The Great North To South Divide: Study Finds Consistent “Axial Orientation” In Canine Urination

220px-Kompas_Sofia220px-German_shepherd_footballThis may be a bit too scatological for the morning, so you might want to skip this for your afternoon reading. There are a couple of studies out that I found rather surprising. Indeed, one was surprising enough to get me out in below zero temperatures in the last few days to test with my own dog, Luna. One study in the journal Frontiers of Zoology found “axial orientation” in urination among canines. In other words, they pee in the same direction. That’s right, canines preferred to “excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis” under “calm magnetic field conditions.” The nearly 37 breeds of dogs studied were found to completely avoid urination or defecation along an east-west direction. That was so bizarre it prompted me to take out my iPhone with its compass and load up Luna. The results? North – South. I kid you not.

The study looked at 70 dogs, 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations over a two year period (CBS). The observations confirmed an “axial orientation” with the earth’s magnetic field. The dogs appeared to sense the Earth’s magnetic field regardless of the time of day and other variations in weather. They do not have an explanation for the axial orientation.

Then there is this second study that goes to all animals of any size. According to the New Scientist, there are fundamental laws governing urination across species. Studying rats, dogs, goats, cows and elephants, the scientists found that almost all mammals took roughly the same time to urinate regardless of their mass, bladder pressure and urethra size. The time? An average of 21 seconds. There were a few exceptions for rats and bats urinate very quickly, in under a second, while elephants are big enough that gravity accelerates urination so fast that they beat out most mid-sized mammals.

29 thoughts on “The Great North To South Divide: Study Finds Consistent “Axial Orientation” In Canine Urination”

  1. Dress, I must admit, when I poop each morning I always face East…. Not North,South. However, I believe that might have something to do with the fact that I’m a lefty!

  2. Prof. you should get a big magnet, place it in some other orientation than N-S next to your dog, and then see if that changes direction, or if your dog can tell Earth’s magnetic field from other fields.

  3. My reply to SmilingAthiest was eaten by the Word Mess Machine.

    Please send a rescuer to free it.


  4. J. Brian Harris, Ph.D., P.E.

    Ever consider magnetite biomineralization?

    It is found in mammalian brains, humans included…
    Indeed, that is a clue, but only the beginning.

    Remember that this is the first time that magnetic sensitivity has been proven in dogs:

    The study is the first time that magnetic sensitivity was proven in dogs, although previous research has shown that many mammals “spontaneously align their body axis” with Earth’s magnetic field in a diverse range of behavioral contexts.

    (JT’s CBS Link, supra). The link you provided was the first time it was found in human brain tissue:

    Although the mineral magnetite (Fe3O4) is precipitated biochemically by bacteria, protists, and a variety of animals, it has not been documented previously in human tissue.

    Magnetic particle extracts … identify minerals in the magnetite-maghemite family, with many of the crystal morphologies and structures resembling strongly those precipitated by magnetotactic bacteria

    (Your Link, supra; 1992, emphasis added). In the curious case that JT has presented, we need more than merely knowing that the magnetite is there.

    Which takes us to:

    Magnetotactic bacteria synthesize magnetic iron nanominerals, which function as tiny compasses that allow the microbes to navigate using Earth’s geomagnetic field.

    (Nature). My guess is that microbes in canines are of a very old geneology that includes the Magnetotactic bacteria at some point, and either they produce the tiny compasses or the genetic material they transferred to the canine species does that work which is no longer critical to domestic canines.

  5. I saw this article and I couldn’t stop laughing. I have to admit that our Yellow Lab does seem to follow this orientation.

  6. SmilingAtheist: It all comes down to the 8th Day Dog Adventist theology. An atheist can buy into it if he just omits the God thing. Dog is here on Earth to guide humans. How he got here is a matter of science for atheists and a matter of dogma (no pun intended) for those who fathom religion. You can still believe in Dog if you don’t believe in God. But, God spelled backwards is Dog. So we dogs appeal to contrarians of all stripe.

