Exploding animal

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For specific information about animals used as bombs, see Animal-borne bomb attacks.

The explosion of animals is an uncommon event arising through natural causes or human activity. Among the best known examples are the post-mortem explosion of whales, either as a result of natural decomposition or deliberate attempts at carcass disposal.[1] Other instances of exploding animals are defensive in nature or the result of human intervention.

Causes of explosions[edit]

Natural explosions can occur for a variety of reasons. Post-mortem explosions, like that of a beached whale, are the result of the build-up of natural gases created by methane-producing bacteria inside the carcass during the decomposition process.[2]

Natural explosions which occur while an animal is living may be defense-related. A number of toads in Germany and Denmark exploded in April 2005.[3]

External influences[edit]

Various military attempts have been made to use animals as delivery systems for weapons. In Song Dynasty China, oxen carrying large explosive charges were used as self-propelled explosive missiles.[4] During World War II the United States investigated the use of "bat bombs", or bats carrying small incendiary bombs,[5] while at the same time the Soviet Union developed the "anti-tank dog" for use against German tanks.[6] Other attempts have included the so-called kamikaze dolphins, intended to seek out and destroy submarines and enemy warships.[7]

There have been a number of documented incidents of animal-borne bomb attacks, in which donkeys, mules or horses were used to deliver bombs.[8][9][10]


Some insects explode altruistically, at the expense of the individual in defense of its colony; the process is called autothysis.

Several species of ants, such as Camponotus saundersi in southeast Asia, can explode at will to protect their nests from intruders.[11][12] C. saundersi, a species of carpenter ant, can self-destruct by autothysis. Two oversized, poison-filled mandibular glands run the entire length of the ant's body. When combat takes a turn for the worse, the ant violently contracts its abdominal muscles to rupture its body and spray poison in all directions.

Likewise, many species of termites, such as Globitermes sulphureus, have members, deemed the soldier class, who can split their bodies open emitting a noxious and sticky chemical for the same reason.[13]


Bat bombs were an experimental World War II weapon developed by the United States consisting of a bomb shaped casing with over a thousand compartments, each containing a hibernating Mexican Free-tailed Bat with a small timed incendiary bomb attached. Dropped from a bomber at dawn, the casings would deploy a parachute in mid-flight and open to release the bats which would then roost in eaves and attics in a 20-40 mile radius. The incendiaries would start fires in inaccessible places in the largely wood and paper construction of the Japanese cities that were the weapon's intended target.[14][15]


In January 1932, the Townsville Daily Bulletin, an Australian newspaper, reported an incident where a dairy cow was partially blown up and killed on a farm at Kennedy Creek (near Cardwell, North Queensland). The cow had reputedly picked up a detonator in her mouth while grazing in a paddock. This was only triggered later, when the cow began to chew her cud, at a time when she was in the process of being milked. The cow had its head blown off by the resulting explosion, and the farmer milking the cow was knocked unconscious.[16]


Pigs have been blown up by bombs in military testing.[17] In intensive pig farms, large numbers of pigs have been killed by explosions of their foaming manure.[18][19]

The Romanian movie Tales From the Golden Age describes an instance of pig explosion in Communist Romania.[20]


The explosive rat, also known as a rat bomb, was a weapon developed by the British Special Operations Executive in World War II for use against Germany. Rat carcasses were filled with plastic explosives, and were to be distributed near German boiler rooms, where it was expected they would be disposed of by burning, with the subsequent explosion having a chance of causing a boiler explosion.

The explosive rats never saw use, as the first shipment was intercepted by the Germans; however, the resulting search for more booby trapped rats consumed enough German resources for the SOE to conclude that the operation was a success.[21]


In October 2005, rangers in the Everglades National Park discovered the carcass of a 6-foot (1.8 meters) alligator protruding from the burst and headless carcass of a 13-foot (4 meters) Burmese python (a non-native, invasive species). It was suggested that the alligator had tried to claw its way out of the snake; or that the alligator was already dead when swallowed; or that a third animal or human was responsible for cutting open and decapitating the snake; or that the alligator decomposed and ruptured the snake's body.[22]


According to worldwide media reports in April 2005, toads in the Altona district of Hamburg were observed by nature protection officials to swell up with gases and explode, propelling their innards for distances of up to one meter. These incidents prompted local residents to refer to the area's lake—home to the toads—as "Tümpel des Todes" (Pool of Death). The incidents were reported as occurring with greatest frequency between 2 and 3 a.m. Werner Smolnik, environmental movement worker, stated on April 26, 2005, at least 1,000 toads had died in this manner over a series of a few days.[23]

