Sunday, 12 January 2014

Goodbye satnav, hello dog poo?

What a good thing that Gail’s friend the Oil Man has had his work visa for Yemen revoked. 

Why so, I hear you ask?

Well had he not been kicking his heels in Dubai, I doubt he would have had time to email Gail about the latest exciting breakthrough in canine research*. To my great shame, both she and I had missed reading about this study, which purports to show that when us pups poo we align ourselves with the earth’s magnetic field.

Yes really!  

Gosh I am so impressed that a team of dedicated scientists would collect data from over 7000 individual canine defecation and urination 'events’ to come up with this earth shattering discovery.  I am proud to tell you that fox terriers were amongst the 37 breeds participating in such important work. And my esteemed godmother Tootsie will be interested to know that fully a quarter of the dogs involved were dachshunds – possibly (I am speculating here) due to the ease of measuring the orientation of such an elongate breed.

Now I am not going to bore you with the finer details of the research, but I thought you might like at least to see an image illustrating the measurement principle. 

A paragraph from the paper’s abstract is also worth quoting:

“Magnetic alignment is a suitable paradigm to scan for the occurrence of magnetosensitivity across animal taxa with the heuristic potential to contribute to the understanding of the mechanism of magnetoreception and identify further functions of magnetosensation apart from navigation”.

All clear now? 

Oh and you should definitely know that all the ‘events’ were recorded when the participants were off leash, to ensure unbiased data. 

More good news is that we can look forward to a follow-up paper, given these words - another direct quote from the original publication - about the male dog urination: “Indications of different directional tendencies depending on which leg (left or right) is lifted are currently under study”. 

I am sorry to report that Gail does not agree with me about the significance of this fascinating research and has poo-poo’d my idea that dog owners could soon be throwing away their satnavs. And when I suggested we could contribute new data if she carried a compass and notebook on future walks she just gave me a ‘look’ and said people would rightly question her sanity. 

In fact, Gail went so far as to say she suspects the study’s authors Hart et al. of a blatant attempt to win an award at the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. 

It is tough, sometimes, for even the most bouncy of Boffins to soldier on in the face of such cynicism. But fear not, it will take more than a sceptical owner to deter me from my mission to educate and enlighten my readers about the wonderful world of science! 

*Hart et al., Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:80


  1. Bertie...we're speechless


  2. Oh Bertie, You made my human smile when she most needed something to smile at.

    Somehow I suspect she will be watching what direction Enzo and I align ourselves to when we are in the garden over the next few days. Of course she never was much good at science but observed water in New Zealand went down the plug hole in a clockwise manner, compared to when she worked in London when water went down the plug hole anti-clockwise. Perhaps combining her the magnetic field bath water observation with your findings gives the reason Enzo circles three times clockwise before doing his business!.


    PS Based on this theory you would need to circle anti-clockwise before aligning yourself in a North South direction!

  3. OMD we saw that research and it made us howl out laughing. Good grief the things people study. Bertie you are a gem and thank you for the smiles this morning. I now have a mental picture of Gail with a compass and notebook following your every move. Have a serene Sunday.
    Best wishes Molly
    Get some big easy on today.

  4. Hari OM
    ....Strewth!! Now if only Aitch and I had known, or if Lady Vicki had told us to keep a better eye on her own orienteering activity... sigh ... Hugs and wags, YAM-aunty xxx

  5. Now see if you read our blog you would of known about this....caused we discussed if like a week ago on Jan 4th :) :) We are calling it the GPS "geometrical poop system" if the folks fet lost on a walk they can just look at what directions all the poop lines up :) :) :)

  6. We too saw this earlier this week, and regret that we did not notify our esteemed WTF scientist about it. After rolling on the floor laughing, muzzer conducted her own UNscientific study with me and Teka. Our UNsupported conclusion is that these guys are not only hilarious, but with us, they are about 70% correct.

    Unfortunately, we cannot confirm the leg lifting part of the study, as I am the only male dog in our pack, and I am pretty much ambidextrous, or whatever the leg equivalent of that is.


  7. Our Lady also doesn't appreciate the time and work that went into studying us. She thinks it could have been spent on something that is important. We think everything about us is important! Lee and Phod

  8. We saw this report earlier and our mom has been observing our orientation very closely since. Her conclusion is that those guys are full of beans. We orient east - west as often as north - south.

  9. Our mom has been observing OUR orientations ever since she heard about this a week or so ago... So you can add TWO MORE dachshunds to the list of those being... STUDIED.
    We have TWO areas on this hill... One our Safe Fenced area which runs East and West. When we MUST go in THERE we orient E to W.
    BUTT the rest of our hill is Free Range fur us... and guess what mom has decided??? When in the UN FENCED areas.... we go North and South..
    Butt then everybuddy KNOWS that our mom has MAD LOVE fur our Poops and ALWAYS lovingly Gathers them like some gather pretty blossoms. She then Arranges them in the Poop Sculpture Pile...
    What WE find most amazing about ALL of this is that Peeps seem to have nothing better to do with their time than to fixate on our poops.

  10. OH MY CATS AND OH MY DOGS. I do think that research is 'floating' around here too!!
    I HAVE SUCH A FUNNY STORY KIND OF RELATED. Mom listens to WQDR-FM radio in the morning. There are 3 DJS on the show. They will do ANYTHING for ratings and have actually recently won an award for best Country Station Large Market in the USA. Anyway the female dj has a 6 yo daughter. Recently the daughter announced to her mom that she has named her 'waste'. Long ones are called 'snakes' and ones that are broken up are called 'nuggets'. Mom nearly spit out her coffee when she heard that on the radio. She said Madi out of of the mouths of babes come the most profound and amazing scientific research. MOL MOL MOL
    As for your study I think the next study needs to be of felines.
    Sincerely your bfff Madi

  11. Must be tax payer funded. Can't really imagine a private citizen feeling the need to fund such research...

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  12. Oh my that is a bit of research, Im not sure Id want to be studying that

    retro rover

  13. Finally, humans are starting to recognize our sheer brilliance!

  14. On the basis of our evidence its clear that the earths magnetic field constantly moves.

  15. East west, north south: Mom's unscientific data gathering is that it matters not! At least to me and to my departed bro.

    Wirey love,

    Just Harry

  16. And the humans used to think we just did number twos randomly.....where ever we felt like??? Nincompoops!

    Tail Wuggles, Rubie xxx

  17. Oh Bertie my Lee read that same article on Yahoo! Now she is carrying around a compass. She is going to see if I fit the research.
    Thanks for being a friend
    Sweet William The Scot