February 03, 2022
You’re in the mountains, far away from home. Buck runs ahead on the trail, following his wild instincts to catch a moose. The trail winds, then splits. By the time you’re around the bend, Buck has chosen one path, and you have no idea which. Panic?
Did you know Buck has a GPS even without an Elon-Musk-type microchip? Dogs are imbued with two keen senses of direction: smell and ability to read magnetic fields. Whaaaat?!
In a test of dogs’ ability, cameras and GPS collars were strapped to 27 dogs from 10 different breeds. In Czech Republic forests, the dogs were set free after walking without a leash through the forest with their owners until they found prey. When the dogs ran, the owners stayed put. This was performed 622 times total with these 27 dogs. They were tracked, and filmed. Unsurprisingly, 60% of dogs used scent to find their way back to their owner.
But a third of them did something strange. They ran 65 feet in a line, always along the north/south axis, then ran back on a completely new route back to their owners. In other words, they didn’t use scent at all. Incredibly, they also returned to their owners significantly more quickly than the scenting dogs.
Researchers deemed these 65-foot lines “compass runs,” and guessed that those dogs were somehow able to orient themselves using the magnetic fields of the earth.
This isn't woowoo energy crystal stuff. In fact, it's not even that unique. Lobsters, eels, stingrays, honey bees, mole rats, newts, birds, fish like tuna and salmon, dolphins, and whales, even mud snails, and perhaps your mother-in-law use magnetic fields to find their way around the earth.
The next time Buck gets lost, stay put. He'll come back. He always does.
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