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There's a line running smack-dab down the middle of the animal kingdom. On one side of the line are the creatures entirely responsible for keeping the bed-sheet industry afloat (by giving us all relentless night terrors). On the other side are the critters you wouldn't think twice about patting on the head or savagely finger-flicking away, as applicable. But occasionally Mother Nature belts out a maniacal cackle while slipping an animal from the "harmless" side over to the "horrifying" side.

6
Your Pet Gerbil's Horrifying Upgrade: The Capybara

Praveen Siddannavar , via National Geographic

The terms "rodent" and "big game" were mutually exclusive right up until the capybara came along. You've likely heard of them and their propensity for growing to Food Of The Gods-style proportions, but you really must see them out of context in order to gain a proper appreciation for their gigantic, outright wrongness.

Miguel Ortiz

Via Doktorsblog.de
Wynona's got herself a big, brown ... WHAT THE GARDEN-DECIMATING FUCK?

Reigning from the lowlands of South America, the biggest recorded example of these mega-hamsters weighed in at a livestock-worthy 232 pounds. And though they're not the most intimidating creature in the jungle, their continuously growing teeth, combined with the fact that they can be found traveling in packs of up to 100, will make you sincerely hope they never find out about that time you accidentally mummified the class gerbil by refilling his water bottle exactly never.

Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images
"For General Fleecyshanks!"

Proving that not even an incessant flow of human-head-sized turds can dissuade people from trying to turn every goddamn thing into a pet, there are those who've done exactly that with capybaras -- even though they are illegal in many places, are prone to scurvy, will chew anything they find into kindling, and have a tendency to launch ass-scented hairs from their anal glands at the slightest provocation. And, in a turn of events that we're sure is in no way related to that ass-hair thing, there's a distinct possibility that Florida may soon be overrun with these guinea pigs the size of a Buick. The Syfy original movie practically writes itself.

5
The Sheep's Horrifying Upgrade: The Jacob Sheep

Christian Musat/iStock/Getty Images

If you were asked to come up with a list of the least-nightmare-inducing animals, the fluffy, care-free sheep would surely come in close to the top. But that's only because you've never seen a sheep that's practically begging to be a background prop for your next satanic human sacrifice, demonic summoning ritual, or other such unholy endeavor.

John Adkins II/iStock/Getty Images

jam4travel/iStock/Getty Images
Life is simple yet brutal down at Ronnie James Dio Farms.

Nobody knows how, where, or exactly when the Jacob sheep originated, but they provide one instance in which the phrase "older than Methuselah" is completely warranted, seeing as how they're thought to be the sheep mentioned in the Book Of Genesis. They're unquestionably the horniest bastards around, sporting four to six gigantic, totally metal horns. And this isn't just to make them look spiffy for their guest spot on Headbangers Ball -- it also makes them a formidable opponent should wolves or coyotes get any bright ideas about lining up for an all-you-can-eat lamb-chop buffet. Farmers of yore were so impressed by their Beelzebub-ish visage that Jacob sheep were employed as wooly security guards.

Dakin Roy/Photodisc/Getty Images
It's certainly more weaponry than the average mall cop gets to carry.

Jacob sheep are an "heirloom" breed, meaning they're basically intact from how they originated thousands of years ago, with none of the human meddling that might have bred the abyss out of them. As a result, they're leaner and more agile than their docile counterparts and, in an overshare that does precisely zero favors for any prevailing sheep-farmer stereotypes, they have short, smooth, wool-free scrotums.

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The Catfish's Horrifying Upgrade: The Wels Catfish

Yuri Grisendi

Most people's familiarity with catfish ends at either the breaded or the blackened variety. But a nightmarish case of heartburn is far from the freakiest aspect of these bottom-dwelling, whisker-faced skulkers. Sometimes they get big. Real big. We're talking "holy shit, someone irradiated this goddamn river" big.

Via Sportex Italia/Facebook
"We're going to need a bigger mantel in the den. Also, a bigger den."

Wels catfish are native to European rivers and lakes, but they've managed to spread their territory considerably due to their ability to adapt in unforeseen ways, as demonstrated by their hobby of murdering mammals and birds, which you may recognize as non-aquatic creatures. As advertised, Wels are friggin' huge -- one was recently caught in Italy that weighed 19 stone. Converted to American measurements, that's "Honda Civic" (OK, about 270 pounds). It's the world's third-largest freshwater fish and can live 30 years or more, which is plenty of time to plot ironic revenge against that fisherman who mocked it decades ago by throwing it back for being too small.

Via Angling Times
"Get your head anywhere near my mouth and we'll see who's 'not enough for a fish stick.'"

They take full advantage of their tonnage to capture prey, flapping their spiked pectoral fins to create swirling eddies that disorient their victims and whirlpool them into their cavernous maws. And though they don't have much in the way of fangs or even molars, they have something arguably worse -- tiny, velcro-like teeth that pull their helpless victims along their gullet to "crushing pads" at the back of their throat, like a conveyor belt down at the Cenobite factory.

Incredibly, the Wels isn't even the largest kaiju-catfish out there -- that title goes to the Mekong giant catfish, a scum-sucker the size of an adult grizzly bear. Sadly (or thankfully, depending on how you look at it), their numbers are dwindling. It seems the locals believe eating these behemoths brings good luck, and we tend to agree, seeing as how fishermen are damn lucky if they can even fit them onto their boats without capsizing.

