11 Curious Events That Really Happened

iStock / Rebecca O'Connell
iStock / Rebecca O'Connell

Sometimes things happen that humans just can’t explain in the short-term—or for a long while after. 

1. THE KENTUCKY MEAT SHOWER

Would you eat meat that fell from the sky? In 1876, some people did. That’s because a Bath County, Kentucky couple witnessed meat seemingly falling from the clouds. On March 3, 1876, Allen Crouch and his wife watched chunks of meat inexplicably cover their farm; the newspaper report drew neighbors, spectators and local butchers who attempted to determine where the mysterious meat came from. Some (along with the Crouch’s cat) even sampled the meat and believed it to be "either mutton or venison," but no definitive source could be identified. Scientists at the time eventually concluded vultures flying overhead after an exceptionally large meal could have vomited the half-digested meat mid-flight, leading to the meat shower, but researchers were unable to confirm the theory.

2. SALISH SEA HUMAN FOOT DISCOVERIES

In February 2016, within days of each other, two shoes containing severed human feet washed up in the area of Vancouver Island’s Botanical Beach, and unfortunately, they were not the first. Since 2007, 16 severed feet have washed up along the Northwest Pacific coastline, only to be found by Washington or British Columbia beachgoers. Initially, investigators speculated that the feet could have come from victims of far-off natural disasters or serial killers, but after several years they determined that the identified remains belonged to people who had committed suicide or likely died accidentally during stormy weather. But why are feet the only found remains in these cases? Decomposition in water is tough business, with the push and pull of waves causing hands and feet to disconnect from a corpse. And with modern shoes being constructed with light materials and air pockets, those remains were more likely to float. Still, some believe that similarities between the remains—mostly right feet wearing running shoes or hiking boots—are too coincidental, and that something more sinister is amiss.

3. GERMANY'S EXPLODING TOADS

A small pond in Hamburg, Germany, became the center of an exploding toad epidemic in 2005. More than 1000 toad carcasses were found—including splattered remains—mystifying nearby residents and park visitors. After water testing proved inconclusive and autopsied toads appeared free of fungus or viruses, scientists let another theory take flight: hungry crows. Berlin veterinarian Frank Mutschmann suggested that crows with an affinity for toad livers likely pecked between the toad’s chest and abdomen, causing the amphibians to puff up in an effort to scare away their predators. Unfortunately, the missing liver and subsequent wound (and possibly a punctured lung) could cause the toad’s blood vessels and lungs to burst upon puffing. While this guess seems reasonable, scientists can’t confirm since bystanders haven’t seen it happen.

4. WAKING UP WITH PERFECT PRONUNCIATION

In 2014, Australian native Ben McMahon spent a week in a coma following a car accident. When he awoke, the English speaker instead spoke fluent Mandarin, which he had previously studied, but not to any strong level. Scientists understand that brain trauma can damage portions areas of the brain where speaking skills are stored, possibly causing the brain to re-circuit to other language skills—regardless of how minimal—stored in different zones. But how sudden fluency is achieved isn't known. McMahon isn’t the only person to emerge from a coma with new language skills; a Croatian teenager awoke speaking fluent German in 2010, while a British survivor of a six-car pileup came out of a coma speaking French—and also believing he was actor Matthew McConaughey.

5. RETURNING MORNING GLORY CLOUDS

For centuries, clouds have been used as real-time alerts for incoming weather. While meteorologists have extensively studied clouds, there's one they don't know much about: the Morning Glory cloud. These long, narrow clouds often appear in perfectly straight rows, each cloud reaching up to 600 miles long. When it comes to research, the Morning Glory phenomenon is often overlooked because it is normally only seen between September and November in the skies above northeastern Australia. Scientists know the clouds are created by the collision of sea breezes that lift moist air and forms clouds, but few scientists study beyond their formation, leading us to wonder how long Morning Glory clouds been occurring and why they’re sometimes also seen over Germany and the U.S.

