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Rescue Dog Becomes First Archeology Dog
By Caroline Golon
Migaloo is a rescue dog with a special talent. Her owner, Australian dog owner Gary Jackson, trained this black lab-Mastiff mix to become the first “Archeology Dog,” able to sniff out bones that are hundreds of years old.
In an interview with National Geographic, Jackson says he’s trained dogs to find all kinds of “unusual” things like cane toads or koala bears. He thought dogs that could sniff out human bones and artifacts would be extremely useful to society so he decided to give it a try.
Jackson knew Migaloo would be good at this type of detective work because she is highly motivated. “She’s an absolute nut about her ball,” Jackson tells National Geographic. “I think she would chase it until she drops dead. So, once we trained her to recognize the odor of human bones, and taught her that she only gets her ball when she finds the target odor, she became obsessive with trying to find that odor,” he says.
Jackson trained Migaloo by borrowing centuries-old bones from the Australian Museum and, with permission, burying them to for Migaloo to find. It turns out that Migaloo is able to sniff out even the tiniest of bone fragments from 10 feet away.
The training continued on sites where bones had previously been found, like an Aboriginal burial ground in South Australia. Accompanied by Jackson, museum officials and tribal elders, Migaloo was set loose in the area and successfully tracked down a 600-year-old grave. “That was remarkable,” Jackson tells National Geographic. “because you know bones that old don’t have any flesh on them, they’re completely dry, yet she still smells something.”
Jackson says Migaloo’s capabilities could make an impact in recovering lost burial sites, without disturbing contents, for example. He plans to expand her training to include fossils and artifacts. “Migaloo will start it,” Jackson says. “But there’s going to be many great dogs that will follow in her footsteps.”
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