Moscow Strays Rely On All Their Senses To Navigate The City’s Complicated Metro System

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

March 21, 2016

There are an estimated 35,000 stray dogs roaming around Moscow, and at least 20 of them regularly travel the city’s metro system, reports The Conversation.


With over two billion annual ridership, Moscow’s underground railway is the busiest in Europe. Now we wonder if that number also includes stray dogs.


While this may seem strange to commuters in the US, in Moscow it’s a common sight. For many of these “metro dogs” the subway is home.

Moscow Stray Dogs

According to City Metric, these canine strap-hangers associate Moscow’s underground railways with “warmth and food.”

Metro Pups

The subway offers shelter from the elements and the dogs probably get treats from the human commuters. It’s a positive reinforcement that has them constantly returning to their chosen subway stations, like the legendary Malchik, a stray dog who lived at the Mendeleevskaya station and became known to the metro employees and commuters.


But how can these pups navigate through the intricate Moscow Metro? Basically it’s a winning combination of all their incredibly powerful senses.

These stray dogs rely on their listening abilities to find their way around Moscow’s metro system, associating certain sounds to certain stations, and possibly to certain destinations.

Moscow Metro Dog1

Likewise, a dog’s superior sense of smell allows it to designate certain locations based on recognizing its scent, and their heightened ability to see in the dark may be a navigational aid as well.

metro dog

The one thing that still baffles us humans is how the dogs seem to be able to time, or how much time elapses between trains. Considering scientists still don’t fully understand how dog’s perceive time, this may serve as an argument for our co-evolution. The idea being that dogs know how to read humans so well, that they don’t need to be able to interpret the signs and signals of the busy station. Instead they just look to humans for cues as to when trains will be arriving or departing.

Mowsco Metro Dog 2

The most impressive thing here is how human commuters and stray pups live side by side in these crowded underground railways. Could you imagine this happening in a US subway system: stray dogs riding the train during a busy NYC rush hour? As if there weren’t enough strange things happening in New York City. And yet there’s always something stranger.

H/t to City Metric
Featured image via I Love Animals
Sources: Travel + Leisure, The Conversation, Science Direct

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

March 21, 2016

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