6. A SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTING TENANT

Those curious about spontaneous human combustion may point to the case of Mary Hardy Reeser, a 67-year-old St. Petersburg, Florida, woman who died in a mysterious blaze. On July 2, 1951, Reeser’s landlady stopped by only to find Reeser’s charred remains in a chair, with the rest of the room seemingly untouched by flames. FBI investigators believed Reeser took a sleeping pill and after falling asleep, accidentally caught her highly flammable clothing on fire from a lit cigarette. The chair she slept in was made of fire-retardant materials, allowing it to remain relatively unscathed while Reeser’s own body fat fed the flames. Yet, many conspiracy theorists find the FBI’s findings unrealistic, puzzled by how a fire so hot could have minimal damage to Reeser’s apartment when cremation often requires temperatures well above 2000 degrees.

7. THE DYATLOV PASS INCIDENT

Even experienced climbers and hikers fear getting injured or worse. But what happened to a team of nine Soviet campers in February 1959 continues to puzzle and terrify many. Led by an experienced mountaineer, the students ventured into the northern Ural Mountains, only to be discovered dead weeks later, with no clear explanation of what went wrong. When five of the campers were initially found, their bodies exhibited signs of traumatic injuries yet there were no obvious clues to how they were harmed. A tent was cut from the inside out and bodies were found leading away from the base camp. Several in the group were missing clothing, revealing their bodies had turned an unusual hue of orange. The Russian government investigated the incident, noting that the bodies displayed some evidence of radioactivity, but case files were sealed, making it difficult to know why exactly that was noted. Plausible theories for the hikers’ deaths include accidental exposure to radioactive testing or infrasound frequencies that were misinterpreted as an avalanche, causing the hikers to flee into treacherous conditions. No matter what the cause, the only ones who truly know what happened on that mountain died there.

8. MYSTERIOUS "CHUPACABRA" ATTACKS

While the lore of a vampire-like beast has existed in the Rio Grande region of Texas since the 1970s (usually described as a giant bird), it wasn’t until the mid-1990s when chupacabra fears hit a fever pitch. In March of 1995, Puerto Rican farmers reported a series of attacks by the chupacabra (which translates to "goat sucker") after finding eight sheep dead and drained of their blood. The only evidence of the killings was a set of small puncture wounds on each animal. By August, the town of Canóvanas saw more than 100 dead farm animals and pets, all drained of their blood with similar wounds. While speculation initially considered satanic cults, many believers found it entirely possible that there were vampire beasts on a bloodsucking frenzy.

By the 2000s, attacks from el chupacabra spread throughout Latin American, Florida, and Texas, where several residents and ranchers captured suspected beasts—though DNA tests show that the animals were simply coyotes or wild dogs with intense mange. Biologists believe there is no such thing as a chupacabra, but instead the attacks were the work of frenzied coyotes and wild dogs that often kill but leave behind their prey. As for the suspected blood drainings, many of the examined animals lost an amount of blood typical of bleeding to death from a bite, proving they weren’t a bloodsucker's meal. Yet many chupacabra believers claim the beast exists simply because the theorized wild dog attacks haven't been witnessed, and so, the legend of the chupacabras continue to haunt the night.

9. THE TOXIC WOMAN

The story of the Toxic Woman sounds like the plot of a sci-fi movie, except it really happened. On February 19, 1994, Gloria Ramirez entered the General Hospital in Riverside, California, for complications attributed to advanced-stage cervical cancer. Within minutes, doctors and nurses who had contact with her mentioned the smell of ammonia before falling ill, with some even passing out due to fumes coming from Ramirez’s body. As a precaution, the emergency room was evacuated, and a doctor and nurse were hospitalized for side effects attributed to the unusual fumes; Ramirez died of heart failure that evening. The autopsy on her body required the coroner’s office to build a special enclosure and follow hazmat procedures, including suits and being washed with decontaminants afterwards, but the autopsy was inconclusive.

While it’s not perfectly clear what exactly happened or why Ramirez’s body emitted ammonia-like fumes, doctors believe it was due to her cancer treatments. Ramirez is believed to have taken a pain-relieving home remedy that included dimethyl sulfoxide, which built up in her body due to a urinary blockage. When oxygen was administered, the chemical transformed into dimethyl sulfone, and the use of defibrillators on Ramirez would have changed that compound to dimethyl sulfate—a poisonous gas.  While researchers in the mid-1990s believed this to be a logical solution, additional testing was not possible due to the decomposition of Ramirez’s body. And so, theories of extraterrestrial interference and the hospital’s wrongdoing have continued to live on.

