African Wild Dogs Have A Voting System That Uses Sneezes

Samuel Reason | April 9th, 2018

A native wild dog to sub-Saharan Africa sometimes referred to as the African painted dog or the African hunting dog, has evolved to be a specialized carnivorous hunter. A highly social animal they live in packs that have a whole hierarchy of males and females.

assets.worldwildlife.org

One of the odd things that sets them apart from other social carnivores is that it is the females that leave the packs and not the males. Also, they have a great team spirit – letting the young feed on carcasses first. Even sharing the meat with the injured or weak. But one of the coolest things they do is a vote when it is time to hunt, how do they do that? By sneezing.

They have a very bizarre pattern when getting ready for the hunt. They start by taking positions that many dog owners will recognize – the dog that wants to go for a walk. Head down, mouth open and ears back, looking like a little puppy that wants to play. And then the dogs that were lower on the social hierarchy and probably hungrier due to being last to eat, they would all start to sneeze. Apparently trying to mobilize the rest of the pack and the leaders.

A sort of rally with a voting element to decide if the pack mobilized for a hunt or not. And the interesting thing was that it depended on the number of sneezes and who started the rally. A dominant dog in the pack required much less sneezes to get the hunt going. Whereas a dog on the lower side of their hierarchy would routinely fail to start a hunt. In fact, a prominent dog of the pack would only need about three sneezes whereas a lower member would need over ten.

Researchers have not been able to tell a difference between a voting sneeze and an actual sneeze, but it seems that the African wild dog can definitely tell the difference.

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