Dog Freaks Out Before Earthquake

You’ve likely heard anecdotal evidence that dogs act in unusual ways anywhere from seconds to days before an earthquake strikes. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that dogs can predict tremors, and nobody is certain of the mechanism they could be using to do so.

Did Dogs, Cats and Cows Predict the Magnitude 9 Earthquake in Japan in 2011? Is it possible that animals had advance warning of theTohoku earthquake?

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Dog Freaks Out Before Earthquake

For centuries, people have described unusual animal behavior just ahead of seismic events: dogs barking incessantly, cows halting their milk, toads leaping from ponds. A few researchers have tried to substantiate a link. In a 2013 study, Germany scientists videotaped red wood ants that nested along a fault line and found they changed their usual routine before a quake, becoming more active at night and less active during the day. But most such attempts have relied largely on anecdotal evidence and single observations, according to a 2018 Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America review that examined 180 previous studies.

The researchers used highly sensitive instruments that record accelerated movements—up to 48 each second—in any direction. During separate periods totaling about four months in 2016 and 2017, they attached these biologgers and GPS sensors to six cows, five sheep and two dogs living on a farm in an earthquake-prone area of northern Italy. A total of more than 18,000 tremors occurred during the study periods, with more seismic activity during the first one—when a magnitude 6.6 quake and its aftershocks struck the region. The team’s work was published in July in Ethology.

Now researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and the University of Konstanz, both in Germany, along with a multinational team of colleagues, say they have managed to precisely measure increased activity in a group of farm animals prior to seismic activity. Though a definitive link has still not been proved, the scientists say their findings are a significant step forward in the search for one. “There are the old tales from Aristotle and Alexander von Humboldt, who saw this behavior,” says study co-author Martin Wikelski, managing director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior. “But only now can we do continuous biologging of the activities and the nervousness of animals. The technical possibilities are finally there.”

The researchers say the farm animals appeared to anticipate tremors anywhere from one to 20 hours ahead, reacting earlier when they were closer to the origin and later when they were farther away. This finding, the authors contend, is consistent with a hypothesis that animals somehow sense a signal that diffuses outward. It holds that in the days before an earthquake, shifting tectonic plates squeeze rocks along a fault line. This action causes the rocks to release minerals that expel ions into the air, according to a 2010 study. “The animals then react to this novel sensation,” suggested the authors of a 2013 paper.

Cows, sheep and dogs increased their activity before tremors, seemingly reacting, in part, to one another


Do dogs act weird before an earthquake?

Dogs have a wider hearing range and better scent detection than humans. Some scientists suggest that dogs can hear seismic activities that precede earthquakes (such as the scraping, grinding, and breaking of rocks underground).

How do dogs act when there’s an earthquake?

According to the study, 236 of 1,259 dog owners said they observed strange behaviors, such as neediness, barking, and howling before the quake. Some said their dogs were so restless they even escaped. Sixty percent of these reports happened in the seconds and minutes before the earthquake.