10. THE TUNGUSKA EVENT

More than 100 years after an explosion charred a Siberian forest, scientists still don’t know what exactly happened. In 1908, the remote Tunguska region of Siberia experienced a blast so intense that scientists say it produced nearly 185 times more energy than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The closest eyewitnesses, who were 35 miles away, claimed to see a fireball light the sky above the forest before hearing and feeling a crash, followed by heat. At most one or two people were killed, along with hundreds of reindeer. Initial speculations included a volcanic explosion or meteorite impact, but investigations proved difficult due to the rural, rugged area and Russian politics. During the past century, scientists have leaned on the theory of an asteroid or air burst, yet little physical evidence supports this idea.

11. MEOWING NUNS

Modern science understands mass hysteria—a situation where groups of people suffer from the same mysterious effects of a strange illness or behavior—and how easily it can spread. We also now know it can be common among people who live in strict social settings for extended periods of time. But before modern psychology, no one understood this phenomenon or knew how to deal with it—especially when an entire convent of nuns got a little … catty. After one nun mysteriously began meowing, an entire French convent took on the persona of cats. Soon, many in the convent also began meowing for hours each day, gaining the attention of nearby villagers who eventually had enough. Soldiers were called in to circle the convent and nuns were warned that if they didn’t stop meowing, they’d be whipped. Not surprisingly, the meowing stopped pretty quickly, but how the cattitude started and why it lasted so was never clearly documented. How curious.

11 Words That Started Out As Spelling Mistakes

A woman sneezing, which in Middle English would have been called a fneze instead.
A woman sneezing, which in Middle English would have been called a fneze instead.
iStock.com/Dirima

The word irregardless might not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying that if you were to use it in a sentence, you’d be perfectly understood—and that’s more than enough evidence for it to have been accepted into many dictionaries (albeit flagged as non-standard or informal), including Oxford Dictionaries, Merriam-Webster, and even the hallowed Oxford English Dictionary, which has so far been able to trace it back as far as 1912. So despite it having its origins in an error, and irregardless of what you might think of it, there’s no denying irregardless is indeed a word—and it’s by no means alone.

1. Expediate

Meaning “to hasten” or “to complete something promptly,” the verb expediate is thought to have been invented by accident in the early 1600s when the adjective form of expedite, meaning “ready for action” or “alert,” was misspelled in an essay by the English politician Sir Edwin Sandys (it was later corrected).

2. Culprit

There are several different accounts of the origin of culprit, but all of them seem to agree that the word was born out of a mistake. Back when French was still the language of the law in England in the Middle Ages (a hangover from the days of the Norman Conquest), the phrase Culpable, prest d’averrer nostre bille—literally “guilty, ready to prove our case”—was apparently the stock reply given by the Clerk of the Crown whenever a defendant gave a plea of not guilty. In the court records, this fairly long-winded phrase was often abbreviated just to cul. prit., and, as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “by a fortuitous or ignorant running together of the two,” the word culprit was born.

3. Despatch

Despatch is a chiefly British English variant of dispatch, often used only in formal contexts like the name of the political despatch box in the House of Commons. The e spelling apparently began as a phonetic variation of the original I spelling, but after Samuel Johnson included it in his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, its use was legitimized and thrived in the 19th century. Because Johnson himself preferred the I spelling in his own writings, however, it's supposed that he included the e spelling by mistake and inadvertently popularized the error.

4. Nickname

Nicknames were originally called eke names, with the verb eke used here in the sense of “to make longer” or “to provide an addition.” Sometime in the 13th century, however, “an eke-name” was mistakenly interpreted as “a neke-name,” and the N permanently jumped across from the indefinite article an to the verb eke. The same error—known linguistically as “rebracketing” or “junctural metanalysis”—is responsible for nadders, numpires, and naprons all losing their initial Ns in the Middle English period.

5. Ammunition

Ammunition derives from a faulty division of the French la munition, which was incorrectly misheard as l'amonition by French soldiers in the Middle Ages, and it was this mistaken form that was borrowed into English in the 1600s.

6. Scandinavia

Scandinavia was originally called Scadinavia, without the first N, and is thought to take its name from an island, perhaps now part of the Swedish mainland, called Scadia. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the extra N was added in error by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, and has remained in place ever since.

