Why in the world do our pets and many land animals have tails? Some are cute, some are curly, and some owners even remove tails. There are actually several reasons why animals have tails. From personal experience, I can say my pug displays feelings through his tail. When upset or not really happy about a current predicament, that curly pug tail goes straight. Here are the most common reasons animals have tails:
- To keep balance: Think of a cat on a fence or bird on a fence. The tail keeps the body in alignment.
*On a side note, specifically referring to birds, this species uses their tail to balance and fly. The tail is used as their brake. Birds also use their tales to attract the opposite sex. Think of a peacock with its amazing display of feathers to flirt with others. Female peacocks actually are attracted to the large and colorful feathers of male peacocks.
- To show emotions: As mentioned before, my pugs can show a disgruntled feeling with their tales. Dogs wag their tales when they are happy and excited. On the other hand, a horse might wag its tale to show pain or discomfort. A raised horse tail can be used to alert danger, whereas a pressed down tail shows being nervous.
- For movement – Think of a fish. The tail is in motion to create movement. Many animals who live in trees like monkeys use their tails to grip and swing themselves among the branches.
- To store fat – This is a unique feature of alligators that can store enough fat in their tails to keep them alive for possible two years.
- Keep flies away – Think of cows flipping their tails back and forth out the fields to swat those flies away. This is true for horses too.
- To capture and hunt – Think of scorpions who don’t use their tails for friendly reasons. They can sting to poison their prey. This is also true for jellyfish and stingrays.
- Survival and defense – Tails can be use for protection. A salamander can choose to lose its tail if the enemy tries to grab it. Rats have this ability as well.
Tails aren’t just for decoration. Some dog owners choose to have their pet’s tail amputated or what it termed “dog tail docking”. This put the dog at high risk for bleeding and infection. It usually performed when the dog is between two to five days old. Some dog tail types do put them at risk for injury because of their length and width, some are done for aesthetics among specific breeds, while some do it for sanitary reasons such as the build up of fecal matter. Tail docking dates back to the Romans who thought that cutting the tail off would prevent the dog from catching rabies. American Puritans thought dog tails possessed evil spirits. In 18th century England, dog tails were cut off to distinguish working dogs from household pets. A book released in the 19th century called, “The American Book of the Dog” actually recommended tail docking, making it become more popular. Ultimately, the owner has the choice. The animal tail certainly has many tales about itself, but there are actual reasons they do exist and have been part of these animals’ bodies since the beginning of time.