Who doesn’t love watching videos of dogs and puppies making silly faces? How can we possibly resist the perked ears, soulful eyes, and tilted head of the classic “puppy dog” look? Or burst out laughing when a dog looks positively offended by something their human just did? A new study suggests this might be completely on purpose. It’s being considered that the expressiveness of dogs’ faces has evolved specifically to appeal to humans. Ensuring a closer connection and greater ability to communicate.
Biological anthropologist Anne Burrows and her colleagues have discovered domestic dogs contain a much larger number of “fast-twitch” muscles in their faces. To clarify, fast-twitch muscles are what allow humans to make facial expressions so immediately. Raising eyebrows, smiling, sneering, etc, are all fast-twitch muscles and not meant to be held long like the rest of our bodies. Compared to wild wolves, dogs have 66 — 95% fast-twitch muscles in their faces. Wolves only have about 25%. This is probably also due to the fact that wolves communicate with a range of body languages that aren’t just focused on the face. Whereas us humans largely use facial expressions. Hence, our four-legged friends have also evolved to mirror us more easily.
This research is a little tentative, however, and shouldn’t be taken as pure gospel. The results are preliminary. And evolutionary biologist and animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, Boulder, says it’s a little early to tell whether or not the make-up of facial muscles in dogs affect their own personalities in any way.
Regardless of more concrete results, us dog-lovers will continue to personify our pooches and their adorable mugs.