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Dogs fight for dominance in the middle of the pack - study
The study observed 27 mongrels that wandered freely around the suburbs of Rome.
Study reveals new insight on canine hierarchy

Scientists studying a pack of wild dogs have observed high levels of aggression in the middle of the dominance hierarchy.

Top dogs in a pack are known to display dominance-related aggression. But researchers believe that dogs in the middle tier may also show this behaviour, as they try to work out their place in the crowded middle.

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter and the Veterinary Service of the Local Health Unit Rome 3 (Italy).

“Our results reveal the unavoidable costs of climbing a dominance hierarchy,” explains Dr Matthew Silk from the University of Exeter. “In the middle of the hierarchy – where it’s harder to predict which animal should be dominant – we see lots of aggression.”

Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study observed 27 mongrels that wandered freely around the suburbs of Rome. The dogs did not live with humans but did rely on them for food.

After a year, researchers concluded the group’s hierarchy was based on age and sex, with adults dominant over younger dogs and males dominant over females of the same age group.

“Although fights within a social group of free-roaming dogs are usually characterised by low-intensity aggression, the middle of the hierarchy is occupied by young males of similar size and age, among whom nothing is definitive and for whom the challenge is to gain rank,” explained Dr Simona Cafazzo, of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

Dr Eugenia Natoli, of the Veterinary Service of the Local Health Unit Rome 3 added: “Our results confirm that these dogs have an age-graded dominance hierarchy similar to that of wolves.”

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AWF Student Grant open for submissions

News Story 1
 Applications are open for the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) Student Grant Scheme for innovative research projects designed to impact animal welfare.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students of veterinary science, veterinary nursing, agriculture studies and animal welfare are invited to submit their proposals to undertake research projects next year.

Grants are decided based on the project’s innovation, relevance to topical animal welfare issues and ability to contribute towards raising animal welfare standards. For more information visit  

Click here for more...
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SPANA film highlights plight of working animals overseas

Animal welfare charity SPANA (The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) has teamed up with Brian Blessed and other famous voices to highlight the plight of working animals overseas.

In a new animated film, the celebrities raise awareness by showing the solidarity of the UK's own working animals on strike. A sniffer dog (Brian Blessed), police horse (Peter Egan) and sheepdog (Deborah Meaden) are shown ignoring their duties and protesting in solidarity with animals in developing countries.

SPANA chef executive Geoffrey Dennis said: "We are so grateful to Deborah, Peter and Brian for lending their voices to our new film, and for speaking up for millions of working animals overseas. SPANA believes that a life of work should not mean a life of suffering, and it is only thanks to people’s generosity and support that we can continue our vital work improving the lives of these animals."