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10 Fancy Facts About the Papillon

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Often depicted as companions of the very rich, these tiny dogs have outsized ears that help them stand out in a crowd. Learn more about this energetic breed and their mysterious beginnings. 

1. NO ONE IS SURE WHERE THEY COME FROM.

Small spaniels resembling the papillon could be found in Europe starting in the 1200s, but it's unclear where the dog originally hailed from or what its ancestry is. Some believe that the breed originated in China, where a similar-looking dog eventually became the modern day Pekingnese. Others look to the Japanese chin as an influencer of the breed. Some doubt that there's any Asian influence at all, as Europeans managed to shrink down other breeds without the help of these smaller Eastern dogs. Regardless of where it came from, the dog has strong roots in Europe. The French and Belgians refined the breed, giving it a high-domed head and feathered ear fur. 

2. THEY WERE USED AS RATTERS.

Papillons were bred as ratters in order to rid homes of pests. The adorable dogs were too small to directly kill a rat like other breeds, so they had to use special methods. Their main strategy was to bait the rat and tease it until it became too exhausted to fight back. Once the rat was too run down to put up a fight, the dog could make its final move. 

3. THEIR NAME MEANS "BUTTERFLY." 

Papillon is French for "butterfly." The canines earned their bug-inspired name thanks to their ears, which fan out like butterfly wings. The dogs previously went by other monikers, including the dwarf spaniel and the squirrel spaniel.

4. MARIE ANTOINETTE HAD ONE. 

The ill-fated Queen of France had many dogs during her short reign, but her favorite was a papillon named Coco. There are rumors that Marie Antoinette actually walked to the guillotine at Place de la Concorde desperately clutching her beloved pet. Other accounts maintain that she gave the dog to the governess of her children, Madame de Tourzel. Regardless, Coco survived the French Revolution and even lived through the Napoleonic era. At the ripe age of 22, the old dog died and was buried in the gardens of the Hôtel de Seignelay—just a short walk from where Coco’s owner was beheaded. A small square headstone still marks where the dog was laid to rest. 

5.  THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT EAR SHAPES. 

While most papillons sport the signature butterfly ears, others have floppier, dropped ears known as "moth" ears. Originally all dwarf spaniels had these lilted ears, but slowly the fad turned to more erect ears, and the dogs started to be bred for that trait. These droopier-eared dogs are known as phalenes. Despite the different name, they are still papillons and can even make an appearance in the same litter. The American Kennel Club registers both types as the same breed while other clubs (following Fédération Cynologique Internationale standards) rule them as separate breeds entirely. 

6. DON’T THINK OF THEM AS LAPDOGS. 

Papillons are registered as a toy breed, but don’t expect them to lounge on your lap. These high-energy dogs need a lot of activity to keep them stimulated. Papillons are highly intelligent and get bored if you don’t play with them regularly. To keep them from ruining your house or barking up a storm, try introducing interactive games or agility training. That way they can release pent up energy and won’t make you crazy. 

If you keep them engaged and let them get plenty of exercise, papillons are otherwise low-maintenance dogs. They do fine in both hot and cold weather, and thrive in both homes and apartments. Even during puppy-birth, the dogs generally having no problem whelping healthy litters.

7. ITALY MADE THEN POPULAR. 

It was France that developed and bred the little dogs, but you can thank Spain and Italy for making them popular. The Bologna region of Italy was especially helpful in the rise of the papillon. Italian breeders would transport the dogs to the court of Louis XIV on the backs of mules. Because they became so popular with French royalty, the dogs could be sold for substantial amounts of money.

8. PAINTERS LOVED THEM. 

Thanks to their natural good looks, papillons were featured in a large number of paintings. Masters like Titian, Goya, Rubens, and Rembrandt have all included the attractive pups in their paintings. The Papillon Club of America diligently collects paintings that feature their favorite dog and catalogs them here

9. ONE IS (RELATIVELY) RICH.

When the actress Lauren Bacall passed away in 2014, she left behind $26.6 million, which was split among her three children—as well as her beloved papillon. The dog, named Sophie, was given a whopping $10,000 in order to maintain the lavish lifestyle she had grown accustomed to. The money is being looked after by Bacall's youngest son, Sam Robards, who is in charge of pampering the dog in Bacall’s absence.

10. WATCH OUT FOR SMALL DOG SYNDROME. 

Like most other little dogs, the papillon's size doesn’t hold it back. Often tiny dogs will overcompensate for their small stature and seek attention using other means. Unfortunately, this leads to bad behavior like biting, barking, and bullying dogs twice their size. To combat this aggressive behavior, socialization and early training is key. Just remember that you’re in charge.