7. Syllabus

If all had gone to plan in the history of the word syllabus, those two Ls should really be Ts: Syllabus was coined as a Latin misreading of an Ancient Greek word, sittybos, meaning “a table of contents.”

8. Sneeze

Oddly, sneeze was spelled with an F and not an S, fneze, in Middle English, which gives weight to the theory that it was probably originally coined onomatopoeically. At least one explanation of why the letter changed suggests that this F inadvertently became an S sometime in the 15th century due to continual misreadings of the long lowercase f as the old-fashioned long S character, ſ.

9. Ptarmigan

The ptarmigan is a bird of the grouse family, found in mountainous and high-latitude environments. Its bizarre name with its initial silent P is something of a mystery, as the original Scots word from which it derives, tarmachan, shows no evidence of it and there’s little reason why one should ever have to have been added to it—except, of course, if it were a mistake. The P spelling first emerged in the late 1600s, and is thought to have been a mistaken or misguided attempt to ally the name to the Greek word for a wing, pteron, and eventually this unusual P spelling replaced the original one.

10. Sherry

Sherry takes its name from the southern Spanish port of Xeres (now Jerez de la Frontera in Cádiz) and was originally known as vino de Xeres, or “wine of Xeres.” This name then morphed into sherris when sherry first began to be talked about in English in the early 17th century, but because of that final S, it didn’t take long for that to be misinterpreted as a plural. Ultimately, a mistaken singular form, sherry, emerged entirely by mistake in the early 1600s.

11. Pea

Another word that developed from a plural-that-actually-wasn’t is pea. One pea was known as a pease in Middle English, but because of that final “s” sound, pease was quickly misinterpreted as a plural, giving rise to a misguided singular form, pea, in the 17th century. The actual plural of pease in Middle English, incidentally, was pesen.

This list first ran in 2016.

25 Facts About Puppies

iStock.com/sArhange1
iStock.com/sArhange1

Everyone loves puppies, we know. It's scientifically proven that they're heart-meltingly cute. But there's more to the little fur babies than just those adorable puppy eyes. In honor of National Puppy Day (which happens on March 23), here are 25 things everyone should know about these four-legged snuggle buddies.

1. The word puppy has French roots.

A dog with a red beret and a scarf.
iStock.com/Sergii Kozak

Etymologists think the term puppy may come from poupeé, a French word meaning doll or toy. The word puppy doesn't appear to have entered the English language until the late 16th century—before that, English speakers called baby dogs whelps. William Shakespeare's King John, believed to be written in the 1590s, is one of the earliest known works to use the (super cute) term puppy-dog.

2. Puppies evolved to be blind and deaf at birth.

A newborn baby puppy
iStock.com/ilona75

Puppies are functionally blind and deaf at birth. On day one, their eyes are firmly shut and their ear canals closed. Why? In brief, it’s part of an evolutionary trade-off. Since pregnancy can hurt a carnivore's ability to chase down food, dogs evolved to have short gestation periods. Brief pregnancies meant that canine mothers wouldn't need to take prolonged breaks from hunting. However, because dog embryos spend such a short time in the womb (only two months or so), puppies aren't born fully developed—and neither are their eyes or ears.

3. Puppies have baby teeth, too.

A puppy that still has its baby teeth
iStock.com/exies

Like many newborn mammals, puppies are born completely toothless. At 2 to 4 weeks of age, a puppy's 28 baby teeth will start to come in. Around 12 to 16 weeks old, those baby teeth fall out, and by the time pups are 6 months old, they should be sporting a set of 42 adult teeth.

4. Puppies take a lot of naps.

A puppy sleeps against a plush toy.
iStock.com/stonena7

Like children, puppies need a lot of sleep—up to 15 to 20 hours of it a day. The American Kennel Club strongly advises dog owners to resist the urge to disturb napping puppies, because sleep is critical for a young canine's developing brain, muscles, and immune system. Puppy owners should also establish a designated sleeping space on their pup's behalf so they can snooze undisturbed.

