Saturday 19 March 2011

Animal Shapes

I've been thinking about places that are shaped like animals.

My starting point is Sussex, which is said to be shaped like a pig. This is reasonably clear, and the rapes (the ancient divisions unique to Sussex) look a bit like a diagram of cuts of meat.

1: Suthsexia Vernacule Sussex. 1664 J. Blaeu
2: Sussex. 1720 Emanuel Bowen and John Owen in Britannia Depicta

Second comes the Flemish Lion: much more is made of this and there are numerous representations of the low countries as "Leo Belgicus": usually rampant or passant, with the head facing Germany, but occasionally the other way around, facing into France and, in this case, sejeant.

3: Nicolaes Visscher’s ‘Leo Belgicus’ map of 1650
4: 17th Century map on a postcard, showing De Waag (the weighing house) in Gouda.

Question: If the word for "pig-shaped" is porciform, what is "lion-shaped"?

There are plenty of other ideas around. Here are are a few:
South Africa: rhino head - Lesotho is the eye and Swaziland the open jaw.
Africa: rhino head - Lake Victoria is the eye.
Australia: a dog's head - the west coast is the muzzle and Tasmania a collar tag.
China: a cockerel - pecking at the Sea of Japan.
Ireland: a koala - Mayo and Kerry gripping onto a branch.

I'll leave you with the most entertaining one that I've seen recently: the USSR - as a bear chomping on Romania, here at Puffintalk's tumblr.

Mightily ursiform!

Oh, and the Silver Jews' "Animal Shapes", one of my favourite songs.

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