Behaving Like Animals

Caitlin McLaren - 4A Chemical
Posted on: October 7, 2016

Humans have always had a complex relationship with animals. On the one hand, animals like dogs and horses have usually been considered our friends, while on the other hand, most cultures have used animals for food, and even if they didn’t, they generally used beasts of burden. Animals also had various symbolism attached to them, and religious or cultural practices have led to both animal worship and animal sacrifice, or even a combination of both. In more modern times, scientists have done a lot of animal experimentation, which has yielded both interesting and controversial results.

In our long history with animals, sometimes things have gotten… weird.

Bears Used To Be All-Purpose Entertainment

Life back in the day in England could get pretty boring, what with no movies or Internet. Accordingly, the arts and theatre flourished in Elizabethan times, and some of our greatest writing and plays were produced in that age. However, you can only watch so much Shakespeare, and sometimes you just want to see wild animals tearing each other to pieces. One of the most popular forms of entertainment in Elizabethan England was bear-baiting, which meant that a captured bear would be tied to a post. The organizers would then set angry dogs on the bear, and let them duke it out. Sometimes they would cripple the bear beforehand, in order to make things more fair for the dogs. Betting on this was so intense that Parliament at the time considered banning bear-baiting—on Sundays—lest people gamble on Sundays. The outrage! God created Sundays for the innocent practice of blood sports, not games of chance! Fortunately for the people of England, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth vetoed the bill.

A little while later, watching animals murdering each other was out of fashion. Instead, entertainment was all about gawking at people with birth defects. “Freak shows” were incredibly popular, and one of the most popular exhibits in travelling freak shows was a “pig-faced lady”. People would come into a tent, look at what seemed to be a pig’s head coming out of the collar of a dress, ooh and aah, and then move on. Was there an epidemic of a rare birth defect? No – the “pig-faced ladies” were bears. Unscrupulous freak show owners would get a trained bear drunk, and when it was unconscious, they would shave its face and paws. The result would be a humanish-sized creature with a head that, in a dark gloomy tent, looked like a pig’s.

Thankfully, we have Netflix these days.

Shoving Ferrets Down Your Pants Is A Sport

Yes, that is exactly what is sounds like. It used to be a popular sport in Yorkshire, England, and by “used to” I mean “in the 1970s”. To compete in “ferret-legging”, all you need to do is tie the bottoms of your pants, shove a couple of ferrets down, and tighten your belt. The objective is to be the person who can keep the ferrets in there the longest, while the ferrets nibble away at your private parts. Are you allowed to wear any sort of protection, or even underwear? Obviously not! This sport still exists, although it is dying out for obvious reasons. By the way, the current record is five and a half hours.

Scientists Made Turkeys Attracted To Severed Heads

In fairness, turkey breeding is a respectable agricultural job, and one which allowed us to gorge ourselves this past weekend. Thus, in context, it makes a certain amount of sense for scientists to investigate the sexuality of male turkeys. However, things went a little off the rails when they decided to study how much of the female turkey the males would attempt to mate with. As it turns out, the turkeys were perfectly happy trying to mate with a severed head on a stick. In fact, it didn’t have to be a female—any severed turkey head on a stick would do. Conclusion—turkeys are an entire species of serial killers. Good thing we defeated them this weekend!

Puritans Jumped To Conclusions

There’s a reason that the word “Puritanical” is still around, and why it implies someone is incredibly prudish, but actually quite a pervert who sees sex in everything. The Puritans actually were kind of like that. For one thing, they were terribly concerned about bestiality, and convinced it was happening everywhere.

In one case, a pig gave birth to a deformed piglet, which everybody thought to resemble a local man named George Spencer. George was then arrested on suspicion of fathering the piglet, which he strongly denied. The authorities hinted that he might be shown mercy if he confessed, which he then did, upon which they told him that God would show him mercy and executed him. He was only the second European to be executed in North America. They also killed the pig, because no one could catch a break with the Puritans.

Hittite Laws Had Bizarre Loopholes

In fairness to the Puritans, no culture has been a fan of bestiality, because it’s gross. It was illegal even way back in the time of the Hittites, more than three thousand years ago. Hittite law prescribed the death penalty for the wrong sort of animal husbandry—with pigs, sheep, dogs, and cows. However, if you were an intelligent pervert, there were a couple of ways to get out of the death penalty. For one thing, it was completely legal if your partner of choice was a horse or a mule, because reasons. It wasn’t just not illegal; the law explicitly stated that there was no penalty in those cases, except that the man in question couldn’t become a priest or go near the king afterwards. Priests and kings do have their limits.

The other way to get out of execution was one that still works today—victim-blaming. If you claimed that the ox or pig or whatever had raped you, as everyone knows oxen and pigs do all the time, you wouldn’t be executed. However, there would be a reasonable compromise: in these cases, a random sheep would be executed instead.