5. Certain breeds are usually born by C-section.

Three bulldog puppies
iStock.com/cynoclub

Purebred dogs can exhibit some extreme bodily proportions, which doesn't always make for easy births. Breeds with atypically large heads are more likely to be born by C-section than those with smaller skulls. A 2010 survey of 22,005 individual dog litters in the UK found that terriers, bulldogs, and French bulldogs had Caesarian births more than 80 percent of the time. The other breeds with the highest rates of C-sections were Scottish terriers, miniature bull terriers, Dandie Dinmont terriers, mastiffs, German wirehaired pointers, Clumber spaniels, and Pekingeses, according to the study.

6. Some breeds have bigger litters than others.

A Neopolitan Mastiff dog
iStock.com/Okikukai

As a general rule, smaller breeds tend to have smaller litters, while bigger dogs give birth to more puppies. The biggest litter on record was born to a Neapolitan mastiff that gave birth via Caesarian section to a batch of 24 puppies in Cambridgeshire, UK in 2004. In rare cases, very small dogs do give birth to relatively large litters, though. In 2011, a Chihuahua living in Carlisle, England gave birth to a whopping 10 puppies—twice as many as expected. Each weighed less than 2.5 ounces.

7. Some puppies are born green.

A golden retriever puppy wrapped in a green and white towel
iStock.com/yellowsarah

Sometimes, a puppy in a light-colored litter can be born green. On two different occasions in 2017, in fact, British dogs made the news for giving birth to green-tinted puppies. In January, a 2-year-old chocolate lab in Lancashire, UK gave birth to a litter that included a mossy-green pup. Her owners named her FiFi, after Fiona, the green-skinned ogre from Shrek. Just a few months later, a golden retriever in the Scottish Highlands also gave birth to a puppy with a green coat, a male named Forest. How did the puppies end up looking like Marvin the Martian? In rare cases, the fur of a light-haired puppy can get stained by biliverdin, a green pigment found in dog placentas. It's not permanent, though. The green hue gradually disappears over the course of a few weeks.

8. Puppies don't find your yawns contagious.

A puppy stands on a wooden walkway yawning.
iStock.com/Laures

Ever notice that when somebody yawns, other people may follow suit? Contagious yawning, thought to be a sign of empathy, affects humans, baboons, chimps, and yes, dogs. But as research published in Animal Cognition suggests, young canines aren't susceptible to catching yawns from birth. In the 2012 study, Swedish researchers took a group of 35 dogs between 4 and 14 months old on closely monitored play dates, feigning yawns in front of each individual animal. Dogs that were less than 7 months old didn't react, yet many of the older dogs would respond with a yawn of their own. This pattern mirrors what happens with humans—children don't pick up the habit of contagious yawning until around age 4, when they start to develop social skills like empathy. These results suggest that dogs, too, may develop empathy over the course of their puppyhood.

9. Puppies like "baby talk" more than their parents do.

A woman holds up a puppy.
iStock.com/jmalov

Like humans, puppies seem to grow out of baby talk, recent research has found. As part of a 2017 study, 30 women were asked to look at assorted photographs of people and dogs and utter this pre-written line: "Hi! Hello cutie! Who's a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!" To the surprise of no one, the human test subjects spoke in a higher register while looking at dog pictures, especially puppy photos. Afterward, the researchers played the recordings for 10 adult pooches and 10 puppies. Almost all of the pups started barking and running toward the speaker when they heard the baby-talk recordings. In contrast, the grown dogs pretty much ignored the recordings altogether.

10. Dalmatian puppies are born without spots.

A mother Dalmatian and her puppy snuggle together.
iStock.com/SolStock

Beloved by firefighters, Disney fans, and George Washington, Dalmatians arguably have the most recognizable coat of any dog breed. Or at least, full-grown Dalmatians do. As puppies, they're born white and spot-less. The markings usually begin to show up after four weeks or so. (A small subset of Dalmatian puppies are born with one or two large black blotches, known as patches, but those markings aren't allowed in most competitive show rings.)

11. Puppies know how to manipulate you with their eyes.

Cute pug with sad eyes
iStock.com/feedough

Those adorable "puppy eyes" aren't an inadvertent expression of canine emotion; they're a deliberate ploy to get our attention. Puppies (and adult dogs) have learned that raising their eyebrows, which makes their eyes appear bigger and sadder, makes them magnets for human attention. According to one study from 2017, dogs are more likely to make dramatic facial expressions like puppy-dog eyes when they know humans are watching. And it works. Research has shown that shelter puppies who put on such faces get adopted more quickly than dogs that show other behaviors, like wagging their tails.

