Coming Soon

Returning to Five for a new run of programmes is the lighthearted documentary series that profiles a range of remarkable animals from across the globe. The first series of Extraordinary Animals introduced such talented beasts as Hong the artistic elephant, Griffin the talkative parrot and Ayumu, the computer-literate chimp. The first instalment of the new series focuses on Maggie – a particularly intelligent dog.

Maggie is a seven-year-old Jack Russell who has lived with her owner, Jesse, since she was a puppy. She can dance and she can sing, to a degree, but she has also developed a skill that could change the way people think about their four-legged friends. This cunning canine can count.

As soon as Jesse took Maggie home, the two struck up a unique relationship. The proud owner began training the puppy to perform all kinds of tricks and soon realised that Maggie was a very clever animal. “I knew she was special right away,” says Jesse. At three months old, the dog would collect Jesse a tissue whenever she sneezed, and not long after, she learned how to mimic speech by opening and closing her mouth at her master’s command. But her most incredible skill came at the age of six months. Jesse held up her hand and Maggie used her paw to tap out the number of digits she saw. “I fell off my chair,” recalls Jesse. “It was truly bizarre.”

Before long, Maggie was capable of simple addition and subtraction sums, and later of multiplication and division. But can it really be possible for an animal to solve mathematical problems? Animal behaviourist Robert DeFranco of the American College of Applied Science thinks not, and has travelled to Maggie’s home town in California to investigate. “If it’s possible that this particular Jack Russell terrier has evolved to the point that it can do math,” he says, doubtfully, “well… that would be quite interesting.”

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