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Believe it or not, there is a large population of homeless dogs living in Moscow that have developed their own ways and means of commuting, hunting and adapting to life on the streets. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of these dogs are abandoned house pets. Most of them are born on the street and taught to survive from birth!
Andrei Poyarkov, an evolutionary biologist and wolf expert has been studying these dogs for over thirty years. He’s mapped their genetic evolution from changes in fur, to changes in temperament and noting the narrowing gap between the dogs and wolf packs. With one notable exception; these feral dogs are able to live among humans. In an interview he did with the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Poyarkov states that most of the dogs are well fed. They turn their nose up as discarded food and can afford to be picky.
The development of urban hunting among a pack of feral dogs consists of waiting for an unsuspecting victim to purchase food from a food cart, sneaking up behind them, barking loudly and snatching the food that had been dropped on the sidewalk. Another successful tactic is begging. Some of the more social dogs will approach humans looking sad and hungry. There are instances where puppies are sent out. The theory among researchers is that people are more likely to give food to puppies. The older dogs have also seemed to come to this conclusion and will send the babies out to bring food back to the pack.
Using the subway system, these dogs don’t seem to mind the hustle and bustle of commuters. Some will stretch out on a seat and take a snooze in between stops. There are a few ideas floating around speculating on how these dogs know what stops to get off on. Do they determine by the length of the ride in between stops? Do they recognize the stops as they are announced? Maybe they recognize the unique scent for each particular station.
Citizens of Moscow
Today the citizens treat these dogs with respect and see them as common place. The dogs mingle among them quietly in the transit system, sometimes putting their head in a child’s lap. The sneak bark on the street is probably annoying, not only because their lunch is stolen but who wants a scare in the middle of the afternoon. Some citizens are a touch more leery after dark, hesitant to approach food carts or carry food outside for fear of being “mugged”.
Just another example of the amazing adaptability and intelligence of dogs!
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