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All About Pancho
March 30, 2008

Another adopted pet. Pancho is a Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula. His owner, Peter, was moving and wanted a new home for him. Peter's wife said they never paid much attention to him, but he 'just seems to keep living and living and living!' They had him for 10 years.

Pancho was given to Peter as the model for a computer video game. It was his 15 minutes of fame. After that, things kind of went downhill.

The name tarantula comes from the city of Taranto in Italy, where, in the Middle Ages, people reportedly fell into hysterical fits after being bitten by certain spiders. The only cure against this deadly bite was to dance—and so some danced the tarantella. These Italian spiders are thought to be a form of wolf spider or black widow, so tarantula is actually a misnomer.

Tarantulas have so-called urticating hairs with which they defend themselves from attackers. When under attack, the spider will loosen the hairs on its abdoment with its hind legs and kick them at the enemy—this is called kicking hairs in English or bombardieren in German. The hairs can penetrate the skin of the attacker and cause irritation. According to Wikipedia, tarantula hair is a main ingredient in the novelty item "itching powder," but I find it hard to believe that there are people who shave tarantulas for a living.