Suthep Kritsanavarin, via National Geographic
Then they promptly chop them up into nuggets. So very many nuggets.

And while we're on the subject of things tremendous and altogether slimy ...

3
The Frog's Horrifying Upgrade: The Goliath Frog

Paul Zahl, Ph.D./National Geographic

Outside of the outrageously poisonous ones in the Amazon, frogs don't generally cause campers to shiver uncontrollably in their tents, fearing a slimy late-night visitor. But that's only because they've never had this ample amphibian wriggle his way into their sleeping bags for a midnight spooning session.

Via Frogsaregreen.org
"Buckle up; I'm a cuddler.

West African goliath frogs are the biggest frogs in the world. And not by a little bit. By a wide, unsettling bit. One would imagine their croaking abilities might be as impressive as their mind-bending size, their low throaty rumblings able to loosen bowels from distances of up to a mile, but in fact they don't have vocal sacs at all. Instead, they hold their gaping mouths open and issue whistling howls.

Their numbers are on the decline, due in part to their popularity in the pet trade. Said popularity is quite possibly just a massive misunderstanding, considering that as tadpoles they're the same size as a normal, sanely proportioned frog. So, basically, a kid gets a baby frog, and the next thing you know it rapidly explodes into seven pounds of muculent abnormality.

Via Frogsaregreen.org
The kid on the left has that look on his face because the other kid's frog just swallowed his puppy.

Other than being super-sized, goliath frogs are pretty much like any other frog. They eat the same stuff you'd expect a frog to eat, like bugs, crustaceans, and fish. Oh, and bats. And, holy hell, each other.

Via Wdr.de
Because, obviously, flies don't come in big enough sizes to satisfy them (we hope).

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The Shrew's Horrifying Upgrade: The Venomous Solenodon

Tiffany Roufs. /Mongabay.com

It may look like something Jim Henson stitched together during his "fuck your children's ability to ever sleep again" phase and sound like a long-extinct creature from the Late Cretaceous, but the solenodon is very much not foam and very much not extinct. This hideous rat-possum is an ancient species that can be found only in a couple remote locales in the vicinity of Cuba, and it's disturbingly gigantic (for a rodent, anyway).

Seb az86556
Here's the part where New Yorkers inexplicably brag about their own locally grown rodents.

But its size isn't the most disconcerting thing this squinty-faced, schnauzer-sized shrew-beast has going for it -- it also smells like a goat and has nipples on its ass. And as if that weren't repellent enough, you should also be aware that solenodons -- which, we feel we should clarify, are mammals -- are venomous. And not only are they one of the few mammals on Earth to hold that distinction, they're absolutely the only ones who deliver their toxic payload by injecting it with their fangs. Said fangs aren't hollow like a snake's, but instead have a groove down which the poison dribbles into the freshly made wound. This explains the origin of their name, which is Greek for "grooved tooth."

Phil Myers
"Groovetooth" also being the name of the grunge band we just started (a good two decades too late).

While calling them not extinct earlier was technically true, it was just barely so -- solenodons are practically extinct, thanks to the fact that they're easy pickings for introduced, less ridiculous species like cats and dogs. This vulnerability is exacerbated by their tippy-toed, zig-zag running style, which frequently causes them to trip over their own feet and land directly on their ghastly faces. And all the venom in the world means precisely fuck-all when you're ass over tea kettle, dribbling it into the dirt.

1
The Owl's Horrifying Upgrade: The Potoo

Glenn Bartley/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

OK, that looks like a wacky bird character from a direct-to-video Ice Age sequel. Seriously, what the hell?

Full disclosure: The bird you're looking at is not an owl. It's a potoo, found throughout Central and South America. But it is nocturnal, it's carnivorous, it flies silently, and it relies on its eyesight to hunt. You know, like an owl. Where it starts to differentiate itself from an owl, however, is with a preposterously ginormous mouth that can open wide enough to shame a hippopotamus, and its penchant for hiding in plain sight by doing a dead-on impersonation of a dead log. Also, holy shit, look at those eyes. It's like Harry Potter's pet, if rather than a wizard Harry Potter were an evil clown.

Via Kotaku
Or like what would happen if Salacious Crumb slipped Woodsy Owl a roofy.

Their bizarre physical proportions have led at least one researcher to describe potoos as "little more than a flying mouth and eyes," and their call is straight-up creepy as balls.

But more sinister yet is the way they look when you catch them with their pupils fully dilated, causing their eyes to transform from unbearably goofy beach balls into the dead orbs of a Stygian harbinger of despair.

Via Wheremonstersdwell.com
"Honey, did you fill the bird feeder with the blood of a thousand virgins again?"

Despite their appearance, they actually eat bugs rather than the souls of those who doubt the power of Aphoom-Zhah (although there's evidence that they're not averse to gobbling down smaller birds, should the opportunity arise). After potoos mate (which we assume involves an O-face comparable to a black hole) the female produces exactly one egg, and instead of making a nest, she just plops it on top of a stump or tucks it between some tree limbs. This might seem like a risky venture for the propagation of the species, but fortunately potoos are more than a match for any snake ... should said match be a staring contest, that is.


You will imagine this staring at you the next time you have sex. You're welcome.

E. Reid Ross is a columnist at Man Cave Daily. Feel free to follow him on Twitter here.

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