A Border Collie named Chaser now holds the title of having the broadest vocabulary in animal history. She has learned 1,022 words so far.
According to Daily Tech.com, two psychologists, Alliston Reid and John Pilley, have been working with Chaser at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., to see if there is a limit to the number of words a Border Collie can learn.
Chaser isn’t the first of the breed to be trained extensively in the English language. A Border Collie named Rico was once trained at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Rico knew a total of 200 words and was capable of using the process of elimination to distinguish new objects.
But Chaser has surpassed Rico by 822 words, and she also has the ability to categorize words for items according to shape and function.
Over a three-year period, Reid and Pilley taught Chaser to recognize the names of 1,022 toys. The toys were presented to Chaser individually, with the name of the toy being repeated to help Chaser learn it.
Reid and Pilley tested Chaster on a regular basis to ensure that she was actually learning the names of the toys. Tests consisted of the two researchers choosing 20 toys at random, and allowing Chaser to retrieve them when the toy’s name was called. More than 800 tests were given to Chaser over the three-year span, and the researchers reported that she got at least 18 out of 20 toys correct.
Dr. Adam Miklósi, founder of the Family Dog Project at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, said, “The experimenters did a lot of controls to exclude alternative explanations, although from my experience the results are simply too good. This study shows that this dog has good skills for comprehension but the production side of communication is missing.”