Paul the Octopus

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Paul, next to a football boot with the German flag colours, in his tank
Other name(s)Paul Oktopus, Die Krake Paul
SpeciesOctopus vulgaris
Hatched26 January 2008
Weymouth, England
Died26 October 2010 (aged 2)
Oberhausen, Germany
Known forSuccessfully predicting results of football matches
OwnerSea Life Centres
Named afterDer Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus – poem by Boy Lornsen

Paul the Octopus (26 January 2008[1] – 26 October 2010) was a common octopus who predicted the results of international association football matches. Accurate predictions in the 2010 World Cup brought him worldwide attention as an animal oracle.

During divinations, Paul's keepers would present him with two food-containing boxes decorated with the flags of the teams in an upcoming match. Whichever box Paul ate from first was considered his prediction for which team would win the match.

His keepers at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, mainly tasked him with predicting the outcomes of international matches in which the German team was playing. Paul correctly chose the winning team in four of Germany's six Euro 2008 matches, and all seven of their matches in the 2010 World Cup—including Germany's third place play-off win over Uruguay on 10 July. He also correctly chose Spain as the winner of the 2010 FIFA World Cup final.[2] In all, Paul amassed an overall record of 12 correct predictions out of 14: a success rate of approximately 85.7%.


Paul in his tank, 2010

Paul was hatched from an egg at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, England, and was then moved to a tank at one of the chain's centres at Oberhausen in Germany.[3] Paul's name derived from the title of a poem by the German children's writer Boy Lornsen: Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus.[4]

According to Sea Life's entertainment director, Daniel Fey, Paul demonstrated intelligence early in life: "There was something about the way he looked at our visitors when they came close to the tank. It was so unusual, so we tried to find out what his special talents were."[5]

The animal rights organisation PETA commented that octopuses are some of the most intelligent of invertebrates, with complex thought processes, long- and short-term memories, and different personalities. They can use tools, learn through observation, and are particularly sensitive to pain, according to the group. They said it would be cruel to keep Paul in permanent confinement. Sea Life Centres responded that it would be dangerous to release him, because he was born in captivity, and was not accustomed to finding food for himself.[6]

Following Paul's rise to fame, businessmen in Carballiño, a community in Galicia, collected about €30,000 for a "transfer fee" to get Paul as main attraction of the local Fiesta del Pulpo festival.[7] Manuel Pazo, a fisherman and head of the local business club assured people that Paul would be presented alive in a tank and not on the menu. Sea Life rejected the offer nevertheless.[8]

Paul was last checked by staff on 25 October 2010, and was in good health, but the following morning he was found dead. He was aged two-and-a-half, a normal lifespan for the species. His agent, Chris Davies, said "It's a sad day. Paul was rather special but we managed to film Paul before he left this mortal earth". Sea Life Centre manager Stefan Porwoll remembered Paul as an octopus who had "enthused people across every continent".[9][10]


Paul choosing Spain over Germany for his 2010 semi-final prediction

Paul's career as an oracle began during the UEFA Euro 2008 tournament.[3][11] In the lead-up to Germany's international football matches, Paul was presented with two clear plastic boxes, each containing food: a mussel or an oyster. Each container was marked with the flag of a team, one the flag of Germany, and the other the flag of Germany's opponent. The box which Paul opened first (and ate its contents) was deemed to be the predicted winner of the match.[12] There was no method for Paul to pick a draw, despite this being a possible outcome for group stage matches.

