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Holly, the Queen's corgi // YouTube
Holly, the Queen's corgi // YouTube

7 Memorable Corgis From Pop Culture

Holly, the Queen's corgi // YouTube
Holly, the Queen's corgi // YouTube

If you’re somehow still unaware of the cuddly cuteness that is the corgi, that’s about to change. The small herding dogs with the long bodies and adorably expressive faces have popped up everywhere, from TV shows to YouTube videos to Instagram. Take a look at some of pop culture's most memorable corgis.

1. HOLLY

Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England, is a longtime lover of corgis. In 1933, her father, King George VI, brought his seven-year-old daughter Dookie, her first pup. Since then, the Queen has owned dozens of Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Dorgis (a mix between a Corgi and a Dachshund). She frequently walks them herself and has even overseen a corgi breeding program at Windsor Castle. Now 90 years old, the queen has loved and lost many of her corgis; sadly, Holly, who took starred in the 2012 London Olympics opening video, passed away in early October. Holly is buried at Balmoral Castle, the Royal Family's estate in Scotland.

2. RALPH

Born in the summer of 2013, Ralph lives in Northern California with his human family and George, their other corgi. With 238,000 Instagram followers, Ralph delights people around the world with his smiling face, joie de vivre, and overall cuteness. But Ralph’s Instagram is more than cute dog photos. Fans get to watch the story of a growing human family, as seen through a corgi’s eyes. Ralph goes through life with his mom and dad, their toddler son (a.k.a. Ralph’s broham), and their newborn baby girl. If you can’t get enough Ralph in your life, you can buy an annual wall calendar featuring him (and George) wearing bunny ears, colorful hats, and Santa caps.

3. MOLLY, "THE THING OF EVIL"

Author Stephen King's corgi Molly—who he jokingly (we think) calls "The Thing of Evil"—has become a star in her own right, thanks to King's Twitter and Facebook posts about her proclivity for stealing snacks and tearing up soccer balls. "The Thing of Evil" isn't King's first foray into corgi ownership; the author had a corgi named Marlowe in the '90s. He's even written a couple of corgis into his books, including Under the Dome's Horace.

4. EIN

YouTube

Ein, the corgi on the beloved anime Cowboy Bebop, was a main character on the Adult Swim TV show in the early 2000s. According to Cowboy Bebop lore, the crazy smart corgi is a data dog, a lab animal that was genetically engineered to have intelligence superpowers. Ein travels on a spaceship in the year 2071 with his human bounty hunter owners. Although he generally acts like a normal dog, Ein occasionally surprises his owners by showing off his computer hacking skills.

5. LOKI

Born in Oklahoma, Loki moved to Vancouver as a puppy to live with his owners, Tim and Viv. Whether he was walking on the beach, eating, or playing with his pet hamster, Loki racked up more than 800,000 Facebook fans and 700,000 Instagram followers thanks to his antics. He was also fond of costumes—some of his more memorable looks include Harry Potter (Loki Potter from Gryffincorg), Pikachu, and Sherlock Holmes (Sherloki Holmes). Earlier this year, Loki's fans were shocked and heartbroken to learn Loki had fallen ill. They banded together to raise more than $34,000 for his vet bills. Sadly, Loki passed away in September from kidney disease.

6. RUFUS

Although plenty of startups have a company dog or mascot, Rufus might be the most memorable. Born in 1994 in California, Rufus was Amazon.com’s original mascot. Owned by one of the e-commerce giant's first engineers, Rufus attended company meetings and chased tennis balls through the office. He died in 2009, but Rufus lives on in Amazon’s canine-friendly company culture. Amazon employees are free to bring their dogs to work, and Amazon's Instagram is full of photos of its furry fans (including the Rufus lookalike above). One of the company’s office buildings in Seattle is even named after the beloved pup.

7. SUTTER BROWN

Jerry Brown, the governor of California, lives and works alongside Sutter Brown, the first dog of California. Born in 2003, the Pembroke Welsh corgi lived with the governor’s sister until Brown adopted him after the 2010 election. With more than 18,000 Facebook fans, Sutter has appeared on cards to promote Brown’s tax proposals and even joins the governor in meetings at the state Capitol. Last year, Brown and his wife added to their corgi family when they adopted Colusa, a Pembroke Welsh corgi/border collie mix. In October, Sutter, 13, underwent emergency surgery to remove tumors in his intestines, lymph nodes, and liver. According to Sutter and Colusa's official Facebook page, Sutter is now convalescing at home—and feasting on his favorite foods, including cottage cheese and scrambled eggs.

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Penn Vet Working Dog Center
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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Animals
15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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iStock

People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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