Lemmings Don't Plunge Off Cliffs in Large Numbers, Regularly, Or on Purpose
Lemmings have attracted all sorts of weird legends over the centuries. In the 1530s, a Strasbourg geographer declared that lemmings didn’t reproduce like normal mice, but simply fell out of the sky en masse during storms. This idea steams from the habit of Norwegian lemmings to migrate en masse. As they typically live in rocky and mountainous areas, occasionally the herd pushes a few members over unfamiliar cliffs and rocks by accident.
The myth of lemming's uncontrollable urge for suicide was most dramatically (and horrifically) reinforced by the 1958 Disney documentary “White Wilderness,” when filmmakers flew Norwegian lemmings to the Canadian arctic, harangued them into a fake migration, and then forced the critters off a cliff into freezing waters, which occasionally required a rotating turntable/lemming launcher. “White Wilderness” subsequently won an Academy Award, presumably for some sort of lifetime accomplishment in lemming cruelty.
Photo Credit: Flickr User kdleitsch