Don’t Fuck With Beavers
Animals as symbols are curious things. Too often they are grossly misrepresented (have you actually heard the underwhelming cry of a bald eagle?)
…ironically extinct (the story of the last grizzly bears in California is pretty depressing)
(There’s much, much more in the Bancroft Museum grizzly exhibit…)
…or just don’t make sense. Lions? England? Huh? Though the Swedish Gripsholm lion is pretty awesome.
This brings us to the de facto animal mascot for Canada, the beaver. Beaver pelts were the business case that made Canada. This is a potentially hilarious animal in many respects, and ironic in others since the beaver was almost driven to extinction by the mid-1800s. But let’s face it, these industrious semi-aquatic rodents have remarkably good PR (and seem to be saving us from our diesel spills).
Anyway, in 1964, Canadians got tired of not having a real flag. (The Red Ensign, a Union-Jack-in-the-corner flag you see so often in former British colonies, had been used since the 1860s.) The Great Flag Debate erupted over which symbols to use. Various maple leaf designs were proposed by the government in power, while the Union Jack was favored by those still in love with the British Empire.
About 5900 designs were submitted by Canadians for the flag committee’s inspection, and beavers put in a pretty good showing. The top four design elements:
- maple leaves: 2136
- union jacks: 408
- beavers: 389
- Fleur-de-lys: 359
The University of Saskatchewan has an archive of many of the submissions, and they are as awesome as you might expect. While I am rather pleased with the current Canadian flag, this beaver jack flag is pretty striking.
Not all flags were plant, animal or empirically themed. Here we see a design with
hockey sticks Canadian ceremonial swords:
Some designs were reflective of the era:
Anyway, I have taken the liberty of collecting the various beaver-themed flags for your inspection:
Now before you go mocking Canada for nearly putting a beaver on its flag, I present you with some fairly terrifying evidence of beaver superiority:
Between beavers and hockey, I think Canada is pretty well defended.