Behind the Forecast: Raining cats and dogs

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Science Behind the Forecast: Raining cats and dogs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It's raining cats and dogs! Usually that means that it's raining heavily but did you know it has actually rained animals before?

The first documented use of the phrase shows up in Henry Vaughan’s collection of poems Olor Iscanus in 1651. In it he wrote that a roof was secured against “dogs and cats rained in a shower.”

While the origin of the phrase is unknown, theories point to it being a reference to Norse mythology. Odin was often portrayed as traversing through storms with dogs by his side which were symbols for wind. Cats, commonly associated with witches, were signs for heavy rain for sailors according to the Library of Congress.

While cats and dogs don’t typically fall from the sky, rain of other animals have been well documented. Back in the second century B.C., Greek philosopher Heraclides Lembus wrote about frogs raining from the sky. There were so many frogs that he said the “houses and the roads have been full of them.”


In much more recent times, animal rains aren’t unheard of. In June 2009 in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture, tadpoles apparently fell from the sky. Reports stated that: “In one incident, a 55-year-old man who was caught in a tadpole downpour described hearing a strange sound in the parking lot of a civic centre in the city of Nanao. Upon further exploration, he found more than 100 dead tadpoles covering the windshields of cars in an area measuring 10 square meters. Dead tadpole downpours were also reported by local officials 48 hours later in the city of Hakusan in the same prefecture.”

In February 2010, hundreds of fish rained down on a northern Australian town."It rained fish in Lajamanu on Thursday and Friday night," the news report said. “They fell from the sky everywhere. Locals were picking them up off the footy oval and on the ground everywhere. These fish were alive when they hit the ground.”

So what causes animals to fall from the sky?

Some scientists credit waterspouts for sucking wildlife out of bodies of water and dumping them on land. Tornadoes that move over water and waterspouts that move on shore can quite easily pick up animals and transport them significant distances. Here’s the thing though. While there are innumerable reports of animals raining from the sky, a waterspout has never been documented whipping these poor animals around. Also something else that’s weird about animal rain is that only one species is ever reported at a time. It’s certainly a topic that more research needs to be done on.

Here’s a fun but disgusting fact: in Kentucky it has rained meat! On March 3, 1876 in Bath County, flakes of meat fell from the sky. A few people who witnessed the aftermath tasted the meat and claimed it was venison or mutton.Scientists did confirm that several samples they were went were lung tissue, muscular tissue, and cartilage. The prevailing theory is that vultures flew overhead vomiting out their meal as they went along. Ewww.

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