7 Random Animals That Decided The Course of History
We've all heard that story of a butterfly that flaps its wings, and through a chain of events triggers a hurricane on the other side of the world. We've always taken that as just some kind of trippy thought experiment for guys to ponder while stoned, but if you look at real history you find entire world events turning on the actions of creatures every bit as insignificant as that butterfly.
Their stories are presented here in precise order of how ridiculous they are.
The Dog that Saved Napoleon
Today "Waterloo" is synonymous with a massive, cataclysmic defeat. It was the last clash of the Napoleonic Wars and a spectacular end to the career of a man who wanted to rule all of Europe. And it wouldn't have happened if not for a random, unnamed dog.
A few years before all that, things started going downhill for Napoleon (something to do with his deciding to invade Russia, with the mindset of a man going to hunt grizzly bears with a bouquet of freshly picked parsley). After he was roughly cornholed in Russia, Bonaparte was exiled to the small island of Elba.
However, in 1815, Napoleon, being Napoleon, had enough of that shit and slipped past the guards and set sail off the island. But legend has it that during a particularly rough storm at sea, the fleeing Napoleon was thrown overboard. The tale of one of the most important figures in history would have ended right there, had not an unnamed Newfoundland dog plunged into the water to save him.
Imagine that little tiger is Napoleon.
It sounds like something from a Disney cartoon, but Newfoundlands are known for this (it's probably why one was on the boat in the first place). And, where in a Disney movie this is when Napoleon and the (talking) dog would strike up a friendship that teaches them both about the value of accepting people different from themselves, in real life Napoleon returned to France and started killing people, setting off his famous Hundred Days, a military campaign to regain power.
The final stage of this campaign was the famous Battle of Waterloo where Napoleon's career as a conqueror came to an end once and for all.
The Pig that Created European Democracy
See if you can follow this domino-like series of events. You have King Philip of France, the eventual successor to the throne and his younger brother Louis, who spent his childhood training for the monastery. After Philip was enthroned as co-king in 1129, he quickly turned into an angsty teenager, often rebelling against his father, which by 12th century standards probably amounted to attending a lot of underground flute concerts.
Philip was out being rebellious one day, tearing ass along the Seine on his 12th century motorcycle (sometimes referred to as a horse)...
More or less this.
...when suddenly a small, black pig darted out of a dung heap and tripped the horse. The resulting wreck killed Philip.
But why do we care about that, almost nine centuries later?
Well, the pig-triggered death opened the throne for Louis VII, up to that point known as Louis the guy who'd spent his entire life preparing to not have sex with anyone in a monastery. His strongly Catholic upbringing caused him to accompany the Pope on a little trip to the holy land known as the Second Crusade.
How did that end? Jerusalem was lost, thousands died on both sides and Muslims regained control of the Holy Land.
"All according to my devious, convoluted plan. Perfect."
Another thing Louis's monastic upbringing didn't prepare him for was boning. His wife Eleanor of Aquitaine famously said "she had thought to marry a King, only to find she'd married a monk." To pour salt on that fresh BURN, she divorced his ass and married Henry II, King of England, and gave birth to five of his sons. One of those sons was King John (yes, comic relief from all those Robin Hood stories).
Not only did this cause an enormous rift between England and France, but King John sucked at being king so much that he would eventually be forced to sign the Magna Carta, which then became the basis for all of democracy in Europe. He wouldn't have existed if not for Eleanor's re-marriage, which wouldn't have happened if not for the Second Crusade, which France likely wouldn't have been in if not for Philip's accident. That'll do, pig.
The Two Monkeys That Caused 250,000 People to Die
So you're probably thinking that dying from a pig accident is the silliest way a king has ever died. And you would be wrong. At least one of them died via monkey attack.
Alexander I was the King of Greece in the early 20th Century. World War I had just ended, and since you don't want to stop warring all at once, Greece decided to walk it off by going to war with the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey).
With the aid of Britain and France, Greece was going through Turkey like it was Thanksgiving. However, in 1920, while he was strolling through the Royal Gardens in Athens with his dog, Alexander was attacked. By monkeys.
Nope, that's "Monkees," although it is equally retarded.
There has been some confusion as to where the monkeys came from, some historians claimed they were his pets and that they were attacking his dog due to some complex intra-pet politics we will not go into here. Others assert they were wild monkeys. We choose to believe they were trained Turkish assassins dressed in adorable people clothes.
Either way, the king was bitten on the hand, the hand got infected and Alexander died of sepsis. It turns out that bite changed history in the region.
After the death of Alexander, his father Constantine returned to the throne. Unfortunately, back in WWI, Constantine technically might have theoretically, in passing, sided with the Germans, so France and Britain were not as eager to help him out in his conquest of the Ottoman Empire.
But hey, if the King of Greece cannot step over a few Turks without the help of a bunch of Frog Eaters and Limeys, then something is very wrong with the world, right? He plunged ahead. Then he got his ass handed to him.
The Greek army was destroyed, a quarter of a million soldiers died, Greece lost all the land that Alexander acquired. Greece was from then on more or less Turkey's bitch and the never ending debate over the origin of kebab began.
The Cat Who Single-Handedly Wiped Out a Species
We tend to think of nature pretty much living in harmony, until evil mankind comes along with bulldozers and pollutants and kills off any species unfortunate enough to be born defenseless and/or delicious. But sometimes, nature commits that kind of genocide all on her own. It just takes a predator badass enough to wipe out every single member of another species.
