Alice’s Animals

The White Rabbit, Flamingo and Hedgehog

The rabbit, flamingo and hedgehog are just a few of the many creatures that appear in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, author and lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church in Oxford.

Carroll’s real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and he created the stories to entertain Alice Liddell and her sisters, the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church. Dodgson would bring the ‘real Alice’ to the Museum of Natural History and there’s no doubt that the collections inspired his storytelling. The white rabbit is responsible for coaxing Alice into Wonderland in the first place. This rabbit’s white fur and pink eyes are caused by albinism, an absence of pigment in the skin, fur and eyes.

Albinos can be found in all vertebrate animals – everything from peacocks, lions and zebras through to humans.

In the book, the flamingo and hedgehog are used as croquet mallet and ball. Although the flamingo is reluctant to play, and keeps swivelling its head around, real flamingos are used to being upside down. They hold their beaks this way while feeding, often for several hours a day.

And the unfortunate hedgehog is also under threat in the real world. In the 1980s, there were around 30 million hedgehogs in the UK, but now there are thought to be just one million.

Listen to… Rachel Parle – Education officer

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In 2013, while the Oxford University Museum of Natural History is closed to have the roof fixed, some of the exhibits have sneaked away to the town centre!
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