10 Times When Animals Changed Human History Forever
We are proudly at the top of the food chain, claiming all victories, and shaping the world and its history. Never missing a chance to showcase and brag about heroic acts and our discoveries. Sometimes we genuinely forget about our smaller friends who have been known to save our lives and humankind in general.
10. The cackling geese who saved Rome
The flourishing Roman empire was under attack by the Gauls in the early 4th century BC. They defeated the Romans at the Battle of the Allia and moved to attack Rome itself. They entered Rome and intended to ascend the Capitoline Hill in secret.
The Gauls were silent and quick, moving unnoticed by the sentinels and watchdogs. They almost got away with sneaking up one of the hills when they were noticed by some patriotic Roman geese. They honked up a storm, and the noise woke up nearby guards and then the city’s defenders. Rome was saved, and the geese enjoyed admiration and fame.
9. The wolves who temporarily ended World War I
Russian and German troops fought in the winter of 1916-1917 in an area that stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. The harsh weather forced some starving wolves to attack groups of soldiers. It escalated to where both sides had more casualties from wolf attacks than from the battle.
This caused the 2 sides to announce a temporary truce to fight the wolves. They managed to hunt hundreds of wolves, and the rest scattered away. After the wolves were defeated, both sides went back to fighting each other. It took hungry wolves to prove that there is no need for war.
8. The cat who opened up a new chapter in criminology
In 1994, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found a body buried in a shallow grave along with a blood-soaked jacket. A test showed that the blood belonged to the victim, but they also discovered a long white hair that belonged to a cat. Police knew that the victim’s common-law husband lived near the burial site and owned a white cat named Snowball.
The authorities got Snowball’s blood to perform a DNA test. It turned out that no laboratory had ever tested a pet’s DNA, and nobody wanted to be the first. After many calls and much research, an institution agreed to help. The police collected blood samples of about 20 cats to make sure that felines didn’t have similar DNA. The long hair did belong to Snowball, and his owner was sent to prison.
This opened up a new chapter of using pet’s DNA to place criminals, and the National Feline Genetic Database was established as a result.
7. The pigeon who saved hundreds of American troops
A messenger pigeon called Cher Ami (“Dear Friend”) lived up to its name during World War I. In early October 1918, more than 500 men found themselves trapped without food and ammunition behind enemy lines. The Major attempted to send messages, but the first 2 pigeons were shot down.
Cher Ami was badly wounded. But despite the injury, the dear winged warrior managed to deliver the message. The trapped men were saved, and Cher Ami received the Croix de Guerre from the French government.
6. Laika, Belka, and Strelka — dogs who conquered space
The first animal to achieve orbit, Laika the dog, boarded the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. The tiny female mutt was a stray as the Soviet assumed that stray dogs were heartier and fared better in harsh conditions. Laika is credited as the one who paved the way for human spaceflight. Sadly, she didn’t survive re-entry.
3 years later on August 19, 1960, 2 new dogs, Belka and Strelka, boarded Sputnik 5. They entered space and safely returned to Earth, providing the necessary confidence to send humans into orbit less than a year later. One small bark, one giant leap for mankind.
5. The sheep who proved cloning was possible
Dolly the sheep is one of the most famous sheep in history. She shaped science, even though she had no clue about her role. Dolly was the first mammal that was fully and successfully cloned using an adult cell. She was born in July 1996 and was the only success out of 277 attempts.
4. The chimpanzee who changed human understanding
Jane Goodall arrived in Tanzania in July 1960. Her assignment was to study chimpanzees who were still a mystery to humans at that time. The first 3 months revealed nothing as the chimps were shy and did not allow her to watch them. Then she met David Greybeard, a chimp with gray chin whiskers. He gave Jane her first discovery when she saw him sharing pig meat with a female. People assumed chimps were vegetarians.
Just a month later, she observed David dipping grass into a termite mound and raising the grass back to his mouth. After David left, Jane poked the grass into the mound and saw that the termites bit and held on to the blade. David was using grass as a tool to fish.Scientists thought that only humans could create and use tools.
David went on creating more tools and by doing so changed our views on chimps and humans.
3. The fighting roosters who gave strength to ancient Greek soldiers
An interesting case involving 2 fighting cocks happened in the first decade of the 5th century BC. The Athenian general Themistocles was on his way to confront the invading Persian forces, and he stopped to watch 2 roosters fighting.
The general called his troops and showed them that the animals did not fight for glory, liberty, or safety but simply because one did not want to give way to the other.
This display of instinctive aggression gave strength and inspiration to the soldiers. The heartened Greeks went on to confront their invaders, saving the very civilization that today finds fried chicken to be an excellent snack.
2. The rats and fleas who wiped out a third of Europe
A deadly pandemic called the Black Death wiped out a third of Europe (possibly even more) in the middle of the 14th century. It was identified as the plague, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. This bacterium infects rats and other small rodents and is transmitted to people by the bite of infected fleas. Rats are surprisingly skilled climbers and jumpers, and fleas’ powerful hind legs make them great jumpers. It’s no wonder the disease spread so easily and quickly.
The Black Death spread via trade routes from Central Asia to Europe, killing about 25 million people. One of the more surprising results was a labor shortage, which empowered peasants to request higher wages and improved living conditions. Sadly, it took the plague to improve the standard of living for some.
1. The worms who developed agriculture
Charles Darwin adored worms as he found them to be a fascinating species with an important role in the growth of civilization. Worms’ excreta, their burrowing, and their feeding activities bring numerous beneficial effects to the quality of soil for crop production. Hardworking worms have been fertilizing our soil for millions of years! They are the ones who turned the soil into something we could work with.
Recent research shows that worms can actually thrive in the soil on Mars. The result of an experiment developed by NASA showed that worms can survive and even produce offspring on Mars! Perhaps our future depends on the most unlikely of creatures after all.