According to a witness, "toads swell up to three-and-a-half times their normal size before blowing up", and were noted to live a short time after exploding.[citation needed]

Berlin veterinarian Franz Mutschmann collected toad corpses and performed necropsies. He theorised that the phenomenon was linked to a recent influx of predatory crows to the area. He stated that the cause was a mixture of crow attacks and the natural puff up defense of the toads. Crows attacked the toads to pick through the skin between the amphibian's chest and abdominal cavity, picking out the liver, which appears to be a delicacy for crows in the area. In a defensive move, the toads begin to blow themselves up, which in turn, due to the hole in the toad's body and the missing liver, led to a rupture of blood vessels and lungs, and to the spreading of intestines. The apparent epidemic nature of the phenomenon was also explained by Mutschmann: "Crows are intelligent animals. They learn very quickly how to eat the toads' livers."[23]

Initial theories had included a viral or fungal infection, possibly one also affecting foreign horses involved in racing at a nearby track. However, laboratory tests were unable to detect an infectious agent.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Steven Hackstadt, The Evidence, TheExplodingWhale.com Accessed November 7, 2005; The Infamous Exploding Whale perp.com, Accessed June 6, 2005)
  2. ^ "Sperm whale explodes in Taiwanese City," eTaiwan News,January 27, 2004 (accessed November 17, 2006)
  3. ^ "Mystery of German exploding toads," BBC News, April 27, 2005 (accessed November 17, 2006)
  4. ^ Turnbull, Stephen (2001). Siege Weapons of the Far East: AD 300–1300. Osprey Publishing. p. 40. 
  5. ^ The Bat Bombers, C. V. Glines, Journal of the Airforce Association, October 1990, Vol. 73, No. 10 (accessed November 17, 2006)
  6. ^ Dog Anti-Tank Mine, Soviet-Empire.com (accessed November 17, 2006)
  7. ^ Iran buys kamikaze dolphins, BBC News, Wednesday, 8 March 2000, 16:45 GMT
  8. ^ Leave the Animals in Peace: PETA's letter to Yasser Arafat February 3, 2003.PETA
  9. ^ Dogs of war can be friend or foe August 12, 2005. The Standard (originally from The Los Angeles Times)
  10. ^ http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/12/03/exploding_donkey/
  11. ^ Jones TH, Clark DA, Edwards AA, Davidson DW, Spande TF, Snelling RR (August 2004). "The chemistry of exploding ants, Camponotus spp. (cylindricus complex)" (PDF). J. Chem. Ecol. 30 (8): 1479–92. doi:10.1023/B:JOEC.0000042063.01424.28. PMID 15537154. 
  12. ^ Exploding Ants: Amazing Facts About How Animals Adapt, Joanne Settel, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon& Schuster, New York, NY, 1999 ISBN 0-689-81739-8
  13. ^ Piper, Ross (2007-08-30). Extraordinary Animals. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 25–27. doi:10.1336/0313339228. ISBN 978-0-313-33922-6. GR3922. 
  14. ^ Madrigal, Alexis C. "Old, Weird Tech: The Bat Bombs of World War II". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-03-04. 
  15. ^ "A batman to the rescue". http://www.apa.org. Retrieved 2016-03-04.  External link in |website= (help)
  16. ^ "Was it suicide?: A moo-cow's end"Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld.: 1907–1954), 15 January 1932. Accessed 5 June 2015.
  17. ^ Fiona Macrae (26 November 2012), "Pigs blown up, guinea pigs poisoned and marmosets given anthrax", Daily Mail 
  18. ^ Larry Geller (February 12, 2012), "At last – exploding pig poop explained", The Free Range Gourmet 
  19. ^ "When Pigs Start Exploding, It's Time to Rethink Our Food System", Treehugger, February 17, 2012 
  20. ^ Marin Mandir (29 December 2011), "Tales From the Golden Age", Movie Critic 
  21. ^ "Back to the Drawing Board — EXPLODING RATS!". Military History Monthly. Retrieved 2016-03-04. 
  22. ^ "Who's Saurian Now?: Photograph shows a snake that burst trying to eat an alligator". Snopes.com.  AP. "Python Bursts After Trying to Eat Gator". WTOPNews.com. 
  23. ^ a b c "Hungry crows may be behind exploding toads". msnbc.com. Microsoft. 2005-04-28. Retrieved 2007-11-22.