Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dogs versus cats. The great debate.

Quick. Nip into your local newsagent and pick up a copy of the latest New Scientist because the cover story by Kate Douglas is all about the relative merits of dogs versus cats. She looks at 11 different factors - size of brain, shared history, ability to bond, popularity, understanding, problem solving, vocalisation, tractability, supersenses, eco-friendliness and utility. The piece is packed full of fascinating canine and feline facts but as this is a dog blog I'll focus on the former. Here's a selection of things I never knew before:

  • The oldest archaeological remains of dogs are 31,000 years old. The entire dog genome has now been sequenced, incidentally, and the results suggest domestication around 50,000 years ago. However, Peter Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden thinks it is only 16,000 years ago and that the first dogs to be domesticated were to be found around the the Yangtze river in China and were probably destined for the dinner table.
  • Give a 4 month old puppy the choice between canine and human companionship and they choose us!
  • Rico the border collie can understand 200 different words.
  • Dogs, unlike say chimps, can understand gestures and looks, too. They are predisposed to inspect our faces for information, reassurance and guidance.
  • Dogs learn in the same way as babies using a technique called pedagogy which entails implicit teaching. Other animals, such as dolphins, for instance, learn by emulation.
  • Dogs see in the dark five times better than humans.
  • A dog's sense of smell is up to 100 million times better than a human's.
  • A medium sized dog's ecological footprint - the area of land required to keep it fed - is 0.84 hectares. Even a chihuahua requires 0.28 hectares.
Really, a fascinating piece if you can get hold of a copy. While I am on the subject of canine versus feline difference it is interesting to see their different begging techniques - as demonstrated by the photo above.

No comments:

Post a Comment