What Makes Bloodhounds Such Great Tracking Dogs?

iStock / adogslifephoto
iStock / adogslifephoto

You always see them hunting down fugitives in the movies, but is that just Hollywood, or are bloodhounds really the best smellers around?

Bloodhounds are pretty much the best in the business. Sometimes called noses with paws, their skills as trackers come from the high number of olfactory receptors — or “scent cells" — tucked up in their wet noses, which detect odor molecules. A human's olfactory membrane is about the size of a postage stamp and contains 5 million receptors. A large dog like a German Shepherd, meanwhile, has a larger membrane and about 225 million receptors.

The scent hounds, a group of dogs that includes foxhounds, beagles, catahoulas, blood hounds and other breeds, blow the rest of the pooches and their masters out of the water. These dogs have wide, deep nasal cavities that can accommodate sizable olfactory membranes and large numbers of odor-detecting cells. The little beagle, often no more than half the size of a German Shepherd, has the same number of olfactory receptors as the larger dog. The bloodhound is the grand champ of scent cells and weighs in with 300 million of them, the most in the canine family.

Scent cells aren't the whole story, though, and the breed has a few other attributes that help when it comes to tracking. Their droopy ears and wrinkly skin help collect odor molecules and sweep them towards the dogs' noses. Their muscular necks and shoulders let them keep their nose to the ground for long distances without getting fatigued. Bloodhound handlers also say that the breed is a joy to work with. The dogs interact well with people, are eager to please, and are focused in training and on the job.

One of the World’s Most Dangerous Spiders Could Invade Homes after Australia's Recent Rainfall

Ian Waldie, Getty Images
Ian Waldie, Getty Images

While recent rainfall has been a welcome change in Australia after destructive bushfires caused a widespread crisis, it hasn’t come without an asterisk. According to the Australian Reptile Park, the wet and warm conditions have made Sydney funnel web spiders highly active—and the funnel web spider happens to be one of the most venomous arachnids on the planet.

In a video the park shared on Facebook, officials warn that the weather might cause a marked increase in the spiders' activity, as males cover territory in search of a mate. They might be found in shoes, in laundry, or in yards. Fortunately, Atrax robustus is easy to identify, with its shiny body providing a helpful visual cue to immediately begin walking in the other direction.

Male funnel webs are thought to have venom up to six times more dangerous than females and also tend to move around more, making human encounters with them more likely. Because they can’t climb smooth surfaces, funnel webs are also prone to burrowing in piled-up clothing or other hiding spaces, providing an unwelcome surprise for anyone looking to retrieve their discarded shirt or socks.

The funnel web is also aggressive, quick to attack when provoked, and packs a powerful enough bite to pierce shoes. After being bitten, pain, muscle spasms, and pulmonary edema follow. Victims should use a compression bandage and limb immobilization to compress surface tissue until they receive medical attention.

Though the species is believed to have caused 13 human deaths, there haven’t been any fatalities attributable to a funnel web bite since 1981. That’s due in large part to antivenom made from milked spiders, an advancement that saved the life of a 10-year-old boy, Matthew Mitchell, bitten by the spider in 2017. The spider was loitering in his shoe and bit him on the finger. After 12 vials of antivenom, Mitchell made a complete recovery.

The Australian Reptile Park is actually encouraging citizens to trap the spiders and bring them in to drop-off sites to aid in the antivenom production effort. They advise nudging the spider into a plastic or glass container with a spoon. Extreme caution should be exercised, but you knew that.

[h/t CNET]

Perdita, the ‘World’s Worst Cat,’ Is Looking for Her Forever Home

Brittany Taylor
Brittany Taylor

"We thought she was sick, turns out she's just a jerk."

That's the opening line of Mitchell County Animal Rescue's adoption listing for Perdita the cat. Shelters usually try to paint the animals in their care in a positive light, but this organization isn't mincing words: Perdita is being advertised as the "world's worst cat."

As The News & Observer reports, the 4-year-old cat arrived at the North Carolina animal rescue on Christmas Eve. She quickly earned a reputation for drawing people to her cage with her cute, kitten-like behavior, then batting their hands away the moment they go in for a pet. The shelter thought Perdita might be in pain, but after taking her to a vet, they realized she just had an evil streak.

According to her adoption listing on Mitchell County Animal Rescue's Facebook page, Perdita is "not for the faint of heart." Her likes include "staring into your soul until you feel as if you may never be cheerful again," "lurking in dark corners," and "being queen of her domicile." Her dislikes are "the color pink, kittens (yuk they are so chipper), dogs, children, the Dixie Chicks, Disney movies, Christmas, and last but NOT least ... HUGS." If someone is willing to take the antisocial cat into their home, the shelter will waive all adoption fees.

Her caretakers admit that while Perdita may not win over everyone, there's plenty about her to love. According to Mitchell County Animal Rescue director Amber Dale Lowery, she arrived at the shelter after her previous owner died. "We understand that she has earned every right to be a jerk and meant the post as tongue-in-cheek," Lowery tells Mental Floss. "We adore her strong personality and hope that by shedding light on her 'cattitude,' the perfect home will step forward to adopt her."

The response to the listing has been positive so far. Facebook users have commented, "I love how she looks like she is plotting world domination," "My soulmate kitty," and "I don’t even like cats and I want this cat!!"

Perdita may be a celebrity on the internet, but at the shelter she hasn't changed. "Perdita is not fazed by her fame. Just this morning she allowed me to scratch her head, admire her good looks and then promptly growled at me," Lowery says.

To inquire about becoming the owner of the world's worst cat, you can call 828-765-6952 or head to mitchellcountyanimalrescue.org to fill out an adoption application. You may want to invest in some scratch-proof furniture covers in the meantime.

[h/t The News & Observer]