TIME animals

The Sheer Amount of Wool on This Sheep Baaa-ffles Farmers

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Two Tasmanian farmers were in for a surprise Sunday when a wild, impossibly fleecy sheep wandered onto their land. His name is Shaun, and after going six years without a haircut, they think he could be a contender for a world’s wooliest sheep record.

“I just couldn’t believe it, I just could not believe a sheep could have so much wool,” Netty Hazell, one of the farmers, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Netty and Peter Hazell estimate that Shaun has been lumbering around with at least 20 kilograms (about 55 pounds) of fleece. They plan to shear him soon to see if he is, in fact, even woolier than the late Shrek, that was found hiding in caves in New Zealand in 2004 and yielded 27 kilograms of fleece (about 59 pounds). The competition is sure to be a close shave.

Shrek the merino sheep waits in a pen as a large crowd gathers before a charity function in Cromwell, New Zealand, April 28, 2004. Simon Baker SB/CP – Reuters

Update on August 28, 2014: Shaun has been shorn! Turns out he was carrying 23 kilograms (about 51 pounds) of wool, 4 kilograms less than Shrek:

TIME animal behavior

What Are Animals Thinking? (Hint: More Than You Suspect)

The mind of an animal is a far richer, more complex thing than most people know — as a new TIME book reveals

Let’s be honest, you’d probably rather die than wake up tomorrow morning and find out you’d turned into an animal. Dying, after all, is inevitable, and there’s even a certain dignity to it: Shakespeare did it, Einstein did it, Galileo and Washington and Twain all did it. And you, someone who was born a human and will live your life as a human, will end your life that way too.

But living that life as an animal — an insensate brute, incapable of reason, abstraction, perhaps even feeling? Unthinkable. Yes, yes, the animals don’t recognize the difference, and neither would you. If you’re a goat, you possess the knowledge of a goat, and that can’t be much. But there’s more to it than that.

Human beings have always had something of a bipolar relationship with the millions of other species with which we share the planet. We are fascinated by them, often dazzled by them. They can be magnificently beautiful, for one thing: the explosive color and frippery of a bird of paradise, the hallucinatory variety of the fish in a coral reef, the otherworldly markings and architecture of a giraffe. Even the plain or ugly animals — consider the naked, leathery grayness of the rhino or elephant — have a certain solidity and equipoise to them. And to see an animal at what appears to be play — the breaching dolphin, the swooping raptor — is to think that it might be fun to have a taste, a tiny taste, of their lives.

But it’s a taste we’d surely spit right out, because as much as we may admire animals, we pity them too: their ignorance, their inconsequence, and their brief, savage lives. It’s in our interest to see them that way — not so much because we need to press our already considerable advantage over them; we don’t. But because we have certain uses in mind for them. We need the animals to work for us — to pull carts, drag plows, lift logs and carry loads, and stand still for a whipping if they don’t. We need them to entertain us, in our circuses and zoos and stage shows. And most of all, we need them to feed us, with their eggs and milk and their very flesh. A few favored beasts do get a pass — dogs, cats, some horses — but the rest are little more than tools for our use.

But that view is becoming impossible to sustain — as a new TIME book reveals. The more deeply scientists look into the animal mind, the more they’re discovering it to be a place of richness, joy, thought and even nuance. There are the parrots that don’t just mimic words but appear to understand them, for example, assembling them into what can only be described as sentences. There are the gorillas and bonobos that can do the same with sign language or pictograms. Those abilities are hard to dismiss, but they also miss the point; they are, in many way, limited gifts — animals doing things humans do, but much less well.

A better measure is the suite of behaviors the animals exhibit on their own: crows that can fashion tools, lions that collaborate on elaborate hunts, dolphins and elephants with signature calls that serve as names, and cultural norms like grieving for their dead and caring for grandchildren. There are the complex, even political societies that hyenas create and the factory-like worlds of bees and ants. There are the abiding friendships among animals, too — not just the pairs of dolphins or horses or dogs that seem inseparable but the cross-species loyalties: the monkey and the dog, the sheep and the elephant, the cat and the crow, members of ordinarily incompatible species that appear never to have thought to fight with or eat one another because, well, no one told them they had to.

