In a 1949 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, Wilmon Menard describes his “fascinating pastime” in an article titled “Octopus Wrestling Is My Hobby.” Times have obviously changed since the harassment of these remarkable cephalopods was glorified, but the pompous naivety of Menard’s accounts still makes for an entertaining read. Listen to Menard’s choice of words to describe the hunt for this “demon of fury.”
“In a split second our spears would speed into the revolting mass. Then, there would be a human-like moan and the water would be clouded with sepia. The long tentacles would flay the surface of the lagoon in a savage fury, as the monster tried to rid itself of our spears which were firmly imbedded in its head. If necessary, another spear would be dispatched into the writhing hulk.” Menard, W. (1949). Mechanix Illustrated.
Complete with advertisements for tape measures, guns, and spark plugs, Mechanix Illustrated was a manly magazine indeed. Although this 1949 article is arguably the first account of octopus wrestling, in the 1960′s it was decided that a true sportsman should wrangle the beast out of the sea with his bare hands. This approach culminated in a televised World Championship event.
Today, octopus are considered the most neurologically and functionally advanced members of the phylum Mollusca, which also includes bivalves like clams and oysters. As members of the Cephalopoda class, they feature a prominent head and modification of the powerful mollusk foot.
These “repulsive monsters” are so intelligent (likely the most intelligent invertebrates) they have been recognized as honorary vertebrates in the UK, which grants them the same rights of animals such as mice and frogs in the case of scientific testing. According to Wikipedia, some countries require that octopus receive anesthesia before undergoing harmful procedures. There are accounts of octopus exhibiting short and long-term memory, and problem solving skills that allow them to unscrew the lid of a jar.
Contrast our current understanding and respect for marine life to the closing sentiment of Menard’s article: “When you wrestle and kill an octopus, you’re ridding the marine world of a treacherous enemy” (source)