Deadly Kingdom: The Book of Dangerous Animals
How does a tiny box jellyfish, with no brain and little control over where it goes in the water, manage to kill a full-grown man? What harm have hippos been known to inflict on humans, and why? What makes our closest cousin, the chimpanzee, the most dangerous of all apes to encounter in the wild?
In this elegantly illustrated, often darkly funny compendium of animal predation, Gordon Grice, hailed by Michael Pollan as “a fresh, strange, and wonderful new voice in American nature writing,” presents findings that are by turns surprising, humorous, and horrifying. Personally obsessed by both the menace and beauty of animals since he was six years old and a deadly cougar wandered onto his family’s farm, Grice now reaps a lifetime of study in this unique survey—at once a reading book and a resource.
Categorized by kind and informed throughout by the author’s unsentimental view of the natural order and our place in it, here are the hard-to-stomach, hard-to-resist facts and legends of animal encounters. Whether it’s the elephant that collided with a fuel tanker and lived (the tanker exploded), the turn-of-the-century household cure for a copperhead bite (douse the infected area in kerosene), or the shark that terrorized the New Jersey coastline for a summer (later inspiring the film Jaws), everything you’ve ever wanted to know about animals but were afraid to ask is included in this hair-raising, heart-racing volume. By turns wondrous, mordant, and sobering, this book is ultimately a celebration of the animal world—in all its perilous glory—by a writer who’s been heralded by The New York Times for his ability to combine “the observations of a naturalist with a dry, homespun philosopher’s wit.”
“Did he say repugnatorial gland? What a wealth of information Gordon Grice is, and what a fine, beguiling writer. This book is a must for anyone even remotely thinking of getting a monkey, a sea lion, or, heaven forbid, a dog.”
~ David Sedaris
“A wonderful, slightly terrifying, utterly captivating encounter with the animal world—not quite like anything I’ve ever read before."
~ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed
“Deadly Kingdom is an engagingly original field guide to the venomous, the sharp-clawed, the infectious, and the downright predatory. It’s a witty, fascinating, and playfully macabre read.”
~ David Baron, author of The Beast in the Garden
“Deadly Kingdom is sometimes gory, always gorgeous, and really great. Gordon Grice is a warm and funny guide, his fingers always on the facts. There are amazing stories here, fascinating people and places, but above all, there are the animals we thought we knew, and the ones we’ve never heard of: hagfish, guinea worms, eyelash vipers, blister beetles. You’ll never go barefoot in the barnyard again.”
~ Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream: A Rural Odyssey
“Deadly Kingdom makes it clear that you are not on top of the food chain.”
~ Pamela Nagami, M.D., author of Bitten: True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings
About the Author
Gordon Grice has written for The New Yorker, Harper’s, Discover, Granta, and other magazines. His first book, The Red Hourglass, was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Public Library. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Essays. He lives with his family in Wisconsin.
Note: retail EPUB, includes TOC/chapters.
pounds. The lion leaped on him and dragged him around the cage, in the process puncturing his throat, slicing tendons in his chest and neck, striking bone with its teeth, and popping his right eye out of its socket. The entrepreneur survived, though he was listed as critical for the first eleven days of his lengthy hospital stay. “DO YOU KNOW anyone killed by a tiger?” I said. I had to be blunt because we had little language in common. The man looked hard at me. His short, calloused fingers
tiger out of its hiding place on a rocky, forested mountainside. He’d be waiting for it, assuming it ran in the direction he expected. As the men fired guns and beat on tin cans, the tiger made her appearance, headed for the safety of an overgrown gorge. Corbett put two bullets into her torso. A third blast only caught her in the paw, but she lay down and died anyway; the earlier shots had finally taken effect. The carcass was carried through the neighboring villages so the people could feel sure
dominance hierarchies, and that we can unwittingly become involved in these hierarchies with disastrous results. For example, the training of elephants as work animals or circus performers involves impressing on them, through physical punishment, that the human trainer outranks them socially. But when an elephant sees his chance to move up in the hierarchy, he can give his trainer an alternate impression. All of these new insights guided me as I interviewed scientists and read journal articles,
adventures affirm the research findings of Dr. Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist who declared the harvester ant one of the most painful stingers in the insect world. Dr. Schmidt, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been stung by various kinds of ants, bees, wasps, and other creatures. He devised a scale—the Pain Index—to compare the sensations he went through. Four is the highest number on the scale, meaning the most pain. The harvester ant scored a three. I was surprised to read about
into an extended family of ranchers and farmers, so my fear marked me as something like a congenital idiot. Further accidents followed. When I was six, the same uncle set me on his stallion Excuse. “Pull on the reins,” my father hollered as Excuse and I vanished in the distance, me pulling ineffectually on the reins, he ignoring them. When I was ten, a friend told me he’d cure my fear by riding double with me. When I saw how much fun it was, I’d have to take up riding. He mounted his white pony