PumbaaflyingPumbaa is the most famous warthog in the world. He eats bugs (and many other things), and kids around the world love they way he audibly releases his distinctive air biscuits (far too often, according to his friends). When Pumbaa cuts a muffin, everyone downwind notices.
Question: How many fathers, after viewing The Lion King with their grade schoolers, were not quizzed in detail about warthogs' audible digestive processes?
Answer: Not many. The few dads who were spared these inquisitions are mostly hog farmers, zoo keepers, and gastroenterologists.
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Kids are naturally curious. It's their job. And a father's job is to play the omniscient wizard who loves to celebrate his children's advanced knowledge about . . . whatever they know about. In the case of Warthog Studies, children expect their dads to be experts not only in the animal's physiology but in every conceivable scenario a warthog might find himself in if he were chosen to bodily demonstrate the laws of physics and the internationally recognized norms for porcine social behavior.
For example: "How would a warthog astronaut poop in zero gravity?" "Could a warthog marry an aardvark?" "Why not?" "What if he wore sunglasses and played his guitar left-handed?" "What if he lived in California?" And so on. Kids think about these kinds of things pretty much all of the time. They never need reminding.
Sooner or later, your children will ask, "Father, would Pumbaa's malodorous emissions be any more offensive than those issuing from the digestive tracts of other animals belonging to the genus Phacochoerus?"
Answer: Probably not. But most other warthogs associate only with members of their own species, not with meerkats or lions.
Warthogs are essentially pigs with freakishly large, bumpy heads and severe dental problems. On the inside, they are about the same as most other members of the pig family, so we should expect them to smell like . . . pigs. (Not as bad as it sounds.)
But here's the most important thing fathers should teach their children about Pumbaa: Meerkats and lions have especially powerful olfactory capabilities. So Pumbaa's odor problem may not be his problem at all: It may be his friends' enhanced sense of smell that's to blame for all the fuss and finger pulling.
-By David Noel Edwards
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