Have You Seen This Fish?

Corbis / Corbis

In textbooks, beavers are classified as mammals. So why does the Catholic church refer to them as fish?

Early settlers of Quebec were just as pious as other pioneers, but these good Catholics had a tough time following the Catholic Church’s Friday dietary restrictions, since there wasn’t much edible fish around. There was no shortage of beaver meat, though. So in the 18th century, the Quebecois asked the church to declare that the beaver was a fish. After all, it lived in the water and had a flat, scaly tail. Close enough, right? The church agreed, and that’s how the furry heathen got classified as a Christian fish.

Amazingly, the beaver isn’t the only secular mammal that’s religiously a fish. Venezuelans dine on the capybara, a large, semiaquatic rodent, during Lent for the same reason.

This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. You can get a free issue here.