Wild African Dogs Engage in Democratic Voting With Their Sneezes [Vide

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
All in favor, say “Achoo!”A group of wild dogs knows the perks of democracy and use snorts that sound like sneezes to signal their votes.

A new study of African wild dogs in Botswana has found fascinating information about the way social animals interact with each other in pack mentality. Many species of animals participate in behaviors that imply they are looking for general consensus within their group, including honey bees, meerkats and Capuchin monkeys. Turns out these wild African dogs also look to have decisions made based on majority rule, and offer their ‘votes’ for direction in the form of noises that sound similar to sneezing.

Related: Why are Dogs Turning Blue in Mumbai?

Researcher Neil Jordan at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, spent about 11 months watching five packs of the wild dogs, along with his team mates. They were relying on prior research that indicated the dogs needed to gather consensus within the group before they executed any decisions to go hunt. They also knew the dogs had unique and specific patterns of coming together and meeting each other. This meeting is called a rally, and Jordan’s team watched as rallies were called to order, and by whom.

They watched several rallies and realized they heard patterns of what sounded like sneezing. Jordan said that the dogs sneezed as they prepared to go, so they reanalyzed the recorded video of 68 previous rallies. Turns out that as more sneezing occurred, the more likely it was that the pack moved and started hunting. The researchers figured out that the sneezing noises were the dogs giving their agreement to a mutual plan.

What was really fascinating was that the canine democracy seemed to have some of the same issues that a human version might when it came to voting. Who started the rally seemed to make a difference in how many sneezes of approval were needed to hunt (a dominant male or female calling it meant fewer sneezes were needed). If the dominant male or female were not part of the call of the rally, it was as if the pack knew they needed more votes to go, and more sneezing occurred before they moved.

Related: Believed Extinct, Wild Dog Breed Rediscovered in New Guinea Highlands

Even in the wild dog world, lobbying may make some votes count more than others!

The sneezes aren’t really sneezes in the human sense. They’re more like forced exhaling through their noses, and the researchers said they were not a hundred percent sure the noises weren’t involuntary. They did know, however, that when there were more sneezes, almost inevitably, the pack was going to move and get involved with something together.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

More by Lori Ennis