Do animals other than dogs cock their legs to wee? © Getty ImagesDo animals other than dogs cock their legs to wee? © Getty Images

Do animals other than dogs cock their legs to wee?

When it comes to defending your territory, cocking your legs makes scents...

Asked by: Anonymous

Advertisement

Puppies don’t cock their legs, only adult male dogs. The behavioural change doesn’t seem to be directly linked to hormone levels because even dogs that are castrated before puberty will start cocking their legs at the appropriate age. They do it because pheromones in their urine are used to defend a territory against other males. Dogs out for a walk are constantly sniffing walls, lamp posts and trees, and when they find another dog’s scent, they will try to overwrite it with their own.By cocking their leg and twisting their body, they can aim the spray of urine higher up. This puts the urine closer to nose level, which increases the impact of the smell.

Leg cocking is also seen in wolves and foxes. Cats use urine to mark, but they don’t cock their legs: both males and females squat to urinate. To mark, a male cat will back up to a target and squirt from the rear. The urine is mixed with a fatty substance from the anal glands to increase the smell and help it linger.


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.