Thursday, 1 May 2014

The oldest German joke on record

Elk 625 seemed suspicious of my motives when I
stopped to take his photo near Johnston Canyon,
In  describing the wildlife in the Hercynian Forest, Julius Caesar (VI,27) says:
"There are also animals called elks, which resemble goats in shape and in their piebald colouring, but are somewhat larger, and have stunted horns and legs without joints or knuckles. They do not lie down to rest, and if they fall by accident, cannot get up or raise themselves from the ground. Trees serve them as resting-places: they support themselves against the trunks and rest in that way, leaning over only slightly. When the hunters have found out their usual retreats by following their tracks, they either sever the roots of all the surrounding trees or cut nearly through the trunks, so that they only look as if they are still standing firm. When the elks lean against them as usual, they push over the insecure trunks with their weight, and fall down with them."
Presumably, whoever  told Caesar this story managed to keep a straight face. Elk are frequently misunderstood: the British and Eurasians mistake moose for elk, but the prize for misunderstanding must go to a Japanese tourist in Banff, Alberta, who, seeing a number of them wandering around the town park, thought that they must be tame and that it would be a good idea to put his very young son on an elk's back and take a photograph. The elk strongly disagreed. Fortunately, the boy lived to tell the story.

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