~The National Animal of Bhutan
If you’re an independent nation, there’s a good chance you have a national animal of some sort. In fact, of all the official countries in the world, almost ¾ of them do. We don’t have a really good reason why that’s the case. In fact it’s kind of weird that a bunch of countries randomly decided to give themselves mascots without anyone questioning as to…what’s the point? We’re sure some country started doing it like thousands of years ago (honestly, probably China?) and a few other independently decided to go the same route, and eventually most countries just got peer pressured into it, but it’s kind of weird that we take national animals as just like, a normal thing for countries to have.
Now America has a few national animals, and we’re not alone in being countries that double down. Naturally we have the bald eagle, but did you know that we also named the American bison our “national mammal”? Yeah that’s right, we have a national mammal. Now, that’s only been the case since it was signed into law in 2016, but still, we do now have two animals. And that being said, neither of these options are bad. Bald eagles are badass, and look badass, while bison have long played a historically significant role in many cultures throughout American history.
But as you might surmise, not every country can really lock in a good national animal like America. In fact, a lot of countries are represented by animals that are not only weird, they straight up don’t fucking exist. And not a single one of these fake animals is a warthog in an army uniform firing a bazooka, which is what we would have come up with if asked to make up a mythical creature to represent America.
You know the deal at this point. We found out that some countries are weird about an arbitrary thing, and we’re going to tell you all about the weirdness. And folks? There are a lot of official animals that straight up do not exist. So many that we’re going to split this sucker into two articles. Keep in mind, most of these creatures were invented about 300 years before we as a species really started getting good at “imagination” and it shows.
The Weirdest Official National Animals in the World: Mythical Creatures Edition (Part 1)
Maybe it’s not that surprising that the lion is a very common official national animal. Lions are majestic, powerful, and regal. They also are primarily found in Africa and Asia. So sure, there are seventeen countries that decided that a lion was the best representative of their nation, but why is the United Kingdom on that list? Or the goddamn Netherlands? No seriously, what the hell, The Netherlands? You see that picture above this paragraph? That’s what The Netherlands thought a lion looked like when they made it their royal national animal. That is a drawing of someone who has never seen a lion in their life, and had to draw something from memory based on a description given to them by someone who also hasn’t seen a lion. But at least they didn’t go the route of “we haven’t seen a lion, but let’s make a mythical version of one” like some of the following countries did.
Case in point.
Belgium: Leo Belgicus
Okay, so there’s a lot to unpack from this emblem, and which is not even the most ridiculous version of the Leo Belgicus. First of all, just soak in that fucking lion. There are a few things that stand out as…odd. Like the mane of hair just sprouting out of the tail’s midpoint. And the whole Gene Simmons thing going on with the tongue. And we would not be professionals doing our due diligence if we didn’t point out what is obviously the lion’s dick just, poking out there. That’s just, it’s a lot to take in, America. They’re really not doing a lot to make us revisit our glowing review of the children’s book “Kill All the Belgians.”
But as bad as old KISS-Lion-Dick up here is, the actual basis of the Leo Belgicus is much worse. It’s basically what happens if you decide that a part of a map looks kind of like a lion, but it’s also the like 16th century and you don’t really know what lions look like. Or what maps look like, honestly. For example, here’s what the lion looked like in 1631, according to these motherfuckers.
What the shit is this. So we learned a few things today. First of all, apparently maps used to be completely useless. Secondly, apparently people thought that the former Low Countries made the shape of a lion. Thirdly, no one in Europe had a goddamn clue what lions were back in the day. And finally, apparently the former Low Countries are current day Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and part of northern France. Ugh, this article made us learn geography, we’re upset.
By the way, you notice how this lion also has its tongue sticking out even though it looks patently ridiculous? That’s not uncommon. Apparently every fucking fake lion that represents a European nation is constantly gagging on bad soup. Just look at our next entry…
Czech Republic: Double-Tailed Lion
First of all, you could argue that our previous entry should not count as a mythical creature. Even though it’s a mythical lion that’s supposed to make up many countries, you could claim it’s just someone’s idea of what a lion is after reading a National Geographic once while high on bath salts. We’re not gonna agree with you, because it’s clearly a specific mythical lion and also looks stupid as shit, but you could make that case.
You cannot make that case here. A lion is a real thing. A double tailed lion is a real thing only if there are some lions hanging around the most contaminated parts of Chernobyl that we’re not aware of. And it’s such a weird play. At some point before 1300, the rulers of Bohemia decided to make a lion, a thing which almost assuredly has never roamed the lands of the Czech Republic, the animal for their coat of arms. But clearly a regular lion, which if this seal is any indication only weighed about 160 pounds in their imagination, was not tough enough. So to really inspire fear in their enemies they gave this massive beast with claws and sharp teeth a…second tail? Real question, did Bohemians think that lions had stingers or something? It would not surprise us in the least if this fucking thing only has two tails because they thought that lions were giant cats with stingers coming out of their butts.
Also this lion, just like Belgium’s, has a raging lion-boner. Moving on.
Austria: The Austrian Bundesadler
Austria can’t really blame medieval times for their weirdness here. While Bohemia adopted the two-tailed lion in the 13th century at the latest, Austria’s been using this “Federal Eagle” since…just 1919. And it’s never really been that different from this. Like, from 1934 to 1938 it had two heads, because sure, and before that it didn’t have the hammer, sickle, or broken chains (apparently to “represent their liberation from the National Socialist dictatorship in 1945”) but it’s always been this freaky bird…thing. Again, it’s supposed to be a mythical eagle, and while we’ve established that eagles are majestic and good national animals, this bird looks like a tarred-and-feathered DJ Qualls.
Just look at this picture without hearing a high pitched “Squaaaaak!” noise. If you look closely it even kind of looks like it’s crying. We would be too, buddy.
Alright, it’s time to move away from mythically fucked up versions of sort-of real animals, and dive right into some dragons. Druk sounds less like a mythical thunder dragon and more like a henchman that appears in the middle 45 minutes of a live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sequel. Druk sounds less like the “cloud-voice” of a storm, and more like the user name for a Chive user whose Reddit comments history would immediately come back to haunt him if he ever went viral for some reason. Druk sounds less like a creature that holds jewels to symbolize wealth, and more like the noise you make when you’re drunk and trying to make sure your burp doesn’t turn into a full vomit. Druk is a silly fucking name, is what we’re trying to say.
Bhutan at least has a second national animal, the takin, which is basically a goat-antelope, and actually? That’s much, much cooler than this weird as dragon, but maybe that’s just us and our bias towards things that actually exist and weren’t named after the sound of a parakeet hiccuping.
What the fuck are you doing here, Germany? Of all the routes you could have gone you went with the stoned eagle look? You know how you had that friend in high school (sure, buddy, it was your “friend” in high school, we get it) who wanted to start a metal band and only got as far as to stencil out the band’s logo, which was like, a kitten with a skull instead of a head? And “they” (definitely not you) thought it was super punk rock, but it looked goofy and like it was trying way too hard and failing in every conceivable way? That’s this emblem right here. It kind of looks like it’s trying to flex, but doesn’t have any biceps, and if that’s what they were going for, then huh, weird choice there, but you did a good job representing the artist’s vision.
There’s no surer sign that World War II really fucked Germany up than the fact that this coat of arms was used from 1919-1935, and they were so desperate to get rid of the whole “Nazi” thing as fast as they could that they just said, “Fuck it, yeah let’s go with the glassy-eyed coughing bird” instead of setting up a committee or something to design literally anything else.
But before we close out this article, we’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the double whammy of crazy lurking in Europe. Because while America’s out there rocking a giant bison and a kickass bald eagle as their official animals, our estranged parents in the UK are out there with this shit.
United Kingdom, Specifically- Wales (and Scotland): Y Ddraig Goch (and a Unicorn)
First of all, the United Kingdom has way too many official animals, but we’ll give them a pass because two of them are dumb as shit, so clearly they’re just trying to get as many as they can in the hopes that at least some of them are kind of cool. They decided to go with a (thankfully, normal) lion. The British Bulldog is also a national animal, which makes sense even if it isn’t the most imposing canine option out there. Their official bird (in Wales mostly) is the Red kite. And then we have Scotland who just said, “What’s the last animal you’d associate with an overcast Scottish day? What’s that? Did someone say a unicorn? You mean that made up animal that’s basically just a horse with a horn on its head that we mostly now attribute to whimsy and rainbows? Okay let’s do that!”
And we get it. Scotland’s historically gotten a kind of raw deal from the rest of the UK. Like, we’ve seen Braveheart, we know what’s up. So sure, let them pick a silly spiked horse as their animal. Granted, when someone answers the question “what animal do you want to be?” with “a unicorn!” would you assume that the person answering the question was a child? Yes. Is it a bit jarring to realize that like, a fucking king or something went with this choice? Absolutely. Will knowing that a unicorn is the national animal of Scotland completely affect how we watch the show Outlander? Most assuredly.
But let’s also talk about Y Ddraig Goch.
No that wasn’t our typist having a stroke. (Yes, we have a typist, who is paid just to type the article’s we’ve already written. Our employment structure and corporate ladder is a mess.) It’s Welsh, a language invented by, and we’re pretty confident on this, an unhappy family snowed in during a blackout who only own one copy of Scrabble that’s missing 90% of the vowels. Granted of all of these, the dragon is probably the best looking national animal. And also the term translates simply to “red dragon.” Which again, is pretty cool and pretty badass.
Really we included this on our list for two reasons. First of all, to highlight the fact that the United Kingdom has not one, but two fictional animals as official national animals. That’s some escapism stuff right there. We’re no therapists, but England clearly did some fucked up shit to both Scotland and Wales for them to want to be represented by happy dream animals. The other reason is that Welsh is a funny sounding language, and we’re never going to turn down a chance to make fun of it. Sorry not sorry.
Anyway, stay tuned next week when we go ahead with our second article about countries with mythical official animals. Yes there are more. Lots more. They are pretty ridiculous. See you then.