Animals In Entertainment: The Roadrunner

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The Road Runner was introduced to T.V. screens in 1949 in a short film called “Fast and Furry-ous,” along with his long-time rival Wile E. Coyote. The duo continued to enjoy life on the silver screen from that point on until the 1980’s.

The creator of the Road Runner was a man by the name of Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros Studios. Jones also created beloved characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Pepe Le’ Pew, Marvin The Martian, and more.

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The Road Runner and his foe Wile E. Coyote

Jones already had the Wile E. Coyote character in mind, based off of a Mark Twain description. “The coyote is a long, slim, sick, and sorry-looking skeleton.” “… He is always poor, out of luck …”

All Jones needed now was a partner. Every character he had previously created had one. Bugs Bunny (inspired by cigar smoking Groucho Marx) had Elmer Fudd, and Porky Pig had Daffy Duck. What better foe for a skinny, starving coyote than a native, flightless bird who he can never catch!

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Chuck Jones had a very specific set of rules that he kept himself to when writing each set of animated episodes. For example, “Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy,” and “The Road Runner must stay on the road, for no other reason than that he is a Roadrunner.”

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The Plymouth Road Runner car, built between the years 1968 and 1980 in the US, uses the Warner Bros. character as a notable emblem on their models. As the story goes, one Saturday morning while watching cartoons with his children, the Chrysler-Plymouth design planning analyst Gordon Cherry, realized that the Road Runner always manages to elude his nemesis Wile E. Coyote. Cherry then realized that this was the exact kind of image Plymouth had been hoping to cultivate when planning their next muscle car design.

Plymouth paid Warner Bros. Studios $50,000 to use the cartoon character. Warner Bros. earned $10,000 as well from Plymouth when they created a “beep beep” horn that resembles the iconic character’s soundbite.

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The Geococcyx californianus and G. velox species also known as Roadrunners, can be found in Mexico, Central America, and Southwestern U.S.

The cartoon Road Runner’s creator was not far from reality when depicting the character. One of Jones’ rules after all was that, “All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters- the American Southwest.”

Although in every cartoon episode and per Jones’ Rules, the Coyote would never be allowed to catch the Road Runner; According to wildlife experts, a coyote can actually run faster than a Roadrunner. Since coyotes can reach a speed up to 43 mph, the Roadrunner’s 20 mph limit would mean the end for the Roadrunner.

The Roadrunner has unusual X-shaped footprints which Native Americans believed could ward off evil spirits.

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The Greater Roadrunner is a monogamous species who keeps the same mate for life. Which can help to explain why after each escape from the Coyote’s grasp, he comes back for more.

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Animals In Entertainment: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

 

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Scene from the 1964 TV Classic Film Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Montgomery “Wards” Ward is a department store founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1872. In early 1939, one of the store’s catalogue copywriters, who normally wrote descriptions of the stores’ items, was asked to write a promotional short story for the up-coming holiday season. Although the store usually distributed small coloring books for their patron’s children during the Christmas season, those books were purchased through a third-party. Management felt that money could be saved if “Bob” could write a small story for their customers this year instead. The managers had suggested a cheery Christmas themed book, and in particular, an animal as the main character.

The copywriter Robert L. May later gave testament to his attitude towards his life before being given the assignment. “Here I was, heavily in debt at age 35, still grinding out catalogue copies. Instead of writing the great American novel as I’d once hoped, I was describing men’s white shirts. It seemed I’d always been a loser.”

May was in fact a rather sad individual by nature. He had grown up a small and painfully shy Jewish boy from New Rochelle, New York. He identified with underdog characters and in particular, the Ugly Duckling, from the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen. It was with himself and the Ugly Duckling in mind that he then formed his main character for his new assignment; Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer.

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Snapshot of original manuscript

Many impacts of May’s personal life had shone through in his writing. His daughter, then 4 years old, had been obsessed with the deer at the Lincoln Park Zoo. That asserted for him that his main character should be some type of cold weather hearty deer, since Santa lived in the North Pole.

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The Reindeer (Rangifer Tarandus) became the animal May chose to base his main character off of. It is an arctic and sub arctic terrain mammal. The Reindeer’s conservation status is listed as: vulnerable. 

He would also read drafts of his story to his daughter periodically, to maintain his works’ integrity of capturing a child’s interest.

He created a list of potential names to give to his main character (and Santa’s 9th reindeer).  He settled on an “R” name for alliterative purposes. However it could have also been that it was Robert May’s way of identifying with his down-trodden character.

