QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2022
  • 279 episodes (19 series)

Panel game that contains lots of difficult questions and a large amount of quite interesting facts. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

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Series R, Episode 12 - R Animals

Sandi Toksvig asks questions on animals beginning with the letter R, with Tom Allen, Ed Gamble, Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Alan Davies trying to come up with interesting answers - while avoiding the most obvious ones.

Further details

QI. Image shows from L to R: Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Tom Allen


- The buzzers are all animal noises, with Alan's being the noise of a humpback whale. (Forfeit: Blue whale)


- The panel are shown a picture of the Moon and are asked what animal they can see. In many far eastern cultures, there is a belief that the patches on the Moon look like a rabbit with a pestle and mortar. In some stories the rabbit is the companion of the Chinese Moon Goddess Chang'e. The myths say that Chang'e floated up to the Moon after drinking too much elixir of immortality. She was married to the celebrated archer Hou Yi, who shot down nine of the ten suns that were in the sky because it was too hot. Chang'e thanked Hou by giving him the elixir, but only enough for one person. Hou decided not to drink it as he did not want to leave his wife, so he hid it under the bed. But the wife found it, drank the lot, and as punishment she floated off to the Moon.

- Tangent: The Samoan people believe that a girl called Sina thought the Moon was made of breadfruit. A terrible famine occurred, so Sina asked the Moon to feed her. The Moon was annoyed by this, so it kidnapped Sina into the sky and she now lives on the Moon.

- Tangent: Alan asks why he is so envious of other planets that have more moons than Earth. In comparison, Jupiter has over 60 moons at least. Maggie argues that our moon is the best, because compared to Earth it is very big. It also protects us from asteroids and meteorites. However, the surface area of the Moon is slightly smaller than that of Asia, thus it has less gravity, and if it did ever have an atmosphere it is now long gone. As a result, the sun's ray hit it very hard, with the temperature on the Moon ranging from +150 degrees to -150 degrees. If a rabbit were in theory alive on the Moon, the Planck spacecraft would have been able to detect it, as it could detect variations of temperature to a millionth of a degree.[/indent[

- Tangent: There could be actual animals alive on the Moon. In 2019, an Israeli spacecraft crash landed on the Moon which contained a payload of tardigrades, which can survive some of the harshest conditions known. They were encapsulated in amber, can hibernate for decades and live in cold climates.

- Small pants might affect your sex life if you are a rat. Egyptian neurologist Ahmed Shafik wanted to study the impact of various textile materials on the sex life of rats, to see if what they went through might be something similar to what humans went through. Shafk made tiny pants out of wool, cotton, polyester and a polyester/cotton mix, for rats, and he also had a control group of rats who went commando. The sexual activity of the rats was checked four times; once before the study, then once after six months of wearing the pants, once after 12 months of wearing them, and then six months after the pants had been removed. He then measured the "insert-to-mount" ratio. The control, wool and cotton groups demonstrated no difference, but the polyester and mix pants showed an increase in attempted mounts, but a decrease in successful insertion. These pants generated electrostatic charges in the scrotal area, which may result in reduced sexual success.

- Tangent: Sandi asks if it would be possible to do the voice-over for a porn film.

- Powdered rhino horn is used for many things in traditional Chinese medicine, but mainly fevers. Rhino horn, or xi jiao as it is known in the trade, has never been prescribed as a sexual stimulant. This is a myth that the western media seems happy to perpetuate. However, it is true that this medicine does not work. Rhino horn is also prescribed for smallpox, gout, boils, drug overdoses, haemorrhages, typhoid, nose or rectal bleeding, rheumatism, sore throats, blurry vision, fear, upset livers, carbuncles, poisoning, comingin, convulsions, fysentry, anxiety, coughing up phlegm, high blood pressure, possession by spirits, melancholia, arthritis, headaches, hallucinations, delirium, and "the evil miasma of hill streams". A 1990 study at Hong Kong University showed that while rhino horn did reduce fever in rats very slightly, it was not enough to be worth using. (Forfeit: Aphrodisiac)

- Tangent: The Greeks believed that you could detect poisons if you drank out of a rhino horn, because it would either produce bubbles or the horn would change colour. There may be some truth to this because rhino horn is mostly made of keratin, which chemically reacts with strong alkaline solutions. Rhino horns are pointy because the outer keratin is softened by the son, which is then worn away when rhinos clash horns, but the solid horn remains. If the horns were hard all the way through, then they would be cylindrical. The keratin on the front of the horn grows fast than the keratin on the back, hence why most horns are shaped we normally see them, but some rhinos grow horns that curve forward.

