Jessica Mifsud

What Kind of Animal Are You?

Releasing next month: Victor Mollo’s “The Hog Takes to Precision”, a collection of hard-to-find and never-before-published in book form Menagerie stories. We thought we’d share a selection from Bridge World editor Mark Horton’s introduction to the book. Each of the Menagerie’s characters has their own distinct personality and playing style. Which one are you most like?

“The Hog Takes to Precision” will be available in March in North America, and in April overseas. Residents of the United States may now pre-order a copy from The PDF ebook is also now available from!


The Bridge in the Menagerie series started with the book of the same name, first published in 1965. Most of the pieces had previously appeared in either Bridge Magazine or The Bridge World and that pattern was repeated in the works that followed. Mollo was recognized as ‘the most entertaining writer of the game’ in a poll among American players in the 1980s. Although duplicate bridge features from time to time, the books largely focus on entertaining events at a rubber bridge table in the Griffins Club. Many of the characters are nicknamed after the animals that they most resemble both physically and psychologically, and that caricature common archetypes of real-life bridge players.

Mollo often refers to the main characters by their initials. They include:


‘Please, please partner, let me play the hand. I assure you that it’s in your own interest.’

Much the best player and the biggest bully, aptly named the Hideous Hog. Regarded as a genius, he cannot understand why he is so grossly underrated. His greatest rival is:


‘The essence of bridge is to see through the backs of the cards.’

Themistocles Papadopoulos — Papa the Greek — who alone among the Griffins challenges the Hog’s supremacy. A fine technician, intuitive, so subtle is Papa that he can falsecard with a singleton. And he always knows what everyone will do — except that the Hog usually does something else.


‘Again everything has happened to me.’

Karapet Djoulikyan, the Free Armenian (Karapet the Unlucky), is without doubt the unluckiest mortal since Job. He has come to expect the worst and is rarely disappointed. Worse still, no Griffin these days will listen to his hard luck stories, and one or two have even had the temerity to tell him their own.


‘One gets used to abuse. It’s waiting for it that is so trying.’

The Rueful Rabbit is gentle, generous, always ready to help — more especially his opponents. The Rabbit used to think of himself as the second-worst player in the world. But that was before he met the Toucan. R.R. rarely knows what he is doing or why he is doing it, but hovering over him is the best Guardian Angel in the business, and every time R.R. does something outrageously idiotic the Angel waves a magic wand and the ugly duckling turns into a bird of paradise.


‘Perhaps I should have ruffed that heart with my king.’

Timothy the Toucan owes his nickname to a long red nose and a disconcerting habit of bouncing in his chair. Longing for affection, the Toucan tries to ingratiate himself with one and all by admitting every mistake before he makes it. Technically, he is in the same class as R.R. and W.W.


‘I had twenty I tell you, half the points in the pack.’

Walter the Walrus, a retired accountant since early youth, is an outstanding exponent of the Milton Work Count. Brought up on points and percentages, he espouses in bridge the philosophy of Molière’s doctors, firmly believing that it is more honorable to land in the wrong contract with adequate values than to reach the right one without them.


‘Respect for the Laws is the basis of civilized society.’

The Emeritus Professor of Bio-Sophistry, commonly known as the Secretary Bird, knows the laws backwards and would sooner invoke them against himself than not invoke them at all. Opponents dislike him. Partners fear him. Nobody loves him.


‘Do you mean that non-vulnerable you would have made fewer tricks?’

Colin the Corgi, a facetious young man from Oxbridge, bites and snaps and rarely troubles to hide his contempt for lesser players. Still lacking in experience, he has all the makings of a future master.


‘Thank you Professor, thank you very much.’

Charlie the Chimp is an inveterate chatterbox, interested in every deal except the one he is playing. He likes the inquest on every deal to continue through the next one. This greatly confuses the Rabbit, but then so does everything else.


‘Curious hand. Both sides can make Four Hearts.’

Oscar the Owl is the most respected figure at the Griffins. The Senior Kibitzer, he is a stern disciplinarian and demands the highest standards in manners and decorum. As Chairman of the Monster Points and Ethics Committees he insists that no partner, not even the Toucan, should be abused or vilified until the deal is over. He frowns on all sharp practice, even when there’s no other way to make or break a contract.


‘A technician is a man who knows exactly what to do the moment he has done something else.’

Peregrine the Penguin is Oscar’s opposite number at the Unicorn, where the Griffins play duplicate on Thursdays. Precise and somewhat pompous, the Penguin is a committee man, as well as an accomplished kibitzer, and helps to award Monster Points.


‘I must make a note of this, a group of men have actually let me have the last word.’

Molly the Mule was the first member of the stronger sex to be admitted to the Griffins. Radiating goodwill to all humankind except the male half, M.M. compensates for her rocky card play with her unshakeability in the post-mortem.


Dave memphis mojo SmithFebruary 17th, 2011 at 8:41 pm

This book sounds wonderful. Can I download it to my Kindle?

Cam FrenchFebruary 17th, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Hi Jessica,


‘Do you mean that non-vulnerable you would have made fewer tricks?’