Animals, the research is proving, are creatures capable of reflection, bliss, worry and more. Not all of them in the same ways or to the same degrees, surely, but all of them in far deeper measures than we’ve ever believed. The animal mind is nothing like the wasteland it’s been made out to be. And if it’s not the mind you’d want to have as your own, it’s one that is still worth getting to know much better.

(The Animal Mind is now available on newsstands.)

TIME viral

Little Girl and Tibetan Mastiff Are Best Friends

The Tibetan Mastiff is a gentle giant

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While Internet users seem to love watching videos of small dogs having fun instead of working (or twerking), today Simba the Tibetan Mastiff proves that big dogs deserve attention, too.

If you aren’t familiar with the Tibetan Mastiffs, the breed dates back to around 1100 BC in China, according to the American Kennel Club. The dogs, who are known for their loyalty and protectiveness, are massive animals that can stand over three feet high and weigh well over 100 pounds.

So if you are a little girl, a Tibetan Mastiff could easily look more like a mountain than a playmate. In this video uploaded to Facebook by Lin Zhihong, Simba proves that the whole “gentle giant” thing can be a reality. In the clip, Simba lets his tiny little friend Weiwei clamber all over him while he sweetly sits there and puts up with anything the little girl dishes out. It’s an adorable reminder that big dogs can be all heart.

MORE: What Life Is Like for America’s Most Famous Panda Cub

MORE: Black Cat Interrupts Barcelona Game

TIME viral

This Video of a Tiny Hamster in a Tiny Mansion Is Hugely Adorable

If you love watching tiny hamsters eat tiny burritos, then you'll love this clip

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Whether it’s Tumtum and Nutmeg or Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice, the joy of seeing tiny animals act like people is universally appealing.

In the wake of viral video Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Burritos and hit sequel Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Pizzas, YouTube hamster fanatic and tiny food enthusiast April’s Animals has released a follow-up that you have to see, featuring a tiny hamster living in a tiny mansion. It’s two minutes of adorableness as a tiny rodent sleeps in a tiny bed, sits in a tiny chair, and uses a tiny bathtub before eating a giant strawberry with its tiny little hands.

It’s a much-needed cute break for when the news cycle gets you down, and you have watched all of Beyoncé’s VMA performance. Twice.

MORE: What Life Is Like for America’s Most Famous Panda Cub

MORE: This Italian Beach Says ‘Si, Per Favore’ to Dogs

TIME animals

This Italian Beach Says ‘Si, Per Favore’ to Dogs

So your four-legged friend can enjoy the beach like you would

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Have you ever brought your dog to the beach only to see a sign of your best friend with an “X” on top?

You won’t see any such thing at Italy’s “Baubeach,” one of the few places that welcomes both two-legged and four-legged guests, according to the Agence France-Presse. The dog-friendly beach is located on the outskirts of Rome and features a play circuit, parasols for shade and, of course, the sea–open to all pooches, whether they want to jump some waves or simply paddle in the shallow water.

[AFP]

TIME animals

What Life Is Like for America’s Most Famous Panda Cub

Bao Bao is about to celebrate her first birthday—and already she's acting like a moody, rebellious teen.

Bao Bao, the newest giant panda cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., turns one year old on Saturday, August 23, but already she’s acting like a moody, rebellious teenager. We caught up with one of her trainers, Nicole MacCorkle, to find out the most surprising and interesting developments in her growth within the last year.

She’s sassy
Bao Bao – which means “precious” or “treasure” in Chinese – doesn’t always listen to her mom Mei Xiang or her teachers. “Sometimes she’s sitting in the tree when we’re trying to get her in at the end of the day, and it’s almost as if she is mocking us, just looking at us like, ‘You can’t reach me,'” she says. “If she doesn’t respond to her mother, she’s not going to respond to us.”