- The part of a racehorse's anatomy that needs to be really big in order to help it win is the left ventricle. People used to believe the best race horses came from good stock, but racehorse analyst Jeff Seder collected data from young racehorses and detected the the size of the left ventricle of the horse's heart is the most telling physical trait. The left ventricle is what pumps oxygen back out into the body. Seder used ultrasound scans to examine the size of the ventricles, and it lead him to predict that the horse American Pharoah would go onto greatness, which went on to win the 2015 Triple Crown of US horse races - the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Another horse, Phar Lap, who was massively popular in Australia during the Great Depression, had a heart which was twice the size of an average horse's heart. Phar Lap's heart is now on display in the National Museum of Australia. (Forfeit: Nose; Testicles)

- When ravens leave the Tower of London, they tend to go to various places. The notion that ravens have consistently lived at the Tower since the reign of Charles II and that the monarchy would fall if all the ravens left is a myth, with the earliest records for ravens living at the Tower dating back to 1895, following a raven craze caused Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven. The ravens are fed on raw meat, dead mice and biscuits soaked in blood. One raven, George, regularly escaped from the Tower. In 1981, he was recaptured at the local pub. His bad behaviour resulted in George being retired, with the Tower announcing on 13th September 1986: "Raven George, enlisted 1975, was posted to The Welsh Mountain Zoo, conduct unsatisfactory."

- Tangent: In the studio is Christopher Skaife, the current Ravenmaster of the Tower. In his book The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London, he says that the raven Munin escaped in 2010 when Skaide was trying to trim his wings, but when he opened the enclosure Munin flew away. She was eventually found a week later on the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, was caught by a member of the public, and returned to the Tower under an ASBO. The ravens play KerPlunk using spaghetti, with Munin able to get a mouse treat out of one in about 45 seconds. Ravens are twice the size of crows, are more intelligent and remember for life. Skaife was meant to be on QI before lockdown, on his wedding anniversary, and the plan was to give him and his wife Jasmine a cake. Five months later, they were still able to find the cake, shaped like a Yeoman Warder's hat (Skaife is in his full uniform during the recording).

- The most reliable way to recognise a rattlesnake is the shape of their heads. All rattlesnakes have triangular heads and slitty eyes, but not all rattlesnakes rattle. The Santa Catalina rattlesnake is one that does not rattle and no-one knows why. It lives on a remote island in southern California, and some believe it has evolved the need not to have one as there are no large-hoofed animals on the animal. Baby rattlesnakes are born with venom but without the rattle. The rattle is made of keratin. The snake sheds skin every few weeks, and new segments are added which eventually make the rattle. Adults can also lose their rattles through injury or old age. (Forfeit: Its rattle)

- Tangent: Tom has, "a pathological fear of all snakes".

- Tangent: In the USA, about 9,000 people a year are bitten by snakes, but only about five die. While some people think the best thing to do is suck the venom out, the recommended advice is go to hospital as fast as possible, and avoid raising your heart rate by remaining calm. You about 12-18 hours before things become too serious. If you are bit on the limb, apply pressure to the limb to stop the venom from spreading. Sucking it out may cause you to accidentally swallow the venom.

- The Japanese imported so many raccoons because of an anime. Rascal was a real raccoon found and raised by author Sterling North when he was a child. North wrote a book about it called Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era, which was adapted into a film by Disney in 1963, and then into the anime Rascal the Raccoon in 1977. The anime became so popular that many Japanese families imported North American raccoons as pets, but they did so before the series ended. If they had waited, they would have realised that raccoons are not good pets, with Rascal being released into the wild at the end of the story because raccoons are destructive and vicious. However, 1,500 raccoons were imported into Japan in a year, but the imports were eventually banned. These raccoons were eventually released into the wild and have now become pests. About 80% of all temples in Japan have suffered raccoon-related damage. The Japanese name for raccoons is "araiguma", which means, "washing bear", because it is thought they wash their food. Two thirds of the sensory data raccoons get comes from touch, and water is thought to help them retrieve information about what they are holding. The black "mask" around their eyes is believed to reduce glare.

