Dogs are amazing animals – they’re loyal, fun, hard workers, and adorable to boot – earning them the coveted title of Man’s Best Friend. Dogs are so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget just how special they really are. There’s actually a lot more to our canine companions than first meets the eye.
If you want to know more about this fascinating species, read on, as we run through 25 amazing facts about our dogs.
There are More than 150 Recognized Dog Breeds
Do you know your chihuahuas from your corgis, and your pitbulls from your poodles? If not, don’t worry – there are over 150 distinct dog breeds, so it takes some real skill to recognize them all.
In the US, the Labrador Retriever reigns supreme as the most popular breed, closely followed by the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Bulldog. At the smaller end of the spectrum, Yorkshire Terriers are receiving their share of the popular vote, too. The ever-popular Labrador Retriever isn’t just an American sweetheart, though – it’s also the most popular breed in the UK and Canada.
The Ancient Egyptians Revered Dogs
They may be better known for their cat-worshipping ways, but in ancient Egyptian society, dogs were highly respected too. When a pet dog passed away, their owners would visibly mourn by shaving off their eyebrows, smearing mud in their hair, and crying aloud.
Historians believe that domesticated dogs served as hunters and companions, much as they do today. An early tomb painting from pre-dynastic Egypt even shows a figure walking his dog on a leash!
Dogs Sweat Through Their Feet
We all know that panting helps dogs to cool down, but there’s more to the process than that. Although they can’t sweat from every inch of skin like we can, dogs do have sweat glands located on the pads of their feet.
If you’ve ever walked your dog down the sidewalk on a hot day, you may have noticed wet paw-prints left behind – these are traces of your dog’s sweat.
A Dog’s Sense of Smell is 40 Times More Sensitive than a Human’s
It’s common knowledge that dogs have a much better nose than their human counterparts, but did you know that it’s actually 40 times better? Humans have around five million scent receptors, whereas dogs have a staggering 200 million.
That’s sensitive enough to detect one teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic sized swimming pools.
Barry the St Bernard Saved 40 Lives in the 1800s
Born in 1800, Barry helped to track down lost and injured travellers in the treacherous Great St Bernard Pass, Switzerland. These rescued travellers were subsequently brought to the Great St Bernard Hospice, where they could recover.
Over his life, Barry saved at least 40 lives, earning him the reputation of a national hero. To this day, Barry is on display at the Bern Natural History Museum in Switzerland, thanks to the help of taxidermy.
Dogs Can See Color
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not actually color blind. Just like humans, our dogs have special light detecting cells in their eyes called cones, which respond differently to different wavelengths of light, producing what we perceive as color.
Despite this revelation, it should be noted that dogs don’t perceive anywhere near as many colors as humans do. Fortunately, their incredible noses more than compensate for this.
Chow Chows and Shar-peis Both Have Black Tongues
Almost all dogs have a pink tongue, but there are a couple of exceptions. The Chow Chow and the Shar-pei, both originating in China, have tongues that are blue-black in color.
This peculiar quirk is as elusive as it is distinctive. Chow Chows and Shar-peis are both ancient breeds, and it’s unclear whether this trait was selectively bred, or appeared coincidentally.
Dogs Don’t Experience Guilt
Unsurprisingly, the practice of dog shaming does a lot more for owners than it does for pets. Despite those ‘guilty’ faces we perceive, this emotional experience simply isn’t in the canine repertoire.
According to a study carried out at Barnard College, New York, all dogs look ‘guilty’ after being scolded – in this case for stealing a treat – regardless of whether or not they had done so. It’s all about our perception.
Dogs Can Perceive UV Light
Despite their relative lack of color vision, dogs can see much shorter wavelengths of light than us humans can – including UV radiation.
Some studies suggest that they can also sense magnetic fields. This may explain their peculiar spinning behavior when working out the perfect place to do their business.
Kublai Khan Owned 5,000 Mastiffs
Reigning from 1260 to 1294, Kublai Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan, and fifth emperor of the Mongol Empire. He also went on to found the Yuan dynasty in China.
Although he’s better known for political activities, Kublai was a prolific dog lover too, amassing a collection of 5,000 mastiffs. This is widely believed to be most dogs ever owned by a single person.
