Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spotted Hyena

The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), also known as the laughing hyena or tiger wolf, is a species of hyena native to Sub-Saharan Africa. It is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN on account of its widespread range and large numbers estimated at 10,000 individuals. The species is however experiencing declines outside of protected areas due to habitat loss and poaching.The species may have originated in Asia,and once ranged throughout Europe for at least one million years until the end of theLate Pleistocene.The spotted hyena is the largest member of the Hyaenidae, and is further physically distinguished from other species by its vaguely bear-like build, its rounded ears, its less prominent mane, its spotted pelt, its more dual purposed dentition,its fewer nipples and the presence of a pseudo-penis in the female. It is the only mammalian species to lack an external vaginal opening.The spotted hyena is a highly successful animal, being the most common large carnivore in Africa.The spotted hyena is a highly successful animal, being the most common large carnivore in Africa. Its success is due in part to its adaptability and opportunism; it is both an efficient hunter and a scavenger, with the capacity to eat and digest skin, bone and other animal waste. In functional terms, the spotted hyena makes the most efficient use of animal matter of all African carnivores.The spotted hyena displays greater plasticity in its hunting and foraging behavior than other African carnivores;it hunts alone, in small parties of 2-5 individuals or in large groups. During a hunt, spotted hyenas often run through ungulate herds in order to select an individual to attack. Once selected, their prey is chased over long distance, often several kilometers, at speeds of up to 60 km/h.
The spotted hyena's scientific name, Crocuta, was once widely thought to be derived from the Latin loanword crocutus, which translates as "saffron-coloured one", in reference to the animal's fur colour. This was proven to be incorrect, as the correct spelling of the loanword would have been Crocāta, and the word was never used in that sense by Graeco-Roman sources. Crocuta actually comes from the Greek word Κροκόττας (Krokottas), which is derived from the Sanskrit koṭṭhâraka, which in turn originates from kroshṭuka (both of which were originally meant to signify the golden jackal). The earliest recorded mention of Κροκόττας is from Strabo's Geographica, where the animal is described as a mix of wolf and dog native to Ethiopia.

The spotted hyena is a social animal which lives in large communities called "clans", which can consist of up to 80 individuals. Group-size varies geographically; in the Serengeti, where prey is migratory, clans are smaller than those in the Ngorongoro Crater, where prey is sedentary.Spotted hyena clans are more compact and unified than  packs, but are not as closely knit as those of African wild dogs.Females dominate males, with even the lowest ranking females being dominant over the highest ranking males. It is typical for females to remain with their natal clan, thus large clans usually contain several matrilines, whereas males typically disperse from their natal clan at the age of 2½ years. The clan is afission-fusion society, in which clan-members do not often remain together, but may forage alone or in small groups.High-ranking hyenas maintain their position through aggression directed against lower-ranking clan-members. Spotted hyena hierarchy is nepotistic; the offspring of dominant females automatically outrank adult females subordinate to their mother.However, rank in spotted hyena cubs is greatly dependent on the presence of the mother; low-ranking adults may act aggressively toward higher-ranking cubs when the mother is absent. Although individual spotted hyenas only care for their own young, and males take no part in raising their young, cubs are able to identify relatives as distantly related as great-aunts. Also, males associate more closely with their own daughters rather than unrelated cubs, and the latter favour their fathers by acting less aggressively toward them.Spotted hyena societies are more complex than those of other carnivorous mammals, and are remarkably similar to those of cercopithecine primates in respect to group size, structure, competition and cooperation. Like cercopithecine primates, spotted hyenas use multiple sensory modalities, recognise individual conspecifics, are conscious that some clan-mates may be more reliable than others, recognise 3rd party kin and rank relationships among clan-mates, and adaptively use this knowledge during social decision making. Also, like cercopithecine primates, dominance ranks in hyena societies are not correlated with size or aggression, but with ally networks. In this latter trait, the spotted hyena further show parallels with primates by acquiring rank through coalitions. However, rank reversals and overthrows in spotted hyena clans are very rare.Territory size is highly variable, ranging from less than 40 km² in the Ngorongoro Crater to over 1,000 km² in the Kalahari. Home ranges are defended through vocal displays, scent marking and boundrary patrols.Clans mark their territories by either pasting or pawing in special latrines located on clan range boundraries. Clan boundraries are usually respected; hyenas chasing prey have been observed to stop dead in their tracks once their prey crosses into another clan's range. Hyenas will however ignore clan boundraries in times of food shortage. Males are more likely to enter another clan's territory than females are, as they are less attached to their natal group and will leave it when in search of a mate. Hyenas travelling in another clan's home range typically exhibit bodily postures associated with fear, particularly when meeting other hyenas. An intruder can be accepted into another clan after a long period of time if it persists in wandering into the clan's territory, dens or kills.
