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11 Bright Facts About Border Collies

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Border collies are fun, energetic dogs that love problem-solving almost as much as they love people. Learn more about this classic working dog. 

1. Modern border collies can trace their lineage back to one dog. 

Old Hemp (born in 1893) is widely considered to be the progenitor of the border collie. Unlike other dogs of his kind, his herding method was quieter and less aggressive. Despite having a softer technique, his method got results and impressed breeders. Old Hemp became a stud dog and fathered over 200 pups

2. Romans brought sheepdogs to Great Britain.

The Roman Empire was the first civilization to master the art of raising and herding sheep. They brought sheep and shepherds over to the British Isles, where they established a wool industry. Many of the sheepdogs the Romans brought to Britain couldn’t hack it in the cold weather, so the Celtics began breeding their own. These new dogs were smaller and more agile than their predecessors; they were called collies after the ancient Celtic word colley, meaning useful or faithful. 

3. Their name comes from the region in which they flourished. 

Border collies get their name because they were initially bred on the border of Scotland and England. It is believed that James Reid, the secretary of the International Sheepdog Society, coined the name while describing the dogs in letters to colleagues. 

4. They’re furry geniuses. 

Dogs are pretty smart as a species in general, but no breed can beat the border collie in intelligence. The bright pooches were bred to be independent problem solvers capable of solving complex tasks. 

5. But that doesn’t mean training them is easy. 

Because these dogs are so smart, it means they pick up on everything and learn very quickly. This means you need to train them right away before they develop any bad habits, such as barking, nipping, or whining—behaviors many border collies default to when they're bored. Train them young and make sure they're focused on the task at hand, as their attention tends to wander.

6. Collies are the ultimate herding dogs.

Herding dogs like border collies have been specially bred to chase and organize animals. This modified predatory behavior incorporates the beginning of the hunt (stalking, crouching, nipping), but without the killing. Border collies make particularly good herders thanks to their independence and intelligence. The need to herd is so deeply ingrained in these dogs, that some modern owners actually rent sheep for their pets to corral. 

7. Crouching is a technique. 

Border collies can move swiftly in a catlike, crouched position, thanks to a space between the tops of the shoulder blades, which lets the dogs slither by while staying low to the ground. This technique lets them herd animals with extreme precision. 

8. Watch out for "the eye." 

Another trick up the border collie sleeve is the “the eye.” This intense stare intimidates the livestock and helps the dogs herd and control the animals. You may catch your dog giving you this look when you have something delicious in your hand. 

9. One has a big vocabulary.

Chaser the border collie is often called the smartest dog in the world. She has been working with John Pilley, a professor of psychology, to learn an impressive number of English words since she was two months old. Chaser first learned that specific toys had different names when she was just five months. Since then, Chaser has slowly amassed an arsenal of words, and has the cognition and development of a toddler. 

The clever pooch shows off her smarts by bringing specific items when asked. Even more impressive, she understands that items have a unique proper name (like Franklin), and then a more general common noun name (like toy). She knows the proper noun names of her 1000 unique toys. 

10. Another holds a more unusual world record 

A talented border collie named Striker holds the record for Fastest Car Window Opened by a Dog. The canine rolled down the non-electric car window in 11.34 seconds.

11. Staying active is a must. 

Don’t expect to lay around the house with this dog. The smarter the breed, the easier it is for it to get bored when left with no stimulation. Border collies are working dogs and enjoy having tasks to keep them busy throughout the day; the high-energy dog needs to redirect its spunk or else it will misbehave.

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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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Animals
10 Juicy Facts About Sea Apples

They're both gorgeous and grotesque. Sea apples, a type of marine invertebrate, have dazzling purple, yellow, and blue color schemes streaking across their bodies. But some of their habits are rather R-rated. Here’s what you should know about these weird little creatures.

