December 25, 2010
Border Collie Chaser Knows 1022 Words

Chaser is a smart girl.

IN THE age-old war between cats and dogs, canines might just have struck the killer blow. A border collie called Chaser has been taught the names of 1022 items - more than any other animal. She can also categorise them according to function and shape, something children learn to do around the age of 3.

Of course it would be a Border Collie. I used to know a Border-Aussie (Australian Shepherd) mix who was so bright that he knew 250 words according to his owner. Given what I saw of that dog I found the claim believable. That a Border could know 1022 words and even understand verbs versus nouns and other details of sentence structure still seems amazing though.

The article above has a video of Chaser demonstrating Border Collie brilliance. You can also watch Chaser perform on this video and this video with more other videos on YouTube. Since Chaser demonstrates understanding of combinations of nouns and verbs she's like a very young human child in terms of her language skills.

My take: Dogs have been bred to have such a large variety of differences in behavior the various breeds that they will make great sources of DNA sequences to use to identify genetic variants that cause their cognitive characteristics. Given that the breeds differ considerably intelligence comparing breeds (or even different dogs in the same breed) could turn out to be useful in identifying genetic variants that cause intelligence and behavioral differences.

Where does this lead? Breeding for even smarter dogs which can understand even more complex forms of human language. Dog DNA sequencing to discover genes that influence intelligence might turn up some intelligence-boosting genetic variants than even Chaser has. Identification of all these variants would give breeders a goal to shoot for: get as many of the variants as possible into the same litter of dogs.

Identification of intelligence-boosting genetic variants in other species could lead to genetic engineering to put some of those variants into dogs. Is a 70+ IQ dog within reach in, say, 20 or 30 years? Seems like it.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 December 25 07:48 PM  Brain Intelligence

Nick G said at December 25, 2010 8:38 PM:

Herding dogs seem to be especially bright. Our Sheltie knows a lot of verbal and non-verbal communications.

I'm not sure most people are really prepared to handle a very smart dog. Your average Border Collie is really too much for most people to handle. If you don't give a smart dog something to think about, they'll find something on their own, and it may not be want you want!

Fat Man said at December 25, 2010 9:22 PM:

Cats are so smart they don't have mess around trying to learn all that stuff. Dogs want to make their owners happy. Cats want to make themselves happy.

Nick G said at December 25, 2010 9:59 PM:

There are a lot more dogs in the world than cats. Dogs are much more successful as a breed, and that's because they listen to humans.

James Bowery said at December 25, 2010 10:20 PM:

"Border-Aussie (Australian Shepherd) mix"

There is actually a standardized breed of this type called "The Great American Cattle Dog". How's that for a pompous sounding name? It's generally an F2 terminal cross starting with an F1 between a purebred border collie and purebred aussie. Then the F1 hybrid is back-crossed to one of the purebreeds (usually a border collie) -- so its not your normal F2 hybrid -- more like F1.5.

We bought one a few years ago after doing a lot of research into breeds. We weren't sure we'd have enough land to work a border collie the way it needs, and the temperament of these hybrids is a lot more flexible. You just loose the extreme intelligence of the border collie purebreds and are left with a very bright, very obedient, very good tempered dog.

Its too bad they can't be made to breed true but that's the way it is with some hybrids -- you just have to keep those pesky inbred purebreeds around goose-stepping and stomping on the bellies of pregnant Jewesses all the time. Damn purebreds!

Mike Templeman said at December 26, 2010 9:04 AM:

Nick G said at December 25, 2010 8:38 PM:

Border collies are rather like a teenager in that way. And certainly not many people are prepared to have one (a teenager, that is). I certainly wasn't!

More to the point, understanding the building blocks of intelligence through gene manipulation will benefit all of us. However, the future ethics of both increasing human intelligence (through a faster manner than the Flynn Effect) and increasing animal intelligence to near current-levels of human intelligence will be quite a challenge. Shades of Cordwainer Smith and the Instrumentality of Mankind!

Paul said at December 26, 2010 12:57 PM:

I've been thinking the first AI is going to be biological (Animal Intelligence).

Joseph Hertzlinger said at December 26, 2010 7:04 PM:

I'm starting to wonder if border collies have been posting comments on some blogs. ("On the net, nobody knows you're a dog.")

ObSF: Sirius by Olaf Stapledon.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright