Shadow zoology

Got a light, a wall, and a free hand or two? Make creatures from thin air!


Shadow puppetry has been entertaining children for centuries. Make animal silhouettes using your hands, and tell their stories together.

With the aid of our fantastical zoological fact selection, you can also turn this into an educational extravaganza, and help your child to learn all about the real life versions of the tiny creatures they create. Did they know that a pig’s squeal can reach a higher pitch than a supersonic airliner? Or that a rabbit’s teeth never stop growing? Or that the humble, unassuming chicken is actually the closest living relative to the terrifying T.rex? Now they do!

Cow (Bos taurus)

Fantastical facts

  1. Just as no two humans have the exact same finger print, no two Holstein cows have exactly the same pattern of black and white spots on their bodies.
  2. Cows have an excellent sense of smell, and can detect odours up to 6 miles away.
  3. The average cow chews around 50 times per minute. That’s 72 000 chews per day!

Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

Fantastical facts

  1. Dogs’ eyes contain a special membrane, called the tapetum lucidum, which allows them to see in the dark. This is why their eyes sometimes appear to glow as night falls.
  2. Dogs curl up in a ball when they sleep due to an age-old, evolutionary instinct. In the wild, this action would have helped them to keep warm, and protected their vital organs from lurking predators.
  3. Three dogs (from First Class cabins!) survived the sinking of the Titanic – two Pomeranians and one Pekingese.

Goat (Capra aegagrus hircus)

Fantastical facts

  1. A baby goat is called a ‘kid’. When a goat gives birth, it’s called ‘kidding’.
  2. Goats have rectangular pupils, which give them a fuller range of vision than humans and other animals with round pupils.
  3. Abraham Lincoln kept two spritely goats in the White House throughout his time in office, called Nanny and Nanko. They were particularly beloved by Lincoln’s son, Tad, who used them for chariot rides around the White House.

Pig (Sus scrofa scrofa)

Fantastical facts

  1. Pigs are extraordinarily intelligent and insightful. They are widely accepted as being smarter than 3 year old children, dogs, and even some primates.
  2. Wild pigs play an important role in managing ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity. By rooting, they disturb the soil, and create areas for new plant colonisation. They also spread fruit plants by dispersing their seeds far and wide.
  3. A pig’s squeal can be as loud as 115 decibels – three decibels higher than the sound of a supersonic airliner.

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Fantastical facts

  1. Today we classify the rabbit as a small mammal. Until 1912, we considered it a rodent.
  2. A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing, but they’re naturally kept short by the normal wear and tear of chewing.
  3. In the wild, rabbits live in burrows called warrens. These hidden worlds are often far larger and more complex than we realise. One warren in Europe – unearthed by the RSPCA – housed 450 rabbits and contained two thousand individual entrances.

Rooster (Gallus gallus)

Fantastical facts

  1. Chickens are the closest living relatives to the T. rex, though they are notably less scary.
  2. Chickens communicate with more than twenty four different vocalisations, each with a distinct meaning, including warning their friends about different types of predators ( ‘Kuh-kuh-kuh-kuh-KACK!’, for example, means ‘I sense danger’) or letting their mothers know when they’re uncomfortable.
  3. Chickens display object permanence – an understanding that when an object is hidden, it still exists. Even young children don’t have this ability.

Tiger (Panthera tigris) 

Fantastical facts

  1. A group of tigers is known as an ‘ambush’ or ‘streak’.
  2. Unlike most members of the cat family, tigers like to roam around water. They are strong swimmers, and often choose to cool off in pools or streams.
  3. Sadly, there are now more captive tigers in the United States, living in private homes and on display in traveling zoos and roadside menageries, than there are in the wild worldwide. It’s hard to solve this problem, as the regulations surrounding ownership are murky to say the least, and even more difficult to enforce. That’s why it’s so important that we do all we can to protect the few tigers left in their natural habitat.