By Rachael KornbluthA dog’s tail is one of the few visible signs of life in the world, and it can be the key to the dog’s survival.
In a new study, scientists at the University of Colorado Denver and the University at Buffalo found that the tail can serve as a kind of “escape hatch” that the dog will use to get from place to place and to evade predators, but can also be used to protect itself and its owner.
The study, published online in the journal PLOS ONE, also suggests that dogs are more likely to survive when their tails are clipped.
“When the dog is not wearing its tail, it is more likely for it to be attacked and killed,” said Michael Wysocki, an associate professor of veterinary sciences and of medicine in the U.S. and the study’s lead author.
“A dog with a tail is much less likely than a dog without a tail to survive in the wild.”
Researchers analyzed data from 2,065 dogs, all from the United States, Canada and Europe, from the UCO-Denver Center for Comparative Research in Veterinary Medicine, a research affiliate of the University Hospitals Case Medical Center, in Denver.
The dogs were categorized into five different types of breeds, ranging from the very small, a breed that typically lives in cities, to the large, which is more closely related to dogs in the United Kingdom.
The study focused on dogs of European ancestry, and included a large number of breeds that have not been studied before, Wysocksi said.
“I was surprised to find that, in general, large breeds have a higher rate of euthanasia than small breeds,” Wysoksi said in a statement.
“I’m interested in the relationship between large breeds and larger populations.”
The researchers found that dogs with a long tail were more likely than dogs with short tails to be killed or euthanize, and were also more likely if the animal had a health condition that required immediate medical attention.
“There is a great risk that an animal with a short tail will become aggressive and injure itself,” WYSoksi explained.
“When an animal has a long, sharp tail, that animal is more of a threat to other animals in the household.”
A dog without its tail can be as dangerous as a dog with its own tail, the researchers wrote.
The long tail can provide an escape route for dogs that have trouble getting through urban areas, but it can also cause serious problems for other animals that live in the neighborhood.
“In terms of the risk of an aggressive animal attacking someone with a human tail, an animal without its own can be quite dangerous,” Wiesoksi noted.
“The animal can also become entangled in a person’s body or cause serious injury to someone.”
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the European Union and the UCo-Denver Foundation.