Animal (2021) s01e02 Episode Script


1 All the qualities found in the dogs we love are inherited from their wild ancestors.
Sharp senses, athleticism and fierce determination have helped canines take on the world.
But the real secret of their success is much more surprising.
It's a story of their intimate side.
It's what makes every dog, from pet pooch to wild wolf, one of the family.
Every dog's story begins hidden away in a den.
It's a place of safety for 15 African wild dog puppies.
Five weeks old.
Desperate for a solid meal.
Their babysitters are hungry too.
Like domestic dogs, they depend on others for food.
But unlike our pets, they're never sure if dinner will arrive.
Mom, Dad, and the rest of the family have been out hunting since dawn.
In step.
Thinking as one.
Specialists in running down large prey, they can hit 40 miles an hour.
But not on flooded land.
They need to push their prey onto more solid ground.
But the lechwe know deeper water could be a lifesaver.
Out of their depth.
Now, it's getting too hot to hunt.
Returning home with nothing means the whole family will suffer.
Weaning mouths beg Mom for meat.
But a little milk is all she can offer.
If they don't eat soon, the puppies will perish.
The next days will be critical.
To make it, the pack will need all the qualities they share with members of their wider family.
The family of wolves foxes, wild dogs, and jackals.
Thirty-five species.
Every one a hunter.
Whether a 60-kilogram wolf or a Chihuahua-sized fox, they range across the planet, from the Sahara to the Arctic.
All have exceptional smell, sight, and hearing.
And they're athletic.
But they're not the fastest carnivores.
Certainly not the biggest.
All dogs punch above their weight.
An ability rooted in their distant past.
Over 40 million years ago, the first dogs appeared in what's now the American southwest.
It's still home to a throwback.
A gray fox may look like a fox, but it's more closely related to the canines' primitive ancestors.
This is how all dogs started out.
A more modern dog, a coyote, will kill him if he can.
But the gray fox has a trick.
He climbs trees.
Something most dogs can't do.
Long claws, short limbs.
More cat than dog.
The early ancestors got through by staying out of trouble.
But eventually, they came down from the trees and became the feisty hunters we know today.
Over time, short, sturdy legs lengthened and dogs went right up on their toes.
Strong muscles and special ligaments in their forelegs give them the spring in their step.
It's a gait so efficient, it's transformed them into world-class endurance runners.
In the freezing North, food is hard to find.
A gray wolf couple, each twice the weight of a German shepherd, lead their family.
They may travel up to 60 miles a day.
Tracking down their prey is one thing.
Killing it is another.
Adult bison weigh around a ton.
And they have lethal horns and hooves.
If they stand their ground, the herd is like a fortress.
The wolf family lay siege.
Searching for a hint of fear or a weakness.
They hang in for days.
No need to do much.
Keep them surrounded.
Prey on the bison's minds.
Eventually, the wolves get under their skin.
Now, they must keep them on the run.
Father leads the chase.
He hounds the bison at huge risk to himself.
Once he's selected a victim, he doesn't give up.
Bite by bite, he wears the young bison down.
Dogs aren't equipped to make a clean kill.
But he's relentless.
Endurance helps him take down prey at least five times heavier than himself.
It changes the entire family's fortunes.
Not all dogs hunt in packs.
One operates as a lone wolf.
At first glance, she looks like a fox.
Only she walks on stilts.
The maned wolf is the tallest dog on the planet.
To find her food, she needs height, not speed.
She's nearly a meter at the shoulder.
All the better to see over the tall grass.
Few large animals inhabit these arid plains.
With little to chase, she works alone.
She relies on her incredible nose and ears.
Her sense of smell is around 50 times more sensitive than our own.
And her hearing tunes in to ultra-high frequencies.
Hunting prey this small leaves her very little downtime.
But rodents aren't enough to fill her up.
Under a fruiting Lubera tree, she reveals something unexpected about the dog family.
Sometimes even carnivores go vegetarian.
Dogs have smaller but more versatile teeth than cats, so most of them can eat almost anything.
A flexitarian diet means dogs can make do when normal prey is hard to find.
And can thrive almost everywhere.
Even the concrete jungle offers them a home.
In many cities, red foxes patrol the streets after dark.
Their presence depends on a fundamental canine quality.
It's all to do with what's going on below ground.
A vixen has just given birth.
Every wild dog begins life in a den, usually scraped out by Mom.
It's safe here, so cubs can be born small and helpless.
And litters can be large.
Making milk for her seven cubs is draining her.
But they need to be fed around the clock.
She can't afford to leave them to go feed herself.
Behind every great vixen is a Fantastic Mr.
He roams the city and picks up all the food she needs.
This is rare.
Not many mammal moms can rely on Dad to stick around.
But every family of wild dogs has a devoted father that provides.
This loyalty is the origin of the bond between dogs and humans.
And means more cubs tend to survive.
The success of the dog family is not about physical power.
It's thanks to lifelong partnerships between Mom and Dad.
The African wild dog's devotion is being tested to the limit.
