I know that the post 'Towards a sensible biscuit hierarchy' attracted a huge wave of controversy, and I feel that this may well do the same. But I couldn't let it rest.
This article in today's Graun, entitled 'Why do we love owls so much?' is what sparked everything off, and I was encouraged to do this list by Bat020. And sure, I love owls as much as the next man - in fact I know a cracking owl sanctuary not far from here - but that isn't the whole story. There are other creatures, beginning with the letter O, that are just as interesting, if not more so. True, those owls - one could label them the tarts of the bird world, but I'm not unkind - sit there with their big eyes and their beaks and their giant circular faces and all of that, and, yes, owls flap about and have big wings. But don't tell me that they're better than otters, because they aren't.
So, here is the definitive list, completely correct and impossible to argue against, of animals beginning with the letter O. I think you'll find that everything is in order - but if you do happen to have your own views on the subject, feel free to join in with the disgruntled masses in the comments box.
1. Otters. Obviously. Was it an owl that got its head pummeled into a meaty pulp by that bloke with a spade at the end of Ring of Bright Water? I think not. Would we have cried as much? A bit, but not as much as the cute little otter. Look, otters are fucking brilliant. Don't fuck with me on this one, because you know they are. Sea otters, freshwater otters, short-clawed otters, Asian otters, European otters - face it, they're the pinnacle of O-animals. Look at their little faces! Look at their little paws! Look at the fact they gnawed off Terry Nutkins's fingers! Look at all of it! They even make little squeaky noises like Sweep. I once went to an otter sanctuary where the keeper told me: "I know we shouldn't feed them this, but they really love chips." They love chips as well. You want more? OK, here's more:
2. Ocelots. In many ways one could claim that the ocelot is merely a small big-cat or a big small-cat, but that would be to ignore the ears. I mean, the eyes! Look at the fucking eyes!
3. Orangutans. It says something about the wondrousness of ocelots and otters that orangutans, the spectacular ginger apes, are only in position number 3. Many people delight in the sight of the baby orangutan, a tiny ball of orange fluff, but for me the older ones are even better.
They're critically endangered as well, these poor little russet-coloured blighters, through no fault of their own.
4. Owls. Obviously, they were going to turn up. And yes, there are many reasons why the owls are traditionally thought of as wise old birds - the giant faces, the big eyes, the silly half-asleep Stewie Griffin faces, the rotating heads, and all of that. I like them because they have that combination of expression between "I am the slightest bit peeved" and "I couldn't give a flying fuck" on their faces. Do you know what I mean? I think this picture sums it up nicely:
And that comes from the marvellous Fuck You, Penguin blog.
5. Octopuses / Octopodes / Octopi / Whatever the fuck you want to call them. These leggy submariners have the added bonus of being not only interesting animals, but also delicious. Which is bad for them, obviously, but not bad for Greek restaurants. Several new species of octopus have recently been discovered, including this joker:
I don't think I could eat him, he looks like he might be quite fun. Unless he's really delicious, in which case I probably would.
Not ranked - ostriches. Scary, stary little bleeder, the ostrich. Just stands there with that unfeasibly long neck, forever on the verge of pecking your eyes out or headbutting you. Nasty. *shudders*
So, those are my top five, and clearly correct though they are, you may have your own views. NB taxonomical corrections are only relevant if you understand that my definition of 'animal' is "thing that's alive and isn't a plant, or fungus, or something".