The Ultimate Mudslinger: The Story Behind Denmark’s Protest Pigs

In the 19th century, Denmark and Prussia couldn’t agree on where to draw their border. Both countries were hungry to control the southern Jutland Peninsula, today part of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein and the Danish county of South Jutland, and both sides refused to concede any ground.

In 1848, the countries went to war, with Denmark winning claim to the land. More than a decade later, the land was up for grabs again as the Second Schleswig War erupted, this time with Prussia declaring victory. In the 1860s, Prussian authorities moved in and over the next few decades instituted a slew of new laws suppressing anything remotely Danish.

As one can imagine, the Danish farmers caught on the wrong side of the border dispute were none too pleased—and they were especially upset by the new rule forbidding them from raising their home country’s flag.

So, as the story goes, they started raising pigs instead.

Through a crafty program of crossbreeding, Danish farmers tried to create a new breed of pig that faintly resembled their beloved home's flag. It wasn't terribly difficult. The banner of Denmark is relatively simple—a flat red background covered by a long, white Nordic cross—so all the pig needed was a coat of red fur and one or two prominent white belts.

Though missing a white stripe, the final product—the so-called Protestschwein/protestsvin, or protest pig—quickly became a snorting symbol of Danish cultural independence. Later in the 20th century, the red swine became recognized as a "true breed" called the Husum Red Pied. Sadly, there are fewer than approximately 60 flag-striped breeding animals still alive today, many of them residing in zoos.

An interesting sidenote: This wasn’t the only form of passive aggressive protest to occur on the Jutland Peninsula in the 19th century. The occupying Germans also instituted laws that prevented Danish organizations from serving alcohol, striking a major blow to local community halls that functioned as key political gathering spots. Suddenly, these Danish halls needed a non-alcoholic way to bring people in. Their solution? The sønderjysk kaffebord, or coffee table—what is essentially a table covered in dozens of assorted “rebel cakes.”

Nowadays, these cake-covered tables are a tradition on the peninsula. Paired with a side of bacon, resistance has never tasted so good.

Meet LiLou: The World's First Airport Therapy Pig

Kseniia Derzhavina/iStock via Getty Images
Kseniia Derzhavina/iStock via Getty Images

There's a new reason to get to the airport early—you might run into a therapy pig who's there to make your trip a little easier. As Reuters reports, LiLou the Juliana pig is a member of San Francisco International Airport's "Wag Brigade," a therapy animal program designed to ease stress and anxiety in travelers.

Aside from her snout and potbelly, LiLou can be recognized by her captain's hat and red "hoof" polish. She spends the day with guests who are happy to take a break from the pressures of traveling. She might comfort them by posing for a selfie, playing a song on her toy keyboard, or offering them a head to pet.

After bringing joy to people's day, LiLou goes home to her San Francisco apartment where she lives with her owner, Tatyana Danilova. In her free time, she goes on daily walks and snacks on organic vegetables. She even has her own Instagram account.

Airports around the world are embracing the benefits therapy animals can bring to customers. The Wag Brigade program at San Francisco includes a number of dogs, and earlier this year, the Aberdeen Airport in Scotland debuted its own "canine crew" of dogs trained to make travelers feel safe and happy. Therapy miniature horses have even been used at an airport in Kentucky. According to the San Francisco Airport, LiLiou is the world's first airport therapy pig.

To see LiLou turn on the charm, check out the video below.

[h/t Reuters]

Sssspectacular: Tree Snakes in Australia Can Actually Jump

sirichai_raksue/iStock via Getty Images
sirichai_raksue/iStock via Getty Images

Ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes, is common among humans. We avoid snakes in the wild, have nightmares about snakes at night, and recoil at snakes on television. We might even be born with the aversion. When researchers showed babies photos of snakes and spiders, their tiny pupils dilated, indicating an arousal response to these ancestral threats.

If you really want to scare a baby, show them footage of an Australian tree snake. Thanks to researchers at Virginia Tech, we now know these non-venomous snakes of the genus Dendrelaphis can become airborne, propelling themselves around treetops like sentient Silly String.

That’s Dendrelaphis pictus, which was caught zipping through the air in 2010. After looking at footage previously filmed by her advisor Jake Socha, Virginia Tech Ph.D. candidate Michelle Graham headed for Australia and built a kind of American Ninja Warrior course for snakes out of PVC piping and tree branches. Graham observed that the snakes tend to spot their landing target, then spring upward. The momentum gets them across gaps that would otherwise not be practical to cross.

Graham next plans to investigate why snakes feel compelled to jump. They might feel a need to escape, or continue moving, or do it because they can. Two scientific papers due in 2020 could provide answers.

Dendrelaphis isn’t the only kind of snake with propulsive capabilities. The Chrysopelea genus includes five species found in Southeast Asia and China, among other places, that can glide through the air.

[h/t National Geographic]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER