Happy National Groundhog Day!
No matter if you love winter or are ready for spring, Feb. 2 is an important day to see if the sun is shining. Today is Groundhog Day, a popular tradition celebrated throughout the United States.
Supposedly, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow this morning, spring will arrive early. However, if it is sunny and the groundhog sees its shadow, he will retreat back into his den, and winter weather will last for six more weeks.
A Tradition Begins in German-Speaking Dutch Country
Groundhog Day was first observed in the United States in Morgantown, Pennsylvania (a small German-speaking community), on Feb. 2, 1840, but it was derived from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition. Lore has it that traditionally in German-speaking areas, badgers are a better weather forecasting animal. But the groundhog tradition took off and became very popular.
The ceremony hosted each year in the central Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney has become the most attended Groundhog Day event. Punxsutawney Phil, the resident groundhog, has become widely popular tradition, and every Feb. 2, thousands gather to find out whether or not Phil will see his shadow.
However, it seems the groundhog is not a very accurate weather predictor. Since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter 108 times. Nine years are missing from the official record, but Phil has only been right 39 percent of the time.
- Baby groundhogs are usually born in mid-April or May in a litter with 4 to 9 babies called kits or cubs. They live for 6-8 years.
- Groundhogs have coarse gray fur with brown or dull red tips. They have short ears, a short tail, short legs, and are unexpectedly quick. Their jaws are extraordinarily strong.
- The average groundhog is 20 inches long and weighs between 12-15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil is 22 inches long and weighs about 20 pounds.
- Groundhogs are one of the few animals that hibernate into a deep coma. When this happens, their body temperature drops to just above freezing. They heart beats very slowly, their blood scarcely flows, and their breathing nearly stops.
- The diet of a groundhog includes a lot of greens, fruits and vegetables, but they drink very little water. Most of their liquid come from dewy leaves.
- Groundhogs are very clean. Insects and germs don’t bother them, and they are resistant to most plagues that have at times wipes out large numbers of other wild animals.
- Groundhog whistle when they become alarmed, but also in the spring when they begin courting.