Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Unimal

The ancient Greeks could really come up with some wild beasties when they unleashed their imaginations. For example, the manticore: a mythical monster sometimes depicted with a man’s face, a lion’s body, a dragon’s legs, and a scorpion’s tail.

But that combo critter can’t match the unimal.

I just watched a documentary called Farmboy about the life of H.E. Babcock, a professor of farm marketing who later became Chairman of the Board at Cornell University in the 1940s. During his lifetime he promoted nutrition standards. To symbolize animal agriculture the unimal was created, five basic farm animals in one: chicken, cow, steer, pig and sheep. This cobbled-together imaginary beast had the key aspects of each animal, from the rooster’s red comb on its head to the curly pigtail on its butt. The front legs were those of a cow; the rear ones of a chicken. Toss in a pair of wings and udders and you had a unimal.

Babcock had a plastic unimal toy on the market to promote a healthy, well-balanced diet to children. Designed by Karl Butler, you would press down on it and a tiny hotdog would drop out. Keep pressing and other farm products would appear: a quart of milk, a ham, a pound of butter, and an egg.

With the concern nowadays about cholesterol, red meat and fat, I don’t think the items produced by the unimal would be considered proper nutrition.

Maybe it’s time for an update: I propose the univegimal. With genetic engineering this critter would be part lettuce and tomato combined with the five farm animals. Just press down on the new toy version and a tossed salad pops out with all the other agricultural products.

Images from the documentary Farmboy.

(Note: Unimal buttons and T-shirts are available at


X. Dell said...

Perhaps you should develop the univegemetavitamin. Then you can hold a seance to see if Lucille Ball would be willing to promote it.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

I tried the seance. Lucy's response: "Whaaaah, Rickeeee!"


Doug said...

Heh heh. I can only imagine from which part of the univegimal the tossed salad would come.

I'm sorry. All the childish double-entendres the media used last week when referring to the "teabagging" protests have worn off on me.

Ray said...


Are you trying to make me toss my cookies instead of tossing a salad?