Sunday, January 9, 2011

A border collie's language skills

My Facebook friend Heidi Stauffer put me onto this link today. A pair of researchers working with a border collie named Chaser were able to teach her the names for 1022 toys, to teach her how to categorize those toys with different words, and to have her differentiate between names for the toys and commands to fetch those toys. They stopped because they ran out of time - not because she couldn't learn any more words!

How cool and interesting.


  1. Wow, that's pretty impressive. I've heard of a border collie with the estimated intelligence of a 2-year-old human, so I guess it makes sense that the breed is good at learning words and how to combine them.

  2. I remember reading similar research with dolphins by John C. Lilly back when I was in high school, and of course there's Coco the gorilla. Makes me wonder why we're so quick to declare ourselves the pinacle of intelligence when all these "foreigners" can learn rudamentary human language and we haven't a clue about theirs :). Thanks for the link though. I do find the research fascinating even though I find the human-focused assumptions glaring.

  3. Border Collies are incredibly smart, which is one reason that they don't make great "typical" pets. (i.e. left home alone all day, with nothing to do).

    They are working dogs and need a job to keep from going crazy, and the owners have to be smart and involved to help them out. (I am not a Border Collie owner.)

  4. Thanks for the comments, Heidi, Margaret, and Suzi! It's definitely intriguing, and I certainly wonder how the nature of animal thinking differs from ours. I am not a dog owner, period, so I don't consider myself an expert on this one. I think research like this is worth doing.