Is That a Fact?
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“Is That a Fact?” Friend, Apr. 1988, 27


Is That a Fact?

On April Fools’ Day you listen carefully to what is said so that you won’t be tricked. In the animal world, however, there are some things that might fool you, even if you listen closely. See if any of these often-repeated statements about animals would fool you.

True or False:

  1. Bulls attack when they see red.

  2. Penguins live at the North Pole.

  3. Camels store water in their humps.

  4. Ostriches hide their heads in the sand.

  5. An owl is wise.

  6. Bears hibernate during the winter.

  7. You can get warts from handling toads.


1. False. Don’t think that you’re safe if you wave a blue cape in front of a bull instead of a red one. Bulls are color-blind, and they may charge anything that moves, if it strikes their fancy, regardless of its color.

2. False. Oops! Did you get the North Pole and the South Pole mixed up? Most penguins live near the South Pole in Antarctica. However, some colonies of penguins live as far north as the Galápagos Islands and other areas in the Southern Hemisphere where cold Antarctic currents flow.

3. False. A camel’s hump stores fat, not water. Camels use the fat for energy when they don’t get enough food.

The idea that camels stored water in their humps probably started because people couldn’t figure out how camels could go so long without a drink. We now know that, depending on the weather, camels can withstand a considerable water loss and still remain healthy. That doesn’t mean that they don’t get thirsty, though. After going several days without water, camels may drink many gallons of water to replace their lost body moisture.

4. False. An ostrich may not be the smartest animal on earth, but it isn’t dumb. Breathing with its head underground would be rather difficult. Maybe that’s why no one has actually seen an ostrich with its head buried.

The fact that an ostrich drops to the earth and stretches its neck out parallel to the ground to watch for signs of an enemy probably gave rise to the idea that it buried its head in the ground whenever it sensed danger. They are smart enough, though, to run like crazy—they have been clocked at speeds of 40 miles (64 km) an hour—if an enemy gets too close.

5. False. Although the owl’s solemn face with its large, piercing eyes make it appear wise, there are many birds that have greater wisdom. The owl’s keen eyesight and sharp sense of hearing, however, make it valuable to farmers because it rids the countryside of harmful rodents.

6. True. Bears do hibernate during the winter. But unlike other, smaller, warm-blooded hibernators whose heartbeats slow and whose temperatures drop, the body temperature and breathing of bears remain relatively normal. And if it warms up a little, they might even take a stroll and get a bite to eat. So watch out for hungry bears that look like they are sleepwalking!

7. False. This superstition probably started because of the unpleasant sensation felt when touching a toad’s rough skin. Handling a toad won’t cause even a tiny wart.

Now, tell the truth. Were you fooled by any of these statements? If you weren’t, then you must know that a gorilla beats its chest when it is going to attack. Right?


Illustrated by Richard Hull