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Showing posts from May, 2014

What was the Role of Cats in Anglo Saxon England?

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Fascinating new research investigates what the archaeological record tells us about people and cats in Anglo Saxon times. Was the human-feline relationship very different from today?


New research by Kristopher Poole (University of Nottingham) investigates the role of cats in Anglo Saxon England. The period from AD 410 until the Norman invasion of 1066 was a time of great change. The Roman Empire had lost its control and many people immigrated to England, particularly from northern Europe. The urban population grew as small towns developed, and the spread of Christianity brought changes in people’s belief systems. What kind of relationship did people have with cats during this time?

Fur is probably not the first thing you think of, but evidence from bones suggests that some cats – especially young ones – were used for fur. It isn’t known if the cats were bred for this or if they were captured. Cat bones found at Coppergate in York suggest the cats were skinned. Poole says, “It would th…

Did Dogs, Cats and Cows Predict the Magnitude 9 Earthquake in Japan in 2011?

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Is it possible that animals had advance warning of the Tohoku earthquake?

There have long been reports of animals behaving strangely before large quakes, including an account of snakes, weasels and rats leaving home prior to an earthquake in Greece in 373BC. But there is still a lack of scientific evidence. A new study in Japan investigates pet owners’ reports of cat and dog behaviour, and changes in dairy milk production, before the magnitude 9 earthquake in 2011.
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan on 11th March 2011 was devastating. After the quake, in December 2011 and January 2012, Japanese scientists Hiroyuki Yamauchi et al (2014) conducted an internet survey of pet owners. As well as obtaining demographic information about pets, they asked about any unusual behaviour exhibited in the minutes, hours and days prior to the earthquake. The checklist included things like howling and barking (for dogs), vocalizing (for cats), trembling, being restless, and escaping. 
The questionnair…

Guinea Pigs and Domestication

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Domestication changes animals in many ways. We still don’t fully understand how – or when, or where – the dog was domesticated. But it turns out the guinea pig is the guinea pig of domestication research as scientists compare guinea pigs to their wild cousins, cavies.


A new paper by Benjamin Zipser et al (University of M√ľnster, Germany) compares adolescent guinea pigs and wild cavies. Previous research has found differences between adult guinea pigs and cavies in things like sociability, aggression, and exploratory behaviour.But no one had found out whether these differences were already present in adolescent guinea pigs, until now.
The word cavy is sometimes used to refer to different members of the guinea pig family, including the domestic guinea pig. The wild cavies in this study were Cavia aperea, also known as the Brazilian guinea pig. It is found in the grasslands of several South American countries including Brazil, Argentina and Peru. They mainly eat grass but will also eat le…

What Do People Look for When Adopting a Dog?

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A study of over 2000 shelter dogs investigates the physical and behavioural characteristics that help dogs get rehomed. Some of the results may surprise you.


A recent study by Christina Siettou et al (University of Kent) uses techniques from consumer analysis to gain a better understanding of people’s choices when adopting a dog from a shelter.The researchers looked at the different characteristics of dogs waiting for homes and compared it to the likelihood that a new home is found. 
The online profiles of 2,037 dogs, described as available on the Dogs Trust website, were tracked from first appearance until they were adopted. Dogs Trust was chosen because it has 18 re-homing centres across the UK and takes care of more than 16,000 dogs every year. Their rehoming procedure includes a thorough behavioural assessment that typically lasts 7 days, including time spent in ‘real life’ rooms at the shelter that mimic homes. Dogs Trust also have facilities where dogs can receive specialist beh…