The Cat Organ, Or, Damn There’s Some Weird Stuff on Wikipedia

Cat Organ Illustration

You couldn’t make this stuff up, except someone apparently did sometime in the 16th century (though the excerpt below is from a later 19th century work) according to Wikipedia,

This instrument [the cat organ or piano] was described by the French writer Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin in his book Musiciana, extraits d’ouvrages rare ou bizarre (Musiciana, descriptions of rare or bizarre inventions):

When the King of Spain Felipe II was in Brussels in 1549 visiting his father the Emperor Charles V, each saw the other rejoicing at the sight of a completely singular procession. At the head marched an enormous bull whose horns were burning, between which there was also a small devil. Behind the bull a young boy sewn into a bear skin rode on a horse whose ears and tail were cut off. Then came the archangel Saint Michael in bright clothing, and carrying a balance in his hand.

The most curious was on a chariot that carried the most singular music that can be imagined. It held a bear that played the organ; instead of pipes, there were sixteen cat heads each with its body confined; the tails were sticking out and were held to be played as the strings on a piano, if a key was pressed on the keyboard, the corresponding tail would be pulled hard, and it would produce each time a lamentable meow. The historian Juan Christoval Calvete, noted the cats were arranged properly to produce a succession of notes from the octave… (chromatically, I think).

This abominable orchestra arranged itself inside a theatre where monkeys, wolves, deer and other animals danced to the sounds of this infernal music.

The cat organ was almost certainly never built but rather was likely the equivalent of a 16th century urban legend. However, an article at Mental Floss maintains that a similar musical instrument using pigs was actually constructed in the 15th century and again in Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid-19th century,

We are sure, however, of the existence of the katzenklavier’s [cat organ] cousin: the pig organ. In the 15th century, King Louis XI of France ordered Abbot de Beigne to create a “concert of swine’s voices.” Obliging, the abbot built a crude keyboard made of live pigs, which jabbed spikes into the rumps of squealing swine. A similar instrument—the porko-forte—was designed in Cincinnati 400 years later.

I’m skeptical of both of those accounts. The Porco-Forte, supposedly built in 1839 in Cincinnati, Ohio, has all the earmarks of a hoax.

U.S. FDA Bans Antibiotic Baytril In Poultry

In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a report announcing that the antibiotic Baytril would be banned from use in poultry effective September 12, 2005. The drug will remain on the market and approved for use in treating infections in dogs, cats and cows.

The FDA took the extraordinary move out of concern that use of Baytril in poultry could lead to antibiotic-resistant form of the campylobacter bacteria. Campylobacter is common in the intestines of turkey and chickens, but it doesn’t usually cause the animals disease. When Baytril is administered to poultry, it tends to lead to the emergence of antibiotic resistant forms of the bacteria.

The FDA fears that, while not causing illness to poultry, these antibiotic resistant forms of campylobacter could find their way to human beings, impairing the ability of existing antibiotics to treat these human infections.

The Associated Press reported that,

Resistant bacteria my be present in poultry sold at retail outlets. [FDA commissioner Lester] Crawford noted that since the drug was introduced for poultry in the 1990s, the proportion of resistant campylobacter infections in humans has risen significantly.

That can prolong the length of infections in people and increase the risk of complications, Crawford said. Complications can include reactive arthritis and blood stream infections.

Bayer, the manufacturer of Baytril, has 60 days to appeal the FDA’s decision.

The full FDA report on Baytril can be read here (2 mb PDF file).

Source:

FDA bans use of Baytril in poultry. Randolph Schmid, Associated Press, July 29, 2995.