Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Smartest Dogs EVER!

photo: englishrussia.com

It is stated that Charles Darwin meant the term “survival of the fittest” to be a metaphor that represents certain organisms that adapt to their existing conditions and are best able to survive. Stray dogs located in Moscow, Russia have learned to use the subway system to commute to and from the city centre to feed off food scraps.  Every morning among the human rush hour dogs too board the subway and travel to the city for a hard day of scavenging. After a long day of foraging and filling their bellies they board the subways again and head back to the suburban areas of Moscow to rest their heads for the night.

Researchers studying the stray dogs and their behavior suggest that the dogs have learned the length of time needed to be aboard the subway car to reach their desired destination. Dr. Andrew Poiarkov, of the Moscow Ecology and Evolution Institute states “the best scavenging for food is in the city centre, the dogs had to learn how to travel on the subway-to get to the centre in the mornings, then back home in the evening, just like people”. The dogs have adapted to the city/suburban environment and use the subway system as a survival tactic.

Another behavior displayed by many of the local stray dogs is what they call “the hunt for shawarna”. Shawarna is a popular cuisine in Moscow among humans as well as stray dogs. After a human has purchased their shawarna from a street vendor the dog quietly approaches them from behind and barks-forcing the human to drop their tasty dish. The dog then snatches the yummy treat and fills his belly with the popular Russian cuisine. Dr. Poiarkov states “this method of ambushing people is widely exercised by Moscow dogs suggesting it is an adaptive measure the dogs have learned and is needed for their survival”.

These modern stray dogs have learned a new urban way of hunting by adapting to existing conditions. Once Russia became more commercialized garbage scraps became scarce and new attempts at survival such as “the hunt for shawarna” were created. The stray dogs of Moscow may be the smartest dogs ever!

Angeline Latsch (2)


  1. This post was really interesting! I like the idea of how the dogs managed to figure out not only the popular times to scavenge for food, but also how to ride the subway system! I find that pretty impressive.

    Cynthia Bui (1)

  2. I find this article very interesting! So neat how a dog can learn to not only board the train, but also how long to stay on till it reaches its destination. It gives a new perspective to evolution.

    Kimberly Ty (3)

  3. These dogs are really impressive. I like how you referred to this method as an urban way of hunting, it definitely is a modernized tactic. I like how this was explained with Darwin's theory of natural selection, because the dogs that have learned to do this must have the best chance of survival compared to other stray dogs. I wonder if this is the future for cities in the U.S, and if dogs will be allowed to just walk on to the subway!

    Lindsey Dugas (1)

  4. This was very interesting to read. I would also consider it an Urban way of hunting and a survival technique. Remind me of Oliver and Company when Roger has his own tactic in order to get the hotdogs.

    Sunni-Lynn Farias (1)

  5. This is an absolutely fantastic story. Did the information you found go into detail about what breed mixes of dogs these were, or were they only labeled as strays. Some breeds are said to be more intelligent than others, and it would be interesting if there was a situation supporting that.

    -Ashley Sterpka (1)

  6. It's hard for me to digest how these dogs initially learned to pick a right subway, to get off the subway and also to come back to where they live!!! Have somebody shown them the way? Or, they just learned it by testing all the subways and all the stations?

    Setareh Sepasi (3)

  7. Ecologists believe the dogs have done this since the early 1990's. Twenty some years later and they are still using the subway system as a means for survival. I love dogs and wish I could be a part of this study. It is possibly one of the neatest studies I have ever read!

  8. Angeline Latsch (2) above two comments are from myselfApril 28, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    The article did not state breed specifics, although it is a stray dog population without DNA testing it would be hard to decipher which breed they belong to.
    I think it would be rather interesting to see in the future if other city dogs learn this behavior!