  7. And, Professor…. I sure hope you put your little booties on Luna, before you took took her out in zero degree weather, maybe she was just looking for four warm spots to put her little paws down in!

  8. As long as they don’t do it in the house that’s the only thing that really matters…

  9. It all comes down to this… We’ve got way too much free time, if we spend our time studying the direction in which are dogs poop!

  10. Some dogs “aim” their turds or try to drop them in a north/south direction. By taking a step forward (never backwards) the alignment will be pretty good.

    It all has to do with longitudinal aspects of the 8th Day Dog Adventist religion. You all are aware that on the 8th Day God Created Dog to give guidance to humans on this Earth. We do so in many ways. It is more obvious when we are guide dogs for blind humans. On the legal blog here you discussed Dog Alert cases where police guard dogs tell the Pal that there is pot in the trunk of the car. The Supreme Court decides the case without considering the most obvious objection that any trial lawyer could make and that is Hearsay of the Dog. Now, if we snort around a crime scene and the Pal asks us which way the perp went we usually simply point and bark. In the future, if the Hearsay of The Dog comes into play we will do the north south turd thing and bark. But one bark only if he went South. Two if he went North. No turd no bark if he went east or west One bark if he went west. Most cops who have a good canine training know these things.

  11. What I find most interesting is our esteemed professor needs a compass in his own neighborhood to know where north/south is located. Geographically disabled? Maybe some accommodation are in order under ADA?

  12. Allow me to chime in. As a dog, and as a human in a prior incarnation, I have a perspective (no pun intended) which will gain some special attention among the Civil War buffs in the crowd. Several incarnations ago I was a human during the Civil War and worked for a railroad in Missouri. The Union Army was trying to determine where some of our workers went with some valuable information. As a former dog in a prior life I advised them to bring my dog onto the scene of the latest person who had vacated his tent. Fido snorted around in the missing guy’s tent and then came out. “Poop Fido”, I commanded. Fido spun around and pointed South as he pooped. The Union General named Sherman observed this from his horse while we were all gathered around. In a dry manner he stated: “He went South.” That phrase became the statement which lives on to this day, although most of you do not know the origin. If you said that someone went South you directly meant that he was a Confederate and at traitor. Later it came to mean that someone stole some money from the cash register or clothes were missing off the laundry line. During the War, anything in Missouri and the battle states that disappeared could be said to have “gone South”.

    In the same Camp Jackson in St. Louis, Missouri in 1861, after the Union troops had taken the camp and marched all the State Militia down to the riverfront, another Union officer brought in Fido and Fido sniffed around the tent of a certain officer who had not been found when the Camp had been taken. Fido snorted, went outside and was ordered to poop. He spun around and pointed North as he pooped. “He went North and is on our side”, the officer commented.

  13. I guess now that it has been matched by several other breeds, the Pointer is no longer champion.

  14. The human species does some of that (facing in a certain direction ritualistically in religious activities for example).

    Some similar things take place in microbial communities too.

    It could be one of the many dynamics hidden down in what is called “dark matter” now, that mysterious DNA place where most human genes are now found.

    No doubt it is a machine function, seeing as how molecular machines have now been included the evolutionary debate (“>The New Paradigm: The Physical Universe Is Mostly Machine, quoting DOE & Laurence Livermore National Laboratory).

    Obviously some gyro, compass type molecular machinery is located in our “human” cells that make up about 10% of our body’s cells, as well as the microbial cells that make up the other about 90% of our body’s cells.

    It is obviously in animal species too.

  15. In the yard, Max aligns N-S. I’m not sure when we walk and he’s marking all verticals. I’ll pay more attention.

  16. My daughter has a Pug. That breed has a habit of spinning around and around when excited, and also when he does his “yard dance.” I have never made a systematic observation of his directional orientation. However, when he actually does stop and take a dump after the spinning, it is hard to imagine he is oriented to anything by that time. Makes one dizzy just watching him.

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