Photo Of The Day

Brasil, São Paulo, SP. 14/02/1958. Crédito:ARQUIVO/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO/AE/Codigo imagem:53554 The Honorable Ms. Rhino.

Brasil, São Paulo, SP. 14/02/1958. Crédito:ARQUIVO/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO/AE/Codigo imagem:53554
The Honorable Ms. Rhino.

The Honorable Ms. Rhino

Cacareco, a rhinoceros at the São Paulo zoo, was a candidate for the 1958 city council elections with the intention of protesting against political corruption.

The city council election in Sao Paulo, Brazil had a surprise winner — Cacareco, a five-year-old female rhinoceros at the local zoo. Not only did she win, but she did so by a landslide, garnering 100,000 votes (15% of the total). This was one of the highest totals for a local candidate in Brazil’s history to that date.

Cacareco’s candidacy was traced back to a group of students who had printed up 200,000 ballots with her name on them, but the ballots were all legitimately cast by voters, one of whom commented: “Better to elect a rhino than an ass.”

Cacareco’s election caused an outpouring of concern among Brazil’s intellectual classes. One sociologist described it as “a phenomenon of the greatest sociological importance” and worried that it indicated Brazil was on the threshold of revolt. Others interpreted it as a protest against food shortages, the high cost of living, and political corruption. In fact, many voters in the same election had expressed their disgust with local politics by placing black beans in the ballot envelope instead of a ballot.

Sometimes, when voters go to the polls, they find themselves not liking any of the candidates up for election. It is rare, however, for there to be a binding “none of the above” choice offered — in fact, you probably won’t find any such binding option anywhere. Maybe, the closest thing is in Nevada — Nevada requires that a “none of these candidates” option by law, but even then, those votes are purely symbolic.

But at the end of the day, at least in democracies, voters always have an avenue to make their displeasure heard. In the 1959 Sao Paulo, Brazil city council election, voters did exactly that: a rhinoceros named Cacareco (pictured) was voted for by a plurality of voters.

Cacareco’s rise to political stardom was not her choice, of course. The animal (whose name means “garbage” or “rubbish”) was living at the local zoo when a bunch of students, upset with government corruption, figured that she would make an excellent choice for their protest, given her relative popularity in the surrounding area.  The circumstances for the election were perfect: voter turnout was low, disapproval of the government was high, and voting was conducted by putting a ballot in an envelope and returning it to the election authority.

The last part was key. Students printed up 200,000 ballots with Cacareco’s name on it and distributed to the already jaded electorate.  Roughly half of them ended up in the voters’ envelopes, and the approximately 100,000 votes cast in Cacareco’s name constituted 15% of all votes.  This was enough to give the rhino a plurality.

The director of the zoo commented that he would ask Sao Paulo to pay Cacareco’s Councilman’s salary. Election officials nullified votes for Cacareco, noting that she was not eligible for office, and ordered a re-vote. And while Cacareco never took office, her legacy rivals many politicians who did indeed serve.  In some parts, “Voto Cacareco” still alludes to a protest vote.

Cacareco died in 1962, but her memory lived on in a number of ways. “Voto Cacareco” became a widely used term signifying a protest vote. She also inspired the formation of the Rhinoceros Party of Canada, whose members appointed the rhinoceros Cornelius the First as their leader.

Cacareco wasn’t the first animal elected to political office, not even in Brazil. In 1954 a goat named Smelly had been elected to the city council in Jaboatao. But due to the size of her victory, Cacareco remains the most famous animal candidate of all time.

The launch of the application Cacareco

Cacareco the Rhinoceros


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