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Published September 14, 2011 More Info »
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Published September 14, 2011
    Take out a sheet of paper and write out a list of animals in order of intelligence.  Now take this paper and rip it directly in half across the center.  Oh no, I didn’t mean that way, I was more thinking ripping across so that you would have two lists.  It looks like some of your longer animal names like hippopotamus and that other even longer word that I have to assume you made up have been broken up.  Anyways, this was going to be a fun activity where you keep breaking down your list until you’re only left with what I imagine you all have on the top of your intelligent animal list.  This “animal” is of course a bird known as nature’s college professor.  I am speaking of the owl.
    I was recently on a trip to a local nature center.  It’s not really important why I was there, but there happened to be a guest speaker in the center’s basement giving a talk on owls.  I took a seat near the back to hear about this wise bird and its world.  I found out a little bit about the owl’s large eyeballs, why their feathers are shaped the way they are (to allow it to fly more silently at night), and a little bit about some of their eating habits.  At the end of the mostly informative talk, the speaker asked if anyone had any questions.  When I saw that no hands were going up I thought, “alright nature center lady, I will toss up a softball on how smart these magnificent birds are.”  After asking the question she chuckled and then dropped a bomb.  “Owls are actually pretty dumb,” she said casually.  I felt my ears and face start to get hot.  What in the fuck is this lady talking about?  Was I the only one in this God-forsaken place that was under the impression that owls were smart or had everyone heard about this and just knew it was false.  I felt like someone had just kicked my legs out from underneath me just as they told me something I thought was smart really wasn’t. 
    In almost every cartoon I can think of that takes place in a forest, there is super smart owl professor.  Or if the owl has not received his (or her, I guess) full professorship, he’s at least obviously someone that one can go to in order to get some seriously deep advice.  Some of a child’s earliest contact with the world comes through television and to be blatantly lied to like this can lead to serious issues with development.  I guess I should have seen this coming when I think back about that famous commercial for Tootsy Pops.  The children in the commercial go to the wise owl to find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of the delicious sucker treat.  The owl doesn’t straight away give the answer.  He takes the sucker from the kids, licks it three times, and then with his crazy strong owl-beak, crushes through the entire thing.  Thanks a lot, owl.  If you didn’t know the answer, just say so instead of eating my candy.  Also, I’m guessing that it might take a large bird of prey way fewer licks than it would your average seven year old.  I bet a crocodile could chomp through after two licks (maybe fewer).  I should have gathered from this that despite their beautiful robes and tasseled hats, owls are not as smart as they seem.  Finally, as I reevaluate my view of the animal kingdom make sure you recycle the paper that you ripped up.  Next time, if you’re not sure of instructions, make sure you ask a question before you go doing something that you can’t undo (unless you have glue, staples, or tape around).  
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