What Unusual Method Do African Wild Dogs Use to Communicate?

African wild dog

To decide if it’s time for a hunt, packs of endangered African wild dogs in Botswana get together for a high-energy ritual known as a rally. The dogs excitedly wag their tails, touch heads, and race around. Then, to the surprise of researchers, they seem to take a vote, using sneezes to decide if the majority of dogs are ready to hunt. Researchers observed 68 such rallies, which would either end with the dogs running off together to hunt, or pack members simply laying down for a nap.

African wild dog 2

All those in favor:

  • Researchers say that the sneezes “function as a voting mechanism to establish group consensus.” The research appeared in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B in 2017.
  • When a dominant dog began the rally, the researchers said, it only took three sneezes — described as “audible rapid nasal exhalations” — for the hunt to start. When subordinates started the rally, it took at least 10.
  • It’s not unusual for animals to use signals to reach a consensus. Meerkats, capuchin monkeys, mountain gorillas and honeybees all use auditory cues to make collective decisions.

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