Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Feliformia Spotlight: Brown Hyena

I was not really planning on doing another hyena blog, but I have a friend who really loves them. I sometimes call him on Skype and read my stories to him. When I mentioned my spotlight blog, he started chanting, "Brown hyena! Brown hyena! Brown hyena!" I began to wonder if he was trying to hint at something. Anyways, this blog is dedicated to a really nice guy who not only takes time out of his schedule to listen to me read, he is also serving in our country's military.

The brown hyena, or strandwolf, can be found mainly in South Africa. Their body length can be as long as 63 inches with a shoulder height as high as 31 inches. The males are usually sightly larger than females, but most of the time, it is hard to tell them apart. They are born with extremely powerful jaws which can break bones at even a young age. They have shaggy brown coats and short tails.

Remember way back when I spotlighted the spotted hyena? They were a matriarchy. The brown hyenas are lead by a male and a female alpha. That's right: dual leadership. From all I found in my research, it is a fairly equal ruling with neither sex having more power than the other. The clans will work together to protect their territory. I noticed a lot of sources cite that the brown hyenas are similar to wolves in their behavior.

They are scavengers when it comes to food. They like to go after carcasses killed by larger predators, but they can still kill smaller animals when necessity arises. They are also omnivores so plants are still on the menu, but be sure that they totally prefer meat.

Couples within brown hyena clans seem to mate weirdly. You have a male and a female get together, but they don't actually mate. The female will go out looking for nomadic males and properly mate with them instead. She will then return to her actual mate where the male will take care of the cubs who are not his. By far, this was the weirdest thing I read about them. It seems contrary to animal nature in general. I'd even find it bizarre to see humans accept this behavior as acceptable. Gestation takes 3 months with a litter of one to five cubs. They are fully independent in 18 months.

I am sure there are some brown hyenas in fiction, but they seem to be avoiding my radar. I see them as a very family oriented community. They work together and all that, but the whole female mating outside of the clan really gives it an alien culture, in my opinion. I just see all the other animals giving them odd looks. Still, it's fun dealing with the weird and wonderful sometimes.

I hope my friend enjoys this spotlight. I personally really enjoyed learning about them. He'll likely try to get me to do another animal, and I probably will. There's a lot of interesting creatures in this world, and I have been privileged in finding many of them.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at Thanks!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Canine Spotlight: Fennec

The fennec is an adorable type of fox that has been growing in popularity for the last couple of decades. It is probably my favorite of all the different foxes, so I figured it was a good place to start. Even though you may be tempted to just ogle all of the cute pictures at the bottom, I still encourage you to read this as well--as I shall attempt to give them a proper spotlight.

The fennecs are small foxes with cream colored fur. They can have a body length from 9 to 16 inches from head to tail. They are only 8 inches tall. Their tails can be as long as 12 inches and always has a black tip. Most notable about the fennecs are their ears. They are very wide and can be as much as 6 inches long. The ears really seem to be the popularity draw of these animals, and I can see why.

Fennecs are desert foxes. They are found almost exclusively in the Sahara of North Africa. The large ears are actually used to help dissipate heat. Their lightly colored fur also assists in heat reduction. They have very thick skin on their paws which keeps them from being burned by the hot sand. These animals are extremely suited for desert life.

Their ears also do allow them to hear better. It assists them in the capture of prey. As they are omnivores, the menu consists of various desert plants, rodents, an array of insects, birds and their eggs, and also rabbits. Foxes are well known to be clever hunters. They can be sneaky. When hunting, the fennec will stare at the ground as if distracted, but it carefully will move his head from side to side looking for prey. When the time is right, they will dash towards the surprised animal and kill it. The latter hunting method somehow strikes me as cute, but then again, just about everything I see the fennec do seems cute. I don't think they can help it.

You may find it interesting that fennecs mate for life. This is not a common thing in the world of animals. The male will also become extremely protective of the female after mating has occurred. He will go about and provide her with food as well as fend off anyone who comes into the couple's territory. Gestation lasts up to 52 days and a litter will be between one and four kits. When born, the child's large ears are folded down over its closed eyes. The eyes open about 10 days later, and soon after, the ears pop up. Yes, even in birth, they are adorable.