1. THEY’RE SEA CUCUMBERS.

The world’s oceans are home to more than 1200 species of sea cucumber. Like sand dollars and starfish, sea cucumbers are echinoderms: brainless, spineless marine animals with skin-covered shells and a complex network of internal hydraulics that enables them to get around. Sea cucumbers can thrive in a range of oceanic habitats, from Arctic depths to tropical reefs. They're a fascinating group with colorful popular names, like the “burnt hot dog sea cucumber” (Holothuria edulis) and the sea pig (Scotoplanes globosa), a scavenger that’s been described as a “living vacuum cleaner.”

2. THEY'RE NATIVE TO THE WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN.

Sea apples have oval-shaped bodies and belong to the genus Pseudocolochirus and genus Paracacumaria. The animals are indigenous to the western Pacific, where they can be found shuffling across the ocean floor in shallow, coastal waters. Many different types are kept in captivity, but two species, Pseudocolochirus violaceus and Pseudocolochirus axiologus, have proven especially popular with aquarium hobbyists. Both species reside along the coastlines of Australia and Southeast Asia.

3. THEY EAT WITH MUCUS-COVERED TENTACLES.

Sea cucumbers, the ocean's sanitation crew, eat by swallowing plankton, algae, and sandy detritus at one end of their bodies and then expelling clean, fresh sand out their other end. Sea apples use a different technique. A ring of mucus-covered tentacles around a sea apple's mouth snares floating bits of food, popping each bit into its mouth one at a time. In the process, the tentacles are covered with a fresh coat of sticky mucus, and the whole cycle repeats.

4. THEY’RE ACTIVE AT NIGHT.

Sea apples' waving appendages can look delicious to predatory fish, so the echinoderms minimize the risk of attracting unwanted attention by doing most of their feeding at night. When those tentacles aren’t in use, they’re retracted into the body.

5. THE MOVE ON TUBULAR FEET.

The rows of yellow protuberances running along the sides of this specimen are its feet. They allow sea apples to latch onto rocks and other hard surfaces while feeding. And if one of these feet gets severed, it can grow back.

6. SOME FISH HANG OUT IN SEA APPLES' BUTTS.

Sea apples are poisonous, but a few marine freeloaders capitalize on this very quality. Some small fish have evolved to live inside the invertebrates' digestive tracts, mooching off the sea apples' meals and using their bodies for shelter. In a gross twist of evolution, fish gain entry through the back door, an orifice called the cloaca. In addition expelling waste, the cloaca absorbs fresh oxygen, meaning that sea apples/cucumbers essentially breathe through their anuses.

7. WHEN THREATENED, SEA APPLES CAN EXPAND.

Most full-grown adult sea apples are around 3 to 8 inches long, but they can make themselves look twice as big if they need to escape a threat. By pulling extra water into their bodies, some can grow to the size of a volleyball, according to Advanced Aquarist. After puffing up, they can float on the current and away from danger. Some aquarists might mistake the robust display as a sign of optimum health, but it's usually a reaction to stress.

8. THEY CAN EXPEL THEIR OWN GUTS.

Sea apples use their vibrant appearance to broadcast that they’re packing a dangerous toxin. But to really scare off predators, they puke up some of their own innards. When an attacker gets too close, sea apples can expel various organs through their orifices, and some simultaneously unleash a cloud of the poison holothurin. In an aquarium, the holothurin doesn’t disperse as widely as it would in the sea, and it's been known to wipe out entire fish tanks.

9. SEA APPLES LAY TOXIC EGGS.

These invertebrates reproduce sexually; females release eggs that are later fertilized by clouds of sperm emitted by the males. As many saltwater aquarium keepers know all too well, sea apple eggs are not suitable fish snacks—because they’re poisonous. Scientists have observed that, in Pseudocolochirus violaceus at least, the eggs develop into small, barrel-shaped larvae within two weeks of fertilization.

10. THEY'RE NOT EASILY CONFUSED WITH THIS TREE SPECIES.

Syzgium grande is a coastal tree native to Southeast Asia whose informal name is "sea apple." When fully grown, they can stand more than 140 feet tall. Once a year, it produces attractive clusters of fuzzy white flowers and round green fruits, perhaps prompting its comparison to an apple tree.

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