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10 Feisty Facts About Chihuahuas

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The American Kennel Club refers to this dog as “saucy,” and with good reason: Despite their small size, these dogs have a ton of personality. 

1. They hail from Mexico. 

Chihuahuas are believed to be descendants of an ancient breed, the techichi. Toltecs in Mexico kept these pups as lap dogs as early as the 9th century CE.

2. Christopher Columbus might have brought them to Europe.

While experts are certain the small dogs come from Mexico, the route they took to Europe is less clear. Some point to Christopher Columbus, who wrote a letter to the King of Spain referencing the tiny dogs. It's possible that he brought some of the canines back from his travels.

3. They shrunk over time.

The earlier version of the dog was probably much larger than the ones we see today. After being crossed with a smaller hairless dog from Asia—perhaps a Chinese crested brought to Alaska across the Bering Strait—the breed shrank in size.

4. Don’t poke their heads.

Like human babies, chihuahuas have a soft spot on their heads called molera. But unlike babies, a chihuahua might have the spot for its whole life. Whether or not a chi keeps its soft spot depends on size, genetics, and skeletal structure. Show dogs aren’t penalized for having them.

5. There are two different shapes of noggins 

Chihuahuas can either have apple or deer shaped heads. Deer-headed Chis have a narrower head and longer snout. The apple-headed pooches sport a bulbous dome. Both are adorable, but the AKC strongly prefers the apple shape for show dogs.

6. They’re little geniuses.

Rebecca O'Connell

Relative to their bodies, Chihuahuas have the biggest brain in the dog world. They're quick-witted and easy to train. They're not, however, easy to housebreak as a result of a tiny bladder and a willful personality. As desert dogs, they’re also not too keen on the rain or cold.

7. Don’t mess with the Chihuahua.

Chis are tiny, so they compensate with fierceness. One study found that the tiny pups are one of the most aggressive breeds toward humans and dogs outside their own breed. To combat this, owners are urged to socialize them with other people and dogs early.

8. A feral pack took over and terrorized an Arizona town in 2014.

Speaking of the Chihuahua’s fierceness: Last year, a group of strays overran a small town in Arizona. Packs of the dogs would run around Maryvale, terrorizing children and defecating freely. They would form large groups and harass the townsfolk. Sometimes they even teamed up with larger dogs. "I seen six or seven Chihuahuas ... and big dogs running with the Chihuahua's in a pack running every single day," a resident told Fox News.

Residents made about 6000 calls to Animal Control, which had a difficult time wrangling the disobedient pooches. “We compared the number of calls we got in 2013 from that area to similar areas in town and the calls from Maryvale were three times higher than surrounding areas,” Melissa Gable of the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control told ABC11. “Part of it is these animals aren't spayed or neutered, so they're out looking for a mate and are having babies, which also contributes to the problem."

9. The smallest dog in the world is a Chihuahua.

Brandy, the smallest dog in the world, is just six inches from her nose to the tip of her tail. Comparatively, the largest dog living is over 7 feet long.

10. The Taco Bell Chihuahua had lots of work.

In the late '90s, Taco Bell ran commercials featuring a Chihuahua voiced by Carlos Alazraqui saying “¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!" The dog, named Gidget, was found at a kennel. She didn’t have dog show good looks—she had an undershot jaw and big ears—but she knew she was a star. In addition to her Taco Bell gig, the diva dog also appeared in Legally Blonde 2 and a GEICO commercial. As her star rose, Gidget was credited with sparking a resurgence in the breed’s popularity. When she passed away in 2009, Taco Bell released a statement: "Our deepest sympathies go out to her owners and fans."

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted.


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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop
iStock
iStock

Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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