Raining animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals "rain" from the sky. Such occurrences have been reported in many countries throughout history. One hypothesis offered to explain this phenomenon is that strong winds traveling over water sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs, and carry them for up to several miles. However, this primary aspect of the phenomenon has never been witnessed or scientifically tested.
The English language idiom, "It is raining cats and dogs" (referring to a heavy downpour), is of uncertain etymology, and there is no evidence that it has any connection to the "raining animals" phenomenon.
Rain of flightless animals and objects has been reported throughout history. In the first century AD, Roman naturalist Pliny The Elder documented storms of frogs and fishes. In 1794, French soldiers witnessed fall of toads from the sky during heavy rain at Lalain, near the French city of Lille. In 1857, people from Lake County in California reported fall of sugar crystals from the sky. In March of 2010, spangled perch fell out of the sky over a remote desert town in the Australian outback.
French physicist André-Marie Ampère was among the first scientists to take seriously accounts of raining animals. He tried to explain rains of frogs with a hypothesis that was accepted by other scientists of the day. Speaking in front of the Society of Natural Sciences, Ampère suggested that at times frogs and toads roam the countryside in large numbers, and that the action of violent winds can pick them up and carry them great distances.
Sometimes the animals survive the fall, suggesting the animals are dropped shortly after extraction. Several witnesses of raining frogs describe the animals as startled, though healthy, and exhibiting relatively normal behavior shortly after the event. In some incidents, however, the animals are frozen to death or even completely encased in ice. There are examples where the product of the rain is not intact animals, but shredded body parts. Some cases occur just after storms having strong winds, especially during tornadoes.
However, there have been many unconfirmed cases in which rainfalls of animals have occurred in fair weather and in the absence of strong winds or waterspouts. Given that waterspouts do not actually lift anything (the water droplets visible in the column are merely condensation) and even the most intense will only raise the surface of the water by less than a meter, it lacks plausibility to suggest that they are capable of lifting fish from below the surface of the water and high into the sky. Tornadoes do not really 'lift' anything up into the column, but pick debris up and throw it outward on ballistic trajectories, where it lands in a destructive manner. Frogs, if they were to move in this way, would not be intact at the end of their journey, and fish, respiring aquatically, would likely asphyxiate long before their landing, which would be just as bad as it is for frogs. Despite the seeming scientific plausibility of the waterspout theory, upon more rigorous inspection it fails completely.
More recently, a scientific-sounding explanation for the phenomenon has been developed that involves tornadic waterspouts. However, waterspouts are very limited in their ability to lift objects into the air, managing only drops of water and possibly light surface debris (leaves, etc), which are quickly jettisoned along ballistic trajectories. Under this hypothesis, waterspouts or tornados transport animals to relatively high altitudes, carrying them over large distances. It was mistakenly thought that the winds were capable of lifting and carrying the animals over a relatively wide area and allow them to fall in a concentrated fashion in a localized area. More specifically, it has been erroneously claimed that some tornadoes can completely suck up a pond, letting the water and animals fall some distance away in the form of a rain of animals.
This hypothesis 'appears' supported by the type of animals in these rains: small and light, usually aquatic, and by the suggestion that the rain of animals is often preceded by a storm. However the theory does not account for how all the animals involved in each individual incident would be from only one species, and not a group of similarly-sized animals from a single area. However, this waterspout hypothesis is not supported by the evidence. It has persisted in the popular imagination by a misunderstanding of what waterspouts are, and their lifting capability. Waterspouts are not capable of lifting significant weight, nor of transporting it any significant distance. People mistakenly believe that the column of the waterspout is composed of water sucked up by the vortex, but this is not the case. The column of a waterspout consists of condensation from the surrounding air.
In the case of birds, storms may overcome a flock in flight, especially in times of migration. The image to the right shows an example where a group of bats is overtaken by a thunderstorm. The image shows how the phenomenon could take place in some cases. In the image, the bats are in the red zone, which corresponds to winds moving away from the radar station, and enter into a mesocyclone associated with a tornado (in green). These events may occur easily with birds, which can get killed in flight, or stunned and then fall (unlike flightless creatures, which first have to be lifted into the air by an outside force). Sometimes this happens in large groups, for instance, the blackbirds falling from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas, United States on December 31, 2010. It is common for birds to become disoriented (for example, because of bad weather or fireworks) and collide with objects such as trees or buildings, killing them or stunning them into falling to death. The number of blackbirds killed in Beebe is not spectacular considering the size of their congregations, which can be in the millions. The event in Beebe, however, captured the imagination and led to more reports in the media of birds falling from the sky across the globe, such as in Sweden and Italy, though many scientists claim such mass deaths are common occurrences but usually go unnoticed. In contrast, it is harder to find a plausible explanation for rains of terrestrial animals; the enigma persists despite scientific studies.
