Is Curious George a Monkey or an Ape?
|Barbary macaque father and infant.|
(Credit: wikimedia commons)
|Original cover from the 1941 book.|
|Page from Linnaeus' Systema Naturae (c. 1750) showing|
the genera Homo and Simia under the order Primates.
(credit: wikimedia commons)
Unfortunately, this detour into taxonomic history doesn't really tell us whether Curious George is a monkey or an ape. To be sure, we'd have to pose this rather anachronistic question to the Reys, both now deceased. In order to reconcile George as a monkey in today's scientific parlance, he would have to be a Barbary macaque. However, this species does not look particularly like the way George is illustrated, and it also tends to live in mountainous regions of northern Africa, not jungles. Given the details of the original Curious George book -- his living in trees in Africa, his lack of a tail, his coloring and depiction, his opposable big toes, and his inquisitive nature -- I like to think of him as a juvenile chimpanzee. So I hold that Curious George is an ape, but I'll give the Reys a pass on using the catch-all term "monkey" because it would have been easily understood in the time and place they originally wrote the story of this adorable but troublemaking primate.
|Jane Goodall and an infant chimpanzee|
(credit: National Geographic)