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You can see how Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was almost Reginald the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

He felt that “Rollo” was too happy of a name for a reindeer facing blatant discrimination, bullying, and more. It was a close tie in May’s list of names between “Reginald” and “Rudolph,” however the name “Rudolph” easily rolled off the tongue.

His wife had also been reflected in his work throughout the development of his manuscript. Rudolph would often cry whole-heartedly at the plight of his life, and his creator did as well. May’s wife had been suffering from cancer during the writing of the children’s book. As Rudolph felt sad, lonely, and short-changed, so did May as well.

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Page 4 of the original manuscript.  Rudolph cries whole-heartedly

When first presented with May’s ideas on the book, Montgomery Ward management scoffed. “For gosh sakes. Bob, can’t you do better than that?,” his manager exclaimed. May approached his friend and co-worker Denver, who worked in the art department. He asked Denver to illustrate parts of his manuscript to re-pitch his idea. Denver’s sketches brought the story to life and at the second look-over, Montgomery Ward management became enthralled with the story. “Forget what I said, and put the story into finished form.,” were the manager’s words described by May in a 1975 interview.

May’s wife passed away in July of 1939, a month before the book was completed. May’s boss had offered to relieve May from his duties of writing in light of the event, but May refused. “I need Rudolph now more than ever.,” he said.

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The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sold 2.4 million copies at its release. However, being a promotional item for the store, the book had been distributed at no cost. A couple of years later, a small publishing company printed hardcover copies of the book. In that year, another 3.6 million copies were distributed.

Montgomery Ward gave May the copyrights to Rudolph in 1947. In 1948, May’s bother-in-law Johnny Marks wrote song and lyric to May’s story, which would be sung by Gene Autry, and was released in 1949.

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Autographed copy of Mark’s songbook selling for $3,583.09

The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer has been inspiring children for decades to overcome adversities such as physical deformation, prejudice, discrimination, bullying, and more, which was May’s intention when writing the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Appaloosa

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The Appaloosa has been around for a really long time.

As the story goes, the Nez Perce peoples of the American west created this interesting breed. They had lived in the areas of what is present day Oregon, Washington, and parts of Idaho.

But before we get into that, we have to go even further back in time.

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Spotted horses have been around long before houses, and even pen and paper. This cave drawing in France is one of the most highly discussed images. The estimated date of these drawings extend from 25,000 – 15,000 BC.

“Leopard complex” spotting had been seen in horses all throughout Western Europe for centuries. The leopard complex spotting can be seen not only in the Appaloosa, but in the Knabstrupper, and Noriker horse.

We can attribute many early horses of the US to Christopher Columbus, Hernan Cortes, and Hernando De Soto, during their conquest and exploration of North America; Many if not all of American horses derive from those left behind on these expeditions. Afterall, you can’t explore new terrain without a horse, and it’s not like they would sail all the way across the ocean just to say, ” Ah, we made it. Now, let’s go back!”

They totally did some sightseeing and left all kinds of stuff behind on their way out. Which had good and bad effects on the Natives.

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The one great effect it had on the Native Americans was of course, the horse. Many tribes took huge advantage to capturing the new residents. It is said that the large Shoshone Tribe which had a vast territory, would often more than dabble in the art of trade and furnished many North American Tribes with these horses. It was around 1750 when basically every tribe had received horses, which meant the Shoshone had ran out of customers.

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Shoshone Chief Washakie and his tribesmen

The Nez Perce in particular became really fond of their new equestrian friends and became deeply involved with breeding efforts. They were unique in the sense that they were super selective in deciding which horses mated and which ones didn’t. They often gelded the inferior stallions and traded off poorer stock. As a result of the Nez Perce’s breeding efforts, they had incredibly superior horses compared to almost all of the other tribes in North America.

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Photo courtesy of dreamerhorsefarm.com

They lived near The Palouse River in the American West. Palouse is a Native American term for “Something sticking down in the water.” (Like horses do when they drink.) As we know in American history, many Native terms were applied by early white settlers to our nation’s rivers, mountains and more. So when these early whites came across the Palouse region and observed their magnificent horses, they became known as the Apalousey horse which then, later on became the Appoloosa.

The Nez Perce lost much of their Appaloosa stock during the war of 1877. They had created a very swift and intelligent breed which allowed many to escape the white’s hasty “round-up’s.”

