Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Side-Hill Gouger

The Side-Hill Gouger is a "fearsome critter;" one of the monstrous denizens of American tall tales.  It is named for its most unique behavior-- every day, it walks the same circular path around the hilltop where it lives.  Hundreds of times it repeats this journey, and in doing so, it gouges a trail into the mountainside.  But even stranger than the Gouger's lifestyle is the reason behind it.  Each Gouger has longer legs on one side of its body.

There are two varieties of  the Side-Hill Gouger-- one with longer legs on the right, and one with longer legs on the left.  The left-legged ones are forced to walk clockwise around mountains, while the opposite is true for their right-legged counterparts.  If ever a Gouger tries to turn around, or to walk in the wrong direction, it will disbalance and tumble downhill.  It will then find itself on solid ground, where it will be unable to walk properly.  A thusly-stranded Gouger is easy prey for hunters and other predators.

The two types of Gouger are not, in fact, different species.  The two can interbreed, and even produce offspring.  Unfortunately, this often leads to tragedy.  A left-legged Gouger may give birth to a right-legged son-- who would be forced to walk in the opposite direction, only rarely encountering its parent.  Even worse, a hybrid gouger may be born with one longer left leg and one longer right leg.  Such an animal would be unable to find sound footing anywhere, and would surely not survive.

Read more about the Side-Hill Gouger:
Image from http://www.lumberwoods.com/images/sidehillgouger.jpg (public domain)

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