Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “What was the Kentucky Meat Shower?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!

Imagine you’re walking along an old dirt road on a cool spring day. The sun is out, the sky is clear, and the air is crisp. There’s a slight breeze, but no heavy wind. Suddenly, something starts to fall from the sky. What is it? You might expect rain. Maybe even light snow, although it’s not very cold. But quickly, you realize today’s precipitation is out of the ordinary. It isn’t rain or even snow. It’s meat!

Meat falling from the sky? That may sound like something out of a science fiction book. But it isn’t! It’s straight out of history. To be specific, it’s a well-documented event called the Kentucky Meat Shower. 

It was a clear day on March 3, 1876. Mary Crouch of Olympia Springs, Kentucky, was outside making soap. Suddenly, all around her, meat was falling from the sky. Later, Crouch would say the chunks of meat were about the size of large snowflakes.

In the coming days, many neighbors stopped by to see the result of the meat shower for themselves. One named Harrison Gill later reported that meat was everywhere on the farm. It hung from fences and lay all over the ground. The largest was about four inches (10 cm) long.

People quickly went about trying to figure out what the meat was and where it came from. One local hunter inspected the meat and declared it came from a bear. Two of Crouch’s neighbors decided to let their taste buds guide them. Yes—they ate some meat that had fallen from the sky. How did it taste? According to their reports, it tasted like venison or mutton.

They sent samples of the meat off for testing. Early on, one scientist believed the substance to be nostoc, a bacteria. But further testing proved it was the flesh of an animal. Dr. A. Mead Edwards and Dr. J.W.S. Arnold observed cartilage and lung tissue. Muscle tissue was also later found in the samples. Their observations led them to believe the meat came from either a horse or a human being. 

The doctors confirmed that the substance was meat. But why did it fall from the sky? Later in 1876, Dr. L. D. Kastenbine published a hypothesis that many still support today. He proposed that the meat shower was likely caused by vulture vomit.

If you know much about vultures, you probably know they’re birds that feed on decaying carcasses. That may be enough to make you or us vomit, but for vultures, it’s a feast. Instead, these birds are most likely to vomit for a strategic reason. They’re known to projectile vomit to ward off predators. They also force themselves to vomit if they’re too heavy when taking flight. Throwing up part of their last meal can help vultures lighten up enough to rise higher in the sky.

The Kentucky Meat Shower is still shrouded in mystery today, but most people go along with the vulture vomit theory. They believe a flock of vultures likely vomited while flying high above the Kentucky farm. Then, the light breeze caught the meat, causing it to fall across the farm like rain.

Does that sound gross? Just imagine being one of the people who ate it! What would you think if you found yourself in the middle of another meat shower? If meat can fall from the sky, what other bizarre showers are possible?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

Wonder What's Next?

What do you get when you mix technology and the human brain? Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day!