Posts Tagged ‘Kinkajou’

miley foot

Miley’s front foot is very typical of a dog foot. It’s designed for running long and hard over open ground, but you’ll note that she does have dewclaw on the foot.

Because dogs are digitigrade, it looks like her dewclaw is half way up her wrist, but that’s not actually her “wrist” at all. That’s the part of her foot that doesn’t touch the ground.

Although dogs do use their dewclaws, their exact utility is pretty limited. They can’t grab things with them, and in many breeds, it is still traditional for people to remove them on very young puppies. It’s done to prevent tearing, which is actually a pretty rare occurrence, even among dogs that still have their dewclaws on the front legs.

All species of dog have dewclaws on the front legs, except for the African wild dog.  It is so well-adapted to cursorial hunting, that the dewclaw has already disappeared in that species.

But where would such digit come from?

Well, if you really want to know, you better understand evolution.

Just as the big toe on humans is a severely modified great ape “thumb,” the dewclaw started out as a fully functional fifth digit.

To understand this a bit better, one must look at an animal that retains many features of the primitive carnivorans.

Probably the best example I can think of is the kinkajou. Kinkajous are procyonids that are almost entirely arboreal in their habits, and in this way, they strongly resemble the ancestral carnivoran in both habits and phenotype.

Indeed, they are so primitive in appearance that their bodies actual remind meany people of very primitive primates, which led many people to deem the kinkajou a type of monkey.  In some Latin American countries, kinkajous are still called “night monkeys.”

And they actually look more like some kind of primate than many lemurs and bush babies do! That’s because if you go far back enough in the lineage of placental mammals, you will find ancestral arboreal animals that look something like this.

Kinkajous and dogs last shared a common ancestor some 40 or 50 million years ago. Their common ancestors were creatures called miacids, and these particular miacids were the ancestral caniforms. The big split in caniforms happened the dog family split off from the rest to go chasing things on the ground.

The ancestors of kinkajous stayed in the trees, and as predators, they are pretty poor at the game. Indeed, they live almost exclusively on fruit and nectar from flowers.

In the trees, their feet have never undergone the selection pressures that have made the dogs’ running shoes. Their feet have stayed very much like those primitive carnivorans.

In the photo above, you can see that a kinkajou has hands that almost resemble our own. They can actually grab things and hold them in those hands, as you can see in this video:


Although dogs can turn door knobs with their paws, they really can’t grab things in quite the same way.

Now, dogs have certainly not gone as far as horses have on their digitigrade anatomy. Horses run around on a single toe with a very hard and thick nail on it.

But they have lost their ancestral hands.

Their feet are now runner’s cleats.

The only vestige that they were once designed quite differently is that dewclaw.

And even if dewclaws are not entirely useless, they aren’t nearly as functional to a dog as that fifth digit is to a kinkajou.

In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing dogs don’t still have those kind of feet. Just imagine what kind of trouble they could cause if they were able to manipulate objects as well as a kinkajou can!







Read Full Post »

Several years ago, Paris Hilton helped start a craze for Chihuahuas. Chihuahuas now swamp California's shelters.

Every couple of years, a new fad pet pops up. You never know what it is going to be, but all of a sudden, you see celebrities with some kind of unusual animal and then you see average people spending exorbitant sums for these creatures. Then, almost predictably, the shelters and sanctuaries start to fill up with these animals. Reality sets in, and their fickle and often ill-informed owners dump them.

This week it was reported that the Chihuahuas are now overrunning California’s shelters. It is actually pretty easy to see why.

In recent years, the Chihuahua has been the fad pet of so many celebrities, not the least of which is Paris Hilton.

“High volume” breeders began to produce as many Chihuahuas as possible, often breeding the smallest and most sickly animals they could find in order to produce dogs that could fit in handbags. (Of course, it’s actually quite hard to mass produce the smallest Chihuahuas, because it is very hard for them to give birth.)

I remember going on youtube and looking at videos of tiny Chihuahua puppies. Their parents were not present in the photos, so one can only assume that they were enjoying their lives as battery-cage breeding stock.

Of course, Chihuahuas have a major fault. It is not that they are all sickly and neurotic and aggressive.

It is that they aren’t treated like the dogs they are. They are more likely treated as babies or fashion accessories, and this treatment turns them into demons.

And as the Chihuahua fad has begun to wane, the dogs that were treated in such a fashion have now matured into two or three year-old maneaters (if Chihuahuas were big enough to become maneaters).

And thus, they have been sent to the shelters.

It’s very sad that so many people want the pets that their favorite celebrities have.