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NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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Joe Raedle, Getty Images
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Animals
10 Things You Might Not Know About Grizzly Bears
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Ursus arctos horribilis is better known by the more casual term of grizzly bear. These massive, brown-haired predators have a reputation as one of nature’s most formidable killing machines. Standing up to 8 feet tall and weighing 800 pounds, these fierce mammals have captivated—and frightened—humans for centuries. Keep your distance and read up on these facts about their love for munching moths, eating smaller bears, and being polar-curious.

1. THEY’RE ACTUALLY PRETTY LIGHT EATERS.

Grizzlies—more accurately, North American brown bears—are strong enough to make a meal out of whatever they like, including moose, elk, and bison. Despite their reputation for having carnivorous appetites, their diet also consists of nuts, berries, fruits, and leaves. They’ll even eat mice. The gluttony doesn’t kick in until they begin to exhibit hyperphagia, preparing for winter hibernation by chomping down enough food to gain up to three pounds a day.

2. THEY USE “CPR” TO GET AT YOUR FOOD.

A grizzly bear eats fruit in Madrid, Spain
Dani Pozo, AFP/Getty Images

More than 700 grizzlies live in or near Yellowstone National Park, which forces officials to constantly monitor how park visitors and the bears can peacefully co-exist. Because bears rummaging in food containers can lead to unwanted encounters, the park’s Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center tests trash cans and coolers to see if they’re bear-resistant. (Nothing is truly bear-proof.) Often, a bear will use “CPR,” or jumping on a canister with its front legs, in order to make the lid pop off. Containers that can last at least 60 minutes before being opened can be advertised by their manufacturers as being appropriate for bear-inhabited environments.

3. THEY CAN CLIMB TREES.

It's a myth that grizzlies can't climb trees. Though their weight and long claws make climbing difficult [PDF], and they need support from evenly-spaced branches, grizzlies can travel vertically if they choose to.

4. THEY’LL EAT OTHER BEARS.

Two grizzly bears play in a pool at a zoo in France
Jean-Francois Monier, AFP/Getty Images

In addition to being omnivorous, grizzlies can also be classified as cannibals. They’ve been spotted eating the carcasses of black bears in Canada. Calling it a “bear-eat-bear world,” officials at Banff National Park in Alberta said the grizzlies are “opportunistic” and more than willing to devour black bears—sometimes just one-fifth their size—if the occasion calls for it. And it’s not just black bears: One study on bear eating habits published in 2017 recorded a 10-year-old male eating a 6-year-old female brown bear.

5. THEY LOVE MOTHS.

Although grizzlies enjoy eating many insects, moths are at the top of the menu. Researchers have observed that bears are willing to climb to alpine heights at Montana’s Glacier National Park in order to feast on the flying appetizers. Grizzlies will turn over rocks and spend up to 14 hours in a day devouring in excess of 40,000 moths.

6. A PAIR OF THEM ONCE LIVED ON WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS.

A grizzly bear appears at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenseburg, Colorado
John Moore, Getty Images

In what would be considered an ill-advised decision, explorer Zebulon Pike decided to gift his friend President Thomas Jefferson with two grizzly cubs in 1807. Jefferson reluctantly accepted them and kept them in a cage near the north entrance to the White House, and later re-gifted the cubs to museum operator Charles Willson Peale. Sadly, one of them got shot after getting too aggressive with Peale’s family.

7. THEY CAN RUN FASTER THAN USAIN BOLT.

The bears we see in fiction or lazing about in the wild tend to look cumbersome and slow, as most anything weighing nearly a half-ton would. But in a land race, even Olympic champions would be on the losing end. Grizzlies can reportedly run 35 mph, and sustain speeds of up to 28 mph for two miles, faster than Usain Bolt’s 27.78 miles per hour stride (which he can only sustain for a few seconds).

8. THEY MATE WITH POLAR BEARS.

A grizzly bear is shown swimming at a pool in an Illinois zoo
Scott Olson, Getty Images

In parts of Alaska and Canada where grizzlies and polar bears converge, there are sometimes rare sightings of what observers call “grolar bears” or “pizzlies.” With large heads and light-colored fur, they’re a hybrid superbear birthed from some interspecies mating. Typically, it’s male grizzlies who roam into those territories, finding female polar bears to cozy up with. Researchers believe climate change is one reason the two are getting together.

9. THEY KNOW HOW TO COVER THEIR TRACKS.

When it comes to intellect, grizzlies may not get all the same publicity that birds and whales do, but they’re still pretty clever. The bears can remember hotspots for food even if it’s been 10 years since they last visited the area; some have been observed covering tracks or obscuring themselves with rocks and trees to avoid detection by hunters.

10. THEY’RE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET.

A grizzly bear and her cub walk in Yellowstone National Park
Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images

For 42 years, grizzlies at Yellowstone occupied the endangered species list. That ended in 2017, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that a rise in numbers—from 150 in the 1970s to more than 700 today—meant that conservation efforts had been successful. But overall, the grizzly population is still struggling: Fewer than 2000 remain in the lower 48 states, down from 50,000 two centuries ago.

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