Monday, February 28, 2011

Highland Cattle

True Wild Life | Highland Cattle | Highland cattle (also known as the hairy cow) are an old Scottish breed of cow, bred primarily for their beef. Highland cattle are often bred for cattle shows, and some highland cattle can win many prizes due to the incredible condition of the highland cattle individuals. The highland cattle are famous for their long haired coats which help the hairy cows to cope with the harsh conditions of the Scottish Highlands. The highland cattle inhabit areas of Scotland close to the Arctic circle meaning that the highland cattle have adapted to endure the most uncompromising conditions.

Highland cattle originally come from Scotland. Highland cattle can now be found in Europe, North America and Australia, where the highland cattle are all commonly farmed for their meat but some people also use the long hair of the highland cattle. Highland cattle have adapted to living in such harsh terrains as highland cattle have a large, strong build and a thick double layer of long orange hair. Highland cattle also have two horns on the tops of their heads which the highland cattle use to dig through thick snow to find the vegetation that lies underneath and the highland cattle also use their horns in order to defend themselves from oncoming predators and other rival highland cattle.

The highland cattle are also extremely adept at foraging for food and the patience and skill of the highland cattle means that the highland cattle can often be found grazing on steep, mountainous slopes in the Scottish highlands. Highland cattle are herbivorous mammals and therefore only eat plant matter, mainly grasses. Highland cattle are also known to eat leaves from low growing trees and shrubs and the highland cattle are also rather partial to the odd flower!

Due to the sheer size of highland cattle, other than humans highland cattle have very few natural predators in their wild habitat. Depending on the location of highland cattle, packs of wolves are one of the main threats to grazing highland cattle and those highland cattle inhabiting the plains in North America, are also in fear of being hunted by larger animals such as mountain lions, cougars and bears. Coyotes in North America are also a threat to the young and weak highland cattle calves but it is too dangerous for the coyote to hunt a highland cattle calf unless the young highland cattle has been separated from the group.
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True Wild Life | Heron | The heron is a large species of bird that inhabits wetlands and areas that are close to lakes, ponds and rivers. Some species of heron are also known as egrets and bitterns instead of being called herons. There are 64 different species of heron found inhabiting the wetlands around the world. Herons are commonly found in Europe and North America along with the more temperate regions of Africa, Asia and Australia. Herons are commonly confused with the stalk which is another large species of bird, however the fact that herons fly with their necks in rather than outstretched is on the main differences between herons and stalks.

The great blue heron found inhabiting parts of North America and as far west as the Galapagos Islands is the largest species of heron in the world and can measure nearly a meter in height. The smallest species of heron in the world is the green heron measuring less than 50 cm tall. The green heron is most commonly found in North America and Central America, and occasionally in Hawaii. All 64 different species of heron are very similar in body shape but not in size and colour. All herons have long pointed beaks which helps them to grab fish out of the water, along with long necks and thin, long legs both of which are useful to the heron as it lives it's waterside lifestyle. Herons also have enormous wings that can be nearly double the size of the heron's body.

The heron is a carnivorous species of bird, with the heron primarily feeding on fish. Herons also prey on a number of other small animals including amphibians, molluscs, snakes, insects and even small mammals and birds. The heron uses it's long pointed beak to snatch it's prey out of the water or from the ground. Due to their large size, herons have few natural predators in their wetland environment. Foxes, raccoons, minks and weasels are the herons most common predators as they predominately prey on the eggs of the heron and their young rather than the adult heron itself.

Some species of heron are known to breed in colonies but most heron species breed on their own usually in woodland close to water. Herons build their nests in tall trees so that the eggs are safe from the predators on the ground. The nest of the heron is build out try leaves and twigs by both the male heron and the female heron. The female heron lays an average of 4 eggs per clutch which hatch after an incubation period of around 1 month. Both the male heron and the female heron help to incubate their eggs and feed the tiny heron chicks. Herons live for up to 25 years.

