Paul the Octopus (January 26, 2008 – October 26, 2010) was a popular octopus used to predict the outcomes of international association football matches. Accurate predictions in the 2010 World Cup catapulted him to international prominence as an animal oracle.
During divinations, Paul’s keepers would present him with two food-filled boxes decorated with the flags of the competing teams. Paul’s prediction for which team would win the match was based on which box he ate first.
His keepers at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, mostly tasked him with predicting the results of international matches in which the German team was competing. Paul correctly predicted the winning team in four of Germany’s six Euro 2008 matches and all seven of their World Cup matches in 2010—including Germany’s third-place play-off win over Uruguay on July 10th. He also correctly predicted Spain to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup final. Paul finished with an overall record of 12 correct predictions out of 14: an 85.7% success rate.
Paul was born from an egg at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, England, and was later transferred to a tank at one of the chain’s facilities in Oberhausen, Germany. Paul got his name from the title of a poem by German children’s author Boy Lornsen: Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus.
Paul demonstrated intelligence early in life, according to Sea Life’s entertainment director, Daniel Fey: “Something about the way he looked at our visitors as they approached the tank struck me. Because it was so unusual, we tried to figure out what his special abilities were.”
According to the animal rights organization PETA, octopuses are among the most intelligent invertebrates, with complex thought processes, long- and short-term memories, and distinct personalities. According to the group, they can use tools, learn through observation, and are particularly sensitive to pain. They claimed that incarcerating Paul indefinitely would be cruel. Sea Life Centres responded that releasing him would be dangerous because he was born in captivity and was not accustomed to foraging for food on his own.
Following Paul’s rise to fame, businessmen in Carballio, a Galician town, raised approximately €30,000 for a “transfer fee” to secure Paul as the main attraction of the local Fiesta del Pulpo festival.
Manuel Pazo, a fisherman and the president of the local business club, assured the public that Paul would be presented alive in a tank and would not be served as food. Regardless, Sealife declined the offer.
Paul was last checked by staff on October 25, 2010, and was in good health, but he was discovered dead the next morning. He was two and a half years old, a typical lifespan for the species. Chris Davies, his agent, stated “It’s a depressing day. Paul was rather unique, but we were able to film him before he left this mortal earth “. Stefan Porwoll, manager of the Sea Life Centre, remembered Paul as an octopus who “enthralled people on every continent.”