The spotted hyena is a non-seasonal breeder, though a birth peak does occur during the wet season. Females are polyestrus, with an estrus period lasting two weeks. Like many felid species, the spotted hyena is promiscuous, and no enduring pair bonds are formed. Members of both sexes may copulate with several mates over the course of several years. Males will show submissive behaviour when approaching females in heat, even if the male outweighs its partner.Females usually favour younger males born or joined into the clan after they were born. Older females show a similar preference, with the addition of preferring males with whom they have had long and friendly prior relationships. Passive males tend to have greater success in courting females than aggressive ones.Copulation in spotted hyenas is a relatively short affair, which typically only occurs at night with no other hyenas present. The mating process is complicated, as the female's reproductive tract is entered and exited through her pseudo-penis rather than directly through the vagina, which is blocked by the false scrotum and testes. Once the female retracts her clitoris, the male enters the female by sliding beneath her, an operation facilitated by the penis' upward angle. Once this is accomplished, a normal mating stance is adopted.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter is one of the most distinct of the setter breeds largely because of its unique coat coloration. This breed is the only setter that always has the black and tan coloration to it long, luxurious coat and furnishings. The coat may be slightly wavy but is never curly with longer hair on the ears, chest, undersides and the legs and tail. The tail is relatively long and is rather broad at the base and tapers to a very fine point. The tail is carried low naturally but will be raised higher when the dog is excited or working. The hair on the tail is longer at the underside of the base and gradually becomes shorter as the tail decreases in size. When viewed from the side the tail should resemble a pendant or flag. The body of the Gordon Setter is robust and sturdy without appearing heavy, cobby or clumsy. The chest is very deep and will reach down almost to the elbows of the front legs, but is typically narrow rather than broad and blunt. The ribcage is well sprung and developed, and there is a gradual concave appearance to the abdomen. The legs and long and give the dog a tall stance. They are straight and well boned but not heavy or overly muscular looking. The hind legs are slightly bent to give the impression of the dog being able to spring immediately into action. The feet are compact and well arched and provide this dog with a sure footed confidence in moving through brush and over rough terrain. The breed also has a significant amount of long hairs between the toes providing additional protection to the feet. The head of the Gordon Setter is much broader and larger than many of the other setter breeds. It is considered to be rather chiseled in appearance with a very pronounced stop between the muzzle and the eyes. The muzzle itself is long, broad and square looking and they will always have a very wide black nose with well developed nostrils. The muzzle does not appear to taper in anyway and is very blunt at the end. The lips are held close to the mouth and are not slack or pendulous. The ears are thin and are held slightly back and close to the head and are never carried erect. The eyes are oval in shape and are very dark with a look of intelligence and enthusiasm.
The coat is medium to long and is silky and flat in appearance. It may be wavy or straight or a combination of wavy on the furnishings and straight on the body. The coat is very shiny and flowing looking without being bulky or fluffy in appearance. The furnishings are moderately long and heavy and should appear in balance with the coat and size of the dog. The tail is well furnished with a flag like appearance when held horizontal.
Originally bred in Scotland in the 1600s the Gordon Setter has always been a popular breed with hunters. It was originally known as the Black and Tan Setter, but then with the interest of Duke Alexander the 4th the name changed to Gordon after the castle that he maintained his hunting dogs at. The Duke set out to improve the breed and encouraged others to do the same. Another important person in the development and popularization of the breed was the Duke of Richmond that took up the promotion of the breed after Duke Alexander's death. In the early 1900's the breed went back to the original Black and Tan name, but then was officially recognized as the Gordon Setter by the English Kennel Club. The Gordon Setter was also one of the first breeds to be recognized by the American Kennel Club. The Gordon Setter was brought to the United States in 1842 and was recognized as a breed in 1892. The Gordon Setter was bred as a one man hunting dog, not for speed but for a patterned and logical approach to finding game birds. It has been used as a pointer, for flushing out birds as well as for retrieving. This multilevel skill development has lead this breed to be one of the most intelligent of the setter breeds and a true asset to hunters. They have more recently become popular as a beautiful show dog as well as a faithful companion dog.
