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9 Versatile Facts About the Airedale Terrier

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The Airedale terrier, also known as the King of Terriers, is known for its good looks and adaptability. Learn more about the multifaceted dog and its history.  

1. THEY HAIL FROM MERRY OLD ENGLAND.

As the name suggests, these dogs come from the Aire River valley in England. It’s believed that the dog was created by crossbreeding a number of different terrier breeds with the otter hound. Although the dog's exact lineage isn't clear, experts suspect that the now-extinct black and tan terrier and the English bullterrier may be ancestors of the Airedale. 

2. FARMERS BRED THEM TO WEAR MANY HATS. 

People living by the English Aire and Wharfe Rivers in the 1800s had a severe vermin problem. Animals like rats, foxes, and martens would burrow through the riverbanks and invade nearby fields. Exhausted and overrun, villages worked to create the perfect dog to flush out the pests. Because of the variety of creatures plaguing the area, local farmers decided that they needed a multi-purpose dog that could do the work of many—namely, a breed the right size to catch both a small rat and a large fox, capable of hunting on the ground or in the water. 

The Airedale terrier was bred to possess traits that made it valuable to farming households: courage, tenacity, intelligence, hunting instinct, natural swimming abilities, and gentleness around families. By the 1900s, the dog was considered an all-around sporting dog. As such, the dog was able to satisfy the qualifications of a pointer, spaniel, and retriever all in one. 

3. THEY’RE THE LARGEST OF THE TERRIERS. 

Terriers get their name from the Latin word, terra, meaning earth or ground. Terriers were bred to “go to ground” or burrow underground to flush out prey like badgers and rodents; many, as a result, are small in stature. But the terrier group as a whole is wide and diverse. The biggest of the breed is the Airedale terrier, which can grow to be up to two feet tall and weigh as much as 60 pounds. Thanks to their relatively large size, they've earned the nickname “King of Terriers.” 

4. ONE LIVED IN THE WHITE HOUSE.

Laddie Boy the Airedale terrier was arguably the most famous dog to ever live in the White House. The dog accompanied President Harding everywhere, from important cabinet meetings to golf games. Ever the media darling, Laddie Boy attended fundraising events, met celebrities, and “wrote” letters to the press (Harding penned them). The Washington Star and The New York Times breathlessly followed every movement the beloved pup made.

Harding loved his curly-haired terrier and even had 1000 bronze miniatures of the dog’s likeness made to hand out to his friends and colleagues. Still, Harding never chose to profit from the dog’s fame. Although he was approached by several toy companies, the president refused to endorse any of their products.

When Harding passed away from a heart attack, news reports of the day were full of concern for Laddie Boy's future. In a nod to Harding's newspaper background, more than 19,000 newsboys came together, each donating a penny to the memory of the fallen president. The copper was melted down and shaped into a Laddie Boy statue by sculptor Bashka Paeff. Laddie Boy served as a live model for the work of art and had to attend 15 sittings with Paeff before it was complete. After leaving the White House, Harding's widow, Florence Harding, gave Laddie Boy to secret service agent Harry L. Barker, who took the dog home to live in Massachusetts for the remainder of his life.

5. THE BRITISH ARMY USED THEM AS MESSENGERS.

The Airedale’s tenacity, athleticism, and eagerness to please made them perfect army dogs in World War I. Britain began to use dogs as soldiers after Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson demonstrated their helpfulness. Airedales were used for everything from carrying messages to locating fallen soldiers. Often they were sent out in the field with packs of medicine strapped to their bodies, in the hopes they'd stumble upon injured men.

Richardson's training program for would-be canine soldiers was thorough. The lieutenant colonel would pay local men to pretend to be dead or injured so his trainees could locate them. The dogs were also taught to feel comfortable wearing gas masks and, most importantly, to move quickly. 

6. JOHN WAYNE HAD ONE. 

You can thank an Airedale terrier for John Wayne’s iconic nickname. Growing up, the future actor had an Airedale named Duke. After a while, people started calling the dog Little Duke and Wayne Big Duke. The nickname stuck and has since been the cause of some legal trouble between Wayne’s family and Duke University. 

7. THEY DON’T REALLY SHED. 

Unlike some other dogs (we’re looking at you, German shepherds), Airedale terriers don’t leave a trail of fur wherever they go. Instead of continuous shedding, the dogs shed just a few times a year (some don’t even shed at all). The canines have thick, bristly hair that needs occasional brushing to remove dead hair. Other than that, they really only need one trip to the groomer per year.

8. THEY’RE SMART.

Airedales are very intelligent, which means they can learn tasks and tricks very quickly. But this intelligence can be a double-edged sword: Airedales can be willful and difficult to train if you don’t start early. Positive reinforcement is the way to go with these dogs—they don’t respond well to yelling or roughness. They also get bored easily if they’re not properly stimulated. They need about 20 minutes of brisk walking twice a day to stay happy. 

9. THEY’RE INCREDIBLY ADAPTABLE.

Airedales do well in both houses and apartments and can live in most climates. Their coats can be altered to fit whatever the temperature is: Strip their coats in hotter climates and let it grow out in colder ones.

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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 it 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 weight 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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