'Animals Do the Strangest Things'

Story Time

August 12, 1998|By Leonora and Arthur Hornblow

Editor's Note: Intersting facts that almost nobody else knows about a couple of animals -- the platypus and the bear.

The Riddle

When the duck-billed platypus was first found, nobody could believe it was real.

The platypus has a bill like a bird's and it lays eggs. But it is not a bird.

The platypus has sharp spurs on his legs. There is poison in these spurs. It can kill a small animal. It can hurt a person very badly. Many snakes have poison. But the platypus is not a snake.

The platypus has webbed feet. These make him a fine swimmer. He can swim as well as a fish. But he is not a fish.

The platypus seems to be a bit of everything. But he has hair. And the babies feed on their mother's milk. In these ways he is like all mammals. And so the platypus is a mammal too.

You may never see a platypus. It is very hard to keep them alive in zoos. And they are very shy. They come out only when it is dark.

The platypus spends most of his life under water. He finds all of his food under water. To find it he uses his bill as a shovel. He digs in the mud for worms and bugs.

The platypus always lives near the water. He digs a long tunnel. The tunnel has two doors. One is on land. The other is under water. This way the platypus can come and go without being seen.

Inside the tunnel the mother platypus makes her nest. She makes it out of weeds and grass. She closes the tunnel with walls of mud. Then she lays her eggs.

The platypus is a riddle. Once there were many animals as strange as he is. But the world has changed since then. The animals on it have changed. Today there is no other animal like the platypus. It may be that he is something left over from a long, long time ago.

Never Trust a Bear

Grizzly bears and Alaskan brown bears are very, very big. They look dangerous. They are bears that no one would trust.

But the American black bears are not so big. They look clumsy and sweet. They look like fun to play with. But playing with a bear would be a bad mistake.

In a way bears are more dangerous than tigers. Tigers look mean. They sound mean. We can tell that we should stay away from them.

Not bears. Their faces never change. They always look friendly and funny. But they are not. They cannot be trusted at all. They can kill with one blow. They can bite off an arm with their sharp teeth. And they might.

A bear cub grows up fighting for his food. Most animal mothers bring food to their babies. Not the mother bear. She takes her babies to the food. If it is alive the cub must kill it himself. He learns to hit it so it cannot move away. A bear can knock a swimming fish out of the water. Bears are very fast and very strong.

So it is never safe to hand food to a bear. He may hit at it. He thinks it might move away.

Kindness doesn't mean anything to a bear. No bear has ever learned to love the people who cared for it. And no zoo keeper has ever learned to love a bear.

Excerpted from ANIMALS DO THE STRANGEST THINGS. Text copyright 1964 by Leonora and Arthur Hornblow. Illustrations copyright 1964 by Michael K. Frith. All rights reserved.

Pub Date: 8/12/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.