One of the many reasons we love animals is because they’re dumb and make us feel better about our own lives. Sure, we may have spent the last two hours watching Pokemon on Netflix, but at least that was more productive than the four hours our dog spent trying to bite his own reflection. But then you have animals who refused to play by the rules and have achieved things we could only dream of, like…
10. Tama, the Cat With Employees
Tama is a cat from Japan who gained the attention of the international media when she was inexplicably awarded the job of Station Master at a small train station in Kinokawa in 2007. Why? Well, in 2006 the company that owned the station had to cut funding and insisted that it needed to be unmanned. This was bad news for Tama who, along with several other stray cats, had relied mostly on food given to them by the human Station Manager. To ensure that Tama and her friends didn’t go hungry the company hired her, awarded her the position of and agreed to pay her in cat food. To make the whole thing even more adorable, Tama even has a tiny uniform and hat she wears while working.
In the month following Tama’s hiring traffic at the station increased 17%, which meant more work for her. Her duties mainly involve greeting passengers, and Tama was so good at attracting people to the tiny station that in 2008 she was promoted to the position of Super-Stationmaster. This promotion, along with making Tama the only female in a managerial position in the company (seriously), came with an office and two feline assistants, Chibi and Miiko.
Still not impressed? In 2012 Tama’s popularity (and by extension the station’s traffic) had grown to such an extent that she was awarded a human assistant, an understudy and a train painted in her likeness. Just let that soak in. Somewhere in Japan there’s a cat with its own office, an assistant, a tiny adorable hat and a train with its face on it. If Tama wasn’t so damn cute we’d probably be annoyed about that.
9. Hercules, the Bear Who Became a Pro Wrestler
When it comes to animals you probably couldn’t take in a fist-fight, bears rank somewhere near the top, right alongside super-powered sharks and a snake covered in lube. Bears aren’t just dangerous, they’re apex predators with sufficient strength to tear your head clean off of your shoulders if they feel so inclined. Then there’s Hercules.
Adopted from a Scottish zoo in 1976, Hercules quickly gained international fame when his owner, Andy Robin, decided that he wanted to tour the United Kingdom wrestling his new pet. Using knowledge he’d gained during his career as a champion wrestler, Andy taught Hercules a plethora of tricks, holds and throws to really sell the crowd on his abilities, and their show quickly became a smash hit with crowds across the UK.
Hercules’ remarkably calm temperament astounded experts who were amazed at the fact that he seemingly showed no aggression whatsoever to humans, which is probably a good thing considering he was a staple on TV for years, appearing in dozens of interviews with his owners during the ’80s.
Along with being a popular wrestler, Hercules appeared in advertisements, TV shows, films and once famously caddied for Bob Hope. And that was all before his 25th birthday, which means this gentle giant likely had a better résumé than the majority of people reading this, not to mention way better facial hair and a cooler name.
8. The Penguin Knight
Regardless of how pimp they look in their tiny tuxedos, penguins aren’t normally the kind of creature you’d associate with nobility. At best they’re tiny flightless balls of cute, and at worst they’re lust fiends who’ll hump each other into next week.
But apparently nobody told that to Sir Nils Olav II, a king penguin living in the Edinburgh Zoo. In 1987 he attracted the attention of a group of visiting Norwegian Royal Guards for his uncanny resemblance to Nils Olav I, a penguin the unit had adopted as their mascot a few years earlier and who had recently passed away. Like his namesake, Nils Olav II was given an honorary military position by the visiting soldiers and several subsequent promotions whenever they came to visit him. In 2005 Nils Olav II reached the esteemed position of Colonel-in-Chief.
However, his finest moment came in 2008, when during yet another visit by the Royal Guard he was awarded a knighthood endorsed by the King of Norway himself. That makes his official title Sir Nil Olav II, Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Army. That’s not the name of a penguin, that’s what you write on a business card to impress supermodels.
7. The Dog Who Nailed a Job Interview
Few things in life feel as good as totally nailing a job interview. There’s just something intensely satisfying about the feeling of showing yourself in the best possible light. But unless your interview involved jumping into a raging river, Pal the dog has your best interview story trumped.
For those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with the career arcs of notable canines, Pal was the dog who first played Lassie. Pal was initially passed over because the director felt the part should go to a female collie. But when the time came for the dog the director hired to traverse a raging river for a scene in Lassie Come Home, it adamantly refused.
Spying a chance for Pal to steal the show, his owner and trainer Rudd Weatherwax told the director that Pal could do the scene. Wanting to get the scene filmed, the director agreed to let Pal step in. To the amazement of everyone except Weathermax, the instant the cameras started rolling Pal sprinted forward, leapt into the river, swam across it and then playfully pretended to “faint” from exhaustion at the other side, nailing the shot in a single take. Pal subsequently played Lassie in every movie right up until he was replaced by his own son, Lassie Jr.
6. Hachiko, the Dog who Spoke to Millions From Beyond the Grave
You may already be familiar with Hachiko, a Japanese dog famous for his devotion to his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno. The Tokyo University professor had a daily routine which involved the ever loyal Hachiko patiently awaiting his master’s return from work at Shibuya Station. When Ueno suddenly passed away at work one day in 1925, Hachiko continued to wait for his master. Hachiko reportedly waited at the station at the exact time Ueno’s train was due every day without fail for nine straight years until he died.