- Tangent: Japan has a native population of raccoon dogs, known as "tanuki", which despite their appearance are totally unrelated to raccoons. Tanuki are important in Japanese mythology. Statues of tanuki, often with huge testicles, are sometimes seen outside shops. There is a children's song that goes: "Tan-tan, the tanuki's testicles ring, the wind has stopped blowing, but still they swing-swing."

- The panel are asked to name a rock singer who doesn't have a scrotum. Correct answers include every female rock singer, but also the rock hyrax. Also known as the rock rabbit, it is found in Africa and in the Middle East. The male keeps its testes in its abdomen. They communicate through singing, performing about 30 syllables, which they can turn into a song that can last several minutes. From this song you can tell the size, age, social status and hormonal state of the hyrax. Baby hyraxes have to eat the poo of their parents, because they do not have the necessary bacteria to digest plant matter. The closest animal relatives to the hyrax is the elephant and the manatee. Elephants also don't have scrotums, keeping their testes in their abdominal cavity, near the kidneys, while the females of both keep their teats near their armpits. Both elephants and hyraxes have tusks and hoof-like nails.

General Ignornace

- Allen's swamp monkey uses its tail to help with balance. The tail is not prehensile, so it cannot grab onto anything. The swamp monkey is an Old World monkey, native to Africa and Asia, and most Old World monkeys do not have prehensile tails. (Forfeit: Dangling from trees)

- Tangent: Animals that do have prehensile tails include seahorses, anteaters, harvest mice and the tree pangolin. Rhinos have prehensile lips, cats have prehensile claws, giraffes have prehensile tongues, tapirs have prehensile penises, and leaf beetle larvae have prehensile anuses, which they can use to build shields out of poo on their backs.

- The correct term to use to describe cheese-on-toast in Wales is just cheese-on-toast. The recipie dates back to the 1500s, but the idea of calling it Welsh rarebit comes from 1785. It is a corruption of "Welsh rabbit", which dates to 1725. According to Fowler's English Usage from 1926: "Welsh rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh rarebit is stupid and wrong." It is possible they were making a joke at the expense of the Welsh. To say, "Welsh" in the Middle Ages was a slur, meaning "fake", "poor" or "foreign", and there were lots of jokes about the Welsh love of cheese. (Forfeit: Rarebit)

- The panel are asked to name a star that is the same size as the new moon. At the time of recording, Earth has acquired a new moon, in the form of a tiny asteroid that has been circling the Earth for about three years, is called 2020 CD3 and is between 1.9m and 3.5m in diameter, the same size as Richard Osman.

- Tangent: Maggie says that part of the problem with the question is how to define a moon, given that we have only recently been able to define a planet. This goes back to the classic QI question: "How many moons does the Earth have?" Past answers have included 2, many and none, the last of these being explained with a theory that the Earth and the Moon could be a binary planet system. When Maggie is asked the question, she says the Earth just has the one moon. Because of this, Alan is retrospectively awarded 20 points by the Elves because of all the klaxons he has got in the past over this question.


- Maggie Aderin-Pocock: -5 points
- Tom Allen: -9 points
- Alan Davies: -16 points
- Ed Gamble: -17 points


The XL version of the episode debuted first.

Broadcast details

Thursday 7th January 2021
45 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 13th February 2021 9:10pm
50 minute version
Saturday 27th March 2021 10:00pm BBC2
Monday 19th April 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 20th April 2021 1:40am
55 minute version
Monday 15th November 2021 1:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 15th November 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Tom Allen Guest
Ed Gamble Guest
Maggie Aderin-Pocock Guest
Christopher Skaife Self
Jasmine Skaife Self
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Anna Ptaszynski Script Editor
Sandi Toksvig Script Editor
Emily Jupitus Question Writer
Production team
Diccon Ramsay Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Nick Collier Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer
Pritesh Ladva Graphics
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
Ed Brooke-Hitching Researcher
Mandy Fenton Researcher
Mike Turner Researcher
Jack Chambers Researcher
James Rawson Researcher
Ethan Ruparelia Researcher
Sarah Clay Commissioning Editor

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