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Monday, March 14, 2016

Inspiration For Pokemon's Pikachu - The Pika


That means "You could knocked me down with an electric lightning bolt!"

Did you know that Pikachu—the beloved electric mouse on the long-running über-popular animated kids program Pokémon—is actually based on a real-life creature called the Pika?

Pokemon is owned by The Pokémon Company, and was created by Tajiri Satoshi (surname first) in 1995 (story on him tomorrow - really, I wrote it days ago).

Beloved in Japan, and the world—no wait... that was Pikachu... I'm talking about the pika, which is is a four-legged mammal, with short limbs, a round body, round ears - and is pretty damn cute - maybe because is related to the rabbit family - but it does look a heck of a lot like a hamster.

But that's where the similarities end.

The pika does not:
  • release powerful electrical charges;
  • say pika-pika, because it can't really speak;
  • is not striped or even yellow in color;
  • usually have a tail. At least nothing that looks like this:

There are actually 30 species of pika, a term used to describe any member of the Ochotonidae family with in the order of lagomorphs (which also includes the Leporidae rabbits and hares).

The pika is native to colder climes in North America, parts of eastern Europe, and Asia, but not Japan... except for one species.

The average pika is between 15-23cm (5.9 to 9.1-inches) in body length, and weighs between 120-350 grams (4.2 to 12.3 oz).
Northern Pika
The Northern Pika lives in Hokkaido, Japan, as well as from the Ural's east. It's smaller than average: 12-5 to 18.5 cm (4.9 to 7.3-inches) long, and has a tiny widdle tail of 0.5 to 1.2 cm (0.2 to 0.47-in).

Small round ears; short legs; five toes per foot, and furry soles.

Color: long reddish brown in summer, greying in winter.

It prefers to live on scree - tiny little pebbily slopes in mountainous area, amongst boulders, damp areas near coniferous trees and even dry meadows… but really, it burrows with tunnels all over the damn place, preferring areas that are high in altitude between 400 to 2,000 meters (1,300 to 6,600-feet).

Scree. Photo from
While they do walk and run, they tend to leap about - hmm, so maybe Pokemon got that right. Pika-pika!

Oh yeah… the Northern Pika (male and female) are territorial, meaning a couple will stake out a marked territory (a gland on their cheek is rubbed on stuff, or the classic - pee… psssssssss, that's mine… pssssssss, that's mine. (Bonus points for knowing where that is from.)

Here… maybe this fact will make the pika less cute: After eating its herbivore diet, the pika will poop out a soft green feces, which it will then eat for more nutrition, finally producing rabbit-like harder pellet poop that looks like Coco Puffs cereal.

I had a rabbit when I was a kid. I could never eat that cereal when I had that rabbit, because you never knew when someone in the family would try a practical joke.

They have fun during the day, and sleep at night… so at least Pokemon got that right, too.

Now… I did say that the pika doesn't say pika-pika like it does on the Pokemon cartoons… but the pika does apparently have a distinct call that varies in duration that could be anything from short, to long, to whole bloody songs, which are usually reserved for Spring, when a young male pika's thoughts turn to pitching woo.

How old am I?

Pika's generally live to be about seven years of age in the wild, and should you be lucky enough to come across one and want to know how old it is, all you have to do is count the adhesion lines on the periosteal bone on the lower jaw.

Determining its age might not kill the pika, but you can beat your sweet bippy it won't want to be your friend.

Andrew Joseph

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