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10 Fancy Facts About Poodles

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There’s a lot you might not know about France’s national dog. 

1. They’re actually from Germany.

Despite their French reputation, poodles hail from Germany, where they were called pudel, which is German for “puddle.” 

2. They were historically great at their jobs. 

What do poodles have to do with puddles? While poodles today have connotations of wealth and luxury, they were bred to work. The athletic dogs are excellent swimmers and were used by hunters to retrieve ducks and other birds from the water. They even have a “soft mouth,” so they can gently pick up wounded or dead game. In France, the dogs were called caniche, or “duck dog.” 

3. The fancy ‘do has a purpose. 

Since these dogs were jumping into freezing cold water, they needed protection. Too much wet fur would weigh them down, so hunters would strategically shear their hair. The pattern was meant to protect vital areas from cold waters.

4. Poodles come in three varieties.

The poodle is the only dog that comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. These terms only describe the dogs’ size, and the American Kennel Club considers them all the same breed. 

5. The Iditarod Dog Sled Race once had a standard poodle team. 

In 1988, a musher named John Suter entered the race with an all-poodle sled team. They didn't do so well: Thanks to matted fur and cold paws, many of the dogs had to be dropped off at checkpoints. This struggle led to a new rule that dictated only northern breeds like Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes are allowed to race. This measure ensures the safety of breeds that aren’t cut out for the extreme cold.

6. Poodle fur never stops growing.

Unlike dogs that shed, the poodle will grow fur continuously. As a result, they need regular grooming. If left ungroomed, their fur will become matted and dreadlock-like. On the upside, they’re hypoallergenic and generally odorless.

7. This special fur has led to some crossbreeds. 

The poodle has been bred with other popular dogs like Labrador retrievers, cocker spaniels, and wheaten terriers to make more hypoallergenic breeds. 

8. Elvis loved them. 

The King loved dogs and had quite a collection at Graceland. When he was stationed in Germany, he had a poodle named Champagne. He also gave away many poodles to the women he loved: A toy poodle named "Little Bit" went to a girlfriend, and he gave a poodle named "Honey" to his wife Priscilla. 

9. They’re super smart. 

Poodles are one of the smartest breeds, second only to the border collie in rankings of canine intelligence. Their smarts make them extremely easy to train and a favorite of circuses. In the 1800s, they were often dressed in miniature human clothing and trained to act out elaborate scenes. 

10. One toy poodle knows how to work an elevator. 

Nala the teacup poodle was never trained to operate an elevator, but she somehow figured it out and uses it to visit the residents at a local nursing home where her owner works. The small dog can navigate the hallways all by herself and bring comfort to those around her. "She'd rather ride it alone than with people, because she knows where she's going," her owner said. "If she could, she would push the button herself."


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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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