Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Another piece of serendipity: the other day Alan Friswell came up with a particularly revolting article about training circus elephants and in last week's North Devon Journal - which was sitting on the kitchen table waiting to be turned into cage flooring for Jerry the increasingly faecally active jackdaw - I found this rather unpleasant article.

Not that it set out to be unpleasant. It merely chronicles a fascinating collection of photographs of bygone North Devon in the Beaford Art Centre, but no-one seems to have grasped the fact that, unlike horses and donkeys, elephants do not have hooves, and that putting a red hot horseshoe on a long suffering pachyderm would be akin to some particularly excrutiating Roman torture.

It is a wonder that the grinning blacksmith wasn't trampled into kingdom come!

1 comment:

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Jon, having seen this picture, I really do not think that this was any more than a posed picture made purely as a joke. To shoe a horse, you don't need to fit the shoe red-hot, but you do need to nail it onto a hoof, and you do this by nailing at an angle through the thickness of the hoof entirely in non-living tissues.

You can also use the old Roman hippo-sandal design, which is compression fit secured also by straps, and there are even horseshoes which are glued on (not that this works very well) but all these designs rely on a horse's foot being fairly rigid and unmoving.

By contrast an elephant's foot is quite flexible and as the animal puts down its foot the foot spreads under the weight. To shoe such a beast you'd be a lot better making a variant on a lace-up boot, using only leather and fabrics and no metal at all.

The clincher is how the elephant is tethered (it isn't, not at all) and the lack of clouds of smoke from burning hoof material. To shoe a horse, any horse, even the most willing and even-tempered animal alive a blacksmith always tethers the animal to something solid so that it can't get away and cannot turn round and attack the smith; this goes even for the smallest of Shetland ponies.

If you were trying to shoe an elephant, you'd want it tied very securely to a very big tree. That elephant is posing with a man at its side only; no way is any shoe being put on its feet.