Fennecs are also bred as exotic pets, and I think it should be obvious by now why. In captivity, fennecs really take well to others of their kind. They yap at each other and sleep in cute, little piles. These are most certainly social animals. However, if you are considering buying one, you will have to spend a lot of money. They do not come cheaply. Additionally, these pets are not to be considered domesticated in the least. You will be in possession of a wild animal, and that does not always work very well, but humans will go through a lot of trouble to possess cute things.

I know of only one fennec in fiction. In the 2016 Disney movie "Zootopia," there was a cute little short-stack fennec known as Finnick. This was one of the most lovable characters in the film despite him not having many scenes. He was portrayed as a con-artist that had no qualms about pretending to be a cute, adorable little child to run his schemes. Hilariously, he had the voice of a big tough man which contrasted to his adorable looks quite well.

I enjoyed the contrast presented in Zootopia for Finnick, and I think I would do similarly in my own portrayal of them. I see them as hardcore foxes who have the misfortune of being adorable. They are constantly petted by taller people, and they have a never ending struggle to get themselves taken more seriously. At the end of the day, they are entirely loved and adored by everyone; although, it is much to the fennec's chagrin. They were born cute, and they will always be cute.

Okay, so I have some pictures for you. This is the best part. I also encourage you to look up some videos of these guys. They are marvelous! The only thing better than learning about the fennecs is seeing them. Enjoy!

Thank you for reading my cute blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at Aww!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lagomorph Spotlight: Ili Pika

Sometimes, I have a very difficult animal I have to write about. This mainly stems from the fact that the animal is not well-enough covered on the internet. On most occasions, this is because the animal is simply not popular. It can also be very obscure or nearly extinct. In the case of the Ili pika, there are simply not enough of them out there to study. So, why cover them? The answer is simple: I like how they look. It is a very shallow reason, but it is the reason that often inspires me to write.

Well, what do I know about the Ili pika? Long story short: very, very little. I can fit their entire description in this single paragraph. Size: about 8 inches from head to tail. They weigh about half a pound. They have very short and pointy ears. Their fur is brightly colored with rusty-red spots on their forehead, crown, and sides of its neck. They live in rocky, mountainous regions on high cliff faces. They are mainly daytime animals and herbivores too--most lagomorphs are. They can only be found in a very tiny area in northwest China called the Tian Shan mountains. Quite literally, that is all I know about them.

Strangely, this animal was not officially discovered until 1983 by conservationist Li Weidong. It was named, classified, all the normal stuff; however, it dropped off the map after that and was not found again until 2014 by the exact same man! This animal has a tenancy to disappear and pop back up when you least expect it. No wonder it is often referred to as a magic rabbit.

Yes, the Ili pika is basically a rabbit. That is what lagomorph refers to. My mother found this bunny before I did, and she ended up sending a picture of it to my cell phone. At first glance, I thought it was a Scottish terrier dog. It does somewhat resemble one, but if you look close enough, you can make out the rabbit-isms. Honestly, I just love how they look, and I am also fond of their ability to disappear for long periods of time.

There is absolutely no fiction for this extremely obscure animal, but just think about their prolonged disappearing act. It almost sounds like fairy lore, doesn't it? What is this magical and mysterious bunny who travels about China like a ghost? It seems to me like this creature has the potential for a good oral tradition story. I can't really say much of its personality, but it is most certainly the mystery of this animal which opens itself to the imagination. Perhaps, it is as simple as a good luck charm to find one looking at you. And what if you are able to catch one? The possibilities are many.

I hope you enjoy the pictures of the rare Ili pika. There are not that many of them out there. I like them for their looks and their surrounding mystery. Maybe, this really is a magic rabbit.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at Hop!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Canine Spotlight: Tanuki

I am pretty aware that there are many people out there who do not know what tanukis are. In truth, I have been hearing about them for nearly my entire life. There is fascinating lore behind them--so fascinating that I began to wonder if they were even real at all. I sometimes worry that I may find that one of my favorite animals will end up simply being mythical. Thankfully, the tanuki is real and living happily in Eastern Asia as well as Eastern Europe--the latter happening after an artificial introduction.

