To outsiders, it may seem odd that one of the most classic symbols of Canadiana is a bucktoothed furball that causes millions of dollars in property damage each year. But the mighty beaver–Canada’s largest rodent–played an important part in the country’s history, and its image remains proudly engraved into our currency.
Love them or hate them or love to hate them, the industrious animal takes the spotlight on April 7 for International Beaver Day.
Below, find five fun facts about our toothy national emblem, as well as some pictures from the Canadian Geographic Photo Club.
1. They make enormous dams
The world’s largest beaver dam (spotted on satellite images by scientists in 2007) is found in Alberta's Wood Buffalo National Park. With a width of 850 meters, scientists believe multiple generations of beavers have been working on the dam since the 1970s.
2. Their ancestors were frighteningly huge
Imagine a beaver that was 8 feet long and 200 pounds. This monster, known as “Castoroides” lived a semi-aquatic life during the Ice Age. Although it looked similar to its modern equivalent, it lacked the iconic flat tail.
3. They have orange teeth
Floss much? While discoloured human teeth often indicates unhealthy chompers, a beaver’s front teeth have iron-laced enamel, which helps them cut through giant tree trunks without breaking.
4. Water is their friend
The beaver has an impressive set of bodily functions to make life in the water easier. From closeable nose and ear valves to transparent membranes that cover their eyes like goggles, evolution has gifted them a few tricks. The can even close their lips behind their teeth so water doesn’t flow in while carrying logs, while it’s paddle-shaped tail serves as boat rudder.
5. It was on Canada’s first postage stamp
In 1851 the Three-Pence Beaver was designed by Sir Sandford Fleming. The stamp’s design was one of the first in the world to feature a pictorial, as opposed to a portrait of a monarch, a statesman, a geometric design or a coat-of-arms.