Herons are not considered to be threatened or endangered animals although concerns have been raised about the health-risks to the world's heron populations. Pollution is a major factor in the decline of many animal populations around the world, and pollution in the water can have a devastating effect on the fish which the heron eat.
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Hermit Crab

True Wild Life | Hermit Crab | The hermit crab is a small sized crustacean, that is found in ocean waters worldwide.Despite its snail-like appearance the hermit crab is related to crabs, although they are not that closely related as the hermit crab is not a true crab. There are more than 500 different species of hermit crab found in marine habitats all around the world. Although hermit crabs do venture into deeper waters,they are more commonly found in coastal waters where there is more food and places to hide.

The hermit crab has a soft under-body which it protects by carrying a shell on its back. The shell of the hermit crab is not its own, but one that belonged to another animal. As hermit crabs grow, they continue to find larger shells to accomodate their increasing size. Hermit crabs are omnivorous animals that eat pretty much anything they can find in the surrounding water. Small fish and invertebrates including worms, are the most common prey for the hermit crab along with plankton and other food particles in the water.

Due to their small size, hermit crabs have numerous natural predators all around the world, which includes sharks, fish, cuttlefish, squid and octopuses. It is thought that hermit crabs often hide amongst other animals such as sea anemones as a form of natural protection.

After mating, the female hermit crab carries large numbers of eggs in a mass that is attached to her abdomen. The hermit crab larvae hatch into the open ocean in just a few weeks, where they quickly moult exposing the adult hermit crab body underneath.
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Hercules Beetle

True Wild Life | Hercules Beetle | The Hercules beetle is one of the largest species of beetle in the world, and is natively found in the jungles of South America. The Hercules beetle is the largest and most well known of all of the rhinoceros beetles, a group of large beetles that are closely related to the famous scarab beetle. The Hercules beetle is found throughout the tropical jungles and rainforests of Central and South America, where the Hercules beetle spends the majority of it's time foraging through the leaf-litter on the forest floor in search of something to eat. The fallen debris also helps to hide this enormous insect as it moves about.

There are thirteen known species of Hercules beetle found in the jungles of South America and the Hercules beetle was named for it's sheer size as some males have been known to reach nearly 7 inches in length. Although it is quite rare for these beetles to get quite so big, the average adult Hercules beetle is usually between four and fifteen centimetres long depending on the species. The most distinctive feature of the Hercules beetle has to be the enormous horn-like pincers which protrude from the forehead of the males. These horns can grow longer than the Hercules beetle's body and are mainly used for solving disputes with other male Hercules beetles. Female Hercules beetles do not have horns but their bodies are thought to be larger, but shorter than their male counterparts.

The Hercules beetle is an omnivorous animal but it;'s diet both in it's larvae and adult stages, is primarily made up of decaying plant matter. Rotting wood is the favoured meal of the Hercules beetle, along with fruits and other plant matter and the occasional small insect. The Hercules beetle is said to be the strongest creature on earth for its size, able to carry 850 times its own body weight but these enormous insects are still hunted by numerous animals throughout the jungles of Central and South America. Bats, rats and birds are the main predators of the Hercules beetle along with reptiles and omnivorous mammals.

The larval stage of the Hercules beetle will last one to two years, with the larva growing up to 4.5 inches in length and weighing up to 120 grams. Much of the life of the Hercules beetle larva is spent tunnelling through it's primary food source of rotting wood. After the larval period, transformation into a pupa, and moulting occur, with the Hercules beetle then emerging as an adult. Today, the Hercules beetle is threatened as much of it's natural habitat has been lost to deforestation or been affected by both air and water pollution.
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True Wild Life | Hedgehog | The hedgehog is thought to be one of the oldest mammals on earth, with estimates dating the hedgehog to around 15 million years ago. It is believed that the hedgehog has changed very little over that period of time. The hedgehog is a small mammal that is predominantly found in Europe, Asia and Africa and the hedgehog has also been artificially introduced to New Zealand.