Professor Chris Budd, of the University of Bath, and Professor David Spiegelhalter, of Cambridge University, both compared Paul's success to a run of luck when tossing a coin.[13] Under the hypothesis that Paul was equally likely to choose the winner or the loser of a match, and neglecting the possibility of a draw, he had a 1 in 2 chance of predicting a single result and a 1 in 64 chance of predicting six in a row. This feat would be unlikely to happen by chance alone, but not hugely so. Spiegelhalter points out that there are "other animals that have attempted but failed to predict the outcome of football matches"; it is not remarkable that one animal is more successful than the others, and only the successful animals will gain public attention after the fact.[13]

There was discussion as to whether differences in flags design could have influenced Paul[14][15][16] (despite Octopus vulgaris being almost certainly colour blind[17]), or whether he could have been choosing boxes based on differences in their smell.[18]

Career Record[edit]

Flag of Germany: A horizontal tricolour of black, red and gold
Germany (11)
Flag of Spain: A horizontal tricolour of red, yellow and red, the yellow stripe being twice the size of each red stripe and containing the coat of arms
Spain (2)
Flag of Serbia: A horizontal tricolour of red, blue. and white, with the lesser coat of arms
Serbia (1)
Flags picked by Paul over both competitions

UEFA Euro 2008[edit]

In UEFA Euro 2008, Paul predicted Germany to win all of their games, a correct prediction in 4 out of 6 cases. He failed to predict their defeats by Croatia in the group stage,[19] and by Spain in the championship's final.[3][a]

Projections by Paul the Octopus in the UEFA Euro 2008 tournament
Germany's opponent Stage Date Prediction Result Outcome
 Poland group stage 8 June 2008 Germany 2–0 Correct
 Croatia group stage 12 June 2008 Germany[3][19] 1–2 Incorrect
 Austria group stage 16 June 2008 Germany 1–0 Correct
 Portugal quarter-finals 19 June 2008 Germany 3–2 Correct
 Turkey semi-finals 25 June 2008 Germany 3–2 Correct
 Spain final 29 June 2008 Germany[3] 0–1 Incorrect

2010 FIFA World Cup[edit]

Paul choosing Spain over Netherlands for the final match

Paul's accurate choices for the 2010 World Cup, broadcast live by German news channel n-tv, endowed him with celebrity status.[3] Paul predicted the winners of each of the seven 2010 FIFA World Cup matches that the German team played — against Australia, Serbia, Ghana, England, Argentina, Spain[21] and Uruguay — as well as the tournament's Netherlands vs. Spain final. His prediction that Argentina would lose prompted Argentine chef Nicolas Bedorrou to post an octopus recipe on Facebook.[3]

There are always people who want to eat our octopus but he is not shy and we are here to protect him as well. He will survive.

— Oliver Walenciak (Paul's keeper)[22]

Paul correctly predicted the outcome of the semi-final, by choosing the food in the box marked with the Spanish flag. German supporters drew hope from his incorrect choice for the Germany versus Spain match in the UEFA Euro 2008 but were disappointed.[23] The prediction led to German fans calling for Paul to be eaten.[24][25] In response, the Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero offered to send Paul official state protection, and the Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian called for Paul to be given safe haven in Spain.[26][27]

Paul's notoriety attracted criticism from the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who accused him of being a symbol of Western decadence and decay.[28] Ahmadinejad went on to say that "Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values."[29]

Doubts were expressed as to whether "Paul" was actually the same octopus in both 2008 and 2010.[30]

Projections by Paul the Octopus in the 2010 FIFA World Cup
Match Stage Date Prediction Result Outcome
 Germany vs.  Australia group stage 13 June 2010 Germany[31] 4–0 Correct
 Germany vs.  Serbia group stage 18 June 2010 Serbia[31] 0–1 Correct
 Ghana vs.  Germany group stage 23 June 2010 Germany[31] 0–1 Correct
 Germany vs.  England round of 16 27 June 2010 Germany[32] 4–1 Correct
 Argentina vs.  Germany quarter-finals 3 July 2010 Germany[22] 0–4 Correct
 Germany vs.  Spain semi-finals 7 July 2010 Spain[33] 0–1 Correct
 Uruguay vs.  Germany 3rd place play-off 10 July 2010 Germany 2–3 Correct
 Netherlands vs.  Spain final 11 July 2010 Spain[34] 0–1 Correct

Similar predictors[edit]

