Guest Videos: “What a weird horse!”

That’s the top comment on this video of the South American “maned guazú” — an animal, mentioned at Spanish Wikimedia, that we were puzzling over in a recent post.

Yep, it’s our friend, the maned wolf.

Out there on the flat Pantanal wetlands, it does seem rather horse-like.

What about Family Felidae’s entry in the stilts competition: do servals walk like horses, too?

Hmmm. Not really. Only a cat moves like that — the muscles are in control even during this lazy moment, placing each paw just so and keeping some energy in reserve in case circumstances suddenly call for a pounce on prey or a leap out of danger.

Canids (and horses) instead rely on speed for survival and can afford a loose swing to their legs as they walk. That joint flexibility translates into more ground covered with each step during a chase.

“What a weird deer!”

Besides making the most out of playtime with their long legs, maned “wolves” (which are neither wolves nor foxes) also use them to stand tall and spot prey hiding in deep grass. (Source)

Servals do this, too, but they also use their muscles to leap straight up and snatch dinner out of the sky if an unwary victim gets too close to the ground (9 feet or so). (Source)

Both dog and cat pounce on ground prey, once they have located it from their “hunting platform” above the grass, but for the dog, pouncing seems to be a little difficult.

The serval, on the other hand (paw?), moves with grace and power:

(Spoiler: There’s no pounce, but this seven-minute stalking compilation is a joy to watch. Also, as you’ll see, servals use those long legs sometimes to try and hook prey out of a burrow.

You’ll never see a canid do THAT!

“Hold my beer.” — Vulpes vulpes.

Never mind.

The takeaway here is that animals always have to struggle with evolutionary basics, while we humans easily forget how wonderful are the things we have developed for survival and then have turned into conveniences that we take for granted, like the GPS satellite system that guides our vehicles to the store, and —

“Hold my beer again.” — Vulpes vulpes.

Planetary magnetic field beats GPS satellites!

Okay, Maned Guazú is playing with the deer again, the serval has haughtily stalked out of sight over the hill, and I’d better close this down before someone gives that fox more beer.

Bottom line: Existence is a struggle for everyone, but the ways that life finds to meet those challenges are varied, and sometimes weird as well as beautiful.

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