There is something about squirrels that fascinates and charms us despite their piratical ways and noisy chatter. The wealth of literature and depictions of squirrels in popular culture attests to our on-going love affair with this captivating creature. In fact, one real-life squirrel named Shorty, was so beloved by residents of Tyler, Texas that he was granted free medical care, food and a private crossing zone until his death at age 15 in 1963.
Squirrel Family Taxonomy
The family Sciuridae contains 51 genera and 279 species. Within the family, there are five sub-families (Ratufinae, Sciurillinae, Sciurinae, Xerinae, and Callosciurinae). Of those five, the Sciurinae -- which contains the tree-squirrels and flying squirrels is the sub-family most recognized by North Americans, although the Xerinae sub-family contains the familiar chipmunk and other ground squirrels. Squirrels are native to virtually all lands across the world, excepting only Australia, southern South America Antarctica, Greenland and Madagascar.
Squirrels in Literature
Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin is a classic character from literature, who had a brother named Twinkleberry. Potter also wrote about squirrels named Silvertail and Timmy and Goodie Tiptoes in “Tale of Timmy Tiptoes." Billie Bushytale and brother Johnnie Bushytale are other well-known characters from the Uncle Wiggily's Stories by Howard R. Garis. Of course, almost as famous is Ranger Rick's friend Sammy Squirrel, known to nature-minded children from the the 1960s to the present from subscriptions to Ranger Rick magazine. Squirrels exist in more obscure, modern literature as well. Morweena, Morella, Modequai and Gervase Brightkin all appear as squirrel characters in the triology “The Deptford Mice” by Robin Jarvis.
Squirrels in Cartoons
Few baby boomers can forget heroic Rocky (Rocket J. Squirrel), the flying squirrel from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” who sparred with Russian agents Boris and Natasha, though fewer may remember Hanna-Barbara's secret agent squirrel -- appropriately named Secret Squirrel -- and his near-sighted sidekick Morocco Mole, whose cartoon parodied the popular James Bond films of the time. Younger folks likely caught the somewhat bizarre episode on the popular cartoon “The Simpsons," in which a squirrel is found bearing the likeness of Abe Lincoln, and known as “The Lincoln Squirrel."
Chipmunks Are Squirrels Too
The popular helium-pitched cartoon singing trio, Alvin and the Chipmunks included brothers -- the mischievous Alvin, chubby Theodore and brainy Simon -- along with Alvin's girlfriend Brittainy, and her sisters Eleanor and Jeanette. The cartoon even spurred a 2007 animated movie of the same name. Chip and Dale -- the classic Disney chipmunks mirrored the Warner Brothers duo, Mac and Tosh, who were actually gophers, and not chipmunks, as many people believed. Though since some gophers are commonly called ground squirrels, and ground squirrels are actually members of the Sciuridae family, who knows what Mac and Tosh may really be. In addition to her famous squirrels, Beatrix Potter also had her own chipmunk character, Chippy Hackee. He appears alongside the Tiptoe squirrels in a “Tale of Timmy Tiptoes."
- Squirrels: History
- Roadside America: Grave of Shorty the Squirrel
- Animal Diversity Web: Sciuridae: Squirrels
- Gutenberg: The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin
- Gutenberg: The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes
- Gutenberg: Uncle Wiggly's Adventures
- Classic Ranger Rick: Group Images Alton Langford's Work
- Robin Jarvis: The Deptford Mice Trilogy Home
- Bullwinkle:The History of Rocky and Bullwinkle
- You Tube: Secret Squirrel TV Cartoon Intro
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images