The Kentucky Meat Shower of 1876

March 3, 1876
Rankin, Kentucky
An amount of red meat falls from the sky in what is later called the Kentucky Meat Shower

The event was, unsurprisingly, exaggerated by locals and the media. The story was told of a sudden shower of flakes of red meat falling from the sky for several minutes, producing enough to fill a large wagon. Inquisitive locals tasted the meat and guesses to its origin ranged from beef to mutton to venison. A local hunter, whose diet was primarily wild game he caught himself, declared the meat to be from a bear. And a sample sent to Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton from the Newark Scientific Association was identified as lung tissue from either a horse or human infant, noting “the structure of the organ in these two cases being almost identical.”

As newspapers continued to cover the story, more of the truth emerged including an interview with Mrs. Crouch, one of the two witnesses to the “storm,” and whose farm the meat fell upon. She stated the entirety of meat would be less than half a bushel, not the “large wagon load” the legend claimed.

Because the meat was flattened into flakes and seemed to be from a variety of sources, the prevailing and enduring theory suggests a vulture vomited its stomach contents above the farm. The flattening of the meat is a likely result of pressure in the vulture’s stomach during digestion. Also, vultures are known to vomit as a defense mechanism, both as a weapon directed at predators — to confuse, distract, or disgust — and to help lighten the bird to make escape easier.

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