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Thanks to the sticky carpet they exude, snails can crawl along the edge of a razor blade without injuring themselves.

Sadly, however, they cannot crawl fast enough to escape from the French, who eat 40,000 tonnes of snails every year. Indeed, at its top speed of two inches a minute, a snail would finish a marathon in just over 18 months.

The French are not the only ones to pose a threat to snails. Oribasius, a fifth-century Byzantine physician, used to treat wounds with an ointment made from crushed snails mixed with flour. If he ran out of snails, he would use earthworms instead.

Snail-slime and sugar were once used to treat tuberculosis. Before World War I, Bristol glassblowers used to eat snails to improve their lung power. By contrast, one of the safest places for snails is the Swiss canton of Valais, where snail-hunting is illegal.

In 1996, a Nottingham professor discovered that sexual activity among tropical snails could be increased by feeding them porridge.

The World Snail Racing Championship takes place every year at the Cricket Field in Congham, Norfolk.

The world record for the 13in course was set by a snail called Archie who won in 1995 in a time of two minutes.

L'Escargot (which is French for 'the snail') won the Grand National in 1975.

A snail can have up to 25,600 teeth.

The giant African land snail can grow up to 15.4 inches from head to tail.

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