She’s a picky eater

She’s only interested in her mother’s milk and got hooked on grass early – bamboo leaves – at four months, two months earlier than when most baby pandas start eating the plant. When she obeys commands, she’s given cooked sweet potato and “fruitsicles,” frozen apple juice with apple and pear pieces, but “Bao Bao is not really interested in the non-bamboo food,” says MacCorkle. “She doesn’t have a lot of food rewards that she’s overly motivated by, so a lot of the things we would use to train an adult she’s just not that interested in.” After her first birthday, zoo keepers will start bribing her with sweets like honey. For now, they dangle a little white buoy on the end of a pole to motivate her.

She does her own thing

Bao Bao isn’t as social as her brother Tai Shan, the zoo’s first surviving panda cub born in 2005 that is now in the breeding program at Wolong’s Bifengxia Base in Ya’an, Sichuan, China. He would approach the keepers, while Bao Bao is more standoffish, preferring to climb trees, the rock cave in her yard, and walk along the window sill of the indoor exhibit room.

“We’re probably a little less interesting to Bao Bao because we weren’t as novel to her as we were to Tai Shan,” says MacCorkle. “For Tai Shan, we didn’t go into the den area when he was first born and didn’t become a fixture in his environment until he was six months old. But with Bao Bao, we’ve been going in since the very beginning.”

Tai Shan also “clung” to Mei Xiang, so much so that he didn’t want to be weaned, and mom would bark at him to tell him it was time. Mei Xiang lets Bao Bao “have her own space” – unless Bao Bao has a fruitsicle that she wants. Then she’ll just take it. “To produce the milk, she’s looking for any extra calories to consume so she can nourish her baby,” MacCorkle says.

She’s an early riser

Zoo visitors who want to see the youngster when she’s most active should show up at 7:30 a.m. She might be exploring her yard before she climbs up into her tree. But would-be selfie-takers, beware: “I have not seen her react to visitors,” MacCorkle says.

TIME viral

Watch a Fish Devour a Shark in One Bite

In case you needed a reminder that the ocean is terrifying

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Okay, so a grouper and a shark are hanging out near each other in the ocean. Then one of them SWALLOWS THE OTHER ONE WHOLE.

You’re probably assuming it was the shark who devoured the fish, because that’s a completely natural thing to assume, but in fact, it was the other way around. This video captures a goliath grouper eating a black tip shark (in one bite!) off the coast of Bonita Springs, Florida, according to the video description.

In conclusion: fish are terrifying, the ocean is terrifying, everything is horrible and nobody is safe. The end.

 

TIME animals

These Men Are Hired by The Indian Government to Talk to Monkeys

"Monkey Men" impersonate the animals to shoo them away from buildings in New Delhi

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Have a monkey infestation problem?

If you’re around Delhi, India, you might want to call up Mahendra Goswami. He is a ‘Monkey Walla,’ or ‘Monkey Man,’ one of the many men hired by the Indian government to shoo monkeys away from buildings and areas where people are present.

These men entice monkeys to leave by impersonating the sounds of the aggressive langur monkey, often wearing a mask and hiding behind trees, according to the AFP. Monkeys in Delhi have been known to trash homes and gardens and have even attacked people while looking for food.

[AFP]

TIME viral

10 Dogs That Bravely Completed the Ice Bucket Challenge

From a dachshund in a shower cap to a cavapoo in a raincoat

You might be at least a little sick of seeing people dump water over their heads everywhere you turn on the Internet, even if the hugely viral phenomenon is raising insane amounts of money for a worthy cause.

But the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has now taken a cutesy turn. Here, we present some of the best canine contributions to the ever-growing collection of icy videos.

The dachshund that’s totally prepared with a cute little shower cap:

The pug that would rather just donate the damn money and have you leave it alone:

The big guy named Jet that’s pretty chill about things:

The puppy named Buttons that’s all, “can you not?”:

The corgi that actually seems excited to complete the challenge:

This chill chihuahua named Jack:

The little dude named Phineas Ernest Sander that’s rocking a fly raincoat:

The little cutie named Tinkerbelle that chills in protective rain gear while her human sings for some reason:

The dog named Boomer that realizes the challenge isn’t so bad after all:

The courageous pooch that uses an actual bucket:

Honorable mention: this cutie named Lucky that almost completed the challenge:

 

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