12. Puppies can have identical twins.

Two identical puppies and their mother sit in the grass.

Scientists don't know how common identical twin puppies are, because until very recently, no one was able to prove that they existed at all. In 2016, Kurt de Cramer, a South African veterinarian, noticed something unusual while performing a C-section on a pregnant Irish wolfhound. Normally, every puppy gets its own placenta, yet de Cramer noticed that two of the seven pups in this litter shared a single placenta. Testing later verified that the puppies were genetically identical. It was the first confirmed case of identical twin puppies in the world.

13. Scientists have successfully cloned (and re-cloned) them.

Three puppies sit on a cushion.
Kim et al., Scientific Reports (2017)

In 1996, Dolly the sheep became the first successful mammal clone. Nine years later, geneticists in South Korea used the same process to engineer the world's first canine clone, an Afghan hound named Snuppy. While Snuppy passed away in 2015 at the respectable age of 10, his story isn't over yet. In 2017, researchers announced that four puppies had been cloned from his stem cells. Sadly, one of the pups died a few days after its birth, but the other three survived. Scientists hope that these young dogs will teach us how healthy cloned animals are compared to their naturally conceived counterparts.

14. Lin-Manuel Miranda's puppy inspired a song in Hamilton.

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

In the award-winning musical Hamilton, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton sing a ballad called "Dear Theodosia" to their newborn children. The tender song's inspiration wasn't a newborn babe, though. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote it the week he adopted Tobillo, a stray puppy he and his wife found while on vacation in 2011.

15. A puppy destroyed half of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men manuscript.

A black-and-white portrait of John Steinbeck
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Of Mice and Men might feature one of the biggest animal lovers in American literature—the rabbit- and puppy-loving Lennie—but ironically, a puppy once jeopardized the novel's existence. In May 1936, John Steinbeck's Irish setter, Toby, was going through his teething phase. Left alone one night, he demolished half of his master's manuscript for Of Mice and Men, eating through two months of work ... and Steinbeck didn't have any backup copies. But the author found it hard to stay angry with the puppy. "I was pretty mad, but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically," Steinbeck wrote. "I didn't want to ruin a good dog for a manuscript I'm not sure is good at all." He just buckled down and rewrote the shredded chapters.

16. Keith Richards once smuggled a puppy through British customs.

English guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, circa 1965
Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While the Rolling Stones were on tour in the U.S. in 1964, a fan gave guitarist Keith Richards a collie puppy named Ratbag. When Richards returned to the UK, rather than subject the pup to quarantine, he smuggled the animal through British customs under his coat. The dog would become one of Richards's most beloved companions, and a biographer would later write that the star "appeared to identify [with Ratbag] more than anybody else."

17. Barack Obama's puppy has his own baseball card.

Bo Obama sits on the White House lawn.
Obama White House, Flickr // Public Domain

In April 2009, the Obamas adopted Bo, a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog. That summer, the White House put together an official baseball card loaded with fun facts about America's First Pooch. (For one: He can't swim.) You can still download the collectible card online.

18. The Soviet Union once gave JFK a very special puppy.

President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr., Mrs. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy. Dogs: Clipper ( standing ), Charlie ( with Caroline ), Wolf ( reclining ), Shannon ( with John Jr. ), two of Pushinka's puppies ( with Mrs. Kennedy ).
Cecil Stoughton White House Photographs, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Dogs can bring out the best in people, including political adversaries. While seated next to each other at a state dinner in Vienna in the early 1960s, First Lady Jackie Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev got to chatting about Strelka, the world-famous dog who had recently been sent into low-Earth orbit by the Soviet space program. Afterward, Khrushchev sent the Kennedys one of Strelka's newly born daughters. The puppy's name was Pushinka, which means fluffy in Russian.

19. A Boston museum has enlisted a puppy to find art-destroying pests.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
iStock.com/dosecreative

In early 2018, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts "hired" a Weimaraner pup named Riley to find unwanted pests that, if left unchecked, could harm priceless masterpieces. Riley is being taught to sniff out art-threatening insects like textile-eating moths and wood-boring beetles. "Pests are an ongoing concern for museums," deputy director Katie Getchell told The Boston Globe in January 2018. "It's exciting to think about this as a new way to address the problem." If Riley is able to do his job well, she said, other museums and archives that collect infestation-prone materials might be able to use trained dogs as a defense against bugs, too.

