10 Animals That Changed the World

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Usually it falls to powerful monarchs, brilliant generals, and influential world leaders to dictate the course of history. But sometimes, fate, destiny, or just good old chance decides that a pair of paws, hooves, or claws would be a better fit to hold the reins. These are some of the most notable times man stepped aside and man’s best friend, along with a few other animals, took control and changed the world in sometimes small, but occasionally hugely meaningful ways.

10. The Chimps That Repelled Greece By Killing A King

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As World War I was coming to a close the thirst for conflict within some rulers had still not quite been quenched. To this end, in 1919 Greece began the occupation of Turkish soil and, in the following year, committed themselves to a series of successful offensives, taking more land each time .

This is where things turn from bloody to strange – Greece was, at the time, under the rule of King Alexander, who one day while strolling through a garden found himself assailed by primates and bitten on the hand, a bite that would, weeks later, kill him through infection and sepsis. This marked the re-rise of his father, the formerly deposed Constantine I to power. Constantine I then ushered in a great many political changes that led to Greece falling out of favor with Britain and France – chiefly due to Constantine’s pro-German notions, which are what saw him deposed in the first place.

This radical shift led to multiple military defeats – most notably the fire of Smyrna that saw somewhere around 10,000-15,000 Greeks perish in its flames over the weeks it raged – that saw Constantine losing the lands that his son had gained over the past couple years – all because of two chimps who saw fit to nip at the late king’s hand.

9. Belka And Strelka The Space Dogs

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Much is often expected of man’s best friend – a stalwart and steady companion until our later years, an ardent retriever of tennis balls or just a tail-wagging smile to brighten someone’s day. It’s safe to say that, despite any expectations, Russian dogs ‘Belka’ and ‘Strelka’ unquestionably smashed them.

What did this duo of hounds do? They performed a 24 hour orbit around the planet Earth in a space-faring vessel and safely returned . Their space-flight was even later broadcast on television, allowing viewers to witness as Belka performed whimsical zero-G acrobatics completely unaware of the situation and Strelka stood firmly on guard.

Obviously, as humorous as this all sounds, Belka and Strelka’s journey was instrumental in giving the Russians more confidence to venture out into space once more. Memorabilia of the pair was made jetting across a starry sky as their obliviously joyous doggy faces beamed from inside the cockpit of a rocket ship – a well deserved respect paid to two very good doggies.

8. Tibbles, The Cat Who Finished Off An Entire Species

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Few species have had such a profound hatred for another species that they actually wiped them out – yet one certain incredibly devious cat’s hatred was so immense in it’s magnitude he managed the job all by himself. This is the story of Tibbles, the slayer of the Stephen Island Wren. The Wren’s life was characterized by hardship – though originally found all throughout the country of New Zealand, by 1894 invasive species forced it into seclusion on, you guessed it, Stephen’s Island.

It was this year that a new lighthouse keeper moved to the island along with the antagonist of our story, his cat, Tibbles. Tibbles began his predation of the Wren, bringing them back to his owner – who actually sent them back to Britain for survey, where they were declared a new species – alas, it was too late for these nocturnal, flightless birds, who’s days had already been numbered.

Tibbles literally hunted into extinction the sparse remains of this once country-spanning species – at least it probably kept him from clawing the rug for a while.

7. Cairo, The Dog Who Helped Bring Down A Dictator

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The use of hounds in the military has become more-and-more common practice – with a wide array of roles from sniffing and detecting bombs and various other substances to actual combat-oriented fieldwork, man’s best friend is earning his place at Man’s side on the battlefield.

None more-so than Cairo – a Belgian Malinois who aided in the operation to take down Osama Bin Laden. Cairo’s role in the mission was to use his acute sense of smell to sniff around for any bombs or booby traps that could pose a threat or even any fake walls, doors or floors that could house Bin Laden.

Despite complications in the missions – and that’s a fairly light way of putting it, considering a helicopter crashed – Cairo remained ardent in the role he was given and proved a vital part of the mission, helping to secure the perimeter of the house as his bipedal comrades inside performed their given task. If anyone deserves a treat or a thorough belly rub, it’s Cairo.

6. Balto, The Husky That Saved A Town

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Only once in recorded history has a dog saved not one, not two, but an entire town’s population worth of people. That one time was in 1925, when Balto – his exploits on this day since commemorated in film – guided a musher and a team of dogs through a harsh blizzard in order to deliver the necessary antitoxins to prevent a deadly outbreak of diptheria.

Needing to take these measures, as the only aircraft that could deliver the supplies had recently – in a stroke of bad luck and tremendously poor timing – been dismantled for the Winter, mushers set out in the face of temperatures more than 40 degrees below and winds strong enough to blow their sleds over.

