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10 Crazy Facts You Didn't Know About Animals


African Wild Dogs Care for Their Elderly

No canine is left behind when it comes to the African wild dog packs. They feed their young, sick and old. iStockphoto/Thinkstock
No canine is left behind when it comes to the African wild dog packs. They feed their young, sick and old. iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Few animals are anthropomorphized like dogs. Humans may attribute traits like empathy, guilt, and even altruism to their canine friends, often with the sneaking suspicion that it's mostly the bacon smell driving things.

A quick look at the behavior of African wild dogs, however, might challenge the bacon theory. These members of the Canidae family, which also includes our domestic canine buddies, practice some decidedly humane behaviors, including caring for the elderly, ill or otherwise fragile members of their pack [source: National Geographic]

African wild dogs, native to sub-Saharan Africa, live in packs that function as families. Pack members stay together for their entire lives, and no dog gets left behind – or goes hungry [source: Wildlife Conservation Society]. In stark contrast to most other carnivores, when the pack makes a kill, every dog gets to eat, even those who couldn't contribute to the effort [source: Wildlife Conservation Society].

After a meal, young, healthy dogs will return to the den and seek out ill, very old or very young pack members and feed them by regurgitating some of the kill [source: Wildlife Conservation Society]. It's like meals on wheels.

And if this makes you think about taking better care of your grandparents right now, you're not alone.

Author's Note: 10 Crazy Facts You Didn't Know About Animals

I seldom pitch article ideas, but I made an exception here. The idea came from watching one of my daughter's favorite TV shows, a nature-education program called "Zaboomafoo" hosted by the Kratt Brothers, from which both of us have gathered some amazing knowledge. Early on, I learned that kangaroos use their tails as kind of a third leg when hopping slowly, which for some reason fascinated me, and each time I've shared the knowledge with friends I've gotten the same response: I didn't know that! So I decided to go deeper and learn some other facts. I left out my daughter's enthusiastic recommendations because I thought my readers might already know them, but in case you're interested: Gazelles run really fast; cheetahs eat gazelles; and lions eat zebras. (I'm guessing we'd watched a predator episode that day.)

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