Memorial to Paul at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen

Some other German oracles did not fare so well in the World Cup. The animals at the Chemnitz Zoo were wrong on all of Germany's group-stage games, with Leon the porcupine picking Australia, Petty the pygmy hippopotamus spurning Germany's apple-topped pile of hay (instead of Serbia), and Anton the tamarin eating a raisin representing Ghana.[35][36][failed verification]

Mani the parakeet of Singapore became famous for correctly predicting the results of all four quarter-final matches. Mani contradicted Paul by picking the Netherlands to win the final, resulting in some media outlets describing the game as an "octopus-versus-parakeet showdown".[37][38]

Rabio the Octopus who correctly predicted the results of all of Japan’s group stage games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, was killed and sent to market, on 2 July 2018 by the Japanese fisherman who had caught it.[39]


In 2010, uTouchLabs developed an iPhone app called "Ask the Octopus".[40]

A 2010 Chinese thriller film Kill Octopus Paul depicts Paul's predictions as being part of an international match-fixing scheme.[41]

On 17 June 2014, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Paul was featured in a Google "doodle". He was represented as in Heaven, perched on a billowy bed of clouds and adorned with a halo; when animated, he appeared to vacillate in his predictions for the day's matches.[42] Paul was again featured on 13 July in the doodle for the 2014 final. In that doodle, clicking on the clouds in the upper left brings up an image of Paul, similar to that in the earlier doodle, "cheering" on the final from Heaven.[43]


  1. ^ Some later sources reported his success rate at 80%.[20]


