The Disturbing Origins of Balloon Animals

Ayanna Smith

This is an animal balloon as most of us know. They are long flattened balloons that we fill with air and twist around to create weird-looking animals. Kids love them.

Unfortunately, we are not going to discuss about how fun they are, but their weird, bizarre and disturbing origin.

The first balloon animals were made around the 1300s by Aztecs —Tenochtitlan people to be exact— using real animal intestines, bladders and stomachs — mostly common animals were used however more rare animals; crocodiles, jaguars and even shellfish were also used.

First, they would take the intestines out of the animal, clean it thoroughly, flip it inside-out and then sew it using vegetable fiber threads—which would make a sticky adhesive in the presence of the sun. This would create an airtight seal.

These “balloons” would then be left to dry out. Once they were dry, the Tenochtitlan people would blow the air in while twisting it simultaneously—to trap the air inside each “pocket.”

This process would take days, but once it was done, the sacrifice would be taken to the top of the pyramid and be placed on the fire for the gods Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtlito feast upon.

If this wasn’t bad enough, Aztecs ran out of cats due to some cat disease, so instead of just chilling back, they decided that it was a good idea to use human intestines instead.

It wasn’t until 1824 that a man named Michael Faraday made a modern version of balloon animals using rubber.