What do you see?

by John Holbo on May 26, 2006

Right. Now take the survey under the fold. But only if your intuitions are untainted by first viewing the image at J&B. (We want to be scientistic about this.)

If you want to answer ‘none of the above’ (you freak) then go ahead and tell us what weird third thing you saw; that’s what comment boxes are for, as usual.

The Wittgensteinian duck-rhino issue was first raised in comments here.



Aberlard 05.26.06 at 4:20 am

John Prescott. But I don’t see that in the options.


Matthew 05.26.06 at 4:22 am

For me it was slightly ruined by the word “Rhino” coming up under the mouse pointer when it was over the picture.


bad Jim 05.26.06 at 4:30 am

Why was a moussed mouse not offered as an option?


John Holbo 05.26.06 at 4:30 am

Yeah, I caught that problem. But not fast enough. It is now more neutrally labeled to conceal the artist’s original intent.


John Holbo 05.26.06 at 4:32 am

I mean the problem with the rhino label. Not the problem with the moussed mouse option.


Chris Bertram 05.26.06 at 4:35 am

Looked like a cross between a baby and a car to me, or just a baby on wheels (the whirls).


John Holbo 05.26.06 at 4:37 am

A baby? Where?


inigo jones 05.26.06 at 4:40 am

Looks more like an elephant to me, but is that being pedantic?


John Holbo 05.26.06 at 4:41 am

An elephant just IS a soft-horned rhino, inigo. Or are you going to pretend you didn’t get the memo?


Chris Bertram 05.26.06 at 4:51 am

You know … crawling along and looking upwards ….the head does the baby thing for me.


Dabodius 05.26.06 at 5:20 am

The graphics’s genre was obvious, so I looked for two things pictured; they looked like a turkey on a platform (the duck and stereo) and a frowning sawhorse playhorse (the rhino.) Reminds one of the Parable of the Gardener in John Wisdom’s “Gods.”


conchis 05.26.06 at 5:21 am

Is it against the rules to say both?


Brett Bellmore 05.26.06 at 5:26 am

A really badly drawn horse.


Backword Dave 05.26.06 at 5:28 am

I assume the whorls on the legs are its feet. I thought Rhino, but I think the options given should have included at least one of John and Belle.


ajay 05.26.06 at 5:33 am

It’s an enormous, overfed hummingbird, facing left and looking upwards with its bill pointing vertically and wings spread, on top of a large black rock supported Stonehenge-style by a couple of stereo speakers.


Ben 05.26.06 at 5:38 am

It’s clearly a triceratops.


John Holbo 05.26.06 at 5:50 am

conchis, NO ONE can see both. Our brains don’t work at that speed (as Eddie Izzard says). Chris, I am still not seeing the baby.


LowLife 05.26.06 at 5:52 am

I thought it was one of Holden’s ponys. I couldn’t wait to find out in which poll Bush acheived his new low.


Alex 05.26.06 at 6:01 am

Doesn’t the fact that the rhino button is checked by default rather reduce the validity of the results?


John Holbo 05.26.06 at 6:06 am

alex, nothing could reduce the validity of the results.


robert the red 05.26.06 at 6:10 am

A pony! I thought it was a CT version of Atrios’s ponies-for-new-lows-in-Bush-polls.


john m. 05.26.06 at 6:11 am

The ferocious beast from Maggie and the ferocious beast. That’s what you get when you have a 3 year old girl who was obessed with it for at least a year. I thought it was going to be a drawing of said beast by one of your kids. That said, if you’re familiar with the show, Hamilton is the gayest pig ever seen in a cartoon.


etat 05.26.06 at 6:15 am

Obviously a photo of a boy waiting for a better performance by his football team (or similarly, from one or both of his parents).

At first, seeing only the top, it was a chick’s head (e.g. duck), then it was an elephant head (e.g. rhino), but, after seeing the whole thing, the top is now a boy’s face in oblique right profile, with a forelock covering one eye, and a spike of hair on the top. He’s got a cute button nose and a slightly dour expression.

His shirt is a solid colour with the logo of some football team on the sleeves.


etat 05.26.06 at 6:24 am

…and it’s a cowlick, not a quiff, because, Dudemar, a quiff is the whole do, like a coiffe, and it’s artificed, whereas a lick is just a bit that sticks up on its own, regardless.


Dan Kervick 05.26.06 at 6:26 am

It’s a triceratops.


