Meet the Most Famous Science Dog Trailblazers in History

Throughout history, our dogs have been steadfast companions. They’re our supreme protectors. Our number one cheeleaders. The human-animal bond with our dogs is no joke and the subject of multiple scientific studies. Many dogs have their place in history as famous scientific pioneers. Meet the most famous science dog trailblazers in history!

Content living a life of leisure with their humans, our companion dogs don’t always have jobs. However, if you own a dog, you know they’re pretty much up for anything (except, maybe baths)! It’s no wonder that dogs have been used for scientific purposes throughout history. In reality, their keen sense of smell, close bond with humans, and ability to learn new things, dogs play a vital role in advancing humans scientifically. Meet the most famous science dog trailblazers in history! These dogs give our canine friends even more amazing accolades!

The Most Famous Science Dog Trailblazers

Strelka and Belka: First Dog Astronauts

In August of 1950, the Soviet Union launched the Spunik 5 capsule into space. On board, were Strelka and Belka, along with mice, rats, and a rabbit. Historically, this group of creatures were the first living things to be launched into space and returned safely to Earth. As a result, this trailblazed the way for human space exploration. Notably, Strelka and Belka enjoyed full, happy dog lives after their space mission. Strelka eventually had a litter of puppies, including Pushinka, who was a gift for the Kennedy family in the White House!

Togo and Balto

No doubt, you’ve probably heard of Balto, the hero dog to finish the final 55 mile stretch to deliver antitoxin serum to Nome, Alaska in 1925. Balto and Togo, along with other sled dog teams played a monumental role in saving Nome from the Diptheria outbreak of 1925. Since Nome is so cut off from the rest of Alaska, the only way to reach the remote town was with dogsleds.

Balto earned statue in Central Park for his contribution! However, many people don’t know that Togo, at 12 years old, actually traveled the furthest, traversing 264 miles in the great race to deliver the antitoxin. Eventually, Togo was recognized for his feat. He has a statue in New York’s Seward Park. If you haven’t watched the Disney movie, Togo, it’s a must watch!

Robot: Cave Art Discovery

Robot was a mutt who is credited with discovering one of the greatest archaeoligical finds in the 20th century! While out for a walk with his owner, Robot allegedly fell into a foxhole. His owner followed his barks into the caves at Lascaux in Southwest France. All of a sudden, they stumbled upon more than 600 of the most detailed and preserved pieces of prehistoric art in history.

Chaser: Canine Superwhiz

If you’ve ever known a Border Collie, you know how intelligent, hard-working, and keen they are. Notably, Chaser is often referred to as the world’s smartest dog. Amazingly, she learned how to identify over 1,000 objects, showing that she had the largest word memory of any animal outside of humans.

Chaser scored high in inference and memory skills, showing that dogs are capable of learning new words. Incidentally, when Chaser was presented with a pile of familiar items, and one unfamiliar item mixed in, she was able to identify the new item by inferring that it was the only object she didn’t recognize.

Check out Dognition, a caine intelligence website developed by Brian Hare, Phd of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center. Dognition assesses dogs’ empathy, communication, memory, reasoning, and cunning skills. Of course, Chaser’s Dognition results were off the charts! You can even complete some of the tests with your dog!

Credit: BBC Earth
Laika: Space Dog Extraordinaire
Like Sputnik, Laika became an icon of early Soviet space exploration (Credit: Alamy)
Laika is one of the most famous historical dog science trailblazers. (Image credit: Alamy)

Laika, a stray rescued from the streets of Moscow was the first dog to orbit the earth in 1957. At the time, it was unknown how conditions in space would affect humans. As a result, the Soviets sent several dogs into space. Evidently, Laika and other dogs were chosen because they had “endured rough conditions on the streets as strays.”

Sadly, Laika perished on her space mission. Unfortunately, astrophysicists figured out how to get her into orbit, but not how to bring her back to earth. Once in space, Laika circled earth for a little over an hour and a half before temperatures in the capsule rose too high and claimed Laika. Of course, many opposed the decision to send Laika to space, knowing that she would likely not live. However, many others defended the choice, citing that Laika’s journey showed that animals could live in space (even for a short time).

It’s difficult to think of choices like that being made today without broad backlash. However, that was a different time. Dogs hadn’t yet gained the broad societal status that they enjoy today in many parts of the world.

Modern Dogs in Science

Today, dogs assist humans in multiple scientifc endeavours. A recent University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School study found that dogs could sniff out Coronavirus with 96% accuracy! Many dogs accurately sniff out cancers. This is an amazing step towards early detection.

Additionally, wildlife detection dogs are working to help scientists locate and map endangered plant and animal species. Further, many of our companion dogs learn to alert their humans to changes in blood sugar, upcoming seizures, and offer calm, steady support for victims of PTSD. Finally, some medical detection dogs have changed the lives of families of children with autism. These dogs sense overstimulation or anxiety and calmly lean into the child, making it possible for the family to enjoy experiences outside the home that may otherwise be too much.

Aren’t dogs amazing? These science dog trailblazers, along with others, desire nothing more than love, a warm place to lay, and tasty food for their efforts. Our dogs offer loyal, unending love and support for us with every beat of their heart. How has your Best Friend contributed to your life?

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