When you’re learning history in school, it can feel like you’re just cramming facts and details about historical figures into your head. While knowing the past is vital, discovering a few odd historical facts along the way makes studying so much more enjoyable, from 4th of July history to food history facts to even St. Patrick’s Day history—plus loads more—makes learning so much more enjoyable.
These 30 unexpectedly bizarre history facts and historical trivia are some of the most interesting tidbits from the past, whether you’re wanting to enhance your historical knowledge or become a whiz at your next random history facts.
1. Juliana, a Great Dane, was given the Blue Cross Medal during World War II. She peed on an incendiary bomb and it went out!
2. Alexander the Great was buried alive by accident. Alexander is thought to have suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a neurological illness. They believe he was simply paralyzed and intellectually aware when he died!
3. Female Gladiators existed in Ancient Rome! A Gladiatrix, or Gladiatrices, was a female gladiator. Unlike their male counterparts, they were extremely rare.
4. A lady named Ching Shih was the world’s most successful pirate in history. She was a prostitute in China until she was purchased and married by the Commander of the Red Flag Fleet. Her husband, on the other hand, saw her as an equal, and she became a pirate leader in the fleet.
5. You may recognize them as the group of heroes whose films broke box office records. The Avengers, on the other hand, were a gang of Jewish assassins who targeted Nazi war criminals after WWII. They poisoned a total of 2,283 German POWs!
6. The Olympic Games featured fine arts competitions from 1912 until 1948. Literature, architecture, sculpture, painting, and music all received medals. The art that was created had to be Olympic-themed, of course.
7. Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous conqueror, was once besieged by a swarm of rabbits! He had requested that a rabbit hunt for himself and his troops be organized. When the rabbits were freed from their cages, they launched an irresistible assault on Bonaparte and his troops.
8. Cleopatra wasn’t Egyptian at all! Egypt’s legendary femme fatale, according to historians, was actually Greek! Ptolemy, Alexander the Great’s Macedonian general, was her ancestor.
9. In the 1830s, ketchup was offered as a medication. It was first advertised as a stomach remedy in 1834 by an Ohio physician called John Cook. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that it became popular as a condiment!
10. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln is a member of the International Wrestling Hall of Fame? During his nearly 300 contests, the 6’4′′ president only lost one. He developed a reputation as an outstanding boxer in New Salem, Illinois, for this.
11. Following his reign, George Washington established a whiskey distillery. Following his presidency, Washington established a whiskey distillery. Washington’s distillery had grown to be the country’s largest by 1799, producing 11,000 gallons of unaged whiskey!
12. The alleged witches were not burnt at the stake during the Salem witch trials. The bulk were imprisoned, with a few being hung. However, none of the 2,000 accused were ever burnt alive.
13. President Zachary Taylor died of a cherry overdose at the age of thirteen! In 1850, Zachary Taylor died from an overabundance of cherries and milk consumed at a Fourth of July party. He died of gastroenteritis on July 9th. This is said to have been caused by the acid in cherries combined with the milk.
14. Andrew Jackson owned a parrot as a pet. He also taught Polly, his parrot, to curse like a sailor. According to mythology, the parrot had to be removed at Jackson’s burial due to its predilection for vulgarity!
15. The Bloody Mary wasn’t always known as such! To begin with, the renowned brunch drink was originally known as A Bucket Of Blood. Following Bucket Of Blood, it moved on to Red Snapper before settling on Bloody Mary.
16. Athletes competed in the Ancient Olympics while nude! This was done to bring them closer to the gods while also detoxing their skin through perspiration. Gymnastics is derived from the Ancient Greek terms “gumnasa” (“athletic training, exercise”) and “gumnós” (“nakedness”).
17. A pig was killed in France in 1386. A pig assaulted a youngster in the Middle Ages, and the child eventually died from their wounds. The pig was apprehended, imprisoned, and then taken to court, where it was tried for murder, found guilty, and then hanged!
18. People created garments out of food sacks during the Great Depression. Flour bags, potato sacks, and anything else made of burlap were used. As a result of this trend, food wholesalers began to make their sacks more colorful in order to assist customers to stay fashionable.
19. Photographing loved ones after they died was common practice during the Victorian era. People would dress their recently deceased relatives in their finest attire, place them in realistic poses, and photograph them. They did it to save one final image of their loved one who had passed away!
20. The world’s shortest war lasted only 38 minutes! The Anglo-Zanzibar War, which took place on August 27, 1896, was fought between Britain and Zanzibar. It was fought over the succession of the next Sultan in Zanzibar, and the British won.
21. There was a time when the tug of war was an Olympic sport! Between 1900 and 1920, it was a part of the Olympic schedule, appearing at five different Summer Olympic Games. The United Kingdom won the most medals with five, followed by the United States with three.
22. The Aztec Empire predates the University of Oxford. In 1096, the University of Oxford opened its doors to students for the first time. In comparison, the Aztec Empire is supposed to have begun with the Mexica’s foundation of Tenochtitlán at Lake Texcoco in the year 1325.
23. Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, a Hungarian Countess, was the most famous female serial killer. Over 650 young ladies were suspected of being tortured and killed by her. The majority of them were between the ages of ten and fourteen.
24. To commemorate the conclusion of World War II, Russia ran out of vodka! When the lengthy conflict ended, the Soviet Union was enveloped in street festivities that lasted for days–until the nation’s vodka stockpiles ran out just 22 hours after the celebrating began.
25. During the American Civil War, the first official Medals of Honor were presented. They were given to Union soldiers who took part in the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase.
26. Pineapples were a status symbol in 18th-century England. Those who were wealthy enough to own a pineapple would carry it around as a symbol of their personal fortune and high social standing. Everything from clothing to houseware was embellished with the tropical fruit during the time.
27. Redheads were thought to turn into vampires after death in Ancient Greece! This was partly due to the fact that redheads have pale skin and are photosensitive. The Mediterranean Greeks, on the other hand, had olive skin and dark features.
28. In the Roman Empire, ferrets, dogs, and monkeys were the most popular pets. Ancient Romans hunted mice and rats with ferrets rather than cats. Dogs served as guards, and monkeys provided amusement.
29. Tablecloths were created to be utilized as a single large communal napkin at one time. Guests were supposed to wash their hands and faces on a tablecloth after a messy dinner party when they were originally introduced.
30. There were people known as knocker-uppers who would really knock on people’s windows to wake them up in time for work before alarm clocks and well before smartphone alarms. Knocker-uppers employed a long stick, soft hammers, rattles, or even pea shooters to get to their clients’ windows until the 1970s!