Exhibition is a load of bullsh**t

30th July 2004 at 01:00
Some animals eat it, some navigate by it, others use it to find a mate - but to most of us, it's just a huge, stinking pile of dung.

But now a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, "Poo: a natural history of the unmentionable" is encouraging us to take a closer look at faecal matter.

A range of cheerful cartoons, smelly displays and real-life specimens are accompanied by a smattering of faecal facts. For example, cave-dwelling bats rain down so much poo that research scientists can ski on it. Visitors can also study the solitary genet, a small cat-like mammal which uses its droppings as a lonely hearts ad, signalling that it wants to mate. (Don't try this at home.) Paul Kitching, education officer, said: "Poo has a definite yuck factor.

But it is scientifically valuable. We want people to appreciate the wealth of information that can be gathered from droppings."

For example, taking a tip from Hansel and Gretel, the hippo leaves a trail of dung whenever it leaves the river to snack on nearby grassland. At night, it merely follows the smell back home.

Many facts are included in an illustrated children's book to accompany the exhibition. Neal Layton, co-author, said:"We don't ever sit down and discuss poo, so people don't realise how useful it is."

But Eleanor Johansson, six, from Twickenham, west London, was unimpressed.

She said: "Poo is yucky and slimy. I wouldn't want to look at it too closely, and I won't be thinking about science when I go to the toilet."

Poo: a natural history of the unmentionable runs from August 3 to November 28. www.nhm.ac.ukmuseumtring

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today