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10 Lovable Facts About the Peruvian Inca Orchid

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The Peruvian Inca Orchid dog isn't like other breeds. Thanks to its noticeable lack of hair, it has a tendency to turn heads. Did we mention it's also pretty rare? Here’s what we know about the scarce (but surprisingly cuddly) South American canine.

1. THEY'RE THE NATIONAL DOG OF PERU.

The Peruvian Inca Orchid is an ancient breed. Thanks to clues on Chimu, Chancay, and Incan pottery, experts believe the dog existed as far back as 750 CE. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in Incan territory, they quickly took notice of the bald dogs. Some believe that the invaders bred their sighthounds with the PIO to create slightly larger dogs than the pups depicted on the scraps of pottery. 

Peru is proud of its unusual-looking pet and declared it the national dog in 2001. To date, they are Peru’s only internationally-registered breed.

2. THEY HAVE MANY NAMES. 

The name “Peruvian Inca Orchid” is pretty wordy, and its official Spanish moniker isn't much better: Perro sin pelo de Peru (Peruvian hairless dog). If you want something a little shorter, they’re also called perros flora or “flower dogs.” 

3. AN AMERICAN NAMED THEM. 

According to legend, the dogs were labeled perros flora by the Spanish, who first encountered them hanging out in caves with wild orchids (poetic, huh?). Another, equally lovely, nickname: Moon dogs, because of their aversion to the sun (you'd avoid it too if you had nothing covering your skin). American dog fancier Jack Walklin came across the many-named dog while visiting Peru in 1966. Combining several of its tags together, he settled on "Peruvian Inca Orchid," and brought eight of the dogs back to the U.S. A breeder by the name of Jenny Tall introduced some of the American dogs to Europe, which resulted in Germany also calling the breed by its American name. When referring to the breed, Peruvians prefer to stick with perro sin pelo de Peru. 

4. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE HAIRLESS. 

In the case of the PIO, the odd dogs out are actually the ones who look like, well, dogs. For the most part, these pups are totally hairless, or have little puffs of hair on their heads and tails. Occasionally, some are born with a full coat. These coated dogs look much more like traditional pooches than the hairless variety and sport cute, floppy ears. They also are more likely to have all of their teeth—the hairless gene is linked to missing a tooth or two.

5. THEY’RE RARE. 

If you’re wondering why you haven’t come across any of these pups at the dog park, it’s because they’re incredibly rare. Thanks to their unusual appearance, they haven’t enjoyed the same amount of popularity as other breeds. Peruvian Inca Orchid dogs are not widely bred, and as a result, there are only about 1000 in the world

6. INCANS USED THEM AS BED WARMERS …

The PIO is mainly a companion dog and was essentially bred to serve as a living hot water bottle. Thanks to their lack of fur, they can snuggle up to their owners and generate a good amount of warmth. At one time, they were also said to have mystical powers, and the ability to cure anything from headaches to arthritis. 

7. … BUT THEY WERE ALSO HUNTERS. 

While the PIO is a great lap warmer, they're also useful out in the field. Their sighthound blood makes them great hunters. Similar to greyhounds or whippets, the canines are skilled at coursing, a type of hunting that emphasizes sight over smell. Thanks to their intelligence and agility, the dogs were tasked with both flushing out and catching small game. Their speed helped them nab prey—and also run messages between villages. 

8. THEIR FEET ARE A LOT LIKE BUNNY FEET. 

Peruvian Inca Orchid dogs have thin, flat feet with webbed toes, similar to the Chinese crested. These unusually long feet are known as “hare feet” because they resemble those of a rabbit. 

9. THEY COME IN DIFFERENT SHAPES AND SIZES. 

LWYang, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Along with being either hairless or coated, the Peruvian hairless dogs can also be one of three sizes. The small variety can be as light as 8 pounds while the larger variety can be as heavy as 55. The American Kennel Club recognizes these as the same breed, although Peru categorizes the sizes as two separate breeds entirely. 

The dogs also come in a wide range of colors and coats. Coated hounds can have all different kinds of fur: short and smooth, long and flowing, or long and straight. Coated dogs can be any color, but the hairless dogs tend to be a shade ranging from black to pink. Generally they are born pink or black and later develop freckles, which grow and combine to create the dog’s final coloring.   

10. YOU'LL NEED TO KEEP THEM OUT OF THE SUN.

Since the PIO doesn’t have a thick coat of hair to cover its skin, the sun is as much a threat to it as it is to us. This means that these dogs shouldn’t be left in direct sunlight, or they might get sunburned! A healthy dollop of sunblock can go a long way for both you and your dog. 

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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 them 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 weigh 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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