The tanuki is also referred to as a Japanese raccoon dog. Does that mean that it is a dog or a raccoon? First impressions are that they are raccoons, and popular media really assist in this; however, tanukis are actually canine. It seems that people really enjoy thinking of them more like raccoons than dogs, and to be honest, so do I.

The tanuki can have a body length as long as 28 inches with a tail as long as 7.1 inches. They have long torsos with short legs underneath. They also have disproportionately large testicles, and I know that seems like a weird thing to mention. Unfortunately, the tanuki's huge testicles are one of its most beloved features, and I cannot avoid it in this spotlight. Don't worry; it's more funny than horrifying.

Tanukis are omnivores. Their menu is wide and vast. They are not picky at all. In my research, I found a very long list of plants and animals that these guys go after. I'm not really sure they care what they eat, to be honest. Naturally, they go after things that are smaller than they are which are mostly plants and rodents, but they will also eat fish and some waterfowl.

If you are wondering if their huge... "package" assists in reproduction, I think it very well may. Tanukis breed from February to late April. After a gestation period of about 70 days, the female tanuki will likely give birth to 6 to 7 pups... if it was her first time. It seems that the more these animals mate, the more babies they tend to have. In exceptional cases, the female can give birth to a whopping litter of 16 pups! I'm sure the male is very proud of himself. Happily for the female, the male tends to take care of the kids. I mean... if you think about it, she obviously needs some rest after that.

Tanukis have been in fiction for longer than I could really figure out. In Japanese lore, the creature was known for being mischievous but also clumsy. It could shape-shift into other creatures as a way of disguise itself, and they could also possess people. The testicles surprisingly did not inspire any lore having to do with fertility or virility. Instead, the Japanese saw it as some sort of cute thing. The balls were often taken by people and used as drums. In some versions, the tanuki's chubby belly was used as an alternative to pounding on their balls.

Fiction: The first place I ever even heard the word Tanuki was in the 1988 video game "Super Mario Brothers 3." Mario could put on a number of costumes in this game giving him special powers. One of the rarer suits was the Tanuki Suit which gave him the ability to fly, float, and turn into a statue in which enemies would ignore. At the time, I had no clue as to why they called it a Tanuki Suite. It looked more like a raccoon to me, but then we children of the 80's had not yet reached the peak of our nerdiness.

In a video game that I once used to obsess over--"Animal Crossing"--your character is immediately enslaved by, or rather placed in debt by, a tanuki named Tom Nook. Yes, he pretty much opens the game by placing a massive debt over your head in which you have to spend months working off. The game came out with many other versions, and Tom Nook was in all of them. I have heard many stories of frustrations for this character who reasonably simulated the oppression of debt in video game form. Why do we keep putting up with him? Well, as it turns out, he also owns a shop with a lot of nice furniture. While we are struggling with our debt, we can decorate our houses completely oblivious that he is only making it worse for us. Also, he's super cute.

Tanukis were featured in an anime movie called Pom Poko in 1994. I have not seen this film, but it needs mentioning for being the most beloved tanuki motion picture of all time. They had the large testicles in the film, but I understand that they were referred to as "raccoon pouches." I intend to see this movie someday.

I am happy to say that I have been taking notes to have tanukis in an upcoming novel. I cannot give the title because--honestly--I haven't come up with one yet; however, I do know how I am going to present them. My tanukis will be heavily based on real raccoons in that they tend to favor fight over flight when threatened, They will have a strong country accent and wear straw hats. I have not yet decided if I am going to mention the large testicles, but I kind of want to.

Tanukis are fun and amusing. Their lore if far-reaching and malleable based on your own ideas. They are really here for us to enjoy, so... enjoy them! After all, this animal really survives on its lore, and I can't get enough of it.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at Grr.

Japanese Tanuki Statue

Super Mario's Tanuki Suit

Tom Nook from "Animal Crossing"