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10 Super-Smart Facts About Basenjis

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Basenjis are an ancient African breed known for their cat-like personalities and jackal-like appearance. Learn more about this clever breed and their unusual history.

1. THEY GO WAY BACK.

Basenjis have been around so long, they hung out with the ancient Egyptians. In fact, there is evidence of the dogs existing as far back as 4000 BCE. These dogs most likely originated in Central Africa, between the Congo Basin and South Sudan, and were probably kept as hunting companions. Experts believe they may have been gifted to the Pharaohs of Egypt, who were said to love the animals for their cat-like personalities and clean coats.

2. THEY SERVE AS MUSES.

Depictions of the curly-tailed canines can be seen in ancient bas-reliefs and sculptures. The first illustration of the breed was found in tombs of the Great Pyramid of Khufu; the dogs can also be found on shields, walls, and drawings, and there are even some mummified basenjis. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has a Babylonian bronze statue of a basenji and its owner.

3. THEY'RE EXCELLENT HUNTERS. 

Basenjis were bred for hunting. The canines were used for flushing animals out of hiding places and into hunter’s nets, and were also helpful in finding caches of eggs, pointing, and keeping villages rodent-free. Most dog breeds will hunt using either sight (like greyhounds) or smell (like beagles), but basenjis use both sight and smell to find their prey. 

4. LIONS ARE NO MATCH FOR THEM. 

In Kenya, the dogs are used to lure lions out of their caves. Masai hunters use about four of these dogs at a time to find lions and get them out in the open. Once a lion leaves the safety of its cave, hunters form a circle around the big cat. 

5. THEIR NAME IS PRETTY CUTE.

People of the Ituri rainforests called these dogs Basenchi, or “little bush thing.” 

6. THEIR BARK IS MORE OF A YODEL. 

Basenjis are known for being a very quiet breed; because they have flat larynxes, the dogs cannot bark. When they do make noise, it sounds more like a yodel than a traditional bark.

7. BRINGING THEM TO EUROPE WAS TRICKY. 

Basenjis were brought to England in the 1890s, but once there, a distemper epidemic wiped out the majority of the dogs. When a vaccine finally became available in the 1930s, basenjis were brought back to the UK and to the United States. However, the breeding pool was small for this rare dog, which led to health issues. A gene disorder called Fanconi’s syndrome became a widespread problem, resulting in the deaths of a number of basenjis. In order to add diversity to the gene pool, breeders brought in dogs from Sudan and the Congo. Today, some still suffer from Fanconi's syndrome, so it is recommended that you get your basenji from a reputable breeder.  

8. TRAINING WON’T BE EASY. 

Basenjis are aloof and independent dogs. The cat-like canines generally only bond with one or two humans, and like to do things on their own. As a result of their willful personalities, training can be tricky and requires a lot of patience. 

9. GOOD LUCK CATCHING UP TO ONE. 

Like greyhounds and whippets, basenjis use a double suspension gallop when running. When most dogs run, there's generally at least one foot touching the ground at all times. But with galloping breeds like the basenji, there are two separate times when all four paws are off the ground. This gait helps the dog reach impressive speeds.

10. THEY’RE VERY CLEAN. 

Basenjis were bred to be quiet and independent hunters, often roaming free from their owners while on a hunt. The sometimes-aloof breed is less friendly than other dogs, but forms strong bonds with its owners. And they're known to keep their coats and paws clean, just like cats. Owners find that grooming them is easy, as the dogs do much of the work themselves. [PDF]

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Big Questions
Why Do We Dive With Sharks But Not Crocodiles?
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Why do we dive with sharks but not crocodiles?

Eli Rosenberg:

The issue is the assumption that sharks' instincts are stronger and more basic.

There are a couple of reasons swimming with sharks is safer:

1. Most sharks do not like the way people taste. They expect their prey to taste a certain way, like fish/seal, and we do not taste like that. Sharks also do not like the sensation of eating people. Bigger sharks like great whites enjoy prey with a high fat-bone ratio like seals. Smaller sharks enjoy eating fish, which they can gobble in one bite. So, while they might bite us, they pretty quickly decide “That’s not for me” and swim away. There is only one shark that doesn’t really care about humans tasting icky: that shark is our good friend the tiger shark. He is one of the most dangerous species because of his nondiscriminatory taste (he’s called the garbage can of the sea)!

2. Sharks are not animals that enjoy a fight. Our big friend the great white enjoys ambushing seals. This sneak attack is why it sometimes mistakes people for seals or sea turtles. Sharks do not need to fight for food. The vast majority of sharks species are not territorial (some are, like the blacktip and bull). The ones that are territorial tend to be the more aggressive species that are more dangerous to dive with.

3. Sharks attacked about 81 people in 2016, according to the University of Florida. Only four were fatal. Most were surfers.

4. Meanwhile, this is the saltwater crocodile. The saltwater crocodile is not a big, fishy friend, like the shark. He is an opportunistic, aggressive, giant beast.


