In case you missed it, Canada recently celebrated its 150th birthday on July 1st, with a massive fireworks display in Ottawa, a strongman competition in Regina…and a giant rubber duck in Toronto.
Making Lake Ontario the grossest bathwater ever
As awesome as the duck was, it does cause one to wonder: why a duck? Of all the animals in the Great White North, why trot out a yellow duck instead of say, a huge wolf or an enormous caribou or a giant beaver?
Newspapers would have a much harder time making puns about a giant beaver
In fact, that brings up a tough question: what is the most Canadian animal? The beaver is the national animal, but maybe it’s the national animal in the way Ottawa is the national capital – it’s small and inconsequential and we just didn’t want it to feel bad.
Ottawa: the lame pity beaver of Canada
What is the Most Canadian animal, though? To answer that, we need to define Canada. That seems like a momentous cultural study in self-identity and global perception. Luckily I’ve already done that, in research I won’t show here. Turns out, the most Canadian animal would have to be:
Nice – the animal needs to show that all-Canadian niceness everyone talks about.
Cold – Or rather, adapted for coldness, because you can’t define Canada without mentioning our miserable weather.
Accepting of Others – Canadian pride themselves on their inclusiveness, so it’s animal should be, too.
UnAmerican – Canada is largely known for not being American, so its animal shouldn’t have many roots in the south, either.
Screw you, bald eagle
We can rank each of those categories out of 10. I’ve thoroughly analyzed every animal in Canada, and have narrowed the field to four:
I wanted to include the grizzly bear, but its scientific name is Ursus horribilis (“terrifying bear”), so they’re probably not nice enough. A grizzly bear also ate the Grizzly Man. You could make a case for the caribou or lynx, but not really. Orcas and other whales kind of swim between countries, the ocean is their real home, so they’re out. Likewise, the Canada goose and loon are out, because f*** birds.
Shut the hell up, you hideous shit-swan. You’re an embarrassment to the entire country
Time to find the Most Canadian Animal.
Nice – I guess it’s hard for a carnivore to be considered “nice”, but the gray wolf has some manners. They generally don’t attack humans, and they are recent ancestors of today’s domestic dogs, and dogs are super nice. On the other hand, they sometimes cannibalize other wolves, and unlike most predators, they eat their prey alive, which is not as nice.
Cold – Gray wolves have evolved long, dense fur and is better insulated than dog fur, which is why your Chihuahua doesn’t hunt on the open tundra. The arctic wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf, and they can survive temps of -40°C by sticking the muzzle between their legs and wrapping their tail around it, which is hilarious.
Accepting of Others – Wolves are social animals, and live in packs with their families, often getting into passive-aggressive fights about whose turn it is to clean up the ravaged carcass. But they are very territorial, and attack and kill other wolves who come into their range, which seems less accepting.
UnAmerican – Canada has over 60 000 gray wolves and counting. Unfortunately, America has 18 000, and even though most of those are in Alaska, the American Canada, it still counts.
TOTAL: 26/40. Gray wolves can handle the cold, but are too territorial. They need to learn about Canada’s “tossed salad” that they taught us about in Grade 4.
Nice – Adorably, beavers are monogamous and mate for life, raising their offspring together. They’re basically the nuclear family unit of semiaquatic rodents. They also slap their tails against the water to warn other animals of predators. The North American beaver is called Castor Canadensis, or the Canadian beaver, so it must be nice.
Searching for “nice beaver” does not bring up articles about aquatic mammals.
Cold – Beavers produce castor oil, which makes their fur waterproof and keeps them warm. Still, they can’t handle the extreme cold of the arctic, and they don’t leave their lodge all winter, instead snacking on a stockpile of sticks until the spring comes.
Accepting of Others – Beavers are peaceful animals, with a strong family structure. Beavers are a bit territorial, but exhibit the “dear enemy effect”, where they are less aggressive toward neighbouring beavers than complete strangers.
UnAmerican – Despite being a symbol of Canada, the beaver is all over North America. They even have “urban beavers” in U.S. cities like New York and Chicago. These ones are probably street-wise, and wear bandannas and engage in gang warfare by chopping down rival beavers’ trees.
Such senseless violence
TOTAL: 25/40. Beavers are symbols of Canada, but they live in the U.S. They’re basically every Canadian celebrity.
Nice – Moose have a reputation of the big, dopey friends of the forest, but don’t be fooled – they will kill you. Bull moose get especially pissy during mating season. In fact, moose attack more people than bears and wolves combined.
Cold – Moose can plow through the snow, and have specialized fur to keep insulated. They can’t handle the extreme cold, though, and stay out of the arctic. Those long, uncovered legs are like girls at a nightclub line in winter.
Accepting of Others – Moose are solitary, one of the only deer species to not travel in herds. Male moose get edgy around each other and fight over females. They ain’t taking new members at the moose club.
UnAmerican – Moose species are all over the world, with about 1 million in Canada. There are about 300 000 of them in the U.S., though. They’re probably trying to migrate north, we should build a wall.
TOTAL: 17/40. Moose never get featured on coins, and with good reason. Dopey bastards.
Nice – The polar bear kills a lot of things, but they generally stay away from humans and non-prey animals. Mean polar bears are put in polar bear jail in Churchill, Manitoba, and rehabilitated to make positive contributions to society.
Cold: Polar bears win this category. They have 10 cm of fat and dense, water-repellant fur and guard hairs. They have large, snowshoe-like paws for walking on ice. And unlike the lame panda bear, polar bears can pull off wearing white.
Accepting of Others – Like grizzlies, polar bears are generally solitary, aside from rearing their cubs. They do sometimes get together to eat whale carcasses, and sometime young males hang out and play fight. Also, they play with dogs, which is adorable.
Score: 6/10, mostly because of that dog video
UnAmerican – 80% of the world’s polar bears are in Canada, with only about 1 500 or so in Alaska. America can take their lame black bear and stuff it, Canada has the world’s largest land carnivore.
TOTAL: 31/40. Polar bears are the bomb.
Winner: Polar Bear
There you have it, Canada’s Most Canadian Animal is the polar bear. They may not be that nice, but they love the cold, and hang out almost exclusively in Canada. Also, that dog video.
I wish that dog video could be on the toonie
Next time Toronto wants to float a giant animal to the Harbourfront, let’s all petition for a huge polar bear. It will beat the heck out of that rubber duck.
Dan is at the bank changing all of his money to toonies. Email him at info [at] scienceeverywhere.ca to see a topic covered here.