An unexpected menagerie

I’m an animal lover. That surprises a lot of people, but it’s true. I grew up with pets and mother who loved birdwatching. I’ve often thought that, in another life, I’d run an animal refuge.

One of the unexpected joys of living in France, then, is that I’m surrounded by animals. Our neighbour and landlord has two cats, a dog and a tortoise (named, creatively, Tortoise). One of the cats, perhaps weary of our neighbour’s young children, has taken up residence in our house instead. This is him sleeping on my desk:

In addition to the local animals, there are horses, ponies and donkeys in the fields that flank the canal. I usually feed one lucky equine my apple core when I go for a walk before dinner. Apparently there is a peculiar local practice of feeding one’s old bread to the horses, too. I haven’t tried that yet.

The plane trees along the canal are full of birds, and I’ve seen several species of ducks and swans. At dusk, they’re joined by flapping, looping bats that hunt insects over the water. There’s apparently carp, eel, perch and all sorts of other less familiar fish in the muddy shallows of the canal.

The most unexpected creature I’ve seen thus far was near this bridge, where I’d paused on a bike ride. I saw a mammal in the water–it looked like a beaver with a weasel’s tale. Knowing that Europe has very few beavers, I assumed that it must be a muskrat, or a very fat otter. I asked around when I got home, and it turns out they’re coypu or ragondin in French. They’re native to South America, but were apparently introduced to Europe by fur traders.

There’s also both an Australian and an African game park nearby. I think I’ll skip those, as I always find zoos a bit sad.

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