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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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RSPCA braced for ‘hectic hedgehog month’

News Story 1
 The RSPCA says that it is bracing itself for a ‘hectic hedgehog month’ after calls to the charity about the creatures peaked this time last year.

More than 10,000 calls about hedgehogs were made to the RSPCA’s national helpline in 2018, 1,867 of which were in July. This compares with just 133 calls received in February of the same year.

Evie Button, the RSPCA’s scientific officer, said: “July is our busiest month for hedgehogs. Not only do calls about hedgehogs peak, but so do admissions to our four wildlife centres as members of the public and our own officers bring in orphaned, sick or injured animals for treatment and rehabilitation.” 

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ASF traces found in seized meat at NI airport

More than 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products were seized at Northern Ireland’s airports in June, DAERA has revealed.

A sample of these were tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, resulting in the detection of African swine fever DNA fragments.

DAERA said that while the discovery does not pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s animal health status, it underlines the importance of controls placed on personal imports of meat and dairy products. Holidaymakers travelling overseas are being reminded not to bring any animal or plant products back home.