Nick 05.26.06 at 6:30 am

A really beautiful drawing by a 2yr kid.


eszter 05.26.06 at 6:37 am

I thought rhino, although I didn’t necessarily think pensive. Alternatively, could be Titeuf pretending to be some type of animal.


Anders Widebrant 05.26.06 at 6:40 am

Voted rhino, but it looks more aghast than pensive. The second option is interesting, although it’s surely more of a baby egret than a duck.


modus potus 05.26.06 at 6:41 am

I first thought it was a tufted bird, head demurely turned, perched on the edge of a round table. Its beak, shadowed beneath, is clearly outlined, as are its dark tail-feathers, its eye apprehensively staring at us.

I can twist my brain into seeing the rhino, but I don’t wanna. One thing, though — if it’s a rhino, it has awfully knobby knees.


Anders Widebrant 05.26.06 at 6:49 am

I assume the whorls on the legs are its feet.

Its a classic rendition of the rhinoceros knee, silly (although more common in cartoons than in real life).


snuh 05.26.06 at 7:02 am

a badly drawn horse looking skyward.


almostinfamous 05.26.06 at 7:11 am

_You know … crawling along and looking upwards ….the head does the baby thing for me._

that’s what i see too.


Michael Zimmer 05.26.06 at 7:38 am

I was too distracted by the dozen advertisements on the poll results page to see what others thought. Glad even this experiment can be monetized. Web 2.0, baby!


Rob 05.26.06 at 7:41 am

Obvioulsy its a bird gargling while sitting in a bird bath.


grant 05.26.06 at 7:45 am



John Holbo 05.26.06 at 7:50 am

I’m still not seeing the baby.


Timothy Burke 05.26.06 at 8:01 am

I was thinking triceratops as well as rhino, but that’s in the same ballpark.


The Modesto Kid 05.26.06 at 8:01 am

A couple of people have said “Triceratops”, which is what I first thought when I saw the picture at John & Belle’s blog — though is a triceratops really that different from a rhinoceros? Practically the same beast say I — But my favorite answer is Rob’s in 33. I can totally see the gargling bird. Though most bird baths are on one leg, not two.


John Holbo 05.26.06 at 8:06 am

Hmmm, the gargling bird – i.e. looking due up – is the one I’ve been seeing the whole time, well ever since I’ve stopped seeing it just as a rhino; although I took it to be singing Karaoke, using the stereo system for this purpose. (I think it’s singing “Bohemian Rhapsody”.) Is there any NON gargling bird in the picture?


rm 05.26.06 at 8:07 am

A rhino with scaly knees, and you are clearly a bad parent for saying “What a nice duck! But why is it sitting on top of two speakers?” and hurting the artist’s feelings. The survey confirms your guilt.


Jamie 05.26.06 at 8:18 am

I was going to offer the obvious diagnoses, but reading the comments I realized there is a much more urgent diagnosis needed: Chris Bertram, you are ovulating.


Paul Gowder 05.26.06 at 8:25 am

Clearly, the duck people are superior. Death to the rhino-seers!


John Holbo 05.26.06 at 8:29 am

No, Zoe says it’s only a rhino, nothing else. I believe her. I think she would find all this very confusing.


Tim 05.26.06 at 8:51 am

A horned pig!!
oh, that’s a rhino.


eudoxis 05.26.06 at 9:04 am

My 10 year old daughter says it’s obviously a rhino. That’s how you draw a rhino, Mom. When I pointed out the bird, she saw a sleeping guinea pig under it.


P-Brane 05.26.06 at 9:06 am

Similar to the “Gargling Bird”–But I see no bird. Only a joyous dog, head turned upward, spitting a delightful fountain into the air.

Then again, maybe it just discovered its missing tail hanging from a low tree branch….


P-Brane 05.26.06 at 9:24 am

Yeah…that’s neither “joyous” nor “delightful”…


P O'Neill 05.26.06 at 9:44 am

I saw what #15 saw but he said it better.


Nabakov 05.26.06 at 9:45 am

Umm, haven’t you accidently posted the image upsidedown?

Anyway I’m pretty certain it’s not James Thurber on acid. Too much shading for one thing.


Gdr 05.26.06 at 10:17 am

Like some other commenters, I first thought “triceratops”. But the triceratops has two horns on its forehead and one on its nose, whereas this beastie, at first sight, has them the other way round.

So it’s clearly a triceratops looking over its shoulder at something in the sky.


ersatz 05.26.06 at 10:23 am

I saw a pony!


Matt 05.26.06 at 11:09 am

Unicorn. Which I guess is morally equivalent to rhino.


k 05.26.06 at 11:19 am

Mutant triceratops.


