It doesn’t take a weatherman to know that precipitation can take many forms. Starting from a slight mist and advancing to a torrential downpour, it can even take on progressively more solid forms when it comes to sleet, snow, hail, or cats and dogs. I presume those would be frozen cats and dogs. Or at least stunned.
Of course when it “rains cats and dogs,” people aren’t actually expecting Maine coons or St. Bernard’s to fall on their heads. Cats, with their nine lives and all, might find it amusing for a while, but a rain of dogs would likely mean an end to the reign of dogs. Fortunately this is just a non-sensical expression and not something our pets need to worry about. Still, mine act pretty antsy at the first crack of thunder.
But just because it never literally rained cats or dogs doesn’t mean it hasn’t rained animals that came in other forms. So let’s take a look at those forms, and the circumstances that precipitated them.
As most people know, rain is part of the water cycle, which starts with the evaporation of water from the earth. What goes up, must come down. The same goes for the fish cycle apparently. Reports of fish rains around the world are not uncommon, with dozens of such incidents being recorded as far back as 1861. Before this time either the fish were made of sterner stuff, or people were, and just shrugged them off. Or simply ate the fish and thanked the Rain Gods for the ocean to table dining experience. Scientists, meanwhile, believe that such occurrences are due to waterspouts, tornado-like vacuums that suck up water and fish, and then drop them on people just for the fun of it. Whose fun is open to speculation, as fish are widely known to lack a sense of humor. And if piranhas are involved, the same can be said for people.
If being pelted with piranhas isn’t worrisome enough for you, think of being showered by sharks. Or a shark, since one of them probably equals about a hundred piranhas. On October 22, 2012, a two-foot leopard shark fell on the 12th tee of the San Juan Hills Golf Club in Puerto Rico. Golfers more concerned with shooting birdies and eagles were unimpressed with the message however, even though investigators determined that it was likely dropped by a birdie, possibly an eagle. The shark, still alive, was returned to the ocean, no doubt full of stories about an adventure and a game that sounded completely ridiculous.
And who hasn’t noticed their lawn or driveway covered in worms after a rainfall and wondered if the meteorologists were telling us everything? Well, it turns out that wormy rains have been reported in many parts of the world, just never by meteorologists, who would ordinarily never miss an opportunity to scare us about a weather event. But miss it they did in 2007 when hundreds of squirmy worms fell on people’s heads in Jennings, Louisiana. Likewise at a school in Galashiels, Scotland in 2011, a Norway ski resort in 2015, and enough other places to make meteorologists and oligochaetologists both sit up and look at the sky for a change.
If about now you’re thinking that you might get through this essay without a mention of spiders, well, welcome to my nightmare. I’m a scientist and have to report the truth. You, however, are free to go, to save yourself from the psychological trauma that is sure to follow.
There is nowhere in the world that is safe from spider rain. It happens like this. Many species of spiders will climb to a high point, and instead of leaping to their deaths, stick their butts in the air and release silk, causing them to be swept up by a breeze and carried long distances. This is called ballooning, and is a great way for spiders to see the world, and people to see the end of the world. Though it’s not usual for them to all do this at the same time and then land in the same place, it does happen. One recent incident in Goulburn, Australia reported spiders that fell from the air like a black snow, getting in people’s hair and covering the town with their webs. If you arachnophobes can keep that image from ruining your day, you’re doing well, but I still need to mention that some of the spiders were venomous. And that none were anthropophobes.
If you are a new visitor to South Florida and are expecting sunshine, but get a cold snap instead, it would behoove you to take the National Weather Service seriously when they forecast an iguana rain. At such times, cold-blooded iguanas freeze and become catatonic to the point they often fall out of trees. Iguanas are considered an invasive species in Florida, where the residents feel that this is not at all how newcomers should behave. They have already had quite enough of it from the unprepared snowbird species of immigrants from New England.
And no accounting of animal showers would be complete without a mention of frogs, which have been falling from the sky at least since the ancient Greek historian Heraclides Lembus reported how the roads would be covered in them after such events. Nowadays Heraclides may be dismissed for his sensationalist reporting, but it seems that frog and other plagues were popular at the time, and they didn’t just pop up out of the ground. Scientists today generally think that either religious hysteria or tornadoes are responsible for frog rains, but skeptics like to point out that, except when herons or French chefs are around, frogs aren’t particularly religious.
All in all, there is no need to worry at this time that animal rains might be a sign of the apocalypse, but if we should start hearing such reports involving elephants, hippos, or blue whales, even a modern day Noah would throw up his hands in despair.