This period between Christmas and New Year’s Day is always a bit odd.
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the days between the solstice and end of the year must still have a unique feeling. For one thing, unless you work in the health or service industries, you’re probably spending most or all of this time on vacation. Maybe you’re using the holidays as an opportunity to chip away at your reading list, reach out to friends and family, or partake in winter sports. Perhaps you’re sleeping in, binge-watching crime documentaries, or cuddling with your nonhuman companions.
Regardless of your interests, you’re likely reflecting on the events of the past twelve months and recharging your emotional batteries for the challenges of another year. After the rollercoaster ride that 2020 just gave us, it seems more important than ever that we all take a deep breath, recite our personal mantras, and engage in the activities that bring us fulfillment.
One thing that I’ve been doing during this week-between-the-holidays is playing a wide variety of games with my friends and family. The ongoing pandemic makes meeting up with loved ones more difficult for all of us, but we still find ways to compete virtually because we think it’s important. For humans and other creatures, play challenges cognitive abilities and yields valuable insight about the world and how it works. When done socially, it can reaffirm social relationships and hone crucial skills like empathy, adaptability, and resilience. Of course, I don’t usually think about these benefits while I’m getting torched in a game of Cribbage (unlike some cool scientists who actually research the adaptive value of play behavior), but I still appreciate the opportunity to engage with others in lighthearted competition.
Lately, my playlist has included card games like Rummy and Cribbage, online multiplayer games like Among Us, and turn-based board games like Settlers of Catan. (By the way, does anyone have ore or wheat to trade? I’ve got a ton of sheep.) My friends and I have also carried on with our fantasy football league, giving us each a small stake in the weekend contests.
On top of all that, I am greeted by ten playful chimps upon arriving at the sanctuary each morning. The chimps and staff jointly create arbitrary rituals that, over time, become woven into the fabric of our relationships. The games that the chimps play, like ours, have understood rules and require a certain amount of trust. When Jamie nods, we start walking. When we rev up the Gator, Missy starts running. When Burrito stomps and pivots, we stomp and pivot.
When I see the chimps creating these odd rituals, it reminds me of the contests that we conceive among ourselves. Therefore, today, I’m giving you all a new game to play. It’s similar to ones that we have hosted in the past (Saw references and all).
Today’s version challenges you to guess which one of the sanctuary’s four rescued cattle is pictured in each of the following images. Each member of the Moo Crew is included at least twice. I’ll post the answers in a separate comment tomorrow evening. “Let the games begin!”
Hint: One pair of related cattle shares a similar hair-do. The other related pair does not!
Good luck, everybody!