25 fabulous facts about dogs

  • What dog lover doesn’t want to know as much as possible about man’s best friend? They’re our loyal companions, part of the family and a source of joy, fascination and mutual affection. Here are some dog facts you may not know — everyone will want you on their table in the pub quiz.

    25 dog facts you need to know

    1. Dogs are the most popular pet on the planet. According to National Geographic, a third of all households around the world have a dog.

    2. A dog’s sense of smell is somewhere between 1,000 and 100,000 times more sensitive than humans’. The percentage of their brain devoted to analysing smells is around 40 times larger than ours, and they have around 300 million olfactory receptors (humans have around 5 million).

    3. Bloodhounds have such a reliable sense of smell that it can be used as evidence in court. Dogs can be used to sniff out drugs, explosives, people and even diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and Covid.

    4. Dogs cannot sweat through the skin on their body; instead they cool down by panting. They can sweat a small amount from their paws, but is more of an oily substance laden with pheromones rather than a cooling mechanism. Find out more about how to keep dogs cool.

    5. You may have noticed your dog can be extremely expressive through his ears. They have 18 muscles controlling their ears, and these are both a key line of communication and enable them to shift their ears to hear noises around them better.

    6. Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic: two Pomeranians and a Pekingese, all travelling first class. The other six dogs on board drowned.

    7. A Great Dane from Michigan called Zeus holds the Guinness World Record as the tallest dog. He measured 1.118m (44in). Find out more about the largest  dog breeds.

    8. A Chihuahua from Florida called Pearl holds the Guinness World Record as the shortest dog. She is 9.14cm (3.59in) tall. Find out more about the smallest dog breeds.

    9. The jury is out on how many dog breeds there are in the world. The World Canine Organisation says about 350, while the UK Kennel Club recognises 221.

    10. The Komondor, or Hungarian sheepdog, is nicknamed the “mop dog” on account of its unique corded coat. These eye-catching mop-like cords help protect Komondors from predators, keep them warm in harsh winters, and help them blend in with the flocks they are bred to guard.

    11. The Norwegian Lundehund is the only dog that has been bred specifically to hunt puffins (lunde means puffin in Norwegian) – however as puffins are now a protected species, the breed is now simply a pet. They have six fully developed toes (instead of the usual four), which provide more traction on the steep rocks of the Norwegian coastline, and were useful for burrowing to find a puffin’s nest.

    12. Dalmatians are born completely white and their spots start appearing in the first few weeks of their life, continuing to develop until they are 18 months.

    13. Only two dog breeds have fully blue-black tongues: the Chow Chow and the Shar-Pei. The Eurasier and Thai Ridgeback may have partially blue tongues. For most dogs, a pink tongue is a sign of good health – though some dogs have spotted tongues. If your dog has a red, purple, yellow or white tongue, this is an indication of disease.

    14. The Saluki is the world’s oldest dog breed, with archaeological evidence dating back at least 5,000 years, in tomb paintings and mosaics. These sighthounds were kept as royal pets in Ancient Egypt. Although some Muslims traditionally regarded dogs as unclean, the Saluki was an exception, and was permitted to live in the family tent.

    15. Whippets used to be known as “the poor man’s racehorse”, and can reach speeds of up to 35mph, while a greyhound can run at up to 45mph. Find out more about the fastest dog breeds.

    16. Cheetahs are widely known as the fastest animal in the world, reaching speeds of 70mph. However, they can’t keep this pace up for long. If you raced a cheetah vs a greyhound over seven miles, the greyhound would win hands-down, being able to keep up a steady gallop of 35mph for that distance.

    17. Before guns, Pointers were still used to hunt birds. The hunter would throw a net over the dog and the pointed spot to trap the bird.

    18. Dachshunds were originally bred to fight badgers – its name in German means “badger hound” – with its short legs enabling it to get into the sett.

    19. Dogs have around 1,700 tastebuds, which may explain why most of them eat whatever is put in front of them (and help themselves to what is not!). We have around 9,000, and a more discerning palate.

    20. Dogs have three eyelids – compared to humans having two, the upper and lower eyelids. This third eyelid is called the haw or nictitating membrane, and it serves to protect the eye from injury, keep the cornea clean, produce protective antibodies and produce tears.

    21. Unlike other breeds, sighthounds – such as whippets, greyhounds and Salukis – have a “double suspension” gait. This means they have full extension when they run with their front legs extending ahead of them and their back legs extending behind them. During full extension, none of their paws are in contact with the ground.

    22. A hound is a dog, but not all dogs are hounds.

    23. Dogs don’t see colour in the same way that we do, with fewer shades and less intensity. They aren’t totally colour-blind though. Blues, yellows and greys are colours they can see well, while reds, greens and oranges are indistinguishable. Bear this in mind next time you throw a red ball into the grass!

    24. The Beatles’ song Martha My Dear was inspired by Paul McCartney’s Old English Sheepdog, Martha (however, he has said the actual lyrics referred to his ex, but let’s not split hairs).

    25. More Beatles canine trivia: their song A Day in the Life includes a frequency (15 kilohertz) that only dogs can hear – a feature added by Paul McCartney. Play it and see if your pooch starts singing along…

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