Dry Fur: The Importance

It takes me thirty minutes each day to dry my hair with a blow dryer. Yes, I’m a woman, and I prefer to smooth the strands to shimmering perfection in the process—thus increasing the time required. It’s long and thick, but even if I were to cut off six inches, I would still not be able to dry my hair as quickly as a dog, bear, mouse, lion or other furred mammal can get dry fur. Their secret is in the shaking.

A new study conducted by biolocomotion researchers at Georgia Tech found that furry mammals require merely a fraction of a second shake to get themselves 70 percent dry. Study subjects included 16 species of mammals, from tiny mice to huge bears.

Researchers discovered that larger animals shake slower to dry off. Their fur is longer, travels farther and is subject to more centripetal force than that of a smaller animal. While bears shake four times per second, a dog will shake four to six times per second. Mice and rats must move ten times as quickly to become dry.

I dry my hair to make it look nicer. But for other mammals, wet fur can be dangerous, particularly in winter. Without the shaking mechanism, moisture reduces the animal’s body temperature. The researchers calculated that a 60-pound canine with one pound of water on its fur would need to use 20 percent of its daily caloric intake in energy to stay warm if it allowed its fur to air dry without shaking.

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