Sometimes, scientists have been incredulous of extraordinary claims of rains of fish. For example, in the case of a rain of fish in Singapore in 1861, French naturalist Francis de Laporte de Castelnau explained that the supposed rain took place during a migration of walking catfish, which are capable of dragging themselves over the land from one puddle to another. Thus, he argued that the appearance of fish on the ground immediately after a rain was easily explained, as these animals usually move over soft ground or after a rain.
The following list is a selection of examples.
- Singapore, February 22, 1861
- Olneyville, Rhode Island, May 15, 1900
- Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, July 1, 1903
- Marksville, Louisiana, October 23, 1947
- Kerala, India, February 12, 2008
- Bhanwad, Jamnagar, India, Oct 24, 2009
- IIT MADRAS, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Sep 12, 2013
- Lajamanu, Northern Territory, Australia, February 25 and 26, 2010,
- Loreto, Agusan del Sur, Philippines, January 13, 2012
- The yearly Lluvia de Peces in Yoro, Honduras
Frogs and toads
- Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, June 2009 (occurrences reported throughout the month)
- Rákóczifalva, Hungary, 18–20 June 2010 (twice)
- An unidentified animal (thought to be a cow) fell in California ripped to tiny pieces on August 1, 1869; a similar incident was reported in Olympian Springs, Bath County, Kentucky in 1876
- Jellyfish fell from the sky in Bath, England, in 1894
- Spiders fell from the sky in Salta Province, Argentina on April 6, 2007.
- Worms dropped from the sky in Jennings, Louisiana, on July 11, 2007.
- According to a video, Spiders fell from the sky in Santo Antônio da Platina, Brazil, on February 3, 2013. (However, it has been suggested as falling from a mass web between elevated poles.)
In literature and popular culture
Rains of animals (as well as rains of blood or blood-like material, and similar anomalies) play a central role in the epistemological writing of Charles Fort, especially in his first book, The Book of the Damned. Fort collected stories of these events and used them both as evidence and as a metaphor in challenging the claims of scientific explanation.
In anime, comics, and manga
- In the sixth part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, a character with the power to control weather causes a rain of frogs.
- Raining frogs occur in director Peter Weir's 1977 film, The Last Wave, as one aspect of nature beyond the control or preconceptions of the Western scientific mindset.
- In Luc Besson's 1983 film Le Dernier Combat raining fish are shown. The main character "The Man" (played by Pierre Jolivet) collects these fish and stores them as food.
- Raining frogs are shown in the 1999 New Line Cinema movie, Magnolia. Frogs rain down and cause havoc on drivers.
- The character Cris Johnson in the 2007 film Next relates as fact that fish eggs were re-hydrated after being evaporated from the ocean near Denmark, resulting in a rain of fish.
- In the 2009 film, Wonderful World, Ben Singer (played by Matthew Broderick), experiences raining fish at the end of the film, while in Senegal. His close friend Ibu had told him about the phenomenon earlier in the film.
- The 2013 Syfy channel film Sharknado followed this premise, with waterspouts dropping sharks across Los Angeles, California.
- In the role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the player can do an optional quest given by Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, which involves playing a prank on a small, peaceful-yet-superstitious village. The player is told to perform certain actions that will fulfill a prophecy within the village that is believed to herald the end of the world, thus causing all of the villagers to panic. The final event foretold in the prophecy is flaming dogs raining from the sky, which, unlike the other events of the prophecy, is achieved by the Daedra Lord himself and his powers.
- Fish and leeches fall from the sky in Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.
- A sperm whale and a bowl of petunias were called into existence above the alien planet Magrathea in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The whale had only moments to come to terms with its new identity and purpose during the ultimately fatal plummet to Magrathea's surface. The bowl of petunias had been in similarly terminal situations before.
- A fish falls from the sky in the opening scene of Andrew Bovell's 2008 play When the Rain Stops Falling.
- John Hodgman's satirical almanac More Information Than You Require makes references to multiple events involving raining animals.
- Stephen King's short story "Rainy Season" from the collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes is about frogs with sharp teeth falling from the sky.
- The first line of the book "Summer Knight" from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, reads: "It rained toads...".
- Raining animals are relatively common in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. The explanation given is magical weather. One small village in the mountainous, landlocked Ramtops operates a successful fish cannery due to regular rains of fish. The Omnian religion includes several accounts of religious figures being saved by miraculous rains of animals, one being a single elephant. Other items include bedsteads, coal scuttles, cake and tinned sardines.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Confidence and Paranoia", fish rain in Lister's sleeping quarters.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures story "The Curse of Clyde Langer", it rained fish from the sky above Ealing in the west of London due to the influence of an alien entity known as Hetocumtek which had been trapped in a Native American totem pole centuries earlier.
