stinky stuff

Curiosity Corner: Dogs’ love of stinky stuff

Instinct may be to blame for dogs’ love of stinky stuff

Curiosity Corner
Dr. Jerry D. Wilson
Emeritus Professor of Physics
Lander University

QUESTION: Why do dogs like to roll in decaying organic matter?

REPLY: I’ve asked myself this question at various times. As some of you know, I have a dog – Max. Full name: Prince Maximillian of Monaco. It’s on his papers. I wrote it there right after I got him out of the Greenwood Animal Shelter. (Update: I had Max for 14 years. He’s gone now, and I miss him.)
Well, Max, my neighbor’s dog and other dogs I’ve known take great pleasure in finding something that is decaying and then rolling in it. At the lake, dead fish are a favorite. And the smell – you hardly want to get close enough to give them a bath!
I’ve asked several people about this, including veterinarians, and no one seems to know for sure. Recently, I got on the World Wide Web and posed my question on the Mad Scientist Network. A scientist named June Wingert got back to me with a plausible answer. She wrote: stinky stuff“Greetings. It is thought that dogs may choose to roll in foul-smelling things to mask their scent, just as wolves do. Wolves may roll in decomposing carcasses or the feces of herbivores to disguise themselves. They want to cover their own odors so their prey won’t be alarmed by their scent. This way they can sneak up on their prey and have a better chance of making a kill.
Some behaviorists feel dogs may roll in smelly things to advertise what they have found to other dogs. No matter the reason, unfortunately some of our domestic friends have held on to this trait.”
This may be an old instinct, but I wish Max wouldn’t roll in things to advertise.

So much for dogs – how about some egg trivia I obtained from the Egg Nutrition Center:
•    Chickens came to the New World with Columbus on his second trip in 1493.
•    There are now some 200 breeds of chickens.
•    About 240 million laying hens in the U.S. produce some 5 billion eggs each year.
•    White-shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes. Brown-shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red earlobes. There is no difference in taste or nutrition between white and brown eggs.
•    An average hen lays 300 to 325 eggs a year.
•    Artificial color additives are not permitted in chicken feed. Yolk color depends on the diet of the hen.
•    Feed containing corn or alfalfa produces medium-yellow yolks, while feed containing wheat and barley produces lighter-color yolks. Natural yellow-orange substances, such as marigold petals, may be added to light-colored feeds to enhance the yolk color.
•    Egg-cetera, egg-cetera, egg-cetera.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): The way to become rich is to put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.  -Andrew Carnegie

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to

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