Canine Reactions to the Mona Lisa

The Following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

by Catherine Maloney, Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut, Sarah J. Lichtblau, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, Nadya Karpook, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, Carolyn Chou, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Anthony Arena-DeRosa, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

We performed an experiment in which dogs were exposed to photographs of Leonardo DaVinci’s painting the Mona Lisa.

This is a preliminary report. Further details will appear in a series of monographs and books.

Background to the Study

This builds on work we conducted more than a decade ago, which we reported in our study entitled “Feline Reactions to Bearded Men”1 and then followed up in a series of other experiments, only some of which we have described in subsequent publications.

Our work was inspired in part by the work of Ciccone, Norquist and others, which we cite in our original publication. Norquist, with whom we are acquainted but not associated, has independently pursued a line of research involving one breed of cats.2 Norquist’s work has received public attention recently not because of his research per se, but because it was funded at levels unobtainable by most researchers.

Our Study

Our study involved 200 dogs. These were of several breeds: rat terrier, miniature dachshund, and mastiff, and mixes of the three.

The experiment was conducted over a period of eight months. During that time, each dog was exposed repeatedly to photographs of the painting.

The dogs viewed the photographs under two different experimental conditions: (A) in a well-lighted room; and (B) in total darkness. For the dark room portions of the experiment, we were able to infer the dogs’ reactions by examining the condition of the photograph after the dog had reacted to it.

Our results can be summarized as follows: All dogs displayed a physical reaction to the photographs. The physical reactions can be categorized as follows: licking; or chewing; or both. The results were identical, as best we could tell, whether the room was lighted or entirely dark.


We conclude that dogs are not indifferent to photographs of the Mona Lisa.


1. “Feline Reactions to Bearded Men,” Catherine Maloney, Sarah J. Lichtblau, Nadya Karpook, Carolyn Chou, and Anthony Arena-DeRosa, Journal of Irreproducible Results, vol. 36, no. 3, May/June 1991, pp. 16-8. For a reprint see this post.

2. “Feline Reactions to Obese Cats,” G. Norquist, Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 10, no. 7, 2004, pp. 42-9.


This article is republished with permission from the March-April 2006 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Canine Reactions to the Mona Lisa"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More