You may have noticed that cats and dogs have whiskers that are more or less long. Most people know that it is not very good for cats or dogs to cut off the whiskers (some may have tried to it as an experiment or out of ignorance). But should you cut them? What is the function of whiskers and why so many animals have them?
That thick, hard hair that we call whiskers grow in various places – above the eyes, around the muzzle, on the legs, or even on the body. The function of this hair is touch. It is like animal fingers.
Whiskers or mustaches are divided into two groups:
- macro-vibrations (large, protruding to the side to feel space)
- micro-vibrations (small ones that grow below the nostrils, mostly pointing downwards, are used to identify objects).
Whiskers do not grow randomly – they line up neatly. In terrestrial creatures, each vibration is innervated by 100-200 nerve cells, and at least 8 different types of mechanoreceptors. That is why even the slightest movement of the whisker causes sensation. Even if the hair itself is simple and looks like other body hair made of ceratin, it has its function.
Whiskers are like a mediator that complements the skin‘s sense of touch. They are very useful for animals that may not always be able to rely on senses such as sight or smell.
One of their functions is to help you move in the dark. Cats benefit somewhat from this, but in the dark they see better than dogs, which sometimes find themselves in situations where the ability to feel movement is quite useful or even more important than seeing – such as touching water in the middle of a night or digging caves. It is thought that animals can use their mustaches to investigate whether they will be able to pass through any opening. The length of their whisker may indeed resemble body width, but that length is determined by genes.
What Is The Difference Between Whisker And an Other Hairs?
Whiskers are much stiffer than other hair, the whisker is on the nose, just above the upper lip. Also on the chin and forehead. A dog‘s whisker, also called mustache, is by no means an insignificant part of the body and should never be clipped.
In a puppy, a mustache begins to grow and looks like coarser, thicker hair. They are characterized by a large number of nerve fibers that send sensory information to the dog‘s brain.
The whiskers are therefore the most important tactile receptors in dogs and can perceive even the smallest changes in the air flow.
Can You Cut Whiskers?
For some dogs, the whiskers are trimmed (it is believed that for a dog that participates in a dog show, it shows a „cleaner“ look). This procedure does not cause the animal any pain, but it is worth thinking about the functions of the whiskers before taking such action. It is better to leave them in place and allow the dog to enjoy a full sense system.
Having healthy whiskers, moving in the dark your dog orient way better and faster. The good news is that whiskers grow back, and animals adapt to their temporary shortening fairly quickly.
Creating an Artificial Whisker
The functions of whiskers are being researched for many years by scientists. Attempts are already being made to create artificial whiskers, both in an effort to understand how natural whiskers work and in the development of robots. Such systems should improve mobile robots to allow them to orient themselves more reliably in space.
As mentioned earlier, whiskers help dogs orient themselves and partially compensates for visual deficits. Whiskers also help dogs find their way around in the dark and aid them in distance sensing.
Air currents convey information to the dog about the environment they are in and the location of certain objects. The whiskers, which are near the eyes, are used to ward off dirt and objects that could damage them. The eye closes at the slightest flow of air. The whiskers, which are located near the snout, allow the dog to see objects below the chin even from a certain distance.
Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, but they are characterized by a faulty visual system. Their mustache, which absorbs all vibrations like radar, compensates for this deficit. For this reason, it is important to never cut your dog‘s mustache.