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Let us begin with Spook the llama. Spook lived in the animal enclosures at New York’s Central Park Zoo in 1912. Caretakers described Spook as a “morose, cantankerous” soul inhabiting the back of the deer range. Initially forlorn by this location, he looked out the back door at the road that circled past the pen. The busy street proved entertaining as it was full of noisy automobiles and anxious drivers honking. Spook watched the cars and, before long, learned to honk. Or so reported the head keeper at the zoo, Bill Snyder, who claimed “Spook thrust his head forward, drew back his lips so that his teeth were showing, and made a low and distinct sound like an automobile horn.” Spook responded to honks, instigated them, and generally wreaked havoc distracting drivers with his uncanny honking. Complaints mounted and Snyder moved Spook upstate to a pasture along the river. Rather than live out his days peacefully, Spook observed the ships and soon learned to imitate boat whistles, restarting this cycle of imitation.


Traces of the Animal Past: Methodological Challenges in Animal History is volume 11 of the Canadian History and Environment book series.

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