13 Utterly Bizarre Times Animals Have Been Given Jobs In The Human World

Human beings show a rare knack for domesticating animals. Beyond keeping pets, though, people often look to the animal kingdom for a helping hand - or hoof, or paw, or wing. Whether these animal jobs involve adding drug-sniffing dogs to police forces or training horses and cattle to pull heavy equipment on farms, it's clear people depend on non-human help. Many jobs wouldn't be possible without an animal's assistance.

Whilst most people are familiar with certain types of working animals - service dogs, for instance - there are some weird jobs for animals that are not as well known. In these instances, critters have taken on some truly strange and crazy tasks. From bomb-detecting bees to coconut-picking monkeys to political pets, this list celebrates the truly bizarre jobs animals were hired for.

  • Bees Detect Explosives In Airports

    Bees Detect Explosives In Airports
    Photo: Tanner Smida / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    You've probably seen sniffer dogs assisting airport security in checking for illegal items, but several facilities are now teaching bees to help find potential bombs. Researchers in the United States have discovered that the insects have as strong a sense of smell as dogs, and can be trained to just as effectively find explosives.

    The technique involves having the bees associate the smell of certain materials and chemicals used in making bombs with sugar water, causing the bees to believe nectar is close and extend their proboscises (their tubular mouths). Special equipment can then recognize this behavior and send an alert. The method is seen as a great alternative to traditional processes, as the bees can be trained almost immediately and can be hidden in small portable cases, making them ideal for concealed detection.

  • A Baboon Ran A Railway Signal Station

    A Baboon Ran A Railway Signal Station
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    South African signalman James Wide had a terrible accident in the late 1800s: he fell onto the track in front of an oncoming train, and ended up losing both of his legs. After the incident, a chacma baboon named Jack was trained to help him continue his duties.

    The baboon aided Wide by pushing his homemade wheelchair and operating the signal switches for the railway. Jack gained notoriety when the situation was officially brought to the attention of the railway company. Tests showed the baboon was capable of carrying out the tasks under supervision from his owner, and the railway company hired him as a full-time employee. During his nine years of employment, Jack was paid 20 cents a day and given half a bottle of beer every week.

  • Ferrets Can Double As Electricians

    Ferrets Can Double As Electricians
    Photo: Alfredo Gutiérrez / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Ferrets are known for their lightning speed and flexibility, which allow them to quickly travel through tunnels and navigate through hard-to-reach areas. These skills mean they have often been employed to lay electrical cables in places where engineers are unable to get to themselves. Up until the 1960s, Boeing had their own team of ferrets to carry cables around aircraft that they were building. The animals have even been used for concerts, like in 1999, when a collection of them were used to solve some cabling problems at a gig in the UK.

    While ferrets have proven useful many times, they haven't been employed as much lately; they can easily lose interest in the projects and fall asleep while working.

  • Dogs Serve As Mayors Of A United States Town

    The small town of Rabbit Hash, KY, only has 315 residents, and would likely be unknown if it wasn’t for the fact that they have had a string of dogs as their mayor since 1998. Their most famous incumbent for the official position was perhaps Junior Cochran. The black Labrador served as mayor of the town from 2004 until his death in 2008, at the age of 15. The current Rabbit Hash mayor is a pit bull named Brynneth Pawltro, who is backed up by two ambassadors in the form of a border collie and an Australian shepherd.

  • Guard Monkeys Protect Against Other Animal Thieves

    In New Delhi in 2001, rhesus monkeys began stealing items from government buildings and destroying valuable equipment. So, the Indian government opted to simply employ bigger monkeys to guard their facilities. They theorized that the large langur monkeys would frighten off the smaller animals, forcing them to move into new areas away from the civil service buildings. Paid in bananas, the langur employees proved their worth by attacking any other monkeys on sight.

  • Landmine-Detecting Rats Clear Warzones

    Landmine-Detecting Rats Clear Warzones
    Video: YouTube

    Warzones can be riddled with landmines long after conflicts have ended. Unfortunately, because the explosives are often so well hidden, they are usually only discovered when they're set off by mistake. Discovering where these devices are buried can be incredibly difficult - and that's where African pouched rats come in. These animals have a keen sense of smell that allows them to detect the landmines under the dirt, while their small size ensures they won’t set the explosives off. The rats are extraordinarily effective, and are able to sniff through 2,000 square feet in just 20 minutes, compared to the four days a person would require for the same task.