Have you ever looked at cows lying down and thought, ‘I should have packed my umbrella?’ Or have you braced yourself for bad luck after a black cat has crossed your path? If so, you’ve dabbled in the ancient art of animal prognostication.
Throughout human history, animals have played a vital role in our continued survival. From food and clothing, companionship and protection to religion and spiritual beliefs, animals have both mystified and terrified humans for as long as we can remember. It’s no surprise, then, that as we have evolved as a species, so too has our understanding of the creatures surrounding us.
There is one skill, however, that, even today, we have yet to master over our animal counterparts: the power of foresight. Whether it’s the remnants of old folk stories and superstitions or a science that we are yet to understand - there are some animals who can see into the future and accurately predict what’s yet to pass. But is it a prophecy, luck, or pure animal instinct? Here are four animal prognosticators to help you decide.
1. Punxsutawney Phil
Every year on the second of February since 1887, crowds gather at Gobblers Knob in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, hoping to catch a glimpse of the town’s local soothsayer. Known for his meteorological prowess, Punxsutawney Phil is believed to have the power to predict if locals are destined to experience a long and hard winter or whether an early spring is on its way.
As gathered crowds wait with bated breath, Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow and confers with members of a society known as ‘The Inner Circle’ to make predictions for the coming months. If Phil emerges from his hole and sees his own shadow before returning to his den, then residents can expect six more weeks of winter. If Phil surfaces and doesn’t see his shadow, spring is just around the corner.
Phil’s charming antics have captured the imaginations and inspired the 90s cult classic Groundhog Day. The seemingly immortal rodent now live streams his predictions each year, meaning that his prophecies can be witnessed by his fans all across the globe.
2. Jim the Wonder Dog
When Sam Van Armsdale first bought his new puppy, Jim, home with him, he didn’t hold high hopes that he would be a prize-winning hunting dog. After all, Jim was the runt of the litter, which is why Sam only paid half the going rate for a pure-bred Llewellin Setter. As Jim grew, he proved a little difficult to train, opting instead to lie in the shade and ignore his owner altogether, leaving Sam’s other dogs to pick up his slack.
Sam assumed that Jim was just lazy, but in reality, Jim had been learning how to hunt in his own way. Watching the other dogs, he picked up the habits of both the hunters - and their prey. So, when Sam took Jim hunting one Autumn morning, he was shocked to learn that Jim could not only able to assist Sam, but he had an uncanny ability to find quail for Sam to shoot.
It wasn’t just a sixth sense for scouting quail that Sam noticed in his dog, however. Telling Jim to go rest under a hickory tree, Sam was shocked when Jim walked over to the only hickory tree nearby and lay down beneath it. From there, the scope of his talents only grew. Jim was able to identify cars by their colours, license plates, or even which state they’d driven from. He could pick individuals from a crowd, predict the sex of unborn children, and even successfully predict the 1936 Baseball world series winner.
Many tried to debunk Jim’s powers, claiming that he was, in fact, responding to cues from Sam; however, when the pair were put to the test by a panel from the Missouri Legislature, Jim passed the test with flying colours.
3. Paul the Octopus
Jim isn’t the only animal to have proven their ability of foresight in sports. Hatched in captivity in the SeaLife centre in Weymouth, Paul was a common octopus with an uncommon ability.
Transferred to an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, Paul’s real talents weren’t discovered until the start of the UEFA Euro 2008 Championship. What started as a bit of fun to help promote the residents of the aquarium quickly went viral as the octopus proved to be a bit of an oracle. Of the six matches that Paul made predictions for, four came to pass. It seems, however, that Paul was only just coming into his powers.
Two years later, Paul’s prediction power truly rose to its zenith as he accurately predicted the outcome of all eight of Germany’s matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
4. Lady Wonder
When looking for her horse one day, Claudia Fonda noticed something that changed her life forever. Unlike her other horses, Lady Wonder always seemed to know when Claudia was looking for her and, without being prompted, would make her way over to her owner.
Believing her horse to be gifted, Claudia set about training Lady Wonder to communicate with her human peers through multiple different channels. From children’s blocks to a bespoke horse typewriter, Lady Wonder was soon able to freely communicate with people.
It didn’t take long for stories of Lady Wonder’s psychic ability to spread, and visitors came from far and wide to have their fortunes told by the visionary horse. In fact, as many as 150,000 people visited Lady Wonder, paying the fee of $1 to ask her up to three questions. Everything from the sex of unborn children to sports predictions, where to drill for oil, and even guessing a visitor's maiden name seemed like no big deal for Lady Wonder, who would promptly give the correct response almost every time.
If critics and nay-sayers were struggling to find evidence of Lady Wonder’s tremendous powers before, they were soon silenced when she was drafted in to help police in Massachusetts, who had exhausted all lines of enquiry in the search for a missing boy. Lady Wonder spelt out Pittsfield Water Wheel but seemingly confused those around her as Pittsfield didn’t have a water wheel. It didn’t take long, however, for investigators to rearrange the letters and realise that she had meant Field and Wild Water Pit - the name of a nearby quarry. The search was moved to the quarry, where they located the boy’s body.