I always thought Paris Hilton was an example of a bad role model.

And in the case of dogs, she definitely is!


A few years ago, Paris was into keeping animals that were illegal to keep in California. She had a ferret hanging around in hand bag.

Now ferrets are totally legal in most states in the US, but California does not allow them.

But they are not such unusual pets, so I doubt that she could have started a fad with that animal.

Then Paris upped the ante.

In 2005, she purchased a kinkajou, which she named “Baby Luv.” (A sickening name if you ask me.)

Kinkajous could have gone the way of the Chihuahuas. However, things didn’t turn out quite as well.

Despite the moronically cutesy name that Paris gave to this animal, Baby Luv still had enough of her wild instincts left.

In 2006, Baby Luv bit Paris, and Paris had to go to the emergency room for a tetanus shot.

I had read in several places that California authorities confiscated Paris’s kinkajou. Some of these sources claimed that a kinkajou was a pet monkey. Kinkajous are actually procyonids (the raccoon family.) They have prehensile tails that are very similar to those of many New World monkeys. In some parts of Latin America they are called “monos de noche” (night monkeys), but they are not monkeys at all.

In fact, there are only two members of the order Carnivora that have prehensile tails. The other is the binturong or bear cat, which a type of civet that is also known for smelling like popcorn. No one would mistake this animal for a monkey, and Paris would have hard time putting one into a handbag, which might explain why they have never become fad pets.

Of course, Kinkajous didn’t become fad pets either,  thanks to Baby Luv’s little nip!  Kinkajous are docile animals most of the time, but they hate being woken up in the middle of the day (a trait it would share with Paris). If given free run of the house, they have been known to come into bedrooms and attack people while they sleep. They also cannot be house broken. Kinkajous live in trees, so they just let it rip where ever they are.

I honestly cannot see why anyone would want one as a pet.


Now that the Chihuahua fad has started to subside (and the consequences of such buffoonery are coming to the fore), a new handbag creature has suddenly appeared.

We have left the Order Carnivora entirely.

Now it is the Order Erinaceomorpha.

The latest handbag accessory creature is the hedgehog. (And you thought I was talking about moonrats, which are also Erinaceomorphs.)

Now, there are no hedgehogs native to the Americas.

However, in the mid-90’s, pet shops began offering what were called African pygmy hedgehogs. These hedgehogs descended from two interfertile species of African hedgehog and are not technically a true species. They are derived from the four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), which is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Algerian hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), which is native to North Africa but is also found in Spain, France, and the Canary Islands, where it was introduced.

Now, these hedgehogs are not terrible pets, but they do have specific requirements. They need large cages in which they can move around, and for a small animal they require lots of exercise. They also have very specific dietary needs, which must be low in fat and high in protein. They also must of chitin in their diets, which they obtain in the wild from the exoskeltons of arthropods.

They also have a host of genetic diseases, which may come from either inbreeding or genetic issues that result from their hybrid ancestry. They are well-known to have various forms of cancer, but they also have a disorder called wobbly hedgehog syndrome, which is thought to be a genetic neurological disorder.

They also have to be kept at a temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or they will hibernate, and as nocturnal animals, they are most active at night.

Is this an animal that belongs in a handbag?

Most certainly not.

And my guess is it won’t be long before the shelters start to fill up with hedgehogs.


America has a long history with fad pets. In the 80’s, it was the pot-bellied pig and llama, both of which are domestic animals but have very specific requirements. In the 70’s, it was the ocelot that everyone had to have. In the 60’s,  everyone wanted to keep a big cat (so lots of fools bought leopards, cougars, cheetahs, and even lions and tigers, which then wound up released into the countryside.)

And one cannot forget the fads in domestic dogs. In the nineteenth century, the Newfoundland dog was hawked by every dog dealer on the street. Then bull terriers and collies became the dogs that every middle class family wanted. Today, the bulldog and the aforementioned Chihuahua have experienced an uptick in popularity.

And then I haven’t even mentioned breeds that have been in the AKC’s top ten in registrations for decades, like the German shepherd, the poodle, the Labrador, the beagle, and the golden and Labrador retrievers. These animals seem to get no break at all from a constant fad breeding and mass production.

I think it is time for all of us who care about animals to say no to fads. Not every breed or species is for everyone, and no one should get animal that is illegal to keep in the first place or has specific care requirements that the prospective owner doesn’t know about, is incapable of providing, or simply refuses to provide.

It should also be noted that one should probably should not consider an animal that either considers humans to be prey or possesses lethal venom. Those animals are a bit risky.

Of course, keeping such animals does help thin out the human gene pool.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: