From the earliest cave paintings man has been in awe of animals, perhaps because they can easily do things that we can’t – like flying and swimming huge distances, returning home year after year, predicting changes in the weather, even seeming to know when natural disasters are about to occur. Animals seem to have some sort of sixth-sense, and maybe they can even look into the future too.
Most people have heard the groundhog legend – if a groundhog sees his shadow on the morning of February 2, winter will last six more weeks – probably because of the 1993 film starring Bill Murray. But the groundhog isn’t the only animal that can allegedly predict our future weather. The striped black and brown American Woollybear racing caterpillar is also a weatherman. Folklore has it that if the brown stripe is thick, winter will be severe; if it's thin, the season will be mild and the racing? Well, the 100,000 people who attend the Woollybear Festival in Vermillion, Ohio each autumn seem to enjoy racing caterpillars.
The Japanese firmly believe that catfish can predict earthquakes. A group of Japanese scientists spent 16 long, fish-watching, years recording the behaviour of a tank of catfish in Tokyo and then comparing their results against recorded seismic activity. The Japanese research proved that the fish really did become more agitated a few days before a quake; but they reacted to even tiny tremors in the same way as larger ones – making their fishy predictions practically useless.
Natural phenomena like weather and earthquakes are one thing, but how good are animals at predicting other, man-made, outcomes?
If you want to know how your stocks and shares are going to perform then maybe a little bird can tell you. In a contest in South Korea a Polly proved to be better than most humans at picking successfully performing stocks. The parrot’s return on investment was 13.7 percent — beating eight out of ten of the human contestants, who only averaged a 4.6 percent loss.
It isn’t all good news either. There's a cat in Rhode Island who seems to know when someone is about to die. Over the course of five years Oscar the cat has predicted the deaths of over fifty of the residents of the nursing home where he lives. All he does is curl up with a patient and within a few hours Oscar’s choice has passed away. Best not call out ‘Here kitty, kitty” when Oscar is around.
Even reptiles seem to have the foretelling knack. In 2010, Harry the crocodile chose a chicken carcass decorated with a photo of the Labour Party's Julia Gillard, instead of one with an image of her opponent, snappily predicting the Prime Minister’s victory in the election.
Money, politics, and death are all very well – but what about predicting something really important like football?
Perhaps the best known animal oracle ever was Paul the World Cup Wonder Octopus. Paul, who lived in an aquarium of the German city of Oberhausen, correctly predicted the winner of eight (one for each tentacle) consecutive World Cup games and the winners of the 2010 World Cup. He made his choice by selecting a mussel from one of two boxes decorated with the flags of the competing countries. Paul passed away only a few months after the tournament was over and since then, the search for his successor has been well-and-truly on. A sheep in New Zealand named Sonny has recently been filling the woolly void left by Paul’s passing. Sonny correctly predicted the winner of all his home team's matches in the 2011 Rugby World Cup and he’s not the only potential heir to Paul’s fortune telling crown. Ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2012 opening game all types of creatures are queuing for the title of the world’s most psychic animal.
Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine have rounded-up a psychic pig who they are hoping can snuffle out a winner. The unnamed hog will appear for predictions on the city’s main avenue, Khreshchatyk, each match day at 4:00 pm when the tournament begins in co-host nation Poland on June 8.
Milking it for all it is worth… a German farmer in Deggendorf thinks that Yvonne the cow can pick a winner – a small-clawed otter at the zoo in Aue, Germany, will be making predictions on their matches at Euro 2012 – and let’s not forget Nelly the elephant, an inmate of Serengeti Park in Hodenhagen, Germany, who has already predicted that Germany would beat Portugal.
Krakow Zoo has even been holding auditions to find Paul the octopus’ replacement. Narrowing it down to a final three, from a field that that included a goat and a monkey, Citta the elephant was chosen ahead of Mary the donkey and a parrot called Kuba. Citta correctly predicted that Chelsea would win the final of the Champions League last month after choosing a Chelsea designated apple, and has now been put to the test to predict Poland’s group matches.
All of this seems to match-up to provide conclusive evidence that animals can indeed predict the future. So I’m off to find a fortune-telling feline with a crystal ball – it’s a rollover this Friday!