For all too many of us, history lessons at school were nothing more than a catalog of dates, battles and long-gone empires. But dig a little deeper into history and you’ll soon find plenty of fascinating facts, many of them gruesome, disgusting or weird and some a combination of all three. Read on for 20 of the best bizarre facts from history, ranging from exploding dogs to vicious Vikings.
20. The bare facts about Corporal Wojtek
Polish soldiers bought Wojtek the Bear in Iran when he was a cub in 1942. It seemed to them only logical to enlist the bear in the Polish Army, and he was duly enrolled as a private. Eventually rising to the rank of corporal, Wojtek served with the 22nd Artillery Supply Company in Italy at the hard-fought Battle of Monte Cassino. Wojtek was transferred with his unit to the Scottish Borders after World War II, and he ended his days at Edinburgh Zoo, dying in 1963 at the age of 21. A bronze statue commemorates the heroic bear in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.
19. Morbid molars
In our modern world, the toothless are able to replace their missing molars with dentures or dental implants. But choices were much more limited in the bad old days before contemporary dentistry. One gruesome option was to use someone else’s teeth to fill unsightly gaps in your smile. For example, a London dentist, Mr. Woffendale, advertised in 1792 newspaper, “Wanted – Several Human Front Teeth.” Teeth were also obtained from the casualties of war, and the poor would sell their teeth.