Once in every writer's career comes a story she knows she is born to tell. This is that story for us. It has everything: wild dogs, pep rallies, democracy in action, and sneezing outside of allergy season. Let’s jump right in!
This amazing story started with researchers studying African wild dogs in Botswana. They are incredibly social animals that live in large packs, have comically adorable large ears and, sadly, are one of the world’s most endangered species. In their journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers who originally planned to study how the animals marked their territory observed that the dogs had some strange patterns. They began to wonder: Hey, what’s with all the sneezing?
Like their domestic counterparts, the wild dogs spent much of the day lounging in various combinations of sun and shade—until one wild dog decided to go hunting. The hunter then began to try and motivate the rest of the group to join him. The dogs would start to rally (which basically means they would run around and act like your pet pooch does when you get home from work), and then? The dogs would start sneezing.
These dogs weren’t experiencing post-nasal drip—nope, they were were engaging in democracy. Researchers figured out that the dogs were sneezing to vote if the pack should go hunting or not. If an alpha dog initiated the vote, less sneezes were required for the group to get up and go, but subordinate dogs could still rally the group if enough sneeze-votes were tallied.
While science has yet to prove if domesticated pups can use their sneezes in the same way as their distant wild cousins, we can at least pretend these cuties featured below are doing their civic duty and engaging in the democratic process! (And that’s nothing to sneeze at.)