Six days after their departure Gunner Kassan on a sled lead by the heroic hound drove into the town of Nome and gave them the medicine they so desperately needed , ensuring the safety of the townsfolk and engraving Balto into the hearts of the world – who had been swept away by the dramatic tale unfolding in the North.

5. Jim, The Horse Who Shaped Medical History

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Though today it’s nowhere near as threatening today, back in the late 19th and early 20th Century Diphtheria was a massively feared illness with no known counter. That was, until, a certain German Scientist by the name of Emil von Behring discovered an antitoxin that acted against Diphtheria present in the blood of some animals that he used to produce a serum – amongst these miraculous disease-curing animals were horses. Jim was one of these horses used to produce a serum.

Though this story isn’t all sweetness and the curing of deadly diseases – it takes a decidedly tragic turn. In 1901 a group of children with diphtheria were being treated using von Behring’s method when they suddenly died of tetanus, shortly afterwards Jim – as we know, used to produce diphtheria medicine – died of tetanus.

It was this unfortunate episode and the subsequent discovery of the contaminated batch of diphtheria serum that lead to the Biologics Control Act of 1902 – an act that oversees vaccine safety in general and assures nothing like this happens again.

4. Cher Ami, The Carrier Pidgeon That Saved A Battalion

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Not exactly renowned as the most noble of creatures anymore, you may be taken aback to learn the heroic legacy that pigeons carry thanks to many brave avian that immeasurably aided allied forces during – none more-so than Cher Ami. During World War II Cher Ami delivered 12 important letters in the American sector at Verdun, France, but his landmark and most notable exploit was also his final and most daring delivery.

Cher Ami, hit by enemy fire both in the breast and enough so to take one of his legs still managed to return to his loft and deliver a message – that was dangling from the ligaments of his lost leg – that informed American forces of a battalion stranded behind enemy lines and separated from their allies.

A few short hours after the delivery of this message Cher Ami’s valiant effort had saved the lives of the 194 survivors of the battalion as they were brought back to safety behind American lines. The next time you’re forced to scrape an unmentioned, hardened white substance off your windshield, cast a thought to Cher Ami.

3. Dolly The Sheep, The World’s First Cloned Animal

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One of the most famous animals in human history and one that helped shaped science, acting as a culmination of years of work. Though Dolly wasn’t actually, as many believe, the first ever cloned animal – there had actually been numerous before her such as frogs, mice and cows – Dolly was the first mammal to be fully and successfuly cloned using an adult cell.

Dolly’s cloning made news around the world as the huge scientific breakthrough it was. Fitting, considering the difficulty the Roslin Institute had in cloning dolly – the process of cloning being much more different from an adult cell than an embryonic one, and so Dolly was actually the only success out of 277 attempts.

Dolly’s successful cloning helped scientists learn much more about the process through studying her – such as the dismissal of the notion that cloned animals would age prematurely and die. Thanks to Dolly, cloning techniques were vastly improved and it became much easier to produce cloned animals using adult embryos.

2. David Greybeard, The Chimpanzee That Used Tools

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In 1960 the firm belief was held that Man was the sole animal with the thought processes that allowed us to adapt to our environment and use tools. This notion was blown sky-high when a young British researcher, Jane Goodall came upon a then-nameless chimpanzee in a remote African rain-forest.

Jane Goodall witnessed this chimp not only using, but making tools as well. This may not seem like such a staggering thing anymore but in 1960 it was a world in which humans were separated from animals and defined by their ability as the only walking the planet to be able to craft and use tools appropriate for the situation, and so this subtle observation was a landmark discovery that dismantled this notion.

This chimpanzee would later come to be named – thanks to the distinguished white tuft on his chin – David Greybeard. who further opened up her mind to what chimps were capable of through further observations and how close to us they really were – from the forming of deep mother-son bonds to going through adolescence and even basic underhanded political duplicity.

1. Nikolas Tesla’s Life’s Work Ended By A Pigeon

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Nikolas Tesla is renowned for a great many things – historic inventions that each shaped the world in their own unique way, a dashing mustache, but less than these a profound love of pigeons. It was, in fact, the latter of these three that finally thwarted the former of them.

In 1922 Tesla’s favorite pigeon flew into his room – described as a beautiful, pure white bird with light grey tips on its wings – Tesla felt the bird was trying to communicate something to him, that it was dying.

The grand claim is then made by Tesla that a light more intense and greater than any lamp in his laboratory flashed from this pigeon’s eyes before it died. Though we may never know if this pigeon actually performed this angelic feat before Tesla’s very eyes, Tesla all the same claimed that at this time he felt that a light went out in his life and his life’s work – that of one of the greatest inventors mankind has ever known – was done. Brought to an end by the death of a pigeon.

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