Do Lemmings Really Engage in Mass Suicide?

by | Jan 1, 2018


Another working day has ended.
Only the rush hour hell to face.
Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes.
Contestants in a suicidal race.

-The Police, Synchronicity II

Mass suicide by lemmings is a myth – an urban legend. The myth holds that once lemming populations get too large they migrate en masse and throw themselves off cliffs or into the sea in order to control their own population growth.  There are many references to mass suicides by lemmings in popular culture and the lemming suicide myth is now widely believed.  There is some basis of truth to the myth: cyclical population booms in the lemming population do periodically lead to mass migrations in the quest to find more open space and some of the animals do die during the migration (some by falling off cliffs or drowning – but, the deaths are accidental and not in large numbers; they don’t hurl themselves off cliffs or into the sea in order to kill themselves intentionally).

The source of the mass suicide myth is largely credited to a 1958 documentary by Disney called “White Wilderness” whereby the producers imported lemmings into Alberta Canada (not their native habitat) and filmed them in a mass migration and then tossing themselves off a cliff into the sea.  The lemmings supposedly committing mass suicide by leaping into the ocean were actually thrown off the cliff by the Disney filmmakers. The epic “lemming migration” was staged using careful editing, tight camera angles and a few dozen lemmings running on snow covered lazy-Susan style turntable. So, the migration and lemming suicide was faked by the Disney producers, and now lemming mass suicide is one of the most known (and believed) urban legends.  It is now a goal of mine to create a well-known urban legend (without killing animals) – let me know of any good ideas.


  1. I look forward to them, from a man who has an interesting take on life. Thanks.

  2. John, your ifod’s are already legendary! Don’t go changing….
    happy new year!


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