This smashing chap is much like any other seal… likes his fish… hates Canadians… likes his ladies with a bit of meat on their bones… can inflate his head to twice its size while forcing an enormous scarlet balloon out of its nostril… hang on…
Lolling around the ice flows of South East Hudson Bay are the Hooded Seal. Once a year the females haul themselves up on to the ice to give birth, and of course to be ravished once more. Meanwhile the chaps will come and flop around next to them waiting for the moment that the ladies fancy a bit of nookie again. The new mums will nurse their pup with milk for as little as four days, the shortest lactation period of any mammal, incredibly the pup doubles in size within the space of ninety six hours. Could be something to do with the milk being 60% fat, almost the same fat content as a Scotch egg.
All peculiar stuff, but let us get round to that downright bally bizarre nose balloon. The balloon is simply a message to other males that this young lady is taken for and would he mind awfully moving on. The scarlet sac that pops out of one of its nostrils is a demonstration of his size and virility, a way of saying ‘actually you really don’t want to take me on old bean’… an appeasement ritual. Appeasement rituals are really rather common in nature; antlers are admired, feathers are puffed, roars are… erm roared. Most animals really would rather not get into a fight and risk getting hurt themselves and therefore not be able to mate, that would be dreadful.
Humans included, we really don’t like the whole killing each other idea if we can help it, the most remarkable example being the study of World War II soldiers by Brigadier General SLA Marshall. He found that an extraordinary 85% of troops were purposefully aiming to miss. Incredible as it is, it is a comforting thought. Sadly Marshall’s discovery was used to shape modern techniques to mould a soldier’s psyche and now 99% of soldiers shoot to kill. Still it’s comforting to know that it is deep in our genetic make up we’re not out to hurt one another, a smashing example being the Trobriand Islanders who have gone full circle and given up on the whole idea of war all together and instead stage cricket matches. How devilishly civilized. Right what the blazes were we talking about? What really? How the blazes did we get here?