As with most of the setter breeds the Gordon Setter is a very even tempered dog that tends to get along well with almost anyone or anything that he or she encounters. They are somewhat aloof and independent around strangers until the dog decides if they are trustworthy or not, then the dog will either completely ignore the person or become very friendly. Often this breed seems to be studying people to make this decision. Early and constant socialization is required to keep this breed from becoming shy or highly reserved around other people. Overall a very loyal and loving breed the Gordon Setter makes an excellent dog both inside the house and outside. They are wonderful with children of all ages and have a great deal of patience with young kids. They do not react to sudden noises or fast movements in negative ways like some breeds, so can easily handle children. They are really a people breed preferring to be in the same area as the owner rather than along or isolated. The breed does need a significant amount of exercise either in the form of a large fenced yard to wander and play or in regular walks and romps. Without enough exercise they can become hyperactive and rambunctious and more challenging to handle. The Gordon Setter makes a wonderful companion dog for both canine and non-canine pets. They will quickly adjust to cats and other pets in the house provided they are properly socialized. It is always recommended to start the socialization process with other pets and dogs as soon as possible when the Gordon Setter is a puppy. They are not a dog aggressive breed and typically will do well even with dominant breeds of dogs. Male Gordon Setters will be somewhat more aggressive especially if females are present so early neutering is important. Females should be spayed early as well to prevent pregnancies and the challenging behaviors often displayed while they are in heat. The Gordon Setter does have a tendency to roam and wander so should be kept in a fenced yard. They do very well in hunting trials, obedience competitions and as watchdogs for the family. While not a problem barker they will naturally bark whenever someone or something approaches they are unfamiliar with. The breed is considered very easy to train but can be somewhat independent and requires firm, consistent and regular positive training and practice to stay highly obedient and cooperative.
Their litter size is 7-9 puppies.Needs space to exercise and needs a well fenced yard. Prefers indoor living and is not recommended for apartments.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is divided into two groups, primarily based on their appearance. The first group is the English, and they are shorter, bigger-boned, and tend to have longer coats that are lighter in color. The American group tends to be lanky with longer limbs, and have characteristics that are more similar to the origins of their breed.Their broad heads are connected to wide muzzles. They have brown expressive eyes and a black nose, and as they mature, their chests become broad and their bodies become muscular, and their tails are always wagging.Generally, a Golden Retriever is filled with confidence and that comes through by the way they carry themselves. They appear strong and athletic, and their body is symmetrical. Their peaceful attitude and affectionate personalities are apparent in their posture and in the way they interact with their humans.
The Golden Retriever has a double coat. The outer coat is soft, feathery, and can be straight or wavy. The undercoat allows the Golden to repel water and stay warm in extreme cold, and then will shed throughout the year, but more in the spring. This gives the Golden Retriever coat a versatile quality, since the coat allows for the Golden to be comfortable in virtually any season of the year. Shedding can be managed by putting some time aside throughout the week to keep up on grooming, and if your dog is likely to spend the majority of its time indoors, it may be a good idea to invest in a good vacuum cleaner to clean up any hair missed in your grooming routine.
The Golden Retriever does well in different living situations as long as their family takes the time to make sure they are well exercised. While a large fenced yard or a secure area that provides room to run and play is ideal, a Golden Retriever can also thrive in an apartment environment. In this situation, it is important to check with local parks and public areas to determine what their rules are in regards to dogs and other pets, and see what would be most suitable for taking your dog to for play and exercise time.
This highly intelligent and social dog has a history that traces back to the late 1800s, where written records indicate that Lord Tweedmouth of developed them. His desire was to produce a dog that was skillful in hunting and tracking, as well as retrieving waterfowl. In addition, he wanted a hunting partner that was beautiful to watch work. It is believed that the breed began by crossing a yellow dog with the now-extinct water spaniel, and through the years, the breed has evolved into a dog with popularity that has stood the test of time.Golden Retrievers are not believed to have been brought to until the 1890s, and they were not presented in dog shows until the 1920s.