Pampered Poodle Haircuts Have a Practical Origin
Poodles are thought to have originated in Germany, where they were bred as a water retriever. Once a waterfowl was killed by a hunter, the poodle would wade or swim into the water to bring it back.
To make them more streamlined, handles would cut away most of their distinctive curly hair, leaving ‘pom poms’ over their joints to help keep them warm. Although poodles are rarely used as working dogs today, this hairstyle seems to have stuck.
Greyhounds Can Run at 45 Miles per Hour
Famed for their speed on the track, we all know that greyhounds can run. Reaching speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, they’re actually the second fastest land animal on Earth, pipped at the post only by Cheetahs, who have a top speed of 75 miles per hour.
Perhaps even more impressively, greyhounds can go from zero to 45 in as little as six strides. Just like Cheetahs, they run with a rotary gallop style, in which one leg touches the ground at a time.
The Shape of a Dog’s Face Can Predict its Lifespan
We all want our pooches to live long and happy lives, but did you know that their lifespan can be quite accurately predicted by the shape of their face? Dogs with longer, pointed faces tend to live for longer than those with flatter faces.
This discrepancy is largely due to breeding. Flat faced, or brachycephalic dogs, such as pugs and bulldogs, experience a range of health issues due to their intensively bred-in features. Their large eyes are prone to conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and dryness, while their short ‘squished’ muzzles make respiration more difficult, especially in hot weather. Long faced breeds more closely resemble their healthy lupine ancestors, and don’t often experience these respiratory issues.
Dogs Became Domesticated at Least 12,000 Years Ago
The bond between humans and dogs is ancient – at least 12,000 years old. The first ‘dogs’ were actually domesticated wolves, probably drawn towards human habitation by the food scraps they left behind.
Over time, this relationship developed into a symbiotic bond. Dogs helped humans with hunting, herding, and guarding, in exchange for a reliable source of food and shelter. In 2016, one bioarchaeologist suggested that dogs were actually domesticated in two different places around the same time: Eastern Eurasia, and Western Eurasia. DNA evidence suggests that European dogs may have been domesticated first, but were later displaced by Asian dogs brought to the area by humans. Dogs have a long and mysterious history!
The First Mammal in Space was a Dog
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched a satellite called Sputnik 2, in a landmark achievement of space exploration. On board was a stray mixed-breed dog, named Laika. Sadly, Laika passed away during the mission, but her groundbreaking journey was proof that mammals – including humans – could survive for a time in space.
Back on Earth, animal activist groups – including the UK’s RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) – campaigned against the mission, citing the cruel ‘training’ conditions Laika and her fellow space-dogs went through. In a surprising twist, Laika’s daughter, Pushnika, had puppies with John F Kennedy’s terrier, Charlie.
The World’s Smallest Dog is Less than Four Inches Tall
According to Guinness World Records, the smallest living dog is a Chihuahua named Milly. She’s 3.8 inches high, and weighs just one pound. When she was born, Milly was small enough to fit on a teaspoon, and weighed less than one ounce. She had to be hand fed with an eyedropper because her mouth was too small to nurse from her mother.
With plenty of nurturing, Milly grew stronger, and currently lives a happy life with her owner Vanese in Puerto Rico.
Dogs Have an Incredible Sense of Hearing
Not only are our canines blessed with an extremely sensitive nose, they also possess some impressive hearing equipment. Dogs can hear sounds that are four times further away than what we humans are able to perceive, making them invaluable to search and rescue operations.
This excellent hearing is party down to some well-designed musculature. Dogs have 18 muscles in their ears, which allow them to be rotated and tilted in several directions, homing in on sounds at great distances. Their ears are shaped to amplify sounds, thanks to their rounded shape. Dogs with pointy ears have especially good hearing, since their upright lugs act like satellite dishes, channeling sound towards the eardrum. On top of all this, dogs can hear a wider range of frequencies than us humans.
There are at Least 400 Million Dogs in the World Today
Dog lovers rejoice – there are over 400 million of these furry friends alive in our world today; more than you could hope to pet in a lifetime. More of these dogs reside in the USA than any other country – 75.8 million, in fact.
