Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
Send Cancel

Wild dog packs 'use sneezes to vote'
African wild dogs uses sneezes to vote on when the pack will move on.

Scientists record ‘social rallies’ of wild dogs in Botswana

Wild dogs use sneezes to vote on when the pack will move on and begin hunting, according to new research.

Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study suggests that African wild dogs hold high energy greeting ceremonies called ‘social rallies’ after periods of rest before they move off together again.

The more sneezes that occur during these rallies, the more likely it is that the pack will leave.

The behaviour was observed by an international team of scientists while studying African wild dogs in Botswana.

Senior author Dr Neil Jordan, a research fellow at the University of New South Wales, said: “I wanted to better understand this collective behaviour and noticed the dogs were sneezing while preparing to go.

“We recorded details of 68 social rallies from five African wild dog packs living in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and couldn’t quite believe it when our analysis confirmed our suspicions.”

But there is a further twist to the tail, as the study’s first author Reena Walker of Brown University in the USA, explained:

“We found that when the dominant male and female were involved in the rally, the pack only had to sneeze a few times before they would move off. However, if the dominant pair were not engaged, more sneezes were needed - approximately 10 - before the pack would move off”.

It was previously thought that the dogs were just clearing their airways when they sneezed.

Dr Andrew King of Swansea University and co-author of the study said: “The sneezes act as a type of quorum, and the sneezes have to reach a certain threshold before the group changes activity.

“Quorums are also used by other social carnivores like meerkats, but our finding that the quorum member of sneezes changes, based on who’s involved in the rally, indicates each dog’s vote in not equal”.

Image (C) Amanda Black.

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

Campaign highlights ‘devastating impact’ of smoking around pets

News Story 1
 Leading vet charity PDSA has launched a campaign highlighting the ‘devastating impact’ that smoking can have on pets. The launch coincides with National No Smoking Day (14 March 2018) and aims to raise awareness of the risks of passive smoking and how to keep pets safe.

“Recent studies highlight that this is a really serious issue, and we want pet owners to know that they can make a real difference by simply choosing to smoke outdoors away from their pets,” said PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan. “We want pet owners to realise that, if they smoke, their pets smoke too.”  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Voting opens for RCVS council elections

Eligible veterinary surgeons can now vote in this year’s RCVS Council elections. Four out of the 10 candidates are already on council and are standing for re-election: David Catlow, Mandisa Greene, Neil Smith, Susan Paterson. The remaining six candidates are not currently on council: John C Davies, Karlien Heyman, John Innes, Thomas Lonsdale, Matthew Plumtree and Iain Richards.

Further information on the candidates can be found on the RCVS website: