Moscow’s Metro Dogs
Moscow has had a stray dog problem for almost two centuries, but while plenty of other cities have similar problems, Moscow is the only one where some strays have taken to using the subway just like the rest of the city’s citizens. The 500 or so dogs that have moved into the subway system aren’t feral monsters either –indeed, they’re some of the most civilized homeless dogs in the world. In fact, the dogs have trained themselves to identify which residents will give them food and which they should avoid.
While the animals still live in packs, the leader of these groups isn’t the strongest one, but instead the smartest one. The packs aren’t territorial and often the leaders will interact with one another –something unheard of in both wolf packs and packs of feral dogs. The packs will often deploy their cutest, smallest members to beg for food from people while the stealthier dogs will often sneak up behind people carrying food and then bark, spooking the person to drop their snack. Because the dogs have an easy time getting food, it is rare to see malnourished animals and many will even be highly selective about what scraps they take. While these pups have learned to rely on people for food and many are even very social, none of them are prone to becoming attached to people or relying on one particular person.
Many members of the pack have learned to recognize which subway station they want to get out on and some have even learned to observe traffic lights. As for their bathroom issues, well they may not know how to use toilets (yet), but they still are careful to only defecate outside in less trafficked areas. All of these unique behaviorisms have made them quite popular amongst researchers who seek to understand how the dogs have adapted, how they understand the subway system and how they will continue to evolve.
Source Image Via Adam Baker [Flickr]
That’s why Sulimov decided to crossbreed jackals with Lapponian Herders. The herders have a great disposition and learn commands easily –plus, while jackals are used to living in hot desserts, the herders are better adapted to Russia’s cold winters where the new creatures would be expected to work. Unfortunately, the half-jackal dogs were still too difficult to train, so Sulimov added huskies and eventually a fox terrier and a Spitz into the mix, resulting in small, agile, easily-trained dogs with a heightened sense of smell. While the dogs have a great sniffer, they are also better at sniffing out contraband than other dogs for another reason as well –most dogs have to be commanded to search an area but the Sulimov dogs take the initiative in searching, meaning they are always on duty, ready to alert their masters whenever something is out of place.
Don’t get your heart set on owning one of these cuties though, Sulimov specifically bred these dogs under a contract with Russian airline Aeroflot, meaning they are the exclusive property of the company. And Aeroflot doesn’t see interested in selling the puppies any time soon.
No, this isn’t a species of fox native to Siberia –at least not in the traditional sense. Siberian foxes, also known as domesticated silver foxes or Russian foxes, are a domesticated version of common foxes. The animals are a result of a 50-year long experiment started by scientist Dmitri Belyaev and sponsored by the USSR that was intended to see how dogs were domesticated by wolves.
Belyaev believed that domestication was not based on the size of the dog, but the dog’s tameability, so he started breeding a group of silver foxes and then separated out the friendliest offspring for continued breeding. Within a few generations, the foxes were not only incredibly tame, but they also started to show physical changes, including spotted hides and raised tails, which some scientists believe have to do with the new animal’s lowered adrenaline production. The creatures also started to wag their tails and seek out human interaction like dogs do. Recently, the animal’s DNA was compared to wild foxes and it was revealed that they had 2,700 different genes.
Unfortunately, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the project had some serious financial problems, which it helped solve by selling some of the foxes as pets. So, while you might not be able to own the other critters on this list, you can always buy a tame fox.
If you couldn’t tell by the name, coywolves are a hybrid between wolves and coyotes. They generally have more coyote in them then wolf and, while their gene pool is in a constant state of change right now, many scientists believe they are an emerging species.
Historically, coyotes and wolves rarely mated because they shared few common territories and those that they did share were dominated by wolves. Unfortunately, as human settlements have expanded throughout North America, wolf packs have become weaker due to decreased territory and excessive hunting. At the same time, coyotes have adapted well to city life, living off our trash and munching on the mice and rats that also can be found in human settlements, as a result, their territory has expanded exponentially in the last century. With smaller packs and fewer food sources, wolves have increasingly been prone to mate with coyotes, creating this new species.
The bad news is that the hybrids are much more aggressive towards humans and much more intelligent than regular coyotes. The good news is that they are filling an important ecological niche which has been left empty by the eradication of wolves in the wild, most notably by keeping down the deer population at bay. In other words, we may not like them because they’re dangerous, but it’s our fault they’re here and at least they’re helping out the natural order.
Sources: MSNBC, Scientific American, Wikipedia Image Via Jason Miles [Flickr]
Perhaps the most interesting thing about all of these creatures is that humans are responsible for all of the changes, whether we aimed to alter the animals or not. It will be interesting to see if these pups change even more in the upcoming years or if we’ve already seen the main differences in these species.