Lisa Wood and her Swallowing Plates reminded us of the topic of swallowed indigestibles, but we still somehow missed National Hairball Day on April 27. To make up for this sad omission we feature the hairball in its most elevated state: the bezoar.
“Bezoars” are accretions of matter fibrous matter such as hair (in cats, for instance) or plant matter (in grazing animals) that form in the stomachs of digestive systems. The name comes from a Persian word meaning “protection from poison,” and bezoars (such as the opulently mounted specimen above) were historically prized for this and other magical properties. The notion was eventually disproven when in 1575, when skeptical surgeon Ambroise Paré caught his cook stealing silver and convinced the disgraced man that if he would swallow poison and then submit to cure by bezoar, he would not be prosecuted for the theft. The trusting man died in agony several hours later.
The hairball or “Trichobezoar” is form of bezoar, which can appear in humans suffering from “Rapunzel’s Syndrome,” the compulsion swallow hair. The results… well, they’re not quite as fairytale-like as they should be.