Man's underground best friend: Domestic ferrets, unlike the wild forms, show evidence of dog-like social-cognitive skills

Anna Hernádi, Anna Kis, Borbála Turcsán, J. Topál

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recent research has shown that dogs' possess surprisingly sophisticated human-like social communication skills compared to wolves or chimpanzees. The effects of domestication on the emergence of socio-cognitive skills, however, are still highly debated. One way to investigate this is to compare socialized individuals from closely related domestic and wild species. In the present study we tested domestic ferrets (Mustela furo) and compared their performance to a group of wild Mustela hybrids and to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). We found that, in contrast to wild Mustela hybrids, both domestic ferrets and dogs tolerated eye-contact for a longer time when facing their owners versus the experimenter and they showed a preference in a two-way choice task towards their owners. Furthermore, domestic ferrets, unlike the wild hybrids, were able to follow human directional gestures (sustained touching; momentary pointing) and could reach the success rate of dogs. Our study provides the first evidence that domestic ferrets, in a certain sense, are more dog-like than their wild counterparts. These findings support the hypothesis that domestic species may share basic socio-cognitive skills that enable them to engage in effectively orchestrated social interactions with humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere43267
JournalPLoS One
Volume7
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2012

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Ferrets
ferrets
Dogs
Mustela
dogs
Communication
communication skills
Gestures
Pan troglodytes
wolves
Interpersonal Relations
domestication
Social Skills
eyes
Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Man's underground best friend : Domestic ferrets, unlike the wild forms, show evidence of dog-like social-cognitive skills. / Hernádi, Anna; Kis, Anna; Turcsán, Borbála; Topál, J.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 7, No. 8, e43267, 15.08.2012.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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