The Real Just So Stories

Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories have enchanted generations of children with their fanciful explanations of how animals came by their peculiar features. But natural historians, folklorists and fossil experts have their own explanations.


01How The Elephant Got Its Trunk2004080920050711

In the first of a new series, Alistair Mcgowan revisits the Kipling stories and asks how the elephant really got its trunk? Other programmes in the series look at the camel's hump, the giraffe's neck, the whale's throat, and the zebra's stripes.

02How The Camel Got Its Hump2004081620050712

Alistair Mcgowan revisits

  • Rudyard Kipling's classic children's story to ask: is the camel really as obstinate and moody as kipling said? and how, actually, did it come by that thing on its back?

  • 03How The Giraffe Got Its Neck2004082320050713

    Alistair Mcgowan asks how the giraffe got its long neck. For 200 years, zoologists have assumed that it's to reach the top leaves of the trees. The real explanation, he learns, is rather less savoury.

    04How The Whale Got Its Throat20040830

    Alistair Mcgowan revisits Rudyard Kipling's classic children's story, 'How the Whale Got his Throat', a tall story involving a mariner being swallowed by a giant cetacean. The story has echoes of the biblical Jonah, and Alistair asks whether a human ever has, or could be, swallowed by a marine mammal.

    05 LASTHow The Zebra Got Its Stripes2004090620050714

    Alistair Mcgowan asks how the zebra got its stripes. Kipling, like many zoologists, assumed that the stripes are camouflage against big predators, but the truth turns out to be more surprising: the stripes make zebras invisible to tsetse flies.