The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'dogs'
The Washington Post's data-journalism blog has a piece on the relative popularity of cats and dogs, by US state and by country.
In summary, in the United States cat people tend to live around the coasts and in the north, adjacent to the Canadian border, though parts of the Midwest also lean cat; the South, meanwhile, leans dog (with the exception of Florida), with the southwest being most strongly dog. On a worldwide level, though, the US leans cat (albeit weakly) in aggregate, as do Canada, Russia and most of Europe (with the exceptions of Ireland, Poland, the Czech/Slovak republics and the Iberian peninsula, all weakly dog; Switzerland, meanwhile, is strongly cat). The Islamic countries tend to lean strongly cat (presumably for religious reasons, dogs being regarded as unclean). Meanwhile, Australia is weakly dog, as is Brazil; the Spanish-speaking Americas are strongly dog-leaning, as are China, India, Thailand and South Africa. (New Zealand, however, is strongly cat.)
The cat/dog dichotomy is, at least in places, partly political. In the US, the data approximates (albeit imprecisely) the red-state/blue-state divide between conservative- and liberal-leaning states; the most cat-favouring states tending to be the progressive strongholds of the coasts (notoriously liberal Massachusetts has a 2:1 cat:dog ratio, for example); meanwhile, the states most identified with conservative mindsets (open-carrying, convict-executing Texas, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Arizona, Mississippi) lean most strongly towards dogs. (An exception is Florida, which narrowly favours cats.) This correlation between political identity and pet preference is borne out in surveys, which show that US liberals are more likely to be cat people (among other things). There are several possible explanations: one could be the correlation between population density and liberalism (city folks lean more liberal than rural/small-town people), and cats being more suitable for smaller living spaces than dogs. Another explanation ties to the theories recently floated by the likes of George Lakoff and Jonathan Haidt; in short, conservatives place more of a premium on loyalty, obedience and knowing one's place in a hierarchy; all of which are exemplary qualities of Canis familiaris. Cats, meanwhile, fail this test, and hence get little love from the right (with the possible exception of libertarians; it has been pointed out that both domestic cats and libertarians are highly dependent on their environments whilst imagining themselves to be wholly sovereign and autonomous). Meanwhile, this piece replicates the correlation between cat appreciation and liberalism (using Facebook likes s a proxy), adding that conservatives seem to be generally less fond of animals, with those liked getting an exception for their utility or symbolism (the animals most liked by self-identified conservatives on Facebook have been deer, eagles and, most of all, turkeys; liberals, meanwhile, like only bats and whales more than cats).
Worldwide, trends become murkier; Russia, styling itself as the core of a new “Conservative International”, is cat country by a 4:3 ratio. Spanish-speaking Latin America has dogs outnumbering cats by more than two to one (with Portuguese-speaking Brazil being slightly more equal); perhaps there's something in Hispanic culture which strongly favours dogs or deems cats inadequate as pets? And while Australia is dog country by an almost 3:2 ratio, New Zealand has twice as many pet cats as pet dogs. It is not clear whether that is a sign of Australia being a more intrinsically conservative country, and it would be interesting to see whether this ratio tracked (or was tracked by) changes of government and culture.
Business models for the highly morally flexible:
- Advertise designer goods online, wait for orders, then defraud the customers, threaten them when they complain, and wait for negative online discussion to propel you to the top of Google's search rankings, or
- disguise yourself as a Big Issue vendor and steal and sell dogs left outside shops
(via MeFi, Arbroath)
A new study from Bristol University has looked into the differences between cat owners and dog owners. As well as the usual stereotypes (cat owners are more likely to be women who live alone), they discovered that cat owners are more likely to have degrees than dog owners (47.2% of households with cats have one person with a degree, compared to 38.4% with a dog):
"Our best guess is that it's to do with working hours and perhaps commuting to work, meaning people have a less suitable lifestyle for a dog. It's really just a hunch though."Or perhaps there are common psychological traits associated with a fondness for cats and a likelihood to apply oneself to study (or, indeed, a fondness for dogs and a likelihood to quit wastin' time and go out into the real world)?
A Russian ecologist has found that the fierce pressure of living in a hostile urban environment is causing Moscow's stray dogs to evolve increased intelligence, including abilities to negotiate the city's subway system:
Poyarkov has studied the dogs, which number about 35,000, for the last 30 years. Over that time, he observed the stray dog population lose the spotted coats, wagging tails, and friendliness that separate dogs from wolves, while at the same time evolving social structures and behaviors optimized to four ecological niches occupied by what Poyarkov calls guard dogs, scavengers, wild dogs, and beggars.
