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Crocodile Tears

Henreich Kley (1863-1945) Titled "Leben und Ausleben Lassen" (Live and Let Live), the work depicts a crocodile with top hat and walking stick being chased by a tiger and nude woman. A frog with top hat is seen holding a champagne bottle to the right in the background, 1919

Crocodile Day

Jun 17

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first."

~ Steve Irwin (1962-2006)

Devised in 2004 for the "Crocodile Hunter", Australian Steve Irwin, this 32 bar jig for 12 is described as "full of vitality and fun as was Steve". In the last 12-hand circle, dancers are encouraged to call out "Crikey" for a Aussie "heuch"! Irwin possessed an unparalleled skill with crocodiles that left audiences in awe. His fearless approach and deep understanding of these formidable reptiles allowed him to engage with them in ways no one else dared. Irwin's infectious enthusiasm for wildlife and conservation turned his encounters into educational adventures, inspiring millions to care for the natural world. His legacy lives on through the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve and the continued efforts of his family. The phrase "crocodile tears" (meaning a superficial sympathy or a false, insincere display of emotion) derives from the ancient belief that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey, and exists in many modern languages. See you later alligator! In a while, crocodile! 🐊🐊🐊

Crocodile Tears

World Crocodile Day was established as global awareness campaign to highlight the plight of endangered crocodiles and alligators around the world.


Despite being entirely different animals (sharing the order Crocodilia, but not a family), crocodiles and alligators can be distinguished easily by several features, including their smiles.

In both animals' lower jaws, they have a long tooth on either side. When crocodiles close their mouths, you can see these long teeth protrude from their faces. Alligators, on the other hand, slip them into sockets in their upper jaw.  Also, crocodiles tend to have V-shaped faces, while alligators have shorter, U-shaped snouts and a generally greener skin.

In terms of geography, crocodiles are much more common, inhabiting a good chunk of the eastern hemisphere and Central America. Alligators are more modest in their population, living mostly in South America and the southern United States, with a tiny pocket in China.


The expression "to shed crocodile tears" meaning a superficial sympathy or a false, insincere display of emotion, is an ancient one, and is derived from an actual phenomenon observed in crocodiles, though it appears to be a reflex action triggered by feeding and possibly, the rush of airs through the sinuses, triggering the tear ducts.

However, it was originally believed that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey. A collection of proverbs attributed to Plutarch suggests that the phrase "crocodile tears" was well known in antiquity: comparing the crocodile's behaviour to people who desire or cause the death of someone, but then publicly lament for them.  This expression occurs in many languages, having been introduced in Europe in the original Latin.  An alternative meaning exists,  introduced by 16th century  writer, Edward Topsell, who wrote: "There are not many brute beasts that can weep, but such is the nature of the crocodile that, to get a man within his danger, he will sob, sigh, and weep as though he were in extremity, but suddenly he destroyeth him." In this version, the crocodile pretends to be in distress to lure prey into a false sense of security.

Regardless of the insincerity attributed to them, many crocodilians (including alligators, crocodiles, caiman and gharials) are threatened by the leather trade or habitat encroachment.  Learn more here.

And although there are no real native modern Scottish crocodilians, a prehistoric fossil of crocodile relatives, called atoposaurids, has been found on the Isle of Skye - these small crocodile creatures coexisted with the dinosaurs during the Mesozoic era and unique for their semiaquatic lifestyle and “dwarfed” size—they were no more than 1 foot long fully grown.


If you are in Scotland, you can still see a resident crocodile in the form of the  "Crocodile Rock" a painted rock formation in Millport, Scotland.  To learn more about this 1913 reptilian graffiti art, click the picture below.

Crocodile Tears

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Crocodile Tears

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