- In The X-Files episode "Die Hand Die Verletzt", frogs fall from the sky in the area where a demon was apparently summoned and killed a high-school student the night before.
"Raining cats and dogs"
The English idiom "it is raining cats and dogs", used to describe an especially heavy rain, is of unknown etymology, and is not necessarily related to the "raining animals" phenomenon. The phrase (with "polecats" instead of "cats") was used at least since the 17th century. A number of improbable folk etymologies have been put forward to explain the phrase, for example:
- An "explanation" widely circulated by email claimed that in 16th-century Europe when peasant homes were commonly thatched, animals could crawl into the thatch to find shelter from the elements, and would fall out during heavy rain. However, there seems to be no evidence in support of either assertion.
- Drainage systems on buildings in 17th-century Europe were poor, and may have disgorged their contents during heavy showers, including the corpses of any animals that had accumulated in them. This occurrence is documented in Jonathan Swift's 1710 poem 'Description of a City Shower', in which he describes "Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud,/Dead cats and turnip-tops come tumbling down the flood."
- "Cats and dogs" may be a corruption of the Greek word Katadoupoi, referring to the waterfalls on the Nile, possibly through the old French word catadupe ("waterfall").
- The Greek phrase "kata doksa", which means "contrary to expectation" is often applied to heavy rain, but there is no evidence to support the theory that it was borrowed by English speakers.
There may not be a logical explanation; the phrase may have been used just for its nonsensical humor value, like other equivalent English expressions ("it is raining pitchforks", "hammer handles", etc.).
- Afrikaans: ou vrouens met knopkieries reen ("old women with clubs")
- Bengali: মুষলধারে বৃষ্টি পড়ছে musholdhare brishṭi poṛchhe ("in a stream of mallets")
- Bosnian: padaju ćuskije ("crowbars")
- Bosnian: lije ko iz kabla ("it's pouring like from a bucket")
- Cantonese: "落狗屎" ("dog poo")
- Chinese: "倾盆大雨" ("its pouring out of basins")
- Catalan: Ploure a bots i barrals ("boats and barrels")
- Croatian: padaju sjekire ("axes dropping")
- Czech: padají trakaře ("wheelbarrows")
- Czech: leje jako z konve ("like from a watering can")
- Danish: det regner skomagerdrenge ("shoemakers' apprentices")
- Dutch: het regent pijpenstelen ("pipe stems or stair rods")
- Dutch (Flemish): het regent oude wijven ("old women")
- Dutch (Flemish): het regent kattenjongen ("kittens")
- Faroese : Tað regnar av grind ("Pilot whales")
- Finnish: Sataa kuin Esterin perseestä ("It's raining like from Esteri's ass")
- Finnish: Sataa kuin saavista kaatamalla ("It's raining like poured from a bucket")
- French: il pleut comme vache qui pisse ("it is raining like a peeing cow")
- French: il pleut à seaux ("it's raining like from buckets")
- French: il pleut des hallebardes ("it is raining halberds"), clous ("nails"), or cordes ("ropes")
- German: Es regnet junge Hunde ("young dogs") or Es schüttet wie aus Eimern ("like poured from buckets")
- Greek: βρέχει καρεκλοπόδαρα ("chair legs")
- Hindi: मुसलधार बारिश (musaldhār bārish) ("a stream of mallets")
- Hungarian: mintha dézsából öntenék ("like poured from a vat")
- Icelandic: Það rignir eins og hellt sé úr fötu ("like poured from a bucket")
- Italian: piove a catinelle ("poured from a basin")
- Latvian: līst kā no spaiņiem ("it's raining like from buckets")
- Marathi: मुसळधार पाउस("a stream of mallets")
- Nepali: मुसलधारे झरी ("a stream of mallets")
- Norwegian: det regner trollkjerringer ("she-trolls")
- Polish: leje jak z cebra ("like from a bucket")
- Portuguese: chovem or está chovendo/a chover canivetes ("penknives")
- Portuguese: chove a potes/baldes ("it is raining by the pot/bucket load")
- Portuguese: chove a cântaros/canecos ("it is raining by the jug load")
- Portuguese (Brazil): chovem cobras e lagartos ("snakes and lizards")
- Portuguese (Brazil): está caindo um pau-d'água ("a stick of water is falling")
- Romanian: plouă cu broaşte ("frogs")
- Russian: льет как из ведра ("from a bucket")
- Spanish: están lloviendo chuzos de punta ("shortpikes/icicles point first" - not only is it raining a lot, but it's so cold and windy that being hit by the drops hurts)
- Spanish: está lloviendo a cántaros ("by the clay pot-full")
- Spanish: llueven sapos y culebras ("toads and snakes")
- Spanish (Argentina): caen soretes de punta ("pieces of dung head-first")
- Spanish (Venezuela): está cayendo un palo de agua ("a stick of water is falling")
- Spanish (Colombia): estan lloviendo maridos ("it's raining husbands")
- Serbian: padaju sekire ("axes")
- Swedish: Det regnar smådjävlar ("It is raining little devils")
- Swedish: regnet står som spön i backen ("the rain stands like poles out of the ground")
- Turkish: bardaktan boşanırcasına ("like poured from a cup")
- Urdu: musladhār bārish ("a stream of mallets")
- Welsh: mae hi'n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn ("old ladies and sticks")
- Lluvia de Peces, (Honduras, "Rain of Fishes")
- Exploding animal
- The Fortean Times
- "It's Raining Men"
- Red rain in Kerala
- Star jelly
- Cattle mutilation
- Blood rain
- How can it rain fish?