  1. ^ "Muere el pulpo Paul [Paul the Octopus dies]". El País. 26 October 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  2. ^ Christenson, Marcus. "Psychic octopus Paul predicts Spain to beat Holland in World Cup final", The Guardian, 9 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "World Cup 2010: 10 things you didn't know about Paul the psychic octopus", The Daily Telegraph, London, 7 July 2010, archived from the original on 22 June 2014, retrieved 12 June 2014
  4. ^ Published in Das alte Schwein lebt immer noch: Boy Lornsens Tierleben, Schneekluth (1985), ISBN 978-3795109417. Republished in and eponymous with the anthology Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus. Gedichte für neugierige Kinder, 2009, Manfred Boje Verlag ISBN 9783414821485
  5. ^ "Paul the World Cup 'psychic' octopus: Rock The Week &#124". Metro. UK. 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  6. ^ Ruf, Cory (8 July 2010), "PETA demands Paul, the World Cup-predicting octopus, be set free", National Post, retrieved 9 July 2010
  7. ^ bieten 30.000 Euro Ablösesumme für "Pulpo Paul"[permanent dead link] FTD 10 July 2010
  8. ^ Kraken-Orakel vs. Propheten-Papagei FR online nach einer DPA Meldung, 8 July 2010
  9. ^ "Paul the World Cup octopus dies in his tank in Germany". BBC. 26 October 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  10. ^ Branigan, Tania; Connolly, Kate; Jones, Sam (26 October 2010). "Paul the octopus is dead – but conspiracy theories are thriving". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  11. ^ "Paul the octopus chooses Spain over Germany". IOL. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  12. ^ Erskine, Carole (25 June 2010), Psychic Octopus to Predict England Result, Sky News, archived from the original on 28 June 2010, retrieved 9 July 2010
  13. ^ a b Shenker, Sarah (9 July 2010), What are the chances Paul the octopus is right?, BBC News, retrieved 9 July 2010
  14. ^ Grieshaber, Kirsten (6 July 2010), "Tentacle trauma: Paul the octopus says Spain will sink Germany at World Cup", Associated Press Newswires, Factiva APRS000020100706e676001l9
  15. ^ "Weymouth's psychic octopus Paul is no sucker", Dorset Echo, 9 July 2010, Factiva NQTCE00020100709e6790002t, retrieved 10 July 2010
  16. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (9 July 2010), Martin Kuebler (ed.), Octopuses have a well-developed brain, are attracted to colors and are 'delicious', Deutsche Welle, retrieved 10 July 2010
  17. ^ Lydia M. Mäthger; Alexandra Barbosa; Simon Miner; Roger T. Hanlon (2006), "Color blindness and contrast perception in cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) determined by a visual sensorimotor assay", Vision Research, 46 (11): 1746–1753, doi:10.1016/j.visres.2005.09.035, PMID 16376404, S2CID 16247757
  18. ^ "Darum hat sich Krake Paul für Spanien entschieden", Die Welt (in German), 8 July 2010, retrieved 9 July 2010
  19. ^ a b "Wie endet die Partie Deutschland – Kroatien?: Tier-Orakel sind sich uneins", Der Westen, 11 June 2008, retrieved 9 July 2010
  20. ^ Armstrong, Paul (9 July 2010), Would you trust World Cup's octopus oracle?, CNN, retrieved 9 July 2010
  21. ^ Shenker, Sarah (9 July 2010). "What are the chances Paul the octopus is right?". BBC News. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  22. ^ a b Hyde, Thomas (7 July 2010), "Germany v Spain: Psychic octopus Paul unfazed by death threats, says keeper", The Daily Telegraph, London, archived from the original on 10 July 2010, retrieved 9 July 2010
  23. ^ Octopus Paul predicts Spain over Germany in WCup, 6 July 2010, archived from the original on 9 July 2010
  24. ^ Breitenbach, Dagmar (8 July 2010), Fry Paul the oracle octopus, German fans say, Deutsche Welle, retrieved 9 July 2010
  25. ^ Abrams, David (8 July 2010), Germans Eat Paul The Octopus,, archived from the original on 12 July 2010
  26. ^ "Spanish PM Jose Zapatero offers Paul the psychic octopus state protection". Herald Sun. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2024.
  27. ^ "Paul the psychic octopus predicts Spain will beat Holland". The Daily Telegraph (London), 9 July 2010
  28. ^ "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacks Octopus Paul". The Daily Telegraph. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  29. ^ Keating, Joshua. "What's Ahmadinejad's problem with Paul the Octopus?". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  30. ^ "Don't Mess with the Octopus: Oracle Paul Celebrates Perfect World Cup Record", Der Spiegel, 12 July 2010
  31. ^ a b c Snyder, Whitney (24 June 2010), "World Cup Octopus: Paul's Predictions Stun Germany", The Huffington Post
  32. ^ 'Psychic' octopus predicts Germany victory over England, BBC News, 25 June 2010
  33. ^ "Paul The Octopus Predicts Spain Will Beat Germany", The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 7 July 2010, archived from the original on 9 July 2010
  34. ^ Christenson, Marcus (9 July 2010), "Psychic octopus Paul predicts Spain to beat Holland in World Cup final", The Guardian, London
  35. ^ "World Cup Forecasts: Paul the Octopus Predicts a German Advance", Spiegel Online International, 23 June 2010, Factiva SPION00020100623e66n0002z, retrieved 10 July 2010
  36. ^ Binational octopus Paul predicts German win over England in next WCup game, Associated Press, 25 June 2010, Factiva APRS000020100625e66p001d2, retrieved 10 July 2010[dead link]
  37. ^ "World Cup Final a Battle of Octopus vs. Parakeet". CBS News. 9 July 2010.
  38. ^ "Octopus Paul vs Mani the parakeet: Who will triumph?". Yahoo! Singapore. 10 July 2010. Archived from the original on 12 July 2010.
  39. ^ Octopus Rabio's tipping tentacles on target for all Japan's World Cup Games
  40. ^ "Paul The Octopus Gets An iPhone App". The Huffington Post. 14 September 2010.
  41. ^ "Movie "Kill Octopus Paul" takes look at soccer betting". Reuters. 29 October 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  42. ^ Curtis, Sophie (17 June 2014). "Belgium vs Algeria Google doodle remembers Paul the 'psychic' Octopus". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  43. ^ "Is today's World Cup final Google doodle carrying a hidden message?". Outside of the Boot. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.

Further reading[edit]