could say “Mein Fuhrer” and another that could write poetry.

Kurwenal was a dachshund that could “speak” with different numbers of barks for different letters—sort of like a canine telegraph. According to Jan Bondeson's book, Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, the dog even had his own biographer detailing the pup's daily life. He reportedly liked pink roses, illustrated zoology books, and attractive women. When asked if he ever wanted to be a father, the bachelor declared, “No!” Many were impressed with the fat little dog’s routine, but others suspected that he was receiving cues from his owners.

Right before he passed away, Kurwenal poetically barked, “I am not afraid of dying; dogs have souls and they are like the souls of men." The dachshund was buried in the garden of his owner’s home.

5. They’ve made a comeback.

Despite this rocky period, the resilient breed weathered two World Wars and has been welcomed back into the hearts of Americans thanks to some serious PR work. Today, dachshunds are the 11th most popular breed in America.

6. The first Olympic mascot was a dachshund.

Waldi the dachshund was born during the 1972 Munich games’ Organizing Committee’s Christmas party in 1969. Partygoers were given crayons and modeling clay to come up with a suitable mascot. Dachshunds are known for their athleticism and courage, so the colorful dog seemed like the perfect face for the Olympics.

7. Artists love dachshunds.

Famous artists have seemed to be drawn to the little dogs. Andy Warhol would often bring his doxie to interviews and let the dog “answer” the questions he didn’t like. When Picasso met David Douglas Duncan’s dachshund, Lump, in 1957, it was love at first sight. Their relationship was chronicled in Duncan’s Picasso and Lump: A Dachshund's Odyssey.

David Hockney was another dachshund aficionado. His two dogs, Stanley and Boodgie, were featured in 45 oil paintings and a whole book. The Far Side creator Gary Larson even used the dogs for a parody book called Wiener Dog Art—a whole collection of classic art pieces with dachshunds added in for comedic effect.

8. The hot dog was named after the dog.

The history of hot dogs is murky at best, but some historians believe that they were first known as dachshund sausages, after the similarly shaped dogs, which were favorite companions of German butchers. Some suggest that the name was changed after one cartoonist had trouble spelling “dachshund” and shortened it. Unfortunately, no one can find the comic, so the theory has been dismissed as apocryphal. The earliest written record of the phrase "hot dog" can be traced to an 1895 issue of the Yale Record about a lunch cart serving hot dogs to hungry students.

9. A dachshund is Britain’s first cloned dog.

After winning a contest, dog owner Rebecca Smith from Battersea had her 12 year old dachshund, Winnie, cloned. Experts in South Korea cared for the puppy for five months before sending her home to Smith. Despite the difference in age, the resemblance is striking; they both have a crooked tail and the same markings. The cloned dogs hit it off, and sleep in the same bed every night. Remarkably, the new puppy—dubbed Mini-Winnie—is in excellent health and is expected to live a long life.

Images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated. 

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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 them 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 weigh 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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