The Moscow Metro (subway system) is one of the busiest in the world, with nearly 7 million riders going through its more than 200 stations each and every day. What's more striking though, is the number of stray dogs that utilize the public transportation system on a daily basis and how they have learned to navigate the 13 subway lines in and around the Russian capital city.
More than 500 dogs call the Moscow Metro home, and a few dozen of those stray canines have learned to traverse the complicated system. But how do these 'Metro Dogs' get from station to station each day?
Well, according to an article in The Daily Mail, this unusual behavior can likely be attributed to a combination of factors including the co-evolution of humans and our canine companions as well as the dog's fine-tuned sensory capabilities.
The article highlights the findings of Jacqueline Boyd of Nottingham Trent University, who explains that with humans and their four-legged companions spending so much time together over the years, it was only a matter of time before the dogs learned to recognize and respond to human signals.
"These social skills strongly suggest a degree of convergent evolution between dogs and humans," Boyd writes. "This occurs when different species evolve similar traits while adapting to a shared environment. So the abilities of the Metro dogs might even suggest that they have developed coping mechanisms similar to those of their fellow human commuters."
Boyd goes on to argue that the dogs learn to traverse the system by using their senses. They remember smells from certain stations, remember the station announcements, and even remember fellow commuters who use the different trains to get to and from work each day.
Though humans and dogs have learned to co-exist in the train stations, and even on the trains themselves, the stories don't always end with the dogs going back to their "homes" at the end of the day.
There are some really sad stories out there, including the one of Malchik, a dog that was memorialized with a monument after a female commuter stabbed the feral dog to death in 2001. The bronze statue sits at the entrance of the Mendeleyevskaya Metro station and is viewed by thousands of commuters as they enter the station that was once the dog's home.
The mistreatment of these dogs continues even today. In the months leading up to the 2018 Russian World Cup, there were reports of officials trying to kill much of Moscow's feral dog population to prevent the city from being viewed as a feral dog playground.
"These are the sweet, abandoned creatures who are being exterminated in the name of the beautiful game," reads a column in the Guardian newspaper. Many are killed with poisoned food. This sneaky form of violence condemns the animals to slow and painful deaths, usually with convulsions as they choke on their own vomit before eventually collapsing. Other hunters use poisoned darts or blowguns for their killings. Lives silently snuffed out because they don't fit the image the authorities want to present."
So, if you ever find yourself traversing the complicated Moscow subway system, be sure to be on the lookout for the infamous "Metro Dogs" and be mindful of those canines who are just trying to get back "home" after a long, hard day on the streets of the Russian capital.
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