The USA also tops the charts when it comes to dog ownership: there are almost 70 million pet dogs in the united states. Across the pond, the UK has nine million pet dogs – although this is nowhere near as many in terms of sheer numbers, it’s an impressive proportion per capita. In fact, the UK has the ninth largest population of pet dogs worldwide!
Having a Dog is Good for you
According to a Chinese study from 2017, the act of petting a dog can lower both heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, this reduced strain on the circulatory system can cut the risk of heart attacks, coronary artery disease, and even high cholesterol.
On top of this, dog owners tend to get more exercise, whether they’re walking, jogging, cycling, or just playing with their pets. All this extra cardio adds up to a healthy heart, and reduced rates of cardiovascular disease.
As well as having physical benefits, dog ownership can go a long way towards boosting mental health. Taking care of a dog requires routine and exercise, both of which help keep depression at bay. Just looking at our beloved canines can also release the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, improving our mood even more.
Dogs Can be Smarter than a Two Year Old Child
They might seem goofy when they’re chasing after sticks or running into glass doors, but our canine companions are a brainy bunch. According to research carried out by the American Psychological Association, dogs can be just as clever as a human toddler. Border collies, famed for their herding abilities, are generally considered the most intelligent breeds. Other clever canines include the poodle, German shepherd, golden retriever, and doberman.
Evidence suggests that dogs can understand up to 250 words and gestures, and even the average dog has around 165 words in their vocabulary. A study by dog behavior specialist, Stanley Coren, found that dogs are bright enough to grasp some basic arithmetic, too. In a math test usually given to children, dogs watched one treat, then another, be lowered behind a screen. When the screen was lifted, their responses were observed. If the researcher had added or removed a treat out of sight, dogs appeared startled, suggesting they understand that one plus one equals two.
Dogs Have a Unique ‘Fingerprint’ – but it’s on Their Nose
Strange as it may seem, every dog has a pattern on their nose that’s as unique as a human fingerprint. With its many ridges and folds, no dog nose is quite like any other, making it the perfect identifying feature.
Surprisingly enough, ‘nose-prints’ have been used to identify dogs. Although it’s not common practice, the Canadian Kennel Club has accepted nose-prints as proof of identity since 1938. Nose-printing does have some advantages over other types of ID – unlike a tag, it can’t be lost or stolen, and unlike a microchip, it isn’t invasive and won’t malfunction.
Some Dogs Can Detect Cancer in Humans
There’s been plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that dogs can ‘sniff out’ tumors in humans, but only recently have clinical studies backed up this claim. Thanks to their incredible sense of smell, dogs can detect organic compounds that the human body produces when it’s unwell. If you notice your dog behaving strangely towards you, it could be worth getting any recent changes to your body checked out.
Today, medical detection dogs are being trialled by a variety of organisations, with the hope of detecting cancer, along with other diseases, much earlier. Dogs could provide patients and clinicians with a fast, accurate, and non-invasive diagnosis. Since early detection is a huge contributor to successful treatment, this work could save countless lives.
Dog Urine is Corrosive
Dog urine is naturally acidic, and over time this acid can wear away metal. Back in 2003, Derbyshire county council (UK) had to spend £75,000 ($98,000) surveying and repairing damage done to street lights by dog pee. In the same year, a streak of collapsing street lights in Croatia was blamed on urinating dogs.
Keen gardeners also complain that dog pee burns their lawns, because of its high nitrogen content. Despite being used in fertilisers, nitrogen can wreak havoc on plants in concentrated doses. If this sounds like a familiar problem, you can protect the grass by diluting any urine that comes its way with water straight away.
Dogs’ Shoulder Blades are Not Attached to the Rest of the Skeleton
To allow for fast running, dogs have developed a peculiar quirk – their shoulder blades aren’t attached to the rest of their skeleton. This unusual design increases their flexibility, making it easy to take longer strides during a gallop.
Thanks to this adaptation, even the average dog can run at speeds of up to 23 miles per hour. Many domestic breeds can run faster than their ancestors, wolves.
- Interesting Facts About Dogs – MSPCA
- 100 Fun Dogs Facts – Fact Retriever
- Dogs get jealous and 19 other facts you probably never knew about man’s best friend – The Mirror