History is full of strange animal stories, invented by the brightest and most influential, from Aristotle to Disney, and they reveal as much about us and the things we believe as they do about the animals they misrepresent. We once thought that eels were born from sand, that swallows hibernated under water, and that bears gave birth to formless lumps that were licked into shape by their mothers. In The Unexpected Truth About Animals, zoologist Lucy Cooke unravels many such myths, revealing the fascinating – and often hilarious – facts she's uncovered while chasing hyenas, spying on penguins and stalking drunk moose. You'll learn why sloths risk their lives to poo, how bats joined the Allies in the Second World War, and the mystery of the beaver's balls. And you'll discover that even the most outlandish theories may have some truth in them after all.
Lucy Cooke is an award-winning broadcaster and filmmaker with a Masters in zoology from Oxford university (where she was tutored by Richard Dawkins). She started her TV career behind the scenes in comedy but is becoming an increasingly familiar face of natural history having presented prime time series for BBC, ITV and National Geographic. She writes for the Telegraph and the Huffington Post, and was recently called 'the new David Attenborough' by The Times. Her only previous book (a picture book about sloths - The Little Book of Sloth) was a New York Times bestseller.
– Bill Bryson
"Eye-opening, informative and very funny!"
– Chris Packham
"Well-informed and downright funny"
– Richard Dawkins
"A riot of facts [...] Cooke scores a series of goals with style and panache."
– James Marriott, The Times
"Beautifully written, meticulously researched, with the science often couched in outrageous asides, this is a splendid read. In fact, I cannot remember when I last enjoyed a non-fiction work so much."
– William Hartston, Daily Express
"Best science pick [...] Sigmund Freud's first paper involved the dissection of eels in an attempt to locate their testes. To his frustration, Freud failed to find any. The eel's life cycle remains slippery, notes natural-history broadcaster Lucy Cooke in her deeply researched, sassily written history of "the biggest misconceptions, mistakes and myths we've concocted about the animal kingdom", spread by figures from Aristotle to Walt Disney. Other chapters spotlight the sloth, vulture, hippopotamus, panda, chimpanzee and others, and dismantle anthropocentric clichés with scientific,
– Barbara Kiser, Nature
"Lucy Cooke's The Unexpected Truth About Animals was a joy from beginning to end. Who could resist a writer who argues that penguins have been pulling the wool over our eyes for years, and that, far from being cute and gregarious, they are actually pathologically unpleasant necrophiliacs?"
– John Crace, Guardian
"Packed with knowledge and eye-opening animal history [...] almost every page contains something startling. In bringing us all this information, Cooke has clearly done her homework – travelling the world to see the animals for herself, and consulting many obscure books [...] a winning combination of thorough knowledge, lots of good jokes and a passionate love of animals that means Cooke can even mount convincing defences of such despised creatures as vultures. An often eye-popping, occasionally hair-raising, but ultimately joyous reminder of just how strange our world is. "
– Daily Mail