The hedgehog is commonly around 25 cm long, with the hedgehogs back being covered in spikes. The hedgehog can also protect itself by curling its body into a ball so only the hedgehog spikes are exposed. This method of only exposing the spikes of the hedgehog, keeps the hedgehog safe from predators. The hedgehog is a nocturnal mammal that naturally feasts on bugs and insects. It has been known for humans to domesticate hedgehogs in their gardens, by feeding the hedgehog year round until the hedgehog goes into hibernation in the winter.

There are thought to be 16 different species of hedgehog found around the world although, oddly enough, there are no species of hedgehog that are native to Australia and no living species of hedgehog that are native to North America. The spikes of the hedgehog are hollow hairs that are made from the protein keratin (the same stuff that human hair and fingernails are made from), and unlike the spikes of the porcupine, the spikes of the hedgehog cannot be removed easily. The spikes of the hedgehog also differ from the spikes of the porcupine as the hedgehog spikes are not poisonous or barbed.

When baby hedgehogs get to a certain age, the young hedgehog will shed the softer baby spikes that are then replaced with the stronger and darker spikes of the adult hedgehog. Hedgehogs have also been known to shed a number of spikes when the hedgehog is under extreme stress or if the hedgehog is poorly.

All species of hedgehog have evolved to react to their natural surroundings slightly differently. Despite the fact that hedgehog species all commonly roll themselves into a tight ball to expose only their outward pointing spikes, some hedgehog species, such as those hedgehogs inhabiting the desert regions, will often try to run away from predators first leaving their spiky ball defense as a later option. This has led to hedgehogs in different environments to have different predators. For example, the larger forest hedgehogs are more commonly preyed upon by owls, birds and ferrets, where the smaller hedgehogs that exist in more open areas are hunted by foxes, wolves and weasels.

Hedgehogs are well known for their need to hibernate during the colder winter months although this is not true for every hedgehog species around the world. Whether or not a hedgehog will hibernate, depends on the hedgehog species, the climate in which they live and how much food is available. Most hedgehog species are loudly vocal animals and use grunts and snuffles in order to communicate between one another. Some species of hedgehog will also communicate between each other using louder squealing noises.

The larger species of hedgehog give birth to around 3 or 4 baby hedgehogs, but the smaller hedgehog species tend to have slightly larger litters and therefore give birth to 5 to 7 babies. When the hedgehog babies are first born, they are born blind and without their spikes. Although the spikes of the hedgehog babies can been vaguely seen under the skin, the spikes of the baby hedgehog will grow through the skin in a matter of days after the baby hedgehog has been given a thorough clean by the mother hedgehog.

The larger species of hedgehog tend to live longer in the wild than the smaller species of hedgehog as the larger hedgehog species have fewer predators. The average age of a large hedgehog is around 8 years but the average age of a small hedgehog is about 5 years. Both species have known to live longer in captivity as the risk of predators has been removed.
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True Wild Life | Hare | The hare, closely related to the rabbit, is a small mammal found primarily in the Northern hemisphere. Although there are different species of hare found all over the world, the hare is most commonly found in Europe and North America with the Arctic Hare found inhabiting the freezing climates within the Arctic Circle. The hare is one of the fastest of all the smaller animals, with hares being able to move at speeds of around 45mph. The strong hind legs of the hare, combined with the large feet of the hare give the hare the ability to run so quickly. The hare is also able to jump over large distances with great ease.

The hare differs from the rabbit mainly in size, as hares are much larger than the average bunny rabbit. The baby hares are also born with their eyes open and a full coat of fur, and these hare babies are often able to hop about after just a few minutes in the outside world. Hares have very long ears with along with their accurate sense of smell, allow the hare to detect any oncoming predators often before the predators have even noticed the hare. The hare then hops very quickly, in a similar way to a kangaroo, in order to make an escape to safety.

