Cover image for The truth about animals : stoned sloths, lovelorn hippos, and other tales from the wild side of wildlife / Lucy Cooke.
The truth about animals : stoned sloths, lovelorn hippos, and other tales from the wild side of wildlife / Lucy Cooke.
First US edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, 2018.
Physical Description:
336 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Eel -- Beaver -- Sloth -- Hyena -- Vulture -- Bat -- Frog -- Stork -- Hippopotamus -- Moose -- Panda -- Penguin -- Chimpanzee.
When seeking to understand animals, context is key. Humans have a habit of viewing the animal kingdom through the prism of our own narrow existence. Zoologist and documentary filmmaker Lucy Cooke is fascinated by the myths people create about animals to fill in the gaps in our understanding, and how much they reveal about the mechanics of discovery and the people doing the discovering. In this book she has gathered together the biggest misconceptions and mistakes made about the animal kingdom, and recounts the experiences that have opened her eyes to many surprising realities about animals and the progress of animal science.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
590.2 COO Book Adult General Collection

On Order



Mary Roach meets Bill Bryson in this "surefire summer winner" (Janet Maslin, New York Times ), an uproarious tour of the basest instincts and biggest mysteries of the animal world
Humans have gone to the Moon and discovered the Higgs boson, but when it comes to understanding animals, we've still got a long way to go. Whether we're seeing a viral video of romping baby pandas or a picture of penguins "holding hands," it's hard for us not to project our own values--innocence, fidelity, temperance, hard work--onto animals. So you've probably never considered if moose get drunk, penguins cheat on their mates, or worker ants lay about. They do--and that's just for starters. In The Truth About Animals , Lucy Cooke takes us on a worldwide journey to meet everyone from a Colombian hippo castrator to a Chinese panda porn peddler, all to lay bare the secret--and often hilarious--habits of the animal kingdom. Charming and at times downright weird, this modern bestiary is perfect for anyone who has ever suspected that virtue might be unnatural.

Author Notes

Lucy Cooke is an award-winning filmmaker who has written, produced, and directed several popular documentary series for the BBC, PBS, Discovery, and National Geographic. Her first book, A Little Book of Sloth , was a New York Times bestseller. She has written for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times , among others, and she holds an MA in zoology from the University of Oxford. She lives in London.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Zoologist and documentarian Cooke (A Little Book of Sloth) reveals hidden truths and little-known facts about a "menagerie of the misunderstood" in this peculiar and intriguing volume. She sheds significant light on beavers, for instance, whose unique physical attributes help them to thrive. Their "ever-growing, self-sharpening teeth, eyelids that act as swimming goggles, [and] ears and nostrils that shut automatically underwater" allow them to gnaw wood below the surface without drowning. Cooke, founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, pays particular attention to sloths, "one of natural selection's quirkiest creations, and fabulously successful to boot." Often and historically maligned for their lack of speed, sloths have nonetheless survived "in one shape or another for around sixty-four million years" and have outlived both the saber-toothed tiger and the woolly mammoth. Other sections deal with hyenas, frogs, storks, and hippopotamuses. Especially enlightening chapters on pandas (who eat exclusively bamboo) and penguins (whose "stiff feet, so ill at ease on land, act as a rudder underwater") round out the narrative. Readers keen on animals and natural history in general should find Cooke's discussion fascinating and educational. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

As founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, British author and wildlife documentarian Cooke (A Little Bit of Sloth) has a particular affinity for the world's most misunderstood and maligned creatures-hyenas, turkey vultures, bats, and the like. Here, the author demystifies layers of myth and legend surrounding 13 animals, tracing the source of negative and erroneous views about them to the Bible, medieval bestiaries, and ill-informed naturalists, both ancient and modern. Whether she's ingesting castoreum (beaver anal glands) to see if it can cure a headache or hand gliding on thermal updrafts to experience vulture aerodynamics, Cooke is game to try almost anything to get to the bottom of absurd animal myths. She even sets the record straight about some of our favorite animals: penguins and pandas. Each essay in this collection brims with the author's sense of wonder at the quirky but successful ways evolution has equipped certain species to survive. VERDICT In word and deed, Cooke is a one-woman animal appreciation society. Her wit, humor, and infectious curiosity about this "menagerie of the misunderstood" will appeal to natural history enthusiasts of all stripes.-Cynthia Lee Knight, Hunterdon Cty. Historical Soc., Flemington, NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 Eelp. 7
2 Beaverp. 29
3 Slothp. 51
4 Hyenap. 71
5 Vulturep. 85
6 Batp. 107
7 Frogp. 129
8 Storkp. 149
9 Hippopotamusp. 171
10 Moosep. 187
11 Pandap. 203
12 Penguinp. 223
13 Chimpanzeep. 243
Conclusionp. 267
Acknowledgmentsp. 269
Image Creditsp. 271
Notesp. 275
Bibliographyp. 301
Indexp. 323