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It's raining men… dogs, cats and fish and frogs
by Richard Angwin
Cat looking in a  mirror: photo Marianne Lowen THIS STORY LAST UPDATED:
18 March 2003 1550 GMT

Do you remember the song by the Weather Girls, It's Raining Men?

Well there are no records of Homo sapiens tumbling from the sky during a storm.
Medieval cats used to nestle in thatched roofs during a rain storm
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But have you ever wondered why when the rain is coming down in a torrent we talk of it 'raining cats and dogs'.

I am grateful to Paul Penfold of Bibury, Gloucestershire for telling me that this has its origins in medieval times.

Peasants used to live in tiny hovels with thatched straw roofs.

Their cats and dogs would live outside and often climbed onto the roof to bed down for the night, presumably warmed by the heat from the fires inside the hovels.

When there was very heavy rain falling, the straw would become very slippery and the animals often fell to the ground!

So if cats and dogs did not exactly fall from the skies what about other flora and fauna?

Frog showers

In his book, Weird Weather, Paul Simons tells of a nine-year-old resident of Shepton Mallet who got caught outside in a shower.

Initially, the lad thought it was a shower of hail. He shook his hair to remove what he thought were hailstones, only to discover that they were small frogs.

A similar event was reported in Trowbridge on June 16th 1939. The Meteorological Magazine carries this account:

Mr E Ettles, superintendent of the municipal swimming pool stated that about 4:30pm he was caught in a heavy shower of rain and, while hurrying to shelter, heard behind him a sound as of the falling of lumps of mud.

Frogs seem to get swept away quite often

Turning, he was amazed to see hundreds of tiny frogs falling on to the concrete path around the bath. Later many more were found to have fallen on the grass nearby.

Frogs seem to have a particularly tough time when it comes to these freak storms.

A fall of jellyfish is even more unusual but one is reported to have occurred in Bath in 1894.

Other unfortunate creatures that have fallen from the skies include flounders, minnows, snails mussels, maggots, crayfish, geese and even live snakes.

But how do we account for such bizarre happenings?

The fact that fish and amphibians are the most commonly observed creatures suggests that the source are often maritime in nature.

Waterspouts are more common that tornadoes, their land-based equivalent.

Less energy is required to produce these phenomena and whilst water obviously gets sucked up into the parent cloud, so too on occasion must whatever lies close to the surface.

This also accounts for the presence of frogs, tadpoles and other freshwater creatures. But some of the other accounts do present something of a poser.

Often only a single species of animal appear to fall. Sometimes they are alive, sometimes dead and sometimes dead and very, very stale.

Tornadoes and whirlwinds suck up all manner of material, both organic and inorganic.

Sooner or later the energy within the twister will run out and gravity has its way.

When that happens, look out! There could be something strange tumbling out of the sky.

Other unfortunate creatures that have fallen from the skies include flounders, snails mussels, geese, crayfish and even live snakes.
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