The captured horses were sold off to cattlemen. As for their counterparts, The Nez Perce that remained on the newly founded reservations were able to keep a limited number of Appaloosa however if they were inclined to breed, they were forced to breed with only Quarter Horses. The Appaloosa was quickly becoming a lost breed.

It wasn’t until the 1930’s that a resurgence in breeding efforts began. The Appaloosa Horse Club was created in 1938 and still exists today. It’s actually an incredible organization that aims not only to maintain breed but also to educate youth as well.

As a result of the Appaloosa’s varied breeding history, the Appaloosa today can range in physical appearance from stocky, more warm-blooded-like to sleek and racey. They typically range from 14.2 to 15.3 hands and have the signature leopard complex spotting.

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The Appaloosa is a very strong horse that weighs anywhere between 800 to 1,000 lbs. Appaloosa’s are used for stock work, show and even show jumping.

The Appaloosa has also paid it forward in helping the Nez Perce today. Breeding efforts went underway in 1994 in an attempt to make a Nez Perce Horse breed. The modern-day Nez Perce use the Appaloosa in these breeding attempts along with the Akhal-Teke of Central Asia. The Nez Perce today feel very strongly about restoring their strong breeding culture and tradition. They were able to obtain horses of direct lineage from Chief Joseph’s stock which had been kept pure on a ranch in Wallowa Valley. For more information on these efforts, click here.

The Tabby Cat

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The Orange Tabby is seemingly found everywhere. They randomly pop up in litters like a surprise visit from Santa. Like a goose among a bevy of swans, orange tabbies forever stand out.

When digging into the mystery of Tabby Cats, the first necessary mention is that they are not a cat breed!

We often proclaim that, “He/She is a Tabby Cat.” But really what we are doing is simply describing the cat’s color pattern. We follow along with the rest of society, unknowingly asserting this misconception when somewhere in the depths of our mind we know it’s a simple matter of color coordination.

You can see the tabby pattern in a gray color as well, along with brown and creme.

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What’s even more notable is that the signature stripes of the tabby pattern, isn’t the only kind!

Those signature stripes are called Mackerel. Which gives your feline a “tiger” look. This pattern is comprised of long, narrow stripes across the cat’s body.

The Classic Tabby pattern is seen in swirls along the cat’s body. Which can also sometimes look similar to a bullseye and can be described as having a “marbled” or “blotched” look.

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Classic Tabby Pattern

The Spotted Tabby pattern, you guessed it- has spots! You’ll be able to see these round or oval spots even on the cat’s underbelly.

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The Ticked or Agouti pattern is easily seen in the Abyssinian breed. This pattern is slightly less obvious than bold stripes and spots. The actual hair changes color the further down you go. The hair is lightest at the root and gradually become darker nearing the end.

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Abyssinian Cat

And finally, the Patched Tabby pattern. Which can be seen in Torbie cats. This pattern has a distinct color change in large block areas or “patches.”

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Maine Coon Patched Tabby

With all of these colors and variations, how are the Tabby not its own breed? All tabbies are said to have an “M” on their forehead, that counts as a breed standard, right? There has to be some point in history where these cats were known for more than being just a group of patterns. And how is it that Tabby Cats have never lived down their reputation for being alley prowlers, eating out of discarded tuna cans and scrapping out their own place in the world like Al Capone?

A scientific study released in 2017 found that 80% of all present-day cat breeds carry the genetic tabby mutation. The study also found that this split in genetics happened during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. By the 18th century, these coat patterns were found everywhere and were one of the most common color coordinations found on felines.

The specific gene responsible for this genetic mutation is called Taqpep. This gene is not only found in domestic cats but in wild cats as well! Put simply, these patterns and color variations have been passed down for thousands of years and were once incredibly useful camouflage in the wild.

There are many tales as to how these tabbies got their “M.” Although super fun to debate about, it’s origin is as simple as genetics. Similar to having black hair that can be found in many races of various people (Asian, Caucasian, African, and too many more), the tabby’s “M” and their patterns can be found in many cat breeds.

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The Cheshire Cat

As for the Tabby reputation, we can’t help but view them the way we do. If you think back to some of the most popular cartoons like Garfield, Bonkers, Puss ‘N Boots from Shrek, and even The Cheshire Cat; They’re all tabbies! They’re majority orange tabbies being rambunctious and mischievous. What also doesn’t help their reputation is that orange tabbies have been reported to be the second most common cat found in a shelter.

Even though tabby’s are not one singular breed, they can be found in ALL breeds, even wild ones. Which kind of makes up for not having their own page in the breeder’s book, right?

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