Does It Fart? Roaring Success

By Julie Hecht, April 2018
Farting right now?  Credit: Jonathan Daniels Unsplash

Farting right now? Credit: Jonathan Daniels Unsplash

Dogs are one of the more well-known farters of the animal kingdom. As you know from my previous posts on the Dog Fart Suit, we’ve not only peered into the content of dog flatus, but have even considered how to make their farts less stinky.

But looking no further than dog farts would be a grave injustice to the rest of the animal kingdom. What began as an inquisitive Tweet — “Do snakes fart?” — turned into a catchy hashtag #DoesItFart, followed by an animal fart database, and now a book, Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence, out this week by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti, illustrated by Ethan Kocak.

DOES IT FART - THE DEFINITIVE FIELD GUIDE TO ANIMAL FLATULENCEThe book is jam-packed with Fart Facts, giving time to the farters, the non-farters, and those where the fart-jury is still out. Caruso and Rabaiotti even come to logical conclusions on the flatulance potential of long-gone dinosaurs (yes to the farting) as well as mythical unicorns (horses with a single horn? Of course they would fart).

Does It Fart? is the sort of book that reaches everyone. A spouse might pick it up — like mine did last night — and say in all sincerity: “Wow. There are at least four distinct species of giraffes, distinguishable by their coat patterns. And they fart!” While a 6-year-old asked me, “Do goldfish fart?” (No). Does It Fart? can be read cover to cover, or its table of contents can direct you to your species of interest and whether it farts.

Talking about animal farts is really a gateway to dive into anything and everything about animals, from the inner workings of digestion to surprising factoids about species’ names. Take the fossa, an elusive cat-like mammal in Madagascar — who does fart — whose Latin name, Cryptoprocta means “hidden anus.” Cats don’t have a hidden anus, as you probably know, but they too fart. There’s even consideration for those who fart less, not because something about them has changed, but because their numbers on earth have dwindled, think rhinos. And if the word “It” in the title surprised you — animals, particularly those we know intimately like cats or dogs are typically not described as “it” — it was comforting to see that humans — also an animal — were given the same treatment in the book's final entry: Human, Homo sapiens, Does it fart? Yes. 

I had to take this opportunity to query authors Caruso and Rabaiotti with a few Fart Questions. 

Most surprising farter? Sloths. They don’t fart, but you’d expect them to. “Through our research it seemed that farting and mammals go hand-in-hand. However for sloths [a mammal], their digestion is so slow that build-up of gas would be deadly. Although sloths produce methane from their leafy diet, it is absorbed through their gut and eventually breathed out.”

Least surprising farter? “Dogs. I think everyone knows that canines can be quite smelly sometimes.”

Do any other animals seem to think their farts smell bad? “No. It seems that disgust is a human-specific trait when it comes to farts. Certainly animals can be startled by their own farts, but many just go about their day passing gas. Although given the powerful stench from some animal farts, like seals and sea lions, it is hard to imagine not them having an adverse reaction to the smell.”

Do any animals perform "letting it out" behaviors — like lifting up — akin to something humans might do?  “Not that we are aware of.”

Are there any fart tidbits you’d like the world to know? “There are still things we don’t know about animal farting! For example, we are unsure if any spiders fart. Though we have done extensive research for this book, we feel as though we have only scratched (and sniffed) the surface of animal flatulence.”

This story was originally published by Scientific American. Reprinted with permission.

Julie Hecht, MSc, is a PhD candidate studying animal behavior at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of the Dog Spies blog at Scientific American. She would really like to meet your dog. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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