11 November 2008

In small packages

A zoo in Australia recently celebrated the birth of a baby pygmy hippopotamus.

In case you were wondering, a baby pygmy hippo is about one-fifth the size of a regular baby hippo. Full-sized pygmies (is that an oxymoron? Full-sized pygmy?) are only half as long and one-tenth the weight of your standard river hippopotamus. By my calculations, that makes the babies five times as adorable, and the adults at least twice as cute.

And this pygmy hippo baby, with his Shrek ears and wide nostrils, is very cute indeed. From the videos, he (or was it she?) looked to be the size of a large cat. It was very playful, frolicking in the water and chomping on its keeper’s khaki shorts. A regular hippo could never get away with that.

I’ve always been a fan of ungulates, so I know for a fact that there are also pygmy goats, pygmy horses, and pygmy elephants. And if you go outside the ungulate family, there’s the pygmy loris, pygmy marmoset, and the pygmy owl, just to name a few. These species all have two things in common: they are very small, and therefore, they are very cute.

What is it about tiny things that make them so adorable, so hard to resist? I’m not sure, exactly, but I do know that there’s something scientific to it. Take babies, for example. They are scientifically designed to make us want to take care of them. I believe that was proven in a study somewhere, but at the moment I’m too lazy to look it up. But it doesn’t end with babies. Toddlers and small children can get away with doing things that adults never could, simply because they’re little.

My two-year-old nephew is a good example. He can have snot on his face, and be running after his mother to hit her (for trying to wipe away said snot), and he’s still adorable. If I tried that, I’d be labeled many things, none of them cute or flattering. This is nature’s way, I think, of continuing the human race. Kids can get away with a lot more things that, when an adult does them, you’d normally want to kill them for.

Part of the reason I have so much fun with my Domo blog is that I get to play with miniatures. Domo has a small piano, an angel costume, and a skateboard, and because they’re all tiny, they’re all cute. If I could get away with it, I’d play with a dollhouse. Because it’s little, with little furniture and decorations. And little = cute. We are, I swear it, scientifically programmed to equate something tiny with something good. Things on a small scale are almost always good things. Small = cute, and cute = good, therefore small = good (and I only got a “B” in my logic class. Ha!).

There is, as always, an exception to small being cute. And I speak, of course, of the insect. They crawl. They fly. They bite. They spread malaria. They are creepy and nasty, and yet they are small. But there is a wisdom in this. They need to be small, even though they are not by extension cute, and they are certainly not good. Think about it: would you like for insects to be any bigger than they already are? I’ve seen crickets and roaches the size of field mice. That’s big enough, thankyouverymuch. So I’m happy with bugs being the exception to small = cute = good. Bugs = bad, and we all know that.

And with that inborn knowledge, we have free brainpower to appreciate the good things in life.

Like tiny hippopotamuses.

1 comment:

stanfordfam said...

Hippopotami???? I think you are so smart. Tracy has a secretary that keeps live crickets on her desk...there outta be a law against that.