20. IBM's Watson is judging puppies now.

Guide dog puppies in training are led by their trainers.
Erik S. Lesser, Getty Images

Not all puppies have what it takes to become guide dogs. Guide dogs have to be healthy, confident, hardworking, and not easily distracted. At the end of the day, many pups just aren't cut out for this line of work—at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit that trains and places seeing eye dogs in New York, only about 36 percent of trainee dogs make it. That's where Watson, the IBM supercomputer famous for winning Jeopardy, comes in. IBM has developed a program for Watson that helps it predict how likely individual puppies are to graduate from Guiding Eyes's training school using data on the temperament, medical history, and genetics of the dogs as well as the personality traits of their trainers. 

21. Looking at puppies can make you more productive.

A poodle puppy sits on a desk next to a man working on a laptop.
iStock.com/ThamKC

That puppy portrait hanging in your cubicle at work might be a bigger asset than you realized. For a 2012 Hiroshima University experiment on productivity, participants were asked to look at pictures from one of three categories: tasty food snapshots, pictures of adult animals, or photos of puppies and kittens. Then, they were asked to play a board game that required lots of precision. As it turned out, people who'd just seen puppies and kittens had an easier time concentrating on the task at hand than study subjects who saw other types of images.

22. Our stone-age ancestors took good care of their puppies.

A canine jawbone
Janssens et al., Journal of Archaeological Science (2018)

In 1914, archaeologists in Germany discovered the fossilized jawbone of a puppy that lived 14,000 years ago. According to a 2018 study on the specimen, the jaw probably belonged to a 27- or 28-week-old pup—and a sick one, at that. The teeth showed signs of canine distemper virus, a life-threatening disease that still has no cure. Analysis of the bone suggested that the animal first came down with the sickness at 19 weeks old. "Without adequate care," study co-author Luc Janssens noted in a press release, "a dog with a serious case of distemper will die in less than three weeks," yet this pup survived for another eight weeks. Even though the puppy wouldn't have been very useful to its prehistoric human owners, they kept it clean, warm, and well-fed for months, helping it survive for longer than it otherwise would have.

23. There's a 17-ton puppy sculpture in Bilbao, Spain.

Puppy kissing the Iberdrola skyscraper at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
iStock.com/luisrsphoto

Since it opened in 1997, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao has been home to Puppy, a towering, flower-covered sculpture that artist Jeff Koons modeled after a young West Highland terrier. The 17-ton pooch owes its shape to a fabric-covered mesh that is topped with 37,000 live flowers. The 40-foot-tall, puppy-shaped garden is now regarded as a mascot for both the museum and the city itself.

24. They're not running around the Puppy Bowl live. (Sorry.)

A puppy plays with a toy at the Puppy Bowl.
Animal Planet

The fur-rocious Super Bowl spoof known as the Puppy Bowl made its debut on Animal Planet back in 2005. Viewers might be surprised to find out that, unlike the real game, the Puppy Bowl isn't broadcast live. Instead, the contest is shot over the course of an entire week. The crew spends two days filming the dogs with the help of 100 or more canine wranglers. 

25. Hollywood's most iconic dog was a troublesome puppy.

Lassie
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The first dog to play Lassie on film was really a "laddie." Specifically, he was a male Rough collie named Pal. As a pup, the dog had some behavior issues—little Pal was overly enthusiastic and drove his first owner crazy with nonstop barking. (Even more disconcerting was the puppy's habit of chasing down motorcycles, a pastime he never outgrew.) After animal trainer Henry Peck failed to make any progress with Pal, he referred the puppy's owner to a colleague by the name of Rudd Weatherwax, who was much more successful at training him. Pal's original owner eventually gave him to Weatherwax, and the rest is history. Under the trainer's guidance, Pal starred in seven Lassie movies, plus two episodes of the spinoff TV series. Decades after his passing, The Saturday Evening Post declared that Pal had enjoyed "the most spectacular canine career in film history."

This story first ran in 2018.

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