That predator's name was Tibbles. It was a lighthouse keeper's cat that single-handedly wiped out the Stephens Island Wren.
Stephens Island is the most distant island off the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island and was known to hold a certain number of the wrens, little flightless birds which fed on insects and apparently went down pretty good with a bowl of milk.
It is unknown how these little walking feathered balls even got on the island, since they can't fly and all. But in true slasher flick fashion, the second they decided to camp out on that old isolated piece of land, the lot of them were slaughtered by a local demon beast.
"They call me Mr. Tibbles."
For weeks, Tibbles has been hunting the wrens for sport, until his owner noticed that they looked like no bird he had ever seen. The unique species was then examined, classified... and declared extinct; within the same year. A small corner of Earth's ecosystem was changed forever, due to a lone house cat.
The Greyhound that Created the Church of England
Even if you know nothing of history, you probably know Henry VIII as the guy who kept beheading his wives when they refused to bear him sons. He is also responsible for one of the most important events in the history of Christianity, when he broke from the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England. According to psychology professor, Stanly Coren, none of it might have happened if it had not been for one over-protective dog.
At the time, Henry VIII had been boning Catherine of Aragon. But, noticing an alarmingly low number of sons spawning from her cooch, he lamented all this time wasted on sex (when drinking was possible) and brought some fresh booty to the court, Anne Boleyn. He decided to make her a permanent addition to his royal bedchamber.
"Alright. Let's see what YOUR vagina can do."
The problem? This pesky Catholicism bit which is so uncool about the whole adultery-divorce thing. When Henry requested a divorce from Pope Clement VII, he sent his trusted Cardinal Wolsley to negotiate the deal.
The story goes that during the meeting it looked like the Pope would give an OK for Henry to put his dick in Anne's Christmas Pudding. But Wolsey had, for some reason, brought his greyhound, Urian, along. When it came time for Wolsley to kiss the Pope's foot, as was the custom back then, his dog suddenly perked up and saw what he thought was some flamboyantly-dressed man about to kick his master in the head. The dog jumped at the Holy Father and bit him.
Greyhounds hate Popes.
Clement was furious, ending the meeting and refusing the divorce. Henry would break ties with Rome over the incident, and the whole English Reformation followed.
The Horse Who Cured Diphtheria and Reformed Medicine
Jim was a milk wagon horse who lived between the late 19th and early 20th century and, at one point, seemed to have had contracted diphtheria. His owner was ready to take him out back and send him to that beautiful farm up North where grandma and mommy's lover went last week, but something unheard of happened: Jim got better.
It looked like he had somehow developed antibodies for the disease, and researchers used him to create large quantities of diphtheria antitoxin that saved who knows how many lives. But he wasn't done making his massive and accidental impact on the world of medicine.
In 1901, Jim contracted tetanus. This was bad for him, as it meant it was time for him to be shipped to the glue factory once and for all. But it was even worse news for 13 patients who were injected with Jim-brand diphtheria antitoxin that had been extracted after he got tetanus. This resulted in all of their deaths. That, doubled with a smallpox outbreak killing nine people, was enough to make the world wake up and realize maybe somebody should be checking this shit ahead of time.
Ma'am, trust me; I know what I am doing. This untested horse medicine will make your baby feel all better.
So someone stood up and said, "Guys, call me crazy, but how about we start setting up some... standards, for stuff we put into our bodies, eh?" Seeing as it was 1902, the man was probably beaten heavily and placed in an asylum, but the idea became popular and resulted in the passing of the Biologics Control Act, which established the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which itself set the stage for the formation of the freaking FDA.
So now, when the government tells you that you cannot inject that liquid possum scrotum into your urethra, you will know to blame Jim.
The Pig Who Gave Us The Dark Knight
We're not saying everyone in Hollywood is some kind of eccentric freak. All we're saying is that for years George Clooney had a 300-pound Vietnamese black bristled potbellied pig that sometimes slept in his bed.
Max the Star, as he was called, often took part in interviews and in 2006 even took a ride on John Travolta's private jet, where he presumably tried to convert it to Scientology. But if Clooney can be believed, if we didn't have Max the Pig, we wouldn't have George Clooney the actor.
Back in January of 1994, when Clooney had Max but did not have stardom (ER would come later that year), a strong earthquake struck L.A., killing around 60 people and injuring thousands more.
Clooney has said in numerous interviews that he was in bed with Max that morning, and that the pig, sensing the earthquake before the humans (earthquakes are apparently very similar to truffles in this regard) nuzzled his master awake. Clooney says this was the only reason he was able to get out of the building in time, and that Max saved his life. Now you feel bad for judging him for sleeping with a huge pig. Naked.
Anyway, if it hadn't been for Max, Clooney would never have gone on to become a superstar. He would never have wound up in a nippled Batsuit and for all we know, Batman and Robin wouldn't have gotten made at all.
Thus there would have been no need to reboot the franchise with Batman Begins and of course, The Dark Knight. Clooney, meanwhile, would have been known only as a "nameless man found nude with pig in earthquake aftermath" in the "News of the Weird" column of USA Today.
While not writing for Cracked, you can find Cezary at DrownYourself.com.
For more historical animals, check out 7 Badass Animals Presidents Have Kept As Pets and 7 Ridiculous Cases Where Animals Were Put On Trial.
And stop by Cracked.com's Top Picks to see our office cat playing with some yarn.