The 11 Most Influential Animals of 2014

5 minute read

Here are the animal stories that defined the year and sparked the most discussion and debate.

11. Giant Green Anaconda

Discovery Channel
Paul Rosolie is seen with an anaconda.Discovery Channel

Eaten Alive doesn’t air on the Discovery Channel until Dec. 7, but PETA already started protesting it a month ago. For the special, naturalist and author Paul Rosolie is supposed to be “consumed” in some way by a giant green anaconda while wearing a “snake-proof” suit built to withstand the anaconda’s natural constriction. In a statement, PETA argued Discovery “tormented” the reptile for ratings. Rosolie told EW he hopes the stunt, which took 60 days to film over the summer, will raise awareness about conserving the Amazon rainforest.

10. Westminster Best in Show Winner

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show - 2014
Sky the Wire Fox Terrier is seen at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Monday, February 11, 2014.Ben Hider—USA Network/NBC/Getty Images

Sky, a wire fox terrier, was named “best in show” at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show on Feb. 11. The victory speaks to the pedigree of the breed, which has won the honor 14 times, more than any other breed.

9. Tortoises With iPads

On Aug. 9, the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado premiered “Moving Ghost Towns,” an exhibit by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang featuring three African sulcata tortoises with iPads mounted on their backs that played video footage of abandoned areas. While the curators said the tortoises are supposed to symbolize longevity in Chinese culture, animal rights advocates said the iPads attached to their backs were symbols of animal cruelty and in “bad taste.” A petition racking up more than 18,000 signatures, plus inclement weather, forced the museum to transfer the reptiles to a conservation area.

8. World Cup Animals

The armadillo called Norman, Germany's World Cup oracle, approaches the soccer ball representing Germany as he makes his prediction for the team's opening World Cup match against Portugal on June 16, at the zoo in the western city of Muenster
This armadillo named Norman, Germany's World Cup oracle, approaches the soccer ball representing Germany as he makes his prediction for the team's opening World Cup match against Portugal on June 16, at the zoo in Muenster, Germany on June 13, 2014.Ina Fassbender—Reuters

“Psychic” animals at zoos and aquariums worldwide “predicted” 2014 World Cup games by gravitating toward a ball or box of food with stickers of different countries’ flags. Oracles included an elephant, lions, donkeys, penguins, an armadillo, a loggerhead turtle and dolphin. Bob, a sloth at the Toronto zoo, correctly “predicted” Germany would beat Argentina in the final, but no single animal became a household name as the late Paul the Octopus did for his 2010 World Cup predictions.

Correction appended, December 8, 2014: The original version of this article misstated Germany’s opponent in the final match of the 2014 World Cup. It was Argentina.

7. Tara the ‘Hero Cat’

Surveillance video shows a cat named Tara chasing off a dog that was harassing her human, four-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo, in Bakersfield, Calif., on May 13. The story went viral after the boy’s family uploaded the footage to YouTube (more than 23 million views to date), and Scrappy, the eight-month-old labrador-chow mix, was put down. Lauded as “The Hero Cat,” the feline was invited to “throw” the first pitch during a minor league baseball game, and Kern County declared June 3, 2014, as “Tara ‘The Hero Cat’ Day.”

6. Jiff

Guinness World Records

Jiff, a Pomeranian known for his cameo in Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” music video and for being Kesha’s “new boyfriend,” became the fastest dog on two paws. He set world records for fastest 10 meters on hind legs (6.56 seconds) and fastest 5 meters on front paws (7.76 seconds) at an Illinois kennel in September.

5. California Chrome

california chrome kentucky derby
Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to a victory during the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky, May 3, 2014Morry Gash—AP

On May 3, California Chrome became the first California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962. Bred off a $10,000 investment, Chrome was off to the races, set to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978, but he finished tied for fourth at the Belmont Stakes in June.

4. Giant Panda Triplets

Panda triplet cubs on display to celebrate their 100-day milestone at the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou in south China's Guangdong province, November 5, 2014AP

Rare giant panda triplets born July 29 at China’s Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou made their public debut at the beginning of November after reaching a 100-day milestone. Their mother Ju Xiao, impregnated with sperm from a panda at a Guangzhou zoo in March, gave birth to the two male and one female cubs — reportedly the fourth set of panda triplets born through an artificial breeding program. This set is believed to be the first known to survive.

3. Marius the Giraffe

Marius the Giraffe is seen at the Copenhagen Zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark on Feb. 7, 2014.Keld Navntoft—AFP/Getty Images

The Copenhagen Zoo outraged animal lovers when it euthanized a two-year-old giraffe named Marius on Feb. 9, performing the autopsy and feeding his remains to lions as children looked on. While it’s not uncommon for culls to take place at zoos to prevent inbreeding, doing it so publicly may have been uncharacteristic, arguably sparking numerous petitions to save Marius, death threats and calls for boycotts of the zoo, TIME reported. Defending the decision, the zoo’s scientific director Bengt Holst told TIME, “If we’re serious about science, we can’t be led by emotion.”

2. Marnie the Dog

Small Business Saturday Night
Marnie the dog attends Small Business Saturday Night at Warm Boutique on November 29, 2014 in New York City.Craig Barritt—Getty Images

Marnie, a 12-year-old Shih Tzu rescue with a tilted head and an outstretched tongue, only pounced onto the viral scene six months ago, but already boasts nearly 700,000 Instagram followers and photo ops with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Tina Fey and Demi Lovato. Based in New York City, this rising star is the Internet celebrity to watch in 2015.

1. Grumpy Cat

Today - Season 63
Grumpy Cat appears on NBC News' "Today" show on Nov. 24, 2014.Peter Kramer—NBC/Getty Images

Grumpy Cat (real name Tardar Sauce) tops the list for the second year in a row. While most of the animals on this list have already had their 15 minutes of fame, Grumpy Cat’s permanent frown (caused by feline dwarfism) is still making the Internet smile two years after her photo went viral. With the help of Ben Lashes (aka, the ‘world’s first meme manager’) she has gone from Reddit to red carpet—hamming it up at the MTV Movie Awards with a miniature version of Pharrell’s infamous brown hat (ironically, of course), posing with Ryan Seacrest and Jennifer Lopez on American Idol, and “hosting” an episode of WWE Raw. Now boasting corporate sponsorship, two books, a toy line, coffee brand (“Grumppuchino”), a Lifetime movie, and a possible Hollywood movie deal, she won’t be going away anytime soon. After all, she’s supposed to have nine lives, right?

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