As if leading a country in the midst of a world war was not more than enough to occupy someone, few people know that Winston Churchill was consumed by a lifelong passion: keeping exotic creatures.
The dodo is a familiar image from books such as Alice in Wonderland or natural history museums- and it's one of the most prevalent icons of anthropogenic extinction. The real bird was probably nothing like the fat, ungainly creature charactured in literature or media, it was certainly a welcome treat for hungry sailors when it... Continue Reading →
Human cultures have found many different ways of bringing the realm of the living and the supernatural together, often using animals.
In 1522, the dismembered skins of new and fabulous creatures were brought to the court of Emperor Charles V.
Almost nobody knows what a pangolin is - even the description 'scaly anteater' usually causes bemused looks. It's not like they haven't been familiar in Europe for hundreds of years.But the creatures they came from remained enigmatic. The first accounts of pangolins written by Europeans give a clue as to why.
I recently consulted as one of the 'unicorn experts' for a lovely article in The Observer by Alice Fisher, 'Why the unicorn has become the emblem for our times'. It got me thinking about unicorns, and I came up with a piece of a very different sort to that the Observer published, but I'll keep... Continue Reading →