P-Brane 05.26.06 at 11:28 am

OR…maybe Dali in profile on all fours….I’m just sayin’….


dc 05.26.06 at 11:30 am

A chicken sitting on a horse; where is the horse’s head? No idea.


abb1 05.26.06 at 12:05 pm

My daughter liked drawing wolves and dogs: here, here, and here.


P-Brane 05.26.06 at 12:13 pm



luci 05.26.06 at 12:14 pm

Still life with a mutant/rotting/abstract pear.


Leszek 05.26.06 at 12:41 pm

Looks like an outline of what I’m brainstorming to have for dinner today.


catchy 05.26.06 at 12:46 pm

a rabbit sitting on Wittgenstein’s speakers


P-Brane 05.26.06 at 12:51 pm

Schrodinger’s Cat….Alas, that debate must evidently continue, however!


Chris Bertram 05.26.06 at 12:52 pm

John, it may be a baby with a quiff and a Nietzsche moustache that’s been dipped in hair gel, but I say “baby” all the same.


anon 05.26.06 at 1:27 pm

Ah, yes, the rare horned Heffalump. An excellent depiction, I must say; thank you for sharing.


rfs 05.26.06 at 1:36 pm

I immediately thought rhino, maybe triceratops. The hummingbird/stereo thing works once pointed out… but why on earth would a kid draw that? The swirly knees are a classic rhino/elephant giveaway in animal cartoon iconograpy.


P-Brane 05.26.06 at 1:45 pm

Hey! Nobody told me this was a child’s drawing…I apologize if I have managed to offend!
One thing for sure…The artist knows unequivocally what is pictured.


Arturis 05.26.06 at 2:12 pm

That would be an elephant raising his trunk to the sky and bellowing.


Maria 05.26.06 at 2:42 pm

This goes to show just how much I know about rhinos… but that’s what it looked like to me (a rhino – no nuance regarding its thoughts).


imag 05.26.06 at 3:00 pm

Weapons of mass destruction.


Anderson 05.26.06 at 3:05 pm

I see a blog that needs a new lead post.

(And yes it did look like a pony at first.)


SB 05.26.06 at 4:23 pm

I saw a really beautiful unicorn drawn by a three-year-old child.


david 05.26.06 at 6:46 pm

A Republican In Name Only.


a different chris 05.26.06 at 7:02 pm

>Is there any NON gargling bird in the picture?

Yeah. Look closely…hint: it looks just like a baby.


Brad DeLong 05.26.06 at 8:04 pm

Michael Zimmer: “I was too distracted by the dozen advertisements on the poll results page to see what others thought. Glad even this experiment can be monetized. Web 2.0, baby!”

Dear Mr. Zimmer:

“Web 2.0” is a registered trademark of O’Reilly and Associates. Please cease and desist from all use of “Web 2.0” in situations in which your use of it does not fill the pockets of Tim O’Reilly with quarters.

Sincerely yours,

H. Louis Dewey
Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe


Tim May 05.26.06 at 9:07 pm

I saw this when John posted it at J&B, and I believed him when he said it was a rhino. I can see the “bird” now that I know about it, and it’s very nice, not to mention the “sleeping guinea pig”.

The thing is, and this was what came to mind the first time I saw it, I think there’s room for multiple construals of the elements of the rhino’s head even without considering non-rhino interpretations. How do people interpret the roughly trapezoidal form below and left of the anterior horns? (I originally saw it as an open mouth, but that doesn’t look “pensive” at all.)


goatchowder 05.27.06 at 2:01 am

Is it not a dogcow?


joejoejoe 05.27.06 at 5:02 am

I thought it was a puff of smoke over a campfire in a firepit.


anon 05.27.06 at 9:37 am

I thought immediately “a Trojan Chicken”


Ronald Brak 05.27.06 at 10:00 am

It is a bird sitting on the head of a dark haired man who is wearing glasses. His eyes are slightly crazed. What else could it be?

Full Discloser: I have spent quite a few years in Japan. Constant exposure to manga may or may not have affected my interpretation.


enzo 05.27.06 at 10:12 am

A Rhino.


Neil the Ethical Werewolf 05.28.06 at 12:08 am

This werewolf sees a rhino.


methinkitsme 05.28.06 at 8:16 pm

It’s a wug.


Adam 05.29.06 at 4:04 pm

A crude approximation of an animal, probably a horse. The thing it reminded me of most is a wooden horse that kids would play on, probably pretending that they riding into battle as the head looked vaguely armored.

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