A couple of weeks ago, we discovered the dog’s inter-ramal tuft, a solitary tuft of whiskers found under the dog’s chin. Today instead, we’ll be discovering the dog’s supraorbital whiskers. Mother Nature hasn’t placed those whiskers casually in a meaningless fashion. Instead, whisker placement was strategically thought with a dog’s survival and well-being in mind. So why do dogs have supraorbital whiskers? Let’s listen to the dog’s supraorbital whiskers story and discover more about them.
Hello, it’s your dog’s supraorbital whiskers talking! As the name implies, we are a tuft of whiskers found on top of your dog’s eyes. The word “supraorbital” indeed means “situated above the orbit of the eye, where in humans the eyebrows are located. ”
Indeed, many people confuse us and think we are the equivalent of human eyebrows. Eyebrows in humans have a specific purpose: to prevent salty sweat from pouring down from the forehead to the eye socket. It is thanks to the eyebrow’s arched shape and slant to the side therefore that sweat flows sideways.
Dogs are not equipped with eyebrows for the simple fact that they do not sweat in the same way we do, explains Stanley Coren, in the book “How to Speak Dog.” So if we aren’t the equivalent of human eyebrows, what is our original function?
Your dog’s whiskers are unlike any other hairs found on your dog’s body. Whiskers are made of stiffer and thicker hairs that sprout from a hair follicle that is highly innervated (supplied with nerves.) The purpose of these nerves is to relay important information in regards to the dog’s surrounding environment. Whiskers are also known as “vibrissae,” which comes from the Latin word “vibrio” which means “to vibrate.” Basically, when these hairs get in contact with something in the dog’s environment, they “vibrate” like antennae and transmit information to the dog’s brain so that the dog can make decisions about how to navigate around obstacles. For instance, the whiskers on the dog’s upper lip may help him determine whether he can squeeze through a tight space without risking getting stuck; whereas the whiskers on the dog’s chin help provide information about obstacles found under the chin, which is a blind spot.
Did you know? According to Grammarist, both in the U.S. and Canada, the plural of the word antenna is antennae when used to depict the flexible sensory appendages found on insects and other animals; whereas antennas is used to depict the metallic apparatus used for sending electromagnetic signals.
Back to us, your dog’s supraorbital whiskers, we sit there just above your dog’s eyes for a very good reason: to protect them. Your dog’s eyes are quite delicate and oh, so very important structures for his survival! A dog’s eyes can easily be poked or injured by protruding objects such as branches.
The moment we therefore detect something dangerously close to your dog’s eyes, the dog’s blinking reflex is triggered so that your dog can close his eyes before they have a chance of being harmed. You may have seen us in action before but didn’t really think much about it when you pet your dog’ face, and inadvertently touch us causing your dog’s eye to blink. Pretty cool, no?
I hope this article has helped you understand us better! As seen, we are there for a very good reason!
How To Speak Dog, By Stanley Coren, Atria Books; New edition edition (April 17, 2001)
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