If you heard there was such a thing as a talking seal, you'd probably assume it's a "talking" seal that just has really characteristic barks or something. Like that "singing" dog on "America's Got Talent" that's really just howling sorta on key.
But we're here to say, no, this seal can really TALK.
Meet Hoover. He's a harbor seal that was found as an orphaned baby in Maine in 1971, according to the New Yorker.
It was the '70s, so Alice and George Swallow just kept him (??? please don't take abandoned marine animals home; call an aquarium or something).
But here's where the story gets really interesting.
George had a thick Maine accent and spent a lot of time with the growing seal. The "Living on Earth" radio show reported that George named him Hoover because he would vacuum up huge quantities of food.
Eventually the Swallows realized they couldn't afford to house a growing, hungry seal. (You think?) The New Yorker reported that they brought the 4-month-old to the New England Aquarium, which became his permanent home.
It was there that trainers and patrons soon realized that Hoover had learned to talk just like George. Thick Maine accent, loud commands, guffawing laugh. Hoover would shout at people things like, "Hey, hey! Stop! Get outta here!" Likely parroting similar things George had said to a frisky seal pup.
The craziest part is the accent though. Listen to a clip here:
It's hard to believe that noise is coming from a seal. But they are known for having human-ish vocalizations as babies when they make "ma, ma" sounds.
Listen to this clip from the Marine Mammal Center to hear a baby seal call for its mother in a New England accent:
In an interview with the "Living on Earth" radio show, New England Aquarium lead trainer Cheryl Graham said that when Hoover first started talking, nobody knew what to do with him. "At first, the trainers thought that he was having seizures," she said. Soon, though, they realized he was just mimicking his old owner, George.
No seal before or since has been able to speak as clearly as Hoover, but the aquarium says his grandson Chacoda is trying really hard. Graham told NPR that she's working with the seal on phrases like, "How are you?"
You can listen to his progress about a minute in:
Sadly, Hoover died in 1985 at the age of 14, according to AP News. But he'll live on forever as the world's most impressive talking seal.
Listen to more of Hoover's vocalizations in the video below. (Hop to 1:30, 11:10, 11:55, 12:40 for some of the highlights.)