Archive for January, 2013

Why do horses wear shoes?

Horse shoe

A horse wears shoes for very nearly the same reason you wear shoes—to protect its feet from injury and wear.  A horse’s shoe is a metal plate that fits around the outer edges of the hoofs to help give the horse better footing  and keep the hoofs from splitting on hard roads.

The metal shoe is held in place with horse shoe nails.  But since the nails go only into the horny hoof, this does not hurt the horse at all.  Work horses wear heavy shoes with cleats to prevent them from slipping when pulling a heavy load.  Race horses wear light shoes that can wear out after a single race.–Dick Rogers

How does an elephant use its trunk?

Elephant Tusk

An elephant’s trunk is its nose, its hand and its hose.  The trunk is about six feet long.  And elephant is able to breathe and smell with its trunk, because the trunk has nostrils.  As a hand, an elephant’s trunk carries food to its mouth.

Sensitive “fingers” at the tip can pick up something as small as a peanut.  With its trunk, an elephant can pull down a tree, caress a mate, or swat a baby elephant’s behind.  An elephant drinks by sucking water into its trunk, then squirting the water into its mouth.  Sometimes it cools off by spraying water over its back.–Dick Rogers

Is there a dog that can’t bark?

Yes, there is one breed of dog, the basenji (buh-SEN-jee), that you’ll never catch “barking up the wrong tree.”  This strange little dog with perky ears and a tightly curled tail cannot bark at all.  It does make noises, and whines, and when excited.  It makes a sound resembling a yodel.

The basenji has another feature not found in other breeds of dogs.  It has a habit of washing its short, silky coat with its tongue to keep itself clean, as a cat does.  Because it is not a noisy dog, the basenji is a popular house pet.–Dick Rogers

Do fish have ears?

Fish

Yes, fish have ears and can hear.  But most fish hear very poorly.  You cannot see a fish’s ears because they are buried deep inside its head.  In addition, many kinds of fish also have tiny sense organs arranged in lines along the sides of their bodies which are called the lateral lines.

This organ feels vibrations in the water.  It lets the fish know what’s going on around it, even if it does not see or hear anything.  Through its lateral line organ, a fish can sense the vibrations of your footsteps along the banks of a stream and swim away. –Dick Rogers

Do snakes shed their skin?

Snake

A snake sheds its skin several times a year.  When a snake grows, its skin does not grow with its body.  Instead, the snake grows a new skin underneath the old one.  Eventually, the old skin becomes too tight, and needs to come off.

The snake begins to shed its old skin by rubbing its nose on a rock or a tree trunk in order to loosen the skin around its mouth.  Then, by crawling through rocks and brush, the snake manages to wriggle headfirst out of the old skin.  The skin frequently comes off whole, turned inside out.  This process is called molting.–Dick Rogers

What are the whiskers for on an animal’s face?

Whiskers

The whiskers on an animal’s face are organs of touch.  They help the animal sense what going on around it.  Scientists call whiskers vibrissae (vi-BRIS-see). These long, sensitive hairs are most helpful to animals that prowl about in dark places.

A cat’s whiskers brush against objects the cat might not see as it hunts at night.  Whiskers help some animals find food.  The whiskers on a seal’s face are helpful in detecting fish in the dark or cloudy water.  And the thick whiskers on a walrus’s upper lip help it to feel for clams in the ocean bottom.–Dick Rogers

Is the prairie dog really a dog?

Prairie Dog

No, despite its name and its barking call, the prairie dog is actually a member of the ground squirrel family.  The prairie dog lives in underground burrows in the western United States. These burrows have so many tunnels that people refer to them as towns.

Hundreds of prairie dog families may live in these towns.  A mound of dirt surrounds the entrance to each burrow.  A prairie dog usually stands guard at the entrance to its burrow.  If it spots danger, the prairie dog barks loudly, and they all scramble to their homes for safety.–Dick Rogers

How does a cricket make its chirping sound?

Cricket

Perhaps the most familiar summer sound-maker of the insect world is the cricket.  The common field cricket chirps from grasses in  your backyard or from behind is warm stove in your house.  Because it has no voice, the cricket must fiddle.

It makes its chirping call by raising one wing like a violin bow and drawing it ever a file-like edge on the other wing.  It is the male who makes all the noise.

The female cricket is quiet.  The male’s loud fiddling is done to attract the female cricket.  She listens to his song with “ears” located on her front legs.–Dick Rogers

How can birds perch on electric wires without getting shocked?

Birds

A bird does not receive a shock when it lands on an electric wire because it lands on only one wire.  Electricity takes the path of least resistance—it flows through some materials much more easily than others.

It is simply easier for the electricity to continue along the metal wire than it is for it to detour through the bird.

If the bird landed on two wires with different voltages, however, the electricity would flow through the bird from the wire with the higher voltage to the wire with the lower voltage, and the bird would be electrocuted.–Dick Rogers

Why do dogs bury bones?

Dog

When a dog buries a bone, it is probably following an age-old habit of burying food for safekeeping.

The ancestors of dogs were wild animals that lived outside.  These animals had to hunt for their food.

They often buried the food they could not finish eating in a meal, hiding it from scavengers.

This also enabled the wild dogs to have a leftovers for a future meal.  Modern house dogs are still born with this instinct to bury food, even though it is no longer necessary.   When burying a bone, a dog digs the hole with its front feet, but covers the bone with its nose.–Dick Rogers