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5 Animals Disguised as Other Animals

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Dogs that look like their owners is a phenomenon that has been the subject of a book, a photo exhibit, a recent scientific study, and, of course, a BuzzFeed post. But dogs that look like African lions? Well, that’s sort of new. As are ferrets that look like poodles.  

1. THE COWARDLY TIBETAN MASTIFF

Earlier this month, a Tibetan Mastiff being touted as an African lion at a zoo in the People's Park of Luohe in China (above) gave its canine identity away when a pint-sized visitor and his mom approached the Not-Quite-King of the Jungle’s cage and heard it barking. Ruh-roh! 

2. THE SLY LEOPARD

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The Tibetan Mastiff isn’t the only case of mistaken animal identity at the People’s Park. Following the outing of the dog-turned-lion, additional reports surfaced that the zoo has used dogs in place of wolves (not a huge stretch) and foxes in place of leopards (definitely a huge stretch). In response to the allegations of fraud, a spokesperson for the park—which is temporarily closed—noted, “We’re doing our best in tough economic times. If anyone is unhappy with our displays, we will give back their money.”

3. THE GOLDEN TIGER

Wild animal fake-outs are nothing new in China. In 2010, a handful of dyed dogs—including a Chow/panda and Golden Retriever/tiger—were used to attract visitors to the opening of the Dahe Pet Civilization Park in Zhengzhou, Henan.

4. THE TOY FERRET

With all that facial fuzz, it’s hard to tell what a toy poodle’s mug actually looks like. But one thing it certainly doesn’t look like is a ferret. That small fact didn’t stop a pet seller in Argentina from pumping a few ferrets full of steroids and passing them off as designer dogs.

5. THE ZEBRA-STRIPED STALLION

The joke was on the hungry horseflies of Weye, Germany, when horse farm owner Claudia Wide painted zebra stripes on her black stallion after reading a study from Sweden’s Lund University. The study’s researchers discovered that zebras in the wild don’t have to contend with pesky horsefly bites because of the way their stripes reflect light.

Other Animals in Disguise

The Rubber Snake

In 1984, a regular visitor to the Houston Zoo became concerned when he noticed a coral snake had not seemed to move in nine months. The reason? It was made of rubber. “We have had live snakes in the exhibit,” curator John Donaho explained to the visitor, “but they don't do well—they tend to die.” 

The Plastic Polar Bear
Polar bear-loving visitors to the St. Louis Zoo went home fairly disappointed in 2009 when the living, breathing Arctic creatures who had called the zoo home were replaced with illuminated, plastic versions. To be fair, the zoo wasn’t hoping visitors would be fooled; the decorative versions were a temporary placeholder following the passing of the zoo’s one polar bear, Hope, while the zoo was on a waiting list for a new one.

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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