Scientists from Czechia (formerly Czech Republic), have found evidence that dogs can sense and navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field.
The researchers found out more about this ability, called magnetoreception, by using a unique method of GPS data and video from action cams attached to 27 hunting dogs. They then undertook homing trials in 62 different locations.
The experiments were done from 2014 to 2017 where dogs were set out for a chase and then required to return to their handlers.
From this data, the researchers found that the return by the dogs was roughly 20-metre run along a north-south axis no matter where their owner was standing.
Called the “compass run”, the researchers have hypothesised that this is a way for dogs to prime their magnetic sensors. The forests they were put in were unknown to the dogs so they could track scent, whereas the magnetic field is a universal frame of reference.
While other species have been identified using this sense for a while, this is one of the first major studies into this ability in canines. The team also believe it is possible it exists in more species than is currently known. However, more research is needed to fully understand this phenomenon in dogs and even more for other mammals.