But beggar dogs have evolved the most specialized behavior. Relying on scraps of food from commuters, the beggar dogs can not only recognize which humans are most likely to give them something to eat, but have evolved to ride the subway. Using scents, and the ability to recognize the train conductor's names for different stops, they incorporate many stations into their territories.
Additionally, Poyarkov says the pack structure of the beggars reflects a reliance on brain over brawn for survival. In the beggar packs, the smartest dog, not the most physically dominant, occupies the alpha male position.I wonder whether similar evolutions of animal intelligence, driven by the conditions of living in cities, have occurred in other cities; there have been anecdotal reports of pigeons deliberately catching the Tube in London, with speculation that they commute in to the tourist-rich city to feed before returning to the suburbs. (As such, one could probably refer to them as passenger pigeons.) Not to mention two instances of cats deliberately catching buses (both in England).
Books I didn't know existed until now (an occasional series):The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats.
A pack of squirrels bit a large dog to death in a park in eastern Russia, where, some months earlier, chipmunks have been terrorising cats.
The biggest threat to troops in Iraq is, apparently, dog bombs, which imitate the numerous stray dogs roaming the country:
The terrorists have apparently used florescent tape to create eyes in their canine cut-outs to make them look more realistic in a vehicle's headlights.(Hang on, aren't attacks on soldiers by definition not terrorist acts? Unless, of course, we define "terrorist" to mean "anyone fighting against us".)
The device includes two metal plates that, when hit by a bullet or the wheel of a truck, are jammed together, closing an electric circuit and setting off the bomb. Coalition soldiers say the dog bombs are the biggest threat they face in Iraq.
The latest trend among those with more disposable income than common sense: sunglasses for dogs.
"The chrome and blue is aimed mainly at dogs who are driven around by their owners in an open-top Jaguar or something similar," he said.This trend joins the equally ridiculous trend of dressing dogs in clothes, once the domain of Victorian prudes, but now increasingly fashionable with the hip consumers of McWorld:
Chrome and blue may also be the choice for owners who dress their dogs in outfits such as the canine version of the David Beckham Real Madrid football shirt, which proved popular when it was launched soon after the England captain joined Spain's biggest club.
I wonder who the first hip-hop/R&B/ghetto-flavoured-pop star will be to be seen with a dog attired in blinged-out diamond-encrusted sunglasses; or how long until Tommy Hilfiger or Ralph Lauren or someone launches a line of dog apparel. Or, indeed, when we'll see the first panther or python or Vietnamese pot-bellied pig or other exotic celebrity pet in custom-designed sunglasses.
An anti-pigeon programme involving trained hawks in a New York park has been suspended after one of the hawks swooped down and seized a chihuahua. As the owner of a cat who considers chihuahuas to be prey, I find this amusing. (via jwz)
A few local news items: a new study claims that public transport use will only decline in Melbourne; the government's plans to double public transport use won't happen without massive intervention in the form of massive upgrades and restrictions/charges on automobile use; in other words, not at all, as the marginal seats which decide elections are in the Los Angelised outer suburbs where public transport is nonexistent and not missed. (Hey, maybe we can import some of those American golf carts for teenagers.)
In good news, however, something will soon be done about the public liability insurance crisis, which has crippled things from street parties to children's pony rides. (All the more reason to stay in your nice, safe sports-utility vehicle, insulated from the dangerous world outside.)
And finally, the government is set to ban the eating of dogs and cats, after a lost puppy was rescued from a man who intended to eat it. (I'll leave the moral difference between a dog or cat and a pig or chicken as an exercise to the reader.
Shopkeepers in Russia have discovered an innovative advertising medium: the sides of stray dogs. They lure the dogs with meat, paint their shop's logo (as well as those of any brands they stock) on their sides and release them; the hapless, half-starved animals then wander around like walking billboards, until they're caught and repainted by a rival shop.
Well, at least it must be less obnoxious than those big black trucks with huge-arse billboards, usually advertising some lifestyle product for unsubtle gimboids, driving around in fleets of three and spewing diesel fumes into the air, as some sort of cocky, defiant fuck-you to all the oxygen-breathing bystanders ("hey, try ignoring this, motherfuckers!"). Are there really large demographic groups who choose to consume a certain brand because the manufacturer cares enough to pay someone to spew carbon monoxide into their air?
Eduardo Kac, the Brazilian conceptual artist who proposed creating a transgenic glowing dog with gene-splicing, has partly realised his idea with a glowing rabbit. The rabbit, named Alba, is an albino rabbit whose genes have been modified to incorporate Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). (via bOING bOING)