We all know this is an election year. And depending on which side of the isle you’re on, you are equally as assured of the fact that either Democrats are stupid, or Republicans are. Since that all is just so tiresome, let’s focus on some of the things that really matter: our adorable, crazy, awesome, terrifying, and often enlightening global roommates, if you will, our friends in the animal kingdom.

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10. Brazil – Macaw
As if the macaw was not already a beautiful animal, there is another aspect of this little bird’s existence that makes my heart melt. Though survival is the driving force behind most animal actions, and the basest instinct any may possess, animals that form close monogamous bonds during their lifetimes (like macaws and wolves) are susceptible to sacrificing themselves due to their grief. I was once told a story of a scarlet macaw that, after learning of the death of its life partner, flew as high into the air as it could – before folding in its wings and plummeting to the earth. If that doesn’t earn the tragic, noble macaw a place on my list, I don’t know what does!

9. Guatemala – Quetzal
One of the strangest looking animals on the planet, the elusive quetzal bird of Guatemala is possibly the most adorable thing ever. It’s a little puffball of green and red feathery fluff with an abnormally long tail the bird looks like it has to grow into. SO CUTE! Plus, this tiny thing is so rare, and so hard to catch that it is in many ways the Golden Snitch of birds – an apt analogy since it is so precious to Guatemala that the nation’s currency is in fact called the “quetzal.” (Fun fact: I learned how to haggle in quetzales – no idea how to do it in English, or in dollars, and probably wouldn’t have the guts anyway.)

8. Canada – Beaver
At first I thought Canada’s national animal was the Queen. Then I realized it was the Mountie. After a few months, that turned out to be wrong and I was under the impression it was hockey. It wasn’t until a little while back that someone finally set the record straight for me. It’s lacrosse. I mean beavers!! And for the most part, Canadians seem to be kind of ashamed of that fact! (Except for Classified: “Oh, oh, Canada, we love our beav-uh.”) But maybe it’s because they don’t know how awesome beavers are. Did you know they build mega-dams called “lodges” with secret underwater entranceways? Or that beavers can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes underwater? Or that they have transparent eyelids that functionally turn their little eyeballs into goggles?? Come on, Canada, that is actually pretty cool!

7. Afghanistan – Snow Leopard
This is interesting because Afghanistan is not the type of place people generally associate with snow. (Have you seen Baghdad? Pretty sure it’s what they patterned Agrabah after…) And this is because people are stupid and don’t read. The Paktia Province is practically packed with snow-capped peaks (try saying that 10X fast)!! In fact, because Afghanistan is much larger longitudinally than we realize, it covers quite a lot of environments we never really focus on. Because all the fighting happens in the sand, that’s the only part we pay attention to, but much of the country is covered in rivers, forests, and mountains that are really quite breathtaking, and the beautiful, graceful Afghani snow leopard calls them home.

6. Democratic Republic of the Congo – Okapi
I had to throw one on here that was just plain INTERESTING. I mean… what is up with the coloring of these animals? It’s awesome, but also looks like a zebra that got dressed in the dark, or a deer that felt like mixing things up for a night hittin’ the clubs. Like, seriously! Why don’t they sell faux-Okapi print leggings and purses? I would totally buy that. Plus, they’re actually pretty neat animals. Surprisingly, they are more closely related to the giraffe than the deer or the zebra! Also, they are known to communicate with one another using quiet “chuff” sounds, which is just so darn adorable.

5. Mauritius – The Dodo
The only national animal on the list that is extinct (save for the Barbary Lion adopted by Libya and Morocco) the poor Dodo bird is one of the most well known examples of a recent extinction. What’s weird is that the dodo went extinct in 1681… Lots of other animals have “gone the way of the dodo” since then, but they don’t get catchy phrases! I suppose part of the dodo’s appeal was that it was such a gentle, flightless bird, and a perfect example of the consequences of introducing new animals into a fragile, isolated ecosystem. The reason that Mauritius chose this sad, lost creature as its animal is because it was the only island on which they were known to exist at the time when the Portuguese discovered them. Still, don’t feel too bad for the dodo. It may be gone, but it is clearly not forgotten, and that’s all any of us can ask for.

4. Pakistan – Markhor
I have long been in love with markhors. Putting aside whatever political frustrations we might have with Pakistan right now, you have to admit – this is one gorgeous animal! I think it’s the closest to a fairy tale creature we have, at least when I look at those horns, I feel like they must have come from someone’s beautiful imagination. It is animals like these that fascinate me the most, the ones that you didn’t even realize could exist.

3. Bermuda – Humpback Whale
Give ‘em credit! If you’re going to be a tiny island that most people associate with mysterious shipwrecks and disappearances, it’s a good idea to go with an animal that is huge, gentle and easily spotted. Plus, they’re pretty awesome creatures anyway! Aside from the singing and the flipping (which is cool on its own because scientists don’t know if they do it for a reason or just for fun), they are known for being particularly affectionate with their children, often swimming with their fins touching as though holding hands. Awww!

2. India – Royal Bengal Tiger, Indian Peacock, King Cobra, Grey Langur, River Dolphin and Indian Elephant.
Talk about a kickass menagerie!! Is there a single awesome animal on this planet that CAN’T be found in India?? Literally, only 2 of my favorite animals are missing from that list: bees and giraffes. They managed to get pretty much everything else. So, I suppose the only reason I gave India the #2 spot was because of sheer greed. They couldn’t just have a national animal; they had to have a national reptile, a national icon, a national heritage animal… And I guess also the fact that the #1 spot is hard to compete with…

1. Armenia, China, Vietnam, and Wales – Dragon
No, seriously!! I hate to do it, but a 4-way tie is called for. I thought it was some sort of symbolic thing, but apparently they aren’t joking! These nations are very proud of their dragons, fictional or not, and shamelessly proclaim them to be their national animals! Of course, Armenia also adopted the eagle, China and Vietnam also have a host of other national animals, and Wales has to accept whatever national animals the rest of Britain wants mentioned, whether they like it or not. Much like the rest of the Welsh experience. But still, you have to admit – to be able to say your national animal is the dragon?? Pretty damn cool, and totally deserving of the #1 spot on the list of awesome National Animals.

Honorable Mention: Greece
Among the mythical beasts on this list, I had to give it to dragons, but let it be known that one of Greece’s two national animals is the phoenix, another badass animal of lore. Their other one is the dolphin, so all around, nice choices, Greece! [The other mythical beasts belong to Russia, who names the “two-headed eagle” as one of its national animals, and Scotland, who has adopted the unicorn.]

The Arowana

NB: Mexico has a national arthropod, the humble grasshopper, and Indonesia has an “animal of charm,” the Asian arowana, a happy looking, colorful fish that is said to bring good fortune.

Well, there you have it! The 10 best national animals. You have no idea how hard it was for me not to mention Denmark and its lovely Mute Swan, but maybe next time! This has been a delightful diversion and I look forward to my regular programming. You know, the asinine stuff.

Until then, I’m going to go look at awesome pictures of markhors fighting.

– THE DUEL CITIZEN

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