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11 Bright Facts About Border Collies

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Border collies are fun, energetic dogs that love problem-solving almost as much as they love people. Learn more about this classic working dog. 

1. Modern border collies can trace their lineage back to one dog. 

Old Hemp (born in 1893) is widely considered to be the progenitor of the border collie. Unlike other dogs of his kind, his herding method was quieter and less aggressive. Despite having a softer technique, his method got results and impressed breeders. Old Hemp became a stud dog and fathered over 200 pups

2. Romans brought sheepdogs to Great Britain.

The Roman Empire was the first civilization to master the art of raising and herding sheep. They brought sheep and shepherds over to the British Isles, where they established a wool industry. Many of the sheepdogs the Romans brought to Britain couldn’t hack it in the cold weather, so the Celtics began breeding their own. These new dogs were smaller and more agile than their predecessors; they were called collies after the ancient Celtic word colley, meaning useful or faithful. 

3. Their name comes from the region in which they flourished. 

Border collies get their name because they were initially bred on the border of Scotland and England. It is believed that James Reid, the secretary of the International Sheepdog Society, coined the name while describing the dogs in letters to colleagues. 

4. They’re furry geniuses. 

Dogs are pretty smart as a species in general, but no breed can beat the border collie in intelligence. The bright pooches were bred to be independent problem solvers capable of solving complex tasks. 

5. But that doesn’t mean training them is easy. 

Because these dogs are so smart, it means they pick up on everything and learn very quickly. This means you need to train them right away before they develop any bad habits, such as barking, nipping, or whining—behaviors many border collies default to when they're bored. Train them young and make sure they're focused on the task at hand, as their attention tends to wander.

6. Collies are the ultimate herding dogs.

Herding dogs like border collies have been specially bred to chase and organize animals. This modified predatory behavior incorporates the beginning of the hunt (stalking, crouching, nipping), but without the killing. Border collies make particularly good herders thanks to their independence and intelligence. The need to herd is so deeply ingrained in these dogs, that some modern owners actually rent sheep for their pets to corral. 

7. Crouching is a technique. 

Border collies can move swiftly in a catlike, crouched position, thanks to a space between the tops of the shoulder blades, which lets the dogs slither by while staying low to the ground. This technique lets them herd animals with extreme precision. 

8. Watch out for "the eye." 

Another trick up the border collie sleeve is the “the eye.” This intense stare intimidates the livestock and helps the dogs herd and control the animals. You may catch your dog giving you this look when you have something delicious in your hand. 

9. One has a big vocabulary.

Chaser the border collie is often called the smartest dog in the world. She has been working with John Pilley, a professor of psychology, to learn an impressive number of English words since she was two months old. Chaser first learned that specific toys had different names when she was just five months. Since then, Chaser has slowly amassed an arsenal of words, and has the cognition and development of a toddler. 

The clever pooch shows off her smarts by bringing specific items when asked. Even more impressive, she understands that items have a unique proper name (like Franklin), and then a more general common noun name (like toy). She knows the proper noun names of her 1000 unique toys. 

10. Another holds a more unusual world record 

A talented border collie named Striker holds the record for Fastest Car Window Opened by a Dog. The canine rolled down the non-electric car window in 11.34 seconds.

11. Staying active is a must. 

Don’t expect to lay around the house with this dog. The smarter the breed, the easier it is for it to get bored when left with no stimulation. Border collies are working dogs and enjoy having tasks to keep them busy throughout the day; the high-energy dog needs to redirect its spunk or else it will misbehave.

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Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
2017 Ig Nobel Prizes Celebrate Research on How Crocodiles Affect Gambling and Other Odd Studies
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The Ig Nobel Prizes are back, and this year's winning selection of odd scientific research topics is as weird as ever. As The Guardian reports, the 27th annual awards of highly improbable studies "that first make people laugh, then make them think" were handed out on September 14 at a theater at Harvard University. The awards, sponsored by the Annals of Improbable Research, honor research you never would have thought someone would take the time (or the funding) to study, much less would be published.

The 2017 highlights include a study on whether cats can be both a liquid and a solid at the same time and one on whether the presence of a live crocodile can impact the behavior of gamblers. Below, we present the winners from each of the 10 categories, each weirder and more delightful than the last.

PHYSICS

"For using fluid dynamics to probe the question 'Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?'"

Winner: Marc-Antoine Fardin

Study: "On the Rheology of Cats," published in Rheology Bulletin [PDF]

ECONOMICS

"For their experiments to see how contact with a live crocodile affects a person's willingness to gamble."

Winners: Matthew J. Rockloff and Nancy Greer

Study: "Never Smile at a Crocodile: Betting on Electronic Gaming Machines is Intensified by Reptile-Induced Arousal," published in the Journal of Gambling Studies

ANATOMY

"For his medical research study 'Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?'"

Winner: James A. Heathcote

Study: "Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?" published in the BMJ

BIOLOGY

"For their discovery of a female penis, and a male vagina, in a cave insect."

Winners: Kazunori Yoshizawa, Rodrigo L. Ferreira, Yoshitaka Kamimura, and Charles Lienhard (who delivered their acceptance speech via video from inside a cave)

Study: "Female Penis, Male Vagina and Their Correlated Evolution in a Cave Insect," published in Current Biology

FLUID DYNAMICS

"For studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks backwards while carrying a cup of coffee."

Winner: Jiwon Han

Study: "A Study on the Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime," published in Achievements in the Life Sciences

NUTRITION

"For the first scientific report of human blood in the diet of the hairy-legged vampire bat."

Winners: Fernanda Ito, Enrico Bernard, and Rodrigo A. Torres

Study: "What is for Dinner? First Report of Human Blood in the Diet of the Hairy-Legged Vampire Bat Diphylla ecaudata," published in Acta Chiropterologica

MEDICINE

"For using advanced brain-scanning technology to measure the extent to which some people are disgusted by cheese."

Winners: Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly, and Tao Jiang

Study: "The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study," published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

COGNITION

"For demonstrating that many identical twins cannot tell themselves apart visually."

Winners: Matteo Martini, Ilaria Bufalari, Maria Antonietta Stazi, and Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Study: "Is That Me or My Twin? Lack of Self-Face Recognition Advantage in Identical Twins," published in PLOS One

OBSTETRICS

"For showing that a developing human fetus responds more strongly to music that is played electromechanically inside the mother's vagina than to music that is played electromechanically on the mother's belly."

Winners: Marisa López-Teijón, Álex García-Faura, Alberto Prats-Galino, and Luis Pallarés Aniorte

Study: "Fetal Facial Expression in Response to Intravaginal Music Emission,” published in Ultrasound

PEACE PRIZE

"For demonstrating that regular playing of a didgeridoo is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring."

Winners: Milo A. Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz, and Otto Braendli

Study: "Didgeridoo Playing as Alternative Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome: Randomised Controlled Trial," published by the BMJ

Congratulations, all.

[h/t The Guardian]

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