Friday, 12 March 2010

Outdoor Hour Challenge ~ Winter Series ~ Mammals: Wolf, Fox, and Dog

This week we decided to study mammals. Barbara at the Handbook of Nature Study blog has been posting some beautiful spring wildflowers photos, but we don't have those here yet, so we looked at other challenges and picked Challenge #51: Wolf, Fox, and Dog.

I started by reading one of the stories from the Burgess Animal Book for Children. while the kids were finishing their lunch. We don't have a copy of it, but I found it online at Project Gutenberg. I read aloud story #28 Old Man Coyote and Howler the Wolf. We enjoyed this story a lot.

Next, Adrienne and I watched the documentary from PBS Nature : In the Valley of the Wolves. The documentary is beautiful, set in Yellowstone National Park, and very informative. I agree with Barb that some parts may be difficult for younger children to see, but Adrienne and I were fine with it, having watched nature documentaries with top predators before.
We coloured while watching the movie, a fox colouring page and a grey wolf one. We paused a few times during the show to discuss what we were seeing, and many times we were amazed how the wolves looked like our dog Orion.

Our colouring pages:

After we were finished the PBS show, we filled in our Mammals journal page. I printed a mammal journal on both sides of the paper. We completed one side for the Red Fox.

The other side we decided would be our dog study.  I grabbed the Handbook of Nature Study, our dog, and we set out to answer some of the questions from page 258.
Here is a description of our dog:

Orion is our Siberian Husky. He will be one in April and was very cooperative with us.

We measured him from head to the tip of the tail. He is about 54 inches, with 13 inches being his bushy tail. We knew that he was about 70 lbs, so I didn't bother trying to weigh him!

He has a few different colours in his thick coat, grey, black, beige and white. His coat has two layers, an undercoat and a top coat. His eyes are beige/yellow. The journal page asked "how does this mammal defend itself?", we haven't seen him defend himself, but we guessed that he would growl, show his teeth, and bite. Adrienne also said that he might just run.

We then moved on to the questions in the book.

We looked at his legs and compared them to our cat's legs. His legs are long and strong, which we thought would allow him to run for long distances.

We looked at his feet and pads and compared them to the cat's. Our cat's pads are soft and the skin feels lighter, thiner. Orion's are hard and tough. We talked about how dogs would be able to travel through rougher terrain with those pads. Siberian huskies can also withstand colder temperatures, even though in the frozen areas they would need booties to keep their paws safe, if they were out for long periods of time.

Orion's (dog) paw:

Clara's (cat) paw :

We also looked at the differences in their claws. Orion can't retract his claws and they are thicker and harder. They are heavier and we can't bend them. Adrienne deducted that this might help him grip the ground better when he is running.

Orion's claws:

Clara's claws (we never de-clawed her):

We noticed that Orion's body is lean and muscular, as opposed to Clara, our cat, which feels soft and squishy (we didn't squish her, but hug them each and that was the best word we could come up with!).

Another difference were in their eyes. Their pupils are also very different. Adrienne talked about how cats could see better in the dark than dogs and how dogs would likely rely on their sense of smell more than their eyes at night.

We looked at Orion's ears and read the explanation in the Handbook of how important the shape of the ear is to the dog's ability to hear. Orion's ears are covered in fur.

The nose on the dog is up front, with the nostrils right at the front. The skin is rough around the nose. We thought this would help protect his nose while he is sniffing rough ground or surfaces. We talked about how dogs use their sense of smell to "identify" people.

Last, we talked about how Orion expresses himself and shows us his emotions. Our dog "talks" a lot. He hardly barks, but talks a lot. It sounds a little bit like howling, but he has so many different sounds that it's quite entertaining! He can also "cry". The position of his ears is important as well to his language. He doesn't wag his tail as much as other dogs.

We didn't go outside for this Outdoor Challenge but we had a great time learning more about wolves, foxes and our dog.

You can read more about the Outdoor Challenge here.
If you would like to do the same nature study on wolves, foxes and dogs, you can read all about it here.


  1. My son and I both really loved reading your entry and seeing your photos. He is a big dog lover and he thought your dog's nose was awesome. I think this is such a great way for our children to learn about animals that we. might not otherwise get to be up close to, like a wolf. But we found our Labrador had many of the same traits as the wolves too. Canines.

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful mammal study. In the spring series we are going to get up close to our cats!

  2. I love how you included your pets in your mammal study!

  3. I love this post! We used to have a Siberian Husky, and it was fun to remember things like the pink line she'd get on her nose in the winter and the way she talked. I was going to suggest that you do an Iditarod study next year, but then noticed in your sidebar that you have that area well-covered. : ) If you do it again next year, I have some posts at my blog too -- maybe you'll find something new (I found a few new things in your posts).


  4. I think you've inspired me to "mammal study" our dog this week. We've been waiting for the mammals outside to show - and not observing what is up close. This morning I was just reading about the "know it all" mentality kids have to nature due to tv and such, wonder what they have not observed about our pooch. :) Glad to have joined these families who still want to learn just a bit more about things we pass each day!

  5. My daughter and I loved reading all about your study! She loved the close up of your kitty's face!

  6. What a fantastic mammal study! It's so easy to overlook the obvious and skip right over the "family members."


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