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Strangest Animal Myths and Superstitions
From rhinos putting out fires … to black cats, spiders, and bats … Here are 20 of the strangest animal myths and superstitions
Have you ever heard the myth that penguins will fall backwards when they look up to see airplanes? It was started by some British pilots who claimed to see the birds falling like dominoes as they gazed skyward. But experiments later proved that penguins can maintain their footing even while looking at airplanes. However, low-flying aircraft can cause them to abandon their nests in a panic.
#19 Black Cats
The exact origin of black cats being connected with bad luck and ill fortune still isn’t known. But more sources think the superstition began in Medieval Spain or France where the animals were linked with witchcraft and black magic. That led to many beliefs about them bringing a curse to any human it encountered. Hence the idea that it’s bad luck if a black cat crosses your path. But folklore concerning the cats can vary among cultures. While much of Europe regards them as evil omens, they’re viewed as good luck in Japan and the British Isles. In fact, if a black cat approaches you in the UK, it’s a portent of good fortune. But if they walk away from you, it’s taking the good luck with it.
#18 Warts and All
The common superstition that toads cause warts has been around since forever. But the contagion myth has long since been busted, because warts are triggered by human viruses. That’s not to say the animals are completely harmless. They do possess bumps behind their ears which could be harmful. Those bumps are glands containing strong poison that can irritate human flesh.
#17 Bird Poop is Good Luck
Have you ever been sitting under a tree and have bird poo land on you? Don’t be mad, because you’ve just received a piece of good luck. At least, that’s a superstition in Russia. It says that great wealth is headed your way if the offending material hits you or something you own. Hopefully, that includes your car.
You might automatically assume that these insects are connected to superstitions involving good luck. True enough, because it’s often viewed as a symbol for rebirth and immortality. And there’s a legend in Louisiana that says white butterflies in your home means a string of good fortune is on the way. But other superstitions say that a swarm of butterflies means there’s a long, cold winter on the way.
#15 Coyotes (kie-yoh-tees)
In the folklore of some Native American cultures, these animals are viewed as tricksters or skin-walkers. Navajo legends say that it’s a bad omen if they’re seen during a journey. If one is standing in your path, it’s best to turn back. Otherwise, a dark and terrible fate is in store for you.
Did you know these large seabirds are the only birds that can fly 9,900 miles (16,000 km) without landing? Along the way they’ve become attached to some interesting superstitions among seafarers. Sailors regard them as good luck. And their habit of flying alongside ships has led to a belief that the birds contained the spirits of drowned mariners. But killing one of the animals is considered to bring bad luck.