There are over 30 different species of hare found close to farmland and open forests worldwide. The hare is a very adaptable animal as there are species of hare also found in desert regions and of course, the bitterly cold Arctic Tundra. Due to the size and speed of the hare, the hare is generally not a first choice meal for many predators although there are a number of animals that will hunt hares. The predators of the hare include large birds of prey and wild dogs, and also humans who will often hunt hares both to eat and for pest control.

The hare is generally a calm and docile animal, as hares spend most of their time resting and foraging for food. The hare mainly eats plant matter (grass being one of the favourite foods of the hare) but hares also eat seeds, vegetables and fruit in order to fill them up. Hares have often been used as symbolic signs, the definitions of which differ with cultures, and hare are also one of the most common animals used in folklore and stories in many different cultures around the world.

Unlike rabbits, hares give birth to their young in nest on the ground rather than in burrows below the ground, which allows baby hares to become accustomed to a life of self-protection as the hares are not born in the safety of an underground burrow. Baby hares are often able to look after themselves from a very early age.

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True Wild Life | Hamster | Hamsters are thought to be originally from the desert lands of east Asia, including hamster species such as the common Syrian hamster and the miniature Russian dwarf hamster. Hamsters in the wild tend to spend most of their time digging and foraging for food. Today, hamsters are commonly kept as pets with the average household hamster getting to around 2 or 3 years old. Hamsters are thought to be easy first pets to keep for children due to the hamsters quite nature, small size and calm temperament.

Hamsters are solitary animals. Some types of hamster are so solitary that they will fight to the death if more than one hamster is in the same territory. Hamsters in the wild are nocturnal animals as the hamsters spend the daytime hours in burrows underground in order for the hamster to avoid the many predators within the natural environment of the hamster.The hamster will leave the safety of its underground burrow in the night when it is dark and the temperature is cooler in order to search for food.

Hamsters use their large cheek pouches to store food that the hamster finds so that the hamster can take the food back to the stash in the underground burrow. Nuts, seeds, vegetables, grass, fruits and berries are all part of the natural diet of the hamster. There are more than 20 different species of hamster found in the wild (and even more in the commercial pet market). The Russian dwarf hamster are among the smallest species of hamster with adult Russian dwarf hamsters rarely growing to more than 10cm in length. The more common Syrian hamster is the largest species of hamster and some Syrian hamster individuals have been known to grow to nearly 30cm long, although the average size of a Syrian hamster is normally around 20cm.

Many species of hamster are very fast at running so that they are able to escape from oncoming predators. Due to the shape and size of the hind feet of the hamster, hamsters are often able to run as quickly backwards as they can forwards, which the allows the hamsters to escape easily in their burrows. Hamsters inhabit semi-desert regions around the world with the soft ground providing an excellent material for the hamster to burrow in. The burrow of a hamster often consists of many tunnels and chambers, including separate areas for the hamster to eat and sleep in.

Hamster Foot Facts
  • The hamster has two front feet that are shaped more like hands and the hamster uses its front feet to hold and forage for food.
  • The two back feet of the hamster are slightly larger than the front feet and are used to balance and support the hamster when it sits up.
  • The delicate shape of the back feet of the hamster enable the hamster to run not only forwards but also backwards so that the hamster can easily escape into burrows.
  • The hands of the hamster are well adapted to their purpose as they have five toes on each hand, where the feet of the hamster only have three.
  • Hamsters have soft pads on the bottom of their paws that help them to run smoothly, and long nails on the end of each toe which helps the hamster to grip.