Outgoing and social, the Golden Retriever makes a loyal family pet. Their sweet dispositions make them patient and gentle with children and they are generally tolerant of other pets. It is important to remember that they are excitable as pups, and can accidentally knock children over while playing. Aggressiveness in well-bred Golden Retrievers is not common, but improper breeding can raise the chances of aggression issues. Instead, these dogs are people lovers who prefer to have as much human contact as possible, and can tend to get themselves into trouble if they are frequently left alone. Being forced from their family members for long periods can result in a very unhappy Golden Retriever that could suffer from separation anxiety. Golden Retrievers do not make the best of guard dogs. They will bark at strangers, but seem to be more interested in meeting and making friends with them than they are defending their family against them. They are affectionate, loving and loyal, and try hard to please their people.Golden Retrievers have a high energy level. These fun loving dogs enjoy nothing more than to play fetch or retrieve a stick during play, and their love for water makes for not only interesting play, but also plays a part in their strong hunting skills.Their high level of intelligence enables them to excel in obedience training. They are often trained and used as service dogs to the blind and disabled. Their friendly and affectionate personalities also make them ideal visitors for retirement homes and allow them to be effective therapy dogs.


The Quokka is a small marsupial that is natively found in parts of the south-west of Australia and on only two islands off the south-west coast. The Quokka is one of the smallest Wallaby species in the world, and most distinctively differs from other Wallabies with their short and barely-furred tail and small hind legs. Out of the roughly 50 known Kangaroo and Wallaby (and other marsupial) species on the continent however, the Quokka is one of three whose ancestry is still fairly hazy today. The fact that the Quokka browses for food rather than simply grazing makes it quite different to other species, but despite all this, many agree that they are most closely related to the Rock Wallaby.
The Quokka is a small species of Wallaby that has a rounded and compact body. Their hind legs and tail are much shorter in comparison to those of many Wallaby species, but allow the Quokka to hop through the thick vegetation and tall grasses with immense speed. The dense fur of the Quokka is fairly coarse and usually brown or grey in colour, with reddish tinges around the face and neck, and generally lighter in colour on the underside. Along with it's rounded body, the Quokka also has small and rounded ears, and a rounded snout that is tipped with a black nose. Unlike other Wallaby species, the tail of the Quokka has hardly any fur on it at all and they also don't need it to balance whilst they are hopping along.
Historically, the Quokka had quite a wide distribution and was once found throughout the coastal regions of south-western Australia. Today however, the Quokka has been restricted to three remote regions, only one of which is actually on the Australian mainland. The most numerous populations of Quokka are found on Rottnest Island and on neighbouring Bald Island, with a few isolated groups also inhabiting the bushland that surrounds the city of Perth on the mainland. In these island environments, Quokka are most commonly found in thick forest, open woodland and areas of scrub that are close to fresh water. Their preferred habitats are always close to water, and the Quokka can also be found along the edges of swamps.
The Quokka is a very sociable and friendly animal that inhabits south-western Australia in small family groups, which are dominated by the males. Despite this though, the Quokka is not known to be territorial with up 150 individuals known to have over-lapping home ranges. Although they are known to share these habitats peacefully most of the time, fights between males are not unheard of, particularly on a hot day when they compete for the most sheltered spots. The Quokka is a nocturnal animal that spends most of the hot day, resting in the shade of the trees and will often return to the same spot every day. At night, the Quokka then begins to browse for food using tunnels through the long, grasses to move about unseen.
The breeding season for the Quokka tends to occur in the cooler months between January and March, when a single joey is born after a gestation period of just a month. Like all other marsupial babies, the joey manages to crawl into it's mother's pouch completely unaided, when it then attaches itself to one of the female's teats. The Quokka babies suckle from their mother in the pouch for around 6 months whilst they continue to develop. At this time, the joey emerges for the first time and begins to explore it's surroundings but remains close to the female, continuing to suckle on her milk for at least another couple of months. In captivity though, breeding can take place all year round once the individual is mature enough to mate at about a year old.

Like other Wallaby species, the Quokka is a vegetarian, meaning that it's herbivorous diet is solely comprised of the surrounding plant material. The Quokka most commonly feeds on different grasses that line that tunnels that they make through the dense vegetation. They are also known to eat leaves, and fruits and berries when they are available. Although the Quokka mainly browses for food on the ground, they are also known to climb about a meter or so up into the trees, and also swallow their food without chewing it. The Quokka then regurgitates the undigested material in the form of a cud, which is also eaten. They have no need to drink vast amounts of water and are said to be able to go for months without drinking at all.
Quokka family units are most commonly found in areas close to one another, where there is a decent source of fresh water. Even though they prefer these moist environments however, Quokka's are known to actually gather most of their moisture from the vegetation that they eat, meaning that they can also be found in regions that are actually quite far from the nearest river or stream. Despite the obvious differences between the Quokka and other Wallaby species, their small size has enabled them to become masters of the undergrowth. The Quokka creates tunnels that they use as runways through the dense vegetation, which they are then able to hop extremely fast along when threatened by a predator.