Questions from my Animals in Literature students to and from other species


Why do you watch us?

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Submissions are open for the inaugural Mkgnao prize for a piece of writing in an animal’s language. 

No more than 1000 words. Any literary form. There is no fee for entry. Continue reading

Yuan Yuan

All the animals in the world are dying, or something like that. I cannot remember the rate of extinction or of species decline although I have read about them several times. I am not so likely to recall the 16.8% increase in the wild population of pandas over the decade 2006-16 as I am likely to remember the story of a female panda whose keepers call her Yuan Yuan, who is now eleven, and was briefly fertile for a period last year. After spending some time with a male panda, Yuan Yuan began to show signs of pregnancy: she lost her appetite as though nauseous, she moved more slowly and the ultrasounds showed that her uterus was thickening. Continue reading

Rough draft

The animal body – how it is used for its products. Pasiphaë. Catherine the Great. Pepys jealous of the dog. (Micrographia that day.)

580. Eyes

Strength of sight meant loss of other things Continue reading


Coriolanus makes a lot of references to birds. For someone who says he’s inarticulate, he makes a lot of puns – accusing his soldiers of having ‘souls of geese’, for example,  he tells them battle is ‘not for the fliers’. Elsewhere, the people are crows, and a disruption of civil order will

Break ope the locks o’th’senate, and bring in

The crows to peck the eagles

(Punning on crowbars.) Later, he tells a servant that he lives in ‘th’city of kites and crows’, to which they reply: Continue reading


According to bovine behaviour experts, there are only five syllables in the cattle vocabulary. The scientist who learned to speak cow sat recording their voices in the cowshed, and out in the field with his subjects. He attempted to capture a representation of the cow’s sounds using his own alphabet, and he took notes on each vocalisation that he observed. This is what he came up with.

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In the Lab 2


The students blind themselves and incapacitate their opposable thumbs. The red masks they wear have no eyeholes and they extend two fingers while folding the others back against the palm. This is to rid themselves of any unfair advantage. The students are studying Ecology, Environmental Management or Applied Biology.

Each student takes a sheet of white paper to represent a field. Dried beans represent prey. The students represent predators.

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