Hamster Teeth Facts
  • As hamsters are rodents, their teeth are growing all the time so hamsters must grind their teeth down to stop them from getting too long by gnawing on something hard.
  • Hamsters have 16 teeth that continuously grow to give the hamster an advantage if it loses a tooth.
  • Unlike many other species of animal baby hamsters are born with a full set of teeth and keep the same teeth for their whole lives.
  • Hamsters have cheek pouches that they store food in when they are out foraging and empty their pouches later on so that they can eat their stored food.
  • A hamster is able to carry its own bodyweight in food in its cheeks and takes then creates secret stashes of food to ensure that the hamster never runs out.
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Hammerhead Shark

True Wild Life | Hammerhead Shark | Hammerhead Sharks are appropriately named after their flat shaped heads. Hammerhead sharks are large carnivorous fish that prey on large fish and occasionally hammerhead sharks will hunt small water mammals. Hammerhead sharks are found in the warmer waters of oceans worldwide but hammerhead sharks are particularly found in coastal waters, and along continental shelves. The shallow waters that the hammerhead sharks inhabit allow the hammerhead shark to hunt prey more easily.

There are 9 different species of hammerhead shark worldwide, ranging from 3ft to 20ft in length! Hammerhead sharks are not commonly known to attack humans but can be aggressive if a human came into contact with a hammerhead shark. The flat shaped head of the hammerhead shark is thought to allow the hammerhead shark to detect prey more easily, as it increases the hammerhead sharks sensitivity to sonar activity. Hammerhead sharks are thought to use sonar waves detection in a similar way to their five main senses, so its like the hammerhead shark has a sixth sense.

The shape of the head of the hammerhead shark is made up of two projections on either side of the face of the hammerhead shark, which gives the hammerhead shark the head shape that resembles a hammer almost rectangular in shape. The eyes and nostrils of the hammerhead shark are found at the ends of the hammer allowing the hammerhead shark to have better vision and smell of the surrounding water. Like many other species of shark the hammerhead shark is a solitary hunter during the night, but during the daytime hammerhead sharks are known to form schools of up to 100 hammerhead shark individuals. Hammerhead sharks are commonly seen in larger groups during the summer months when the hammerhead sharks are migrating together in search of cooler waters.

The great hammerhead shark is the largest species of hammerhead shark and one of the few species of hammerhead shark that is potentially dangerous to humans. This is due to the sheer size of the giant hammerhead shark and also because the giant hammerhead is known to have an aggressive temperament. Other species of hammerhead shark tend to pose little or no threat to humans as these species of hammerhead shark are generally much smaller than the giant hammerhead shark and are slightly calmer in their nature.
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True Wild Life | Guppy | The guppy (also known as the millionfish) is a small colourful species of freshwater tropical fish that is found naturally in the rivers and lakes of South America. There are nearly 300 different types of guppy spread throughout Barbados, Brazil, Guyana, Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. The guppy is one of the most popular types of aquarium tropical fish in the world as they are small, colourful and easier to keep than many other species of fish. The guppy generally lives from 3 to 5 years old in captivity and slightly less in the wild.

The guppy has been introduced to most other countries mainly as a method of mosquito prevention as the guppy eats the mosquito larva before they are able to fly, therefore slowing down the spread of malaria. The guppy is an extremely colourful fish and often displays elaborate patterns on it's tail fin. The female guppy and the male guppy can be identified quite easily as the female guppy has a small, patterned tail where the tail of the mail guppy is much longer and generally has fewer markings. The female guppy also tends to be larger in size than the male guppy.

The guppy gives birth to live young, meaning that the eggs are first incubated inside the female guppy and hatch there too. The incubation period of the guppy is about a month after which the female guppy can give birth to up to 100 baby guppies, which are called fry. As soon as they are born, the guppy fry are able to eat and swim around freely. The guppy fry are also able to sense and avoid danger which is important when around older guppies as they often eat the fry. The guppy fry have matured in adult guppies within a couple of months. After mating just once with a male guppy, the female guppy is able to give birth numerous times. The female guppy stores the sperm of the male guppy inside her and just hours after giving birth to her fry, the female guppy is ready to become pregnant again and will do so using the stored sperm (hence why the guppy is often called the millionfish).