- "Hundreds of fish fall out of the sky over remote Australian town of Lajamanu". DailyMail Online. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- «Les pluies de crapauds» (French).
- Dunning, Brian. "It's Raining Frogs and Fish". Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- “Can it rain frogs, fish or other objects” (Aug 2010). Library of Congress. Aug. 26, 2010
- Supernatural World uses this theory to explain a rain of fishes in Norfolk on August 8, 2000.
- Orsy Campos Rivas includes this explanation in the article Lo que la lluvia regala a Yoro, which discusses a rain of fishes that occurs annually in Honduras. Hablemos online(Spanish)
- Angwin, Richard Wiltshire weather - BBC, July 15, 2003
- Bat-eating Supercell, National Weather Service, (March 19, 2006).
- "More than 1,000 blackbirds fall out of Arkansas sky". BBC News. 2 January 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
- "Why Are Birds Falling From the Sky?". National Geographic. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
- "Now It's Dead Doves Falling From Sky in Italy". "AOL". 7 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
- "FACT CHECK: Mass bird, fish deaths occur regularly". "Associated Press". 7 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
- Comptes Rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences 52:880-81, 1861 (French).
- McAtee, Waldo L. (May 1917). "Showers of Organic Matter". Monthly Weather Review 45 (5): 223. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
- "Rained Fish", AP report in the Lowell (Mass.) Sun, May 16, 1900, p4
- "Canada Day weather through the years", reported in The Weather Network : , June 27, 2012
- Greg Forbes. Spooky Weather. The Weather Channel. Posted: October 27, 2005
- Fish Rain in Kerala, India
- "Fish Rain", reported in the India : , Oct 24, 2009
- "Fish Rain", reported in the India : , Sep 12, 2013
- "It's raining fish in Northern Territory", reported in news.com.au : , February 28, 2010
- Lani Nami Buan (January 15, 2012). "It's raining fish! It's normal". GMA News. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- Jereco O. Paloma (January 15, 2012). "Agusan’s 'rain of fish' natural although unusual". SunStar Davao. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- Demetriou, Danielle (2009-06-10). "Sky 'rains tadpoles' over Japan". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- "Szemtanúk szerint békaeső hullott a településre". szoljon.hu. 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2010-06-21.
- Fort, Charles (1919). "Ch. 4". The Book of the Damned. sacred-texts.com. pp. 44–6.
- Fort, Charles (1919). "Ch. 4". The Book of the Damned. sacred-texts.com. p. 48.
- "It's Raining Spiders!". Epoch Times. 6 April 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- "Worms Fall from the Sky in Jennings". WAFB Channel 9. 7 July 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
- "Designer registra 'chuva de aranhas' em cidade do interior do Paraná". Globo.com. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- Pratchett, Terry (1997). The Discworld Companion. Books Britain. p. 319. ISBN 0-575-60030-6.
- Pratchett, Terry (1998). Jingo. London: Corgi. pp. 252–3. ISBN 0-552-14598-X.
- Pratchett, Terry (1998). Jingo. London: Corgi. p. 241. ISBN 0-552-14598-X.
- Raining Cats and Dogs, Anatoly Liberman
- Richard Brome (1652), The City Witt: "It shall rain dogs and polecats."
- Robert Laurence, Raining Cats And Dogs. Accessed on 2009-07-28.
- "Life in the 1500s". Snopes.com. 2007.
- Raining cats and dogs at The Phrase Finder site. Accessed on 2009-07-28.
- WordReference.com Language Forums, accessed on 2009-07-28.
- It's raining cats and dogs at Omniglot.com. Accessed through Google's cache on 2009-07-28.
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