Colin the Corgi, a facetious young man from Oxbridge, bites and snaps and rarely troubles to hide his contempt for lesser players. Still lacking in experience, he has all the makings of a future master.

I loved Mollo as a writer and of course the Menagerie series.

I would consider myself most likely aligned with CC except I would change “lesser” to “cheating”

as in the below.

…… rarely troubles to hide his contempt for cheating players.

Gl with the launch. BTW, one of Mollo’s better books was The Finer Arts of Bridge. It talked about psychic bids and plays, imagination and psychology long before it was fashionable.


Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 18th, 2011 at 12:31 am


I was intrigued by your request to your regular bloggers to respond regarding Mr. Mollo’s various clever animated bridge cartoon characters.

Unfortunately (but don’t tell Ray or Linda), I am not a reader. I can’t sit still that long. The last book I read (except for The Lone Wolff and required college assignments) was probably Forever Amber (naughty/naughty), My forte (for whatever it is worth) was always along the lines of writing — poems, limericks, personal party invitations, songs, bridge shows, etc.) — but little time for reading (except proof-reading my own material). However, I am familiar with Victor Mollo from another venue, his best seller “The Bridge Immortals” where my late husband, Norman Kay, was one of the honored icons.

Other than merely a common eager beaver, I can add nothing because in my position across the table from Norman and Bobby, I sat glued in my chair, kept my eyes and ears opened, absorbed what was within my personal realm of understanding and simply replied, “Yes dear” in a rather awe-struck position. Obviously I improved quite a bit from Norman’s day to my marrying and playing continually with Bobby, but it is a never ending learning experience.

However, I can add an interesting story Bobby just shared with me as he saw me typing away. In the early 1970s Victor Mollo came to Dallas for two months, stayed with Bobby and wrote a book on The Dallas Aces. May be a lead for Ray to check into as it was never published. Other than that, I can be of little help.

Dan RommFebruary 18th, 2011 at 1:39 am

Oscar the Owl’s understated remark, ‘Curious hand. Both sides can make four hearts,” is the funniest and most intriguing in bridge annals. Anyone hearing it would feel compelled to read the book just to see the hand.

Ron TacchiFebruary 18th, 2011 at 8:55 am

Having read all the Menagerie books several times (and a lot of other VM menagerie tales) it is pleasing to see another in print. Even having read them dozens of times they still make me laugh out loud but the very best bit is occasionally you get to pull off one of the Hog’s coup you have read about.

The interesting bit is trying to decide which of the characters most resemble oneself and one’s partner. I like to think of myself as an aged Corgi (whose future is behind him and his past in front of him), though of course few of us are as black and white as Mollo’s characters. Partner (as all partners have) has the mannerisms of HH whilst not his skill level. As a quick aside I have a ready reckoner for calculating our percentage in our local club’s pairs event – if I have played more hands than my partner then we have over 63%, if approximately the same number then 58%, and if less 53%. It is remarkably accurate.

However I am not completely sure of my self-assessment, but I must go now as I am off to the supermarket to buy some Cherry Brandy and Chocolate Almonds

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 19th, 2011 at 2:03 am

Dear Ron:

I enjoyed your comments above, especially your reference to scores, depending on whether played by oneself or one’s partner. Since my normal bridge outings, except for an occasional local sectional or regional, is confined to Tuesdays and Fridays at the LV Bridge World, I would shudder at the percentage played by Bobby v. me although (believe it or not) — he does not portray the HH when we play together.

We do just fine — but I am starting to envision the improvement if we adopt (or adapt to) your system.



Linda LeeFebruary 21st, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I love the Menagerie books too. I have read all of them a lot of times. I am lucky to have a chance to read the Hog Takes Precision already. I have read it twice already.

I think that I am a female Papa. I am not nearly good enough to be the Hog although I do like to play hands.

Still with a great partner like Francine it is fun to watch from the dummy. When I used to play rubber bridge where partners were so variable I definitely wanted to maneuver to be declarer. It was too painful to watch partner lose my money.

It turns out that a female hog that has given birth is called a gilt. So maybe that is me. Would you expect a gilt to be quite as gifted as a hog?

KentFebruary 22nd, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Does anybody know why it’s damn near impossible to get a copy of the original Bridge in the Menagerie now? If they are the most beloved books in all bridgedom, why aren’t they more readily available? Us newer bridge players would like to read them as well.

Linda LeeFebruary 22nd, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Ken. I see that there are no new ones on Amazon. Let me ask Ray what he knows about it. Believe me, if Master Point Press had the rights this book would be in print!

Dustin StoutFebruary 23rd, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Kent, great question. I’ve been trying to piece together all of Mollo’s books but they are terribly expensive and difficult to find. It was incredibly difficult finding “Card Play Technique” at a reasonable price — a truly great book that should be more readily available.

KentFebruary 23rd, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Dustin: I didn’t realize Card Play Technique had also become scarce — that’s too bad. I was able to get a reasonably priced copy from Amazon a few years ago. In fact, that book is what made me REALLY want to read the Menagerie books. Mollo is such an entertaining writer.

Ray LeeMarch 10th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

We’ve been chasing the rights to BitM and CPT for some years now — we have hopes, but don’t hold your breath 🙂

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