Your four-legged compass: Dogs face poles when they poop


Ever wonder why your Buddy takes so long to find a good spot to go?

Knowing that grazing and resting cattle, roe and red deer and hunting foxes will align their body axis with the Earth’s magnetic field, researchers in Europe decided to observe dogs.

Now, scientists for the first time have proof of a magnetic-field sense, and behavior, in mammals.

Dogs prefer to “align their body axis” with the Earth’s magnetic field when they poop or piddle, according to a study in Frontiers in Zoology.

There are “naturally occurring variations of the Earth’s MF,” National Geographic points out, so Buddy will tend to face North or South during “calm magnetic field conditions,” says Hynek Burda of the University of Duisburg-Essen, the lead researcher.

Calm conditions, however, exist only about 30 percent of the time. Don’t be surprised if Buddy doesn’t face the same way every time you go for a walk. My little guy, for example, likes to align himself with the fence.

A YouTube video explains how red foxes use magnetic north to hunt in the snow. “Drone pilots have nothing on foxes,” Robert Krulwich notes on his NPR science blog.

To read a PDF of the Frontiers study, go here.

h/t Time