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Urban Legends

The Mexican Pet

The Legend

Found on the Internet in 1998

In the '60s, the mom of a friend of mine was visiting Tijuana, Mexico, with one of her girlfriends. They had never been to Mexico before, even though they had lived in California their whole lives, and this was their big trip for the friend's 21st birthday.

They were walking through town, shopping, when the friend saw an armadillo walking in the dirty little alley between two buildings. Armadillos have this funny waddling kind of gate, and the friend was immediately taken with the thing. She followed it, dragging my friend's mom with her, and when she caught up to it she picked it up and it licked her with its little pink tongue. She was in love!

Because it's illegal to bring animals back to the United States from Mexico, the friend hid the armadillo under her sweater and pretended that she was pregnant for the border crossing.

Back in Beverly Hills, they set the armadillo free in the friend's apartment and went out to get it some armadillo chow, or whatever it is armadillos eat. When they got back to the apartment, the poor little armadillo was kind of twitching, and it had icky ooze at the corner of its mouth. Also, it had chewed a hole through the couch.

They rushed the animal to the veterinarian. The minute the vet saw the animal, he pulled a big hammer out from behind the examining table and hit the thing on the head, killing it. Both women screamed.

"Why did you do that?" they shouted at the vet, who they thought must be insane.

"For two reasons," said the vet. "First, because the animal had a horrible disease. And second, because it's not an armadillo -- it's a Mexican sewer rat wearing a turtle shell."


Behind the Legend

This legend is literally hundreds of years old. It has been around for as long as people have been visiting exotic foreign lands and smuggling home animals. In its original form, it was told by native Americans who have an oral history filled with visits by Europeans who brought gifts, strange new diseases, and boats filled with "adorable European prairie dogs with long tails."

The armadillo version of this anecdote has been the most popular in circulation ever since it occurred in the 1990s. However, a variety of variations are also making the rounds, including ones in which:

  • The animal in question is found washed up on a beach, swimming in from the ocean, or sitting in front of a TV drinking beer.
  • The animal is found in another foreign country (Spain, Sumatra, China, Hong Kong, or Africa) even though some of these are not actually countries.
  • The animal is taken to the vet because it kills a coyote, drowns in its water dish, or is found under the bed with a bloody finger in its mouth.
  • The vet can only identify the armadillo as a brilliantly disguised rat after doing a blood test.
  • A "Siberian hamster" turns out to be a rat.
  • A pet rat turns out to be a vicious miniature beagle.
  • The animal begins shaking violently and then explodes, releasing thousands of baby tarantulas.
  • The animal disappears and later is discovered in Richard Gere.

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