Animals

Pet your stress away

Life can be stressful. The list of responsibilities seems endless as work, children, bills and so many other things demand our constant attention. As a result, it's very easy to get lost in the jungle of a long to-do-list and end up burning out. Fortunately, studies show that pets are a good source of comfort and stress relief. 

According to Jenna Stregowski, an expert in the field, pets can improve one's mood, reduce blood pressure and provide social support, among other benefits. For those who don't really like to exercise or just need some motivation, having a pet will give you a reason to exercise. Dogs, for example, have to walk regularly. This means dog owners can exercise while walking their pets, thereby promoting stress management.

Women called cows home

For centuries, women in Sweden called their cows home with a sound called kulning. Now, kulning has been embraced by many, including universities as a form of art. But from medieval times until the mid-20th century, the sound could be heard every summer, ringing across the mountains. Reaching up to 125 decibels, kulning can be heard over 5 km (1 mi) away. Since cattle tend to wander off, they needed to be able to hear the herdswomen calling them.

It was traditionally women who went up the mountains with the herd in the summer. They each lived in a small settlement, tending the animals. They milked the cows, made cheese and spent hours doing all the rest, like cooking, knitting, mending, making brooms, etc. It was hard work, but the women also had a lot of freedom without men around. They could do whatever they wanted up there.

Spotting wildlife

I once took a trip to Yellowstone National Park in America with my dad. The park was incredible—especially the wildlife.

We were driving into the entrance and saw a lot of cars parked on the side of the road so we just parked behind them and looked around. In the distance, a couple of bison were grazing. They look like cows, but with massive heads with fur on top that looks like an afro. They were majestic, like something from a bygone era. 

A little while later, we were walking along a path through the hills. A park ranger was there to keep people moving because some bison had decided to hang out right next to where people were walking. Up close, they were even more impressive. 

Tardigrades

Tardigrades (TAHR-di-greyds), often called water bears, are near-microscopic animals with long, plump bodies. They have eight legs, with four to eight claws on each. While strangely cute, these tiny animals are almost indestructible.

Water bears can live in just about any type of water body. They prefer to live in sediment at the bottom of a lake, on moist pieces of moss or other wet environments. They can also survive a wide range of temperatures and situations. 

Researchers have found that tardigrades can withstand environments as cold as -200˚C (-328°F) or highs of more than 149˚C (300°F). They can also survive radiation, boiling liquids, massive amounts of pressure (up to six times the pressure of the deepest part of the ocean), and even the vacuum of space, without any protection. A 2008 study found that some species of tardigrade could survive 10 days at low Earth orbit while being exposed to space vacuum and radiation. 

The names of groups of animals

In English, there are over a hundred different names for groups of animals. They are called collective nouns. Most of these are not obvious at all.

Common collective nouns are a school of fish and a flock of birds. But let's talk about some lesser-known ones.

You can find a troop of baboons in the jungle and a sleuth of bears in the forest, where a swarm of bees hangs from the branches that will soon be used by a colony of beavers to build a dam.

A flock of birds and a murder of crows fly in the sky, while a cluster of cats chases a mischief of rats.

On the farm, a brood of chickens raises a clutch of chicks. Nearby, a pack of dogs and a band of coyotes chase a herd of buffalo.

Visuals: Cats, dogs or other pets?

The battle between cat and dog lovers is well-known. Some people love dogs. They say that dogs are friendly, loyal and active. Other people prefer cats. According to cat lovers, cats are independent, lower maintenance and cute. Some people choose very different pets, such as fish, birds, or rodents (e.g. rats, mice, guinea pigs).

Please have a look at the graph below. Discuss it with your teacher. 

Visuals: Threat of extinction

Over 900 animal species have gone extinct since the year 1500, and many more are threatened with extinction.

Extinction means that an entire animal species dies. For instance, the Dodo bird, a flightless bird that used to live on the island of Mauritius, went extinct in the 18th century because of overhunting by humans.

Please have a look at the graph below and discuss what you see with your teacher.

A German dog learns English

An abandoned dog named Hector was left tied to the gates of an RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) branch in West Yorkshire, England. When trying to give commands to the dog, staff found that Hector was not reacting. Luckily for Hector, the staff decided to try other languages, and it turned out he knew several commands in German.

Care manager Lucynda Hodgson said they started to introduce him to English words. To help Hector understand them, the staff used hand signals together with verbal commands, and he picked them up really quickly. Lucynda added, "He's a very intelligent dog and is very loving." After about three months of polishing his English skills, Hector reacted perfectly to English commands.

The platypus

When the first platypus specimen was sent back to England from Australia in the late 18th century, the scientists who examined it thought that someone was playing a trick on them. The zoologist George Shaw wrote in the first scientific description of the platypus that he thought the specimen was a mix of a few different species.

Animals speak different languages

Onomatopeia is a fancy way to describe words that sound like what they mean. For instance, in English, bees "buzz" and cats "meow". Words for animal sounds are almost always built on how the animals actually sound to listeners. But that can be different in different languages. Since each language has its own set of sounds to work with, they hear animals based on those sounds.

For example, a rooster's crow is translated as:

  • "Cockadoodle doo!" in English;
  • "Kikiriki!" in Spanish; and
  • "Kok-e-kok-ko!" in Japanese.

This video shows people from all over the world saying animal sounds in their language. How would you write the sounds the animals make in your language?