African wild dogs sneeze: let’s go for a hunt!

Fri 28 Dec 2018

At the end of a windy and rather cold afternoon, just before sunset, we ran into one of our wild dog packs at a waterhole. Like most carnivores, wild dogs sleep a lot. The ones we have on the Reserve are no different – in the hot hours of the day they find shade, they drink, snooze and sometimes play a bit. But at some point one of the pack will start what is called a rally, getting all the other members excited and milling around as if they want to play. Sometimes the rallies are successful, and off the pack goes. Sometimes the pack members lie down and go back to sleep.
Recent research shows that the best predictor of whether the dogs would actually go on a hunt was the number of sneezes. The sneezing is not the same as a human sneeze. And the scientists don’t know if it is voluntary or something that just happens, like a sneeze. So they can’t say it’s a true vote. But they can say that if you want to know if the dogs are going to move, counting sneezes is your best bet.
And this is what we saw: not much later, what happened after drinking and toying in the muddy water the rallying started, quorum was reached, so the dogs all got up and off they went for their evening hunt…