Penguin hearts rubber boot, swan prefers tractor

Germany seems to have an odd connection with peculiar animal stories. Paul, the clairvoyant octopus from Oberhausen rose to fame during the 2010 World Cup for allegedly guessing the winners of football matches. Earlier this month, it was revealed that a Bavarian cow is capable of jumping hurdles like a horse. Now, even more bizarre animal-behavior accounts are emerging from the central European nation.

A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed that Schwani, a 8-year-old male swan in Velen in Münsterland, north-west Germany, is in a long-term relationship with a blue tractor. On the news this week, on the other hand, is a love affair of more recent origin.

Bonaparte, a penguin at Constance’s Sea Life in southern Germany, appears to have fallen for his trainer’s rubber boots. The German newspaper The Local reports that the bird’s interest started with the beginning of the mating season, about four weeks ago. Apparently mistaking the boots — of black and white color — for a female penguin lying on her stomach, Bonaparte began rubbing against them.

Schwani appears to be less forward. But while not pursuing physical contact with his object of affection, the swan is clearly devoted to the blue tractor. “Ever since we bought the tractor three years ago, Schwani has been following it everywhere it goes,” Hermann-Josef Hericks, the German who runs the farm where Schwani lives, told the tabloid Bild.

While in Bonaparte’s case the explanation for the odd affair seems to be a simple mix up, it is harder to get to the bottom of Schwani’s story. According to animal behaviorist Daniela Fiutak, contacted by Bild, the key to the bird’s bizarre doings may be in his early life. “The swan presumably had contact with machines during puberty,” she said. “He sees the tractor as a sexual partner.”

In fact, Schwani does appear to have a thing for noisy machinery. According to a Velen local, the swan has revealed an interest for the diggers and machines on the building site next to the farm where he resides. He may be committed to the blue tractor, but the relationship doesn’t seem to be exclusive.

The same could be said of the romance between the rubber boot and Bonaparte. Having witnessed the penguin’s sexual advances towards the black and white footwear, the other birds in the enclosure decided to follow his example. The mass pursuit for the rubber sole eventually forced the penguins’ keeper to switch to blue boots.

Although initially “baffled” and “bemused” with the disappearance of his inanimate lover, according to The Local, now Bonaparte seems to be interacting more with real female penguins.



2 thoughts on “Penguin hearts rubber boot, swan prefers tractor

  1. Laura Wheeler

     This is brilliant! The poor penguin, but don’t they mate for life??  He will probably never get over this trauma, although I am pleased to hear he is starting to interact with other penguins now!


  2. Barbara Ferreira

    Yes, he must have been heart broken! They are supposed to mate for life but maybe if their partner disappears they will look for another one. In this case, I read that the keeper is hoping to be able to get back into the enclosure with the black and white rubber boots once Bonaparte finds a real-life partner.  


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