Hachiko’s unwavering loyalty to his owner happened to be noticed by one of Ueno’s former students, who wrote several articles that turned him into a national icon. Hachiko became an enduring symbol of loyalty and his story is one of the most famous in all of Japan.
You may have already heard that part, but we’re not done yet. In 1994 Hachiko once again captured the public’s attention when an old recording of his bark was found. The recording, located on a broken record which had recently been repaired, was played on Japanese television to an audience of millions who had tuned in specifically to hear Hachiko’s cry. For the curious, a rough recording of that show exists on YouTube.
5. The Eagle Who Evaded the Police for a Week Straight
Judging by how loudly people cheer when a streaker manages to outrun security, nothing unites a crowd of people quicker than some random dumbass deftly avoiding being taken out by an authority figure. In 1965, Goldie the eagle was that dumbass.
After escaping his enclosure in a London Zoo, Goldie proceeded to fly around London doing eagle things while simultaneously avoiding capture for a week and a half. Goldie’s tenacity soon attracted a crowd, and during his 12 days of freedom traffic in some parts of London effectively ground to a halt as hundreds of people gathered in Regent’s Park to laugh at feeble efforts of the police and fire service to capture him.
Much to the amusement of the public, every single effort to catch Goldie ended in failure. The keepers eventually got so desperate that they even debated calling in the Navy to supply a special gun that fired nets. In the end, Goldie was caught by a zoo keeper who literally picked the bird up with his bare hands after waiting patiently for it to land. In the days following Goldie’s escapades, his zoo unsurprisingly saw a massive increase in visitors, all of whom were itching to get a picture of the bird who’d captured their hearts (and a duck) during his 12 day adventure. You can see some archive footage of Goldie doing his thing here.
4. The Cow who Cheated Death and Got the Key to a City
Escaping certain death isn’t something most people would write on their bucket list, but it’s sure as hell something you’d brag about. The same can be said for being given the key to the city you call home. Cincinnati Freedom did both of those things and then some.
Originally destined for death in a slaughterhouse in 2002, Cinci gave death the middle toe by leaping over a large metal fence separating the slaughterhouse from the outside world. Cinci then managed to avoid capture for a full 11 days, which is awfully impressive considering that cows aren’t exactly known for their stealth and agility.
When the troublesome bovine was eventually captured the company that owned the cow, Meyer Meats, was placed in an uncomfortable position. Although they were well within their rights to take ownership of Cinci back, her love of freedom had been covered by the international press from start to finish. She was incredibly popular with the public — including the Mayor of Cincinnati, who openly promised her the key to his city.
One particularly keen supporter of Cinci was artist and animal lover Peter Max, who upon hearing that she’d been captured extended an offer to buy her from Meyer Meats. Rather than deal with the backlash of killing a media darling, they took the money. Cinci spent the rest of her days living the dream in a sanctuary for animals who’d been through similar but decidedly less badass ordeals. Most impressive of all is the fact that according to the people who looked after Cinci, she could still leap over the fences surrounding the farm in her old age whenever she felt like it.
3. The Dog Who Foiled an Assassination Attempt
While there are dozens, if not hundreds of stories out there about dogs saving their owners from harm, it’s the story of Pompey the pug we’d like to share with you today. The pet of an awesomely named 14th century Dutch noble called William the Silent, Pompey was a small pug who entered the annals of history when he saved his master from an assassin in the most pug-like way possible — by leaping onto William’s face while he was asleep.
According to the legend, Pompey heard a wily assassin creeping towards his master’s tent using his superior dog hearing, and when his tiny pug barks failed to rouse his master he leapt onto his face instead. The shock jolted William awake, giving him time to call for help and presumably later give Pompey some extra tender snuggles.
2. The Lobster Who Helped Create Interactive TV
One of the most annoying features of modern television is “interactive TV.” You can’t watch anything these days without being prompted to call in, tweet or like something on Facebook. Well you have a lobster named Larry to thank for that.
Back in 1982, Eddie Murphy penned a sketch for Saturday Night Live that would change the way television worked forever, and it all hinged on a little lobster called Larry. The sketch itself was simple. Murphy walked on stage, showed the audience a lobster and told them that he’d either let it live or eat it, depending on which number on-screen was called more. The joke was that Murphy read the number to save Larry very quickly as it flashed on screen for just a second, while the number to kill Larry was very prominently displayed and was read as slowly as possible.
Over 500,000 people called in at a cost of 50 cents a piece. The sheer volume of traffic almost overwhelmed AT&T, who had no idea that Murphy was going to encourage half a million people to pick up the phone and dial at the same time. AT&T now has a standing arrangement with most television companies to warn them about stuff like this thanks to the sketch.
The numbers were close, but the final tally sided in favor of saving the plucky lobster. However, Murphy became so incensed at a piece of racist hate mail that he went back on his word and ate him anyway the following week. Ouch.
But Larry’s death wasn’t in vain, because he’d proven to TV executives that you could make hundreds of thousands of dollars just by asking people to participate. Or, to look at it another way, a lobster inspired American Idol.
1. The Dog That Went to Space
Of course the number one spot belongs to Laika. It’ll always be Laika, because she was a dog who went to space. We’re tempted to make her number one on ever list we ever publish just because she’s so adorable.
Without Laika there would be no space travel. She was one of the first living creatures to view the cosmos and the first animal to orbit the Earth, and neither her name nor her sacrifice will ever be forgotten by science. She went from being a stray to one of the most famous and important animals in the history of the human race, and we all need to remember that she was a good dog.
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