With 15 pups and over 20 older brothers and sisters, it's vital they hunt successfully soon.
Dad has sensed something.
But it's not prey.
It's another predator.
Lions will kill wild dogs.
The puppies are at serious risk.
To fight would be futile.
Better to lure the lioness away from the den.
It works.
But now she knows their hiding place, she could come back.
The dogs have to gamble move the pups, even now, in broad daylight.
They have other dens, but the nearest is over a half a mile away.
Too far for weakening legs.
Time for older brothers and sisters to step up.
Safer, but still hungry.
The odds against survival are lengthening by the day.
Dogs are surprisingly vulnerable.
And if you weigh less than a miniature dachshund, you're always the underdog.
This bat-eared fox dad has been left in sole charge of five cubs while the love of his life, their mom, is off hunting.
What could possibly go wrong? Day care starts as normal.
He scrubs them up and oversees homeschooling.
The cubs are keen to explore, learning to use their bat-like ears.
They can hear sounds 20 decibels softer than we can.
Even the footsteps of termites and beetles.
Incredibly, bat-eared foxes survive almost entirely on insects.
Mom needs thousands a day to produce enough milk for the cubs.
It's why she's away for hours at a time.
And why Dad stays by their bunker, tending to the cubs' needs.
Guarding them with his life.
But an unseasonal storm could spell bad news.
Torrential rain is a problem for anyone with a home below ground.
Dad and the cubs get off lightly.
But their neighbors had to abandon their den.
In the scramble to escape, someone got left behind.
A lost cub won't last long.
She needs family backup.
Dad and his five cubs are nearest.
Pleading for help is all she can do.
It's a risk.
Dogs often kill intruders.
Slowly, the cubs soften towards her.
And when Dad nestles beside her, it's a good sign.
Mom returns to find an extra mouth to feed.
But she doesn't bat an eye.
The stray cub is probably related.
Even so, an adoption like this has rarely been witnessed.
Doting dads and flexible families help get through the toughest times.
Dogs are highly social animals.
And the key to their family life is sophisticated communication.
Wolf howls are supposed to intimidate.
They tell neighbors up to ten miles away all about the pack size and strength.
It's an acoustic flag in the ground.
A warning to keep off their patch.
Within the pack, they're even more expressive.
A look.
A cower.
Rising hackles.
The height of their tail.
In fact, every move they make is part of an intricate language.
One that our dogs also understand.
But this is the strictest of canine families.
Especially when it comes to dinner time.
Older wolves always feed first.
A youngster steps out of line the top dog puts it in its place.
Groveling is the only way to appease.
It's thought that this tough pecking order helped pave the way for cooperation with humans.
Low-ranking wolves often go hungry.
In lean times, they're banished from the pack.
Around 40,000 years ago, a starving young wolf approached a pack of humans and used puppy dog eyes to charm itself a meal.
Wolves worked their way into early human families.
And into our hearts.
Incredibly, every domestic dog, from toy poodle to Great Dane, descends from the gray wolf.
But our relationship with the wild side of the family is complicated.
Fairy tales teach us they're big and bad.
Or sly and cunning.
Even though they share the loyalty and intelligence of our best friends.
Across the world, dogs, wolves especially, have been persecuted.
Driven from their former vast ranges.
But they're resilient.
Given half a chance and some room, dogs bounce back.
And some have found unrivaled success in our modern world.
Thanks to Mom and Dad's hard work, a red fox cub is ready to take on the world.
She's five months old, learning how to fend for herself.
A sibling can be a friend for life.
A hunting partner.
As they scour the streets, they'll do well to watch and learn from Mom.
She's discovered a regular source of food.
Feeding wild animals can cause problems.
But maybe this is the beginning of a new relationship between wild dogs and us.
Just as with wolves thousands of years ago.
For now, the cub is learning that through the food we hand out or throw away, humans are central to her survival.
Adaptable and opportunistic, red foxes have spread into 83 countries.
Five continents.
They've taken over from wolves as the most widespread carnivore on Earth.
But not all are faring so well.
Habitat loss, hunting, and disease mean fewer than 7,000 adult African wild dogs survive.
And this family's future is hanging by a thread.
They need to find food.
In bushy savanna, there are many places for prey to hide.
The pack needs to switch strategy.
Make the most of their team.
They split up into twos and threes to try to flush out the impala.
Dad locks on.
But he needs the others to finish the job.
At last, success.
They slice the impala into large chunks and bolt them down.
They need to be quick.
When other predators get wind of the kill they have to abandon their prize.
Once again, they head for home.
But this time, they're not returning empty-handed.
Some carry an extra third of their body weight in butchered meat stowed in their stomachs.
This level of excitement only means one thing.
Unlike wolves, there's no pecking order here.
Pups and babysitters all get their fair share.
Today is a joyful day.
And the future of these pups is a little more certain.
For African wild dogs, survival relies on a brave and tenacious team.
But whether pack hunter or lone wolf, all ultimately depend on the strength of Mom and Dad's undying loyalty.
This is why dogs are so successful.
And why they hold such a special place in our hearts.

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