Honor Among Beasts

Think altruism, empathy and a sense of fair play are traits only humans possess? Think again

Anyone who has owned dogs or spent much time watching them is familiar with the posture: hind end up, chest down on the ground, forelegs stretched forward, an eager expression on the face. It's obviously a friendly, playful gesture, and for most dog lovers, that's all you need to know. Ethologists--animal-behavior experts--go a step further. They call this move the "play bow" and know it's used not just by dogs but also by wolves and coyotes to signal an interest in the romping, pretend-fighting sort of games that canines of all kinds seem to love.

But Marc Bekoff, an ethologist at...

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