The guppy is an omnivorous animal and eats a wide range of organic matter that is available in the water. The guppy mainly feeds on algae and brine shrimp, and often eat particles of food from the water that have been left by a larger fish. The guppy has many natural predators in the wild (and in tanks) mainly due to their small size and their elaborate fins often attract unwanted attention. Birds such as kingfishers and larger fish are the primary predators of the guppy, so naturally, guppies that are kept in a tank should be kept with other very small fish to prevent them from being eaten.

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Guinea Pig

True Wild Life | Guinea Pig | The guinea pig is found in the Andes mountains in South America, were it is used as a stable food source for the local peoples. Todays domestic guinea pig is thought to be a subspecies of the Andes guinea pig and therefore cannot be found in the wild. The guinea pig is a small furry herbivore that rarely grows to more than 30cm in length. The domestic guinea pig can get to around 6 or 7 years old. A wild guinea pig would probably be about 3 or 4.

All around the world guinea pigs are kept as pets. If treated properly and given the right amount of time and energy, they can become extremely tame.They are a lot of effort and are far from being easy to take care of but they are well worth the effort. The guinea pig tends to communicate through a series of high pitched squeals. Apparently guinea pigs are unable to judge height and distances accurately and should therefore never be left on a bed or table without supervision.

Guinea pigs were thought to have been domesticated and used in South America as a source of food from as early as 5,000 BC and the guinea pig was also often depicted in art and are seen in statues that are from the times of the ancient civilizations of Peru. In some instances the guinea pig is thought to be a supernatural medium and the guinea pig is therefore often used to heal the sick. With the Spanish conquest of South America in the 1500s came the selective breeding of the guinea pig, which has resulted in the diverse variety of guinea pigs that are seen today.

The domestic guinea pigs love to be with at least one other guinea pig, as guinea pigs are very sociable animals. Guinea pigs are also highly territorial and pet owners often find the guinea pig acting strangely after its cage has been cleaned out. Commonly guinea pigs will urinate and will drag their body along the floor of their newly cleaned cage in order to remark their territory. Wild guinea pigs tend to eat grass and small plant matter as the main part of their diet and the continuously growing teeth of the guinea pig are well suited to such a diet. The wild guinea pig is also known to supplement its diet by eating its own feces, soft pellets that are specially produced by the guinea pig so that it can digest the vital nutrients contained within it.

Domestic guinea pigs have a diet that is primarily made up from dried food pellets and the diet of the guinea pig is often bulked out by the guinea pig eating the hay (dried grass) that is put into the cage of the guinea pig, usually as bedding.
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Guinea Fowl

True Wild Life | Guinea Fowl | The guinea fowl is a large wild bird that is natively found inhabiting a variety of habitats across the African continent. Today, the guinea fowl has been introduced to various countries around the world as it is farmed by humans. The guinea fowl is a ground-nesting bird and spends much of its time scratching around on the ground in search for something to eat. The guinea fowl often has long, dark coloured feathers and a bald neck and head which makes the guinea fowl a very distinctive bird.

The guinea fowl is a fairly resilient and highly adaptable bird and the guinea fowl is therefore found naturally in range of habitats. Wild guinea fowl can be found inhabiting jungles, forests, shrublands, grasslands and even areas of desert, depending on the abundance of food. In their native Africa, guinea fowl have been used as domestic animals for hundreds of years as the large size of the guinea fowl means that just one bird can provide a great deal of food. Today, guinea fowl are farmed around the world for their meat, eggs and feathers.

The guinea fowl is an omnivorous bird and therefore has a diet that consists of both plants and other animals. Guinea fowl primarily feed on worms and insects on the ground, along with seeds, berries and small mammals and reptiles. The guinea fowl has numerous predators wherever it happens to be. Mammals including wildcats, dogs, wolves and humans and large reptiles such as snakes and crocodiles. are the most common predators of the guinea fowl.

The female guinea fowl builds a nest out of twigs and leaves on the ground, often somewhere where it is more sheltered. The female guinea fowl lays between 8 and 15 small eggs which hatch after an incubation period of around a month. The guinea fowl chicks, known as keets, remain with their mother until they are big enough to fend for themselves.
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