Seven Monkey facts
1. People from Hartlepool are called Monkey Hangers
The story goes like this. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship called the Chasse Maree was wrecked on the coast at Hartlepool. There were no survivors, with the exception of a lone monkey, wearing a French uniform, supposedly dressed to amuse the sailors. Odd, but better than some other rumoured sailors’ habits from the time. The monkey was found by some locals and questioned. When the monkey wouldn’t answer, the locals concluded the animal to be a French spy. The poor beast was sentenced to death and hung from the mast of a fishing boat. Whether it’s true or not, this has remained a source of amusement for people in nearby towns ever since.
Hartlepool United are known as The Monkey Hangers and have now turned the joke around and now have a mascot called ‘H’Angus the Monkey’. H’Angus stood for election as Mayor of Hartlepool in 2002 and won. One of the promises he made was to give all school children free bananas, a promise which he later had to go back on. Typical.
2. We share 96 per cent of our DNA with chimps.
The chimp was the fourth mammal to have its entire genome sequenced, after the mouse, rat and human. According to the journal Nature, the first detailed genetic comparison between humans and chimpanzees shows that around 96 per cent of the DNA sequence is identical in the two species. But there are significant differences, particularly in genes relating to sexual reproduction, brain development, immunity and the sense of smell. The scientific analysis of the 3 billion chemical “letters” of the chimp’s genetic code highlighted its amazing closeness to that of humans. After 6m years of separate evolution, the differences between chimp and human are just 10 times greater than those between two unrelated people and 10 times less than those between rats and mice.
3. But women are genetically more like chimps than men
Since our ancestors descended from the trees, the genes involved in being male have evolved at great speed since we split from chimps and the Y chromosome has shifted far more from our common ancestor than has the X. Women, who lack the Y chromosome, are hence genetically more like chimpanzees than men. I don’t make the rules.
4. Like humans, the great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans – all can catch colds, but monkeys do not. Heurelho Gomes (insert other name if you like) couldn’t catch a cold either.
5. Missing Monkey
The BBC only dubbed 39 of the 52 episodes of Monkey, the cult Japanese television show of the early 1980s. Which will be a big disappointment for those of who couldn’t get enough of it. Incidentally, the role of the monk Tripitaka in the programme was actually played by a beautiful Japanese actress called Masako Natsume.
6. Do do do the Funky Gibbon
Bill Oddie, who wrote the thing, claims that you ‘wouldn’t believe the musical pretensions that went on in my head. With ‘Funky Gibbon’, I started off – it’s almost unbelievable considering how stupid the song is – trying to get the feel of a Miles Davis track, I can’t remember which, probably just after Bitches Brew and that sort of era: some really choppy Miles Davis-type rhythm, again with a Sly Stone influence. It sounds like Parliament on a bad day, or something like that, that kind of thing.’ Right.
7. Monkey brains
You have heard the tale of the Johnny Foreigners who pop the head of a live monkey through a table, crack it open and scoop its brains out. Like a bloody, hairy boiled egg. You have probably even seen it in films like “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”
The problem is that it’s not true, but a classic urban legend. It’s a way of demonising foreigners. Americans say the Taiwanese do it. Indonesians say the Taiwanese do it. Taiwanese say that Hong Kongers do it. Hong Kongers say it is rural Chinese on the border with Vietnam. Historical versions by officials from Beijing in the North of China report that it is Southerners who do it. People from Stoke would say people in Crewe do it but the reality is much, much worse.
7a. Cheeky chimps
What bonobos get up to would make Jack Nicholson blush.