Weird Nature

11 Ingenious Ways Animals Have Majorly Helped Humans Throughout History 

Mariel Loveland
Updated June 14, 2019 7.8k views 11 items

Humans have long relied on animals. They're not just a source of food and sustenance – there are a million ways animals work for people. In fact, if it weren't for animal jobs, humans may have never flourished and Neanderthals would have taken over (needless to say, your life would be a whole lot different if that was the case). Unfortunately for man's best friend or man's semi-agreeable acquaintance (a.k.a the cat, who let's be honest, trained us) rewards don't often span beyond a "good boy" and pet on that special spot that makes tiny paws twitch.

Animals don't always do what we tell them. They either allow us to be their boss, or we out smart them.  Sometimes they don't even know they're helping us out and they're just trying to live. Other times a treat or two does absolute wonders. Whether it's birds who refuse to fish without payment or elephants who unwittingly join wars to protect their trainers, the ways humans use animals are innumerable.

Here are all sorts of instances of humans tricking animals into lending a helping hand. Thank you, our furry friends, for putting up with us.

Cats Keep Bodegas Pest Free
Cats Keep Bodegas Pest F... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 11 Ingenious Ways Animals Have Majorly Helped Humans Throughout History
Photo: mattjiggins/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

Do you know how much an exterminator costs in a major city? One things for sure – a cat is a whole lot cheaper despite the health code violation. While cats are domesticated, they still have a natural urge to hunt, which makes them great for stores. They love being around people because we feed them, and in exchange, we sometimes get their love. Bodega owners in cities across America have long adopted cats in order to eradicate mice and other small vermin from their shops. Little do they know they're basically employees of the bodegas themselves. 

Ants Stitched Up Open Wounds
Ants Stitched Up Open Wo... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 11 Ingenious Ways Animals Have Majorly Helped Humans Throughout History
Photo: Leslie Wilson/Flickr

Back before people went to doctors to stitch up gnarly wounds, ancient tribes in East Africa and South America used living ants as sutures. Dorylus or Eciton ants were commonly tricked into stitching up warriors because of their sharp, unyielding bite. To trick an ant into becoming your Band-Aid, all you've got to do is hold together your wound, get it to bite you, and then snap off the rest of the body once it's attached. The only drawback is that ants aren't sterile, so you better watch that incoming infection.

Dogs Helped Create Human Heart Surgery
Dogs Helped Create Human... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 11 Ingenious Ways Animals Have Majorly Helped Humans Throughout History
Photo: Lisa L. Wiedmeier/Flickr

In the early 19th century, there wasn't much you could do about heart disease – at least until dogs so kindly laid down their lives for their human friends. Around the turn of the century, surgeons began researching how to repair a heart in a living patient by operating on dogs. Their main goal was to learn how to repair heart valves in a living subject since rheumatic fever and other heart-stopping illnesses were running rampant. By 1923, the first successful heart surgery was performed on a 12-year-old girl in a coma who lived four years until she eventually died of pneumonia. This is all thanks to man's best friend.

Birds Helped Develop Modern, High-Speed Trains
Birds Helped Develop Mod... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 11 Ingenious Ways Animals Have Majorly Helped Humans Throughout History
Photo: ConiferConifer/Flickr

Travelers owe a lot more than they think to birds, which unknowingly helped shape one of the fastest trains on the planet. In 1964, the Japanese Shinkansen Bullet Train shot off on its first ever 120 mph journey. The only issue was that the speed of the train caused a loud boom when it exited tunnels, and passengers felt like the train was squeezing together – a totally weird and really unpleasant feeling.

Engineer and bird lover, Eiji Nakatsu, took on the task of figuring out what exactly was going wrong, and he discovered the train was pushing air in front of it, which would crash against the air outside of the tunnel and put a massive amount of pressure on the train. Nakatsu realized he needed the train to sharply cut through tunnels, so he drew inspiration from the kingfisher. Kingfishers effortlessly plunge in and out of water without even really making a ripple. Nakatsu ended up changing the shape of the front of the bullet train to look nearly identical to a kingfisher's bill. This model not only eliminated the problem, but it was 10% faster and 15% more fuel efficient.