Before he was a knight, Sir Nils Olav was a king — king penguin, that is. The flightless seabird was made both mascot and an honorary member of the Norwegian King’s Guard after the battalion visited the Edinburgh Zoo in 1972 and Major Nils Egelien had the idea to adopt a penguin. Sir Nils (he’s named for both Egelien and former King of Norway Olav V) quickly ascended through his country’s military ranks, receiving a promotion each time the King’s Guard returned to the zoo around performances for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The 2008 knighthood took place before 130 guardsmen and a crowd of several hundred people, during which King Harald V of Norway read out a citation describing Sir Nils as a penguin "in every way qualified to receive the honor and dignity of knighthood.” The penguin knighted in 2008 wasn’t the original Nils Olav, however. He was preceded by two others, inheriting their name and title when they went to the great penguin colony in the sky. (Penguins often live about 15–20 years, though some king penguins can live over 40 years in captivity.)
Of course, Sir Nils isn’t the first animal with a more impressive resume than most humans. 10 Downing Street in London is home not just to the British prime minister but to Larry, the Chief Mouser. Back in World War I, a terrier named Sergeant Stubby participated in 17 battles as part of the U.S. 102nd Infantry’s 26th Yankee Division. And a number of cats, dogs, and goats have served as small-town mayors. Not bad considering none of them have thumbs.
With a population around 5.4 million, Norway eats more than 47 million frozen pizzas every year — nearly half of which are made by Grandiosa. The brand is so popular among Norwegians that 20% of respondents to a 2004 survey said they considered it an unofficial national dish. The 2006 single “Respekt for Grandiosa,” made by the company, was the country’s No. 1 single for eight consecutive weeks, and the company’s 2007 song “Full Pakke” even spawned its own dance a year later. Your move, DiGiorno.