5. Crocodiles attack hundreds to thousands of people every single year. Depending on the species, one-third to one-half are fatal. You have a better chance of survival if you played Russian roulette.

6. The Death Roll. When a crocodile wants to kill something big, the crocodile grabs it and rolls. This drowns and disorients the victim (you). Here is a PG video of the death roll. (There is also a video on YouTube in which a man stuck his arm into an alligator’s mouth and he death rolled. You don’t want to see what happened.)

7. Remember how the shark doesn’t want to eat you or fight you? This primordial beast will eat you and enjoy it. There is a crocodile dubbed Gustave, who has allegedly killed around 300 people. (I personally believe 300 is a hyped number and the true number might be around 100, but yikes, that’s a lot). Gustave has reportedly killed people for funsies. He’s killed them and gone back to his business. So maybe they won’t even eat you.


8. Sharks are mostly predictable. Crocodiles are completely unpredictable.

9. Are you in the water or by the edge of the water? You are fair game to a crocodile.

10. Crocodiles have been known to hang out together. The friend group that murders together eats together. Basks of crocodiles have even murdered hippopotamuses, the murder river horse. Do you think you don't look like an appetizer?

11. Wow, look at this. This blacktip swims among the beautiful coral, surrounded by crystal clear waters and staggering biodiversity. I want to swim there!

Oh wow, such mud. I can’t say I feel the urge to take a dip. (Thanks to all who pointed this out!)

12. This is not swimming with the crocodiles. More like a 3D aquarium.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Animals
10 Filling Facts About Turkeys
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Don’t be fooled by their reputation for being thoughtless. These roly-poly birds have a few tricks up their wings.

1. THE BIRDS WERE NAMED AFTER THE COUNTRY.

The turkey is an American bird, so why does it share its name with a country on the other side of the world? Laziness, mostly. Turkish traders had been importing African guinea fowl to Europe for some time when North American explorers started shipping M. gallopavo back to the Old World. The American birds looked kind of like the African “turkey-cocks,” and so Europeans called them “turkeys.” Eventually, the word “turkey” came to describe M. gallopavo exclusively.

2. THEY NEARLY WENT EXTINCT.

By the early 20th century, the combination of overzealous hunting and habitat destruction had dwindled the turkey populations down to 30,000. With the help of conservationists, the turkey made a comeback. The birds are now so numerous that they’ve become a nuisance in some parts of the country.

3. THEY’VE GOT TWO STOMACHS.

Like all birds, turkeys don’t have teeth, so they’ve got to enlist some extra help to break down their food. Each swallowed mouthful goes first into a chamber called a proventriculus, which uses stomach acid to start softening the food. From there, food travels to the gizzard, where specialized muscles smash it into smaller pieces.

4. FEMALE TURKEYS DON’T GOBBLE.

Turkeys of both sexes purr, whistle, cackle, and yelp, but only the males gobble. A gobble is the male turkey’s version of a lion’s roar, announcing his presence to females and warning his rivals to stay away. To maximize the range of their calls, male turkeys often gobble from the treetops.

5. THEY SLEEP IN TREES.

Due to their deliciousness, turkeys have a lot of natural predators. As the sun goes down, the turkeys go up—into the trees. They start by flying onto a low branch, then clumsily hop their way upward, branch by branch, until they reach a safe height.

6. BOTH MALE AND FEMALE TURKEYS HAVE WATTLES.

The wattle is the red dangly bit under the turkey’s chin. The red thing on top of the beak is called a snood. Both sexes have those, too, but they’re more functional in male turkeys. Studies have shown that female turkeys prefer mates with longer snoods, which may indicate health and good genes.

7. THEY HAVE REALLY GOOD VISION.

Turkey eyes are really, really sharp. On top of that, they’ve got terrific peripheral vision. We humans can only see about 180 degrees, but given the placement of their eyes on the sides of their heads, turkeys can see 270 degrees. They’ve also got way better color vision than we do and can see ultraviolet light.

8. THEY’RE FAST ON THE GROUND, TOO.

You wouldn’t guess it by looking at them, but turkeys can really book it when they need to. We already know they’re fast in the air; on land, a running turkey can reach a speed of up to 25 mph—as fast as a charging elephant.

9. THEY’RE SMART … BUT NOT THAT SMART.

Turkeys can recognize each other by sound, and they can visualize a map of their territory. They can also plan ahead and recognize patterns. In other ways, they’re very, very simple animals. Male turkeys will attack anything that looks remotely like a threat, including their own reflections in windows and car doors.

10. IN THE EVENT OF A TURKEY ATTACK, CALL THE POLICE.

They might look silly, but a belligerent turkey is no joke. Male turkeys work very hard to impress other turkeys, and what could be more impressive than attacking a bigger animal? Turkey behavior experts advise those who find themselves in close quarters with the big birds to call the police if things get mean. Until the authorities arrive, they say, your best bet is to make yourself as big and imposing as you possibly can.

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