CRISPR, the genome modification tool, makes our lived present seem like the future. However, if you reflect on our relationship with the canine species, we have been making these powerful decisions for years. Through selective breeding, humans have redesigned the dog for countless reasons and in innumerable ways.
Some dogs are small, vocal companions while others are giant, quiet protectors. Yet, through all this, their nature remains. Their dogness. Here are ten dog facts that may surprise you.
- In America, dog people outnumber cat people according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. In 2016, the overall pet population included 77 million dogs, more than the 58 million cats.
2. Just because we think of them as pets, many dogs still have jobs today. We use their noses not only to sniff out drugs or bombs but also diseases such as ovarian cancer and diabetes.
3. Along with honing their already great noses, dogs regularly engage in other training. Commonly among us are guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, and psychiatric service dogs. Approximately 500,000 service dogs regularly help their handlers in America today.
4. However, there are more lucrative jobs for dogs. First I should warn you that your dog may become quite the diva after they get their puppy eyes on some of the paychecks actor canines have earned over the years. Moose, a Jack Russell Terrier, earned $10,000 per episode for his work on Frasier. Over the years, he made a cool 3.2 million dollars. Moose wasn’t even the world’s wealthiest dog, though. Ever hear of a Collie named Lassie?
5. Long before TV and film, dogs loped the earth. Some of these truly ancient breeds are still around today, such as the Akita Inu, whose ancestors trace back ten thousand years, and the saluki, which dates back to ancient Egypt.
6. The oldest dog breed that originated in modern America and is still around today is the American foxhound, which descended from a pack of hound dogs sent from England in 1650. Of course, there were dogs in America before the Europeans came over, but they disappeared after the colonists brought their own breeds.
7. Traveling to America is one thing, but going to space is another thing entirely. The first dog who went to space was Laika, who the Russians sent to space in Sputnik II in 1957. Unfortunately, it was a one-way trip, so I wouldn’t go signing up your beloved pooch on a trip to the moon anytime soon.
Laika isn’t the only canine that’s been out of this world. The Soviet Union launched dogs into space seventy more times! Fifty-four of these dogs even survived.
8. Long before we turned dogs into astronauts, space had a canine feel. Of the 88 modern constellations in our night sky, three are named after dogs. The Canis Major, the Canis Minor, and the Canes Venatici are the Greater Dog, the Lesser Dog, and the Hunting Dogs, respectively.
The Greater Dog and the Lesser Dog are commonly shown as following Orion the hunter as it travels across the sky. The Greater Dog is also home to the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, which is known as the “dog star.”
9. The brightest star in the sky might be settled, but finding the brightest dogs on Earth is a far more crowded and competitive field. Yale University even has a “canine cognition center” dedicated to studying the intellect of dogs.
Clive D. Wynne, warns against having know-it-alls as pets, though. He told the New York Times, “Smart dogs are often a nuisance…They get restless, bored and create trouble.” Honestly, this sounds just like me when I was a kid, though I’m still waiting for Yale to build a laboratory to study my terrifyingly vast intellect.”