This is how the internet works: a photographer takes a dramatic shot of a jackal buzzard in Africa and posts it to his Facebook page. Two and a half years later that photo is somehow found by a Reddit user, who challenges his fellow message board denizens to start a Photoshop battle with the pic. That spawns almost 1000 Reddit comments and hundreds of Photoshopped images, which in turn go out and conquer the internet, turning the jackal buzzard, freshly renamed as “badass hawk”, into the latest meme to go viral.
That photographer’s name is Clint Ralph. His original photo of the jackal buzzard was posted on March 5, 2014, and can be seen here. The original Reddit post was written on October 1, and the deluge of absurd and adorable photoshops commenced immediately, eventually making their way to Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and onto websites through posts like this.
It’s easy to see why this photo resonates so strongly: it looks like it’s ripped from an action film made by and for jackal buzzards, the bird’s tough, confident strut directly towards the camera echoing so many stereotypical movie scenes. Your brain just immediately assumes it’s walking in slow motion as soon as you see the photo. And that’s been the default template for most of the Photoshop battlers, plopping this bird down in scenes from famous action movies or videogames. There have been some clever surprises from the Reddit crew, though, along with some superb Photoshop work. Here are a few of our favorites, and go visit Reddit for the complete collection.