About 500 dogs are estimated to live in Moscow’s subway. Many have learned to use the metro system to commute to the downtown core in search of food. Using their sense of smell and sound pattern recognition (when names of stations are announced), as well as their developed sense of timing to recognize particular stops the dogs navigate the complex system often better that their human counterparts. Some are even seen obeying traffic lights at street level.
The dogs often provide protection to passangers, guarding subway cars from drunks and aggressive people and in turn embrace the crowds, knowing scraps of food might be their reward. Sometimes their tactics are more cunning: a loud bark behind a person eating may result in a sandwich on the pavement, and a cuter, smaller dog can beg more successfully, thus feeding the rest of the pack.
But this relationship is not without it’s darker side, there have been hundreds of attacks by Moscow’s almost 35,000 stray canines as well as unprovoked violence toward the dogs by their fellow human commuters. Read about Malchik here, his heart-breaking death is commemorated by a statue in Mendeleyevskaya station. He was stabbed to death by a commuting model, who was enraged when the dog barked at her designer jacket-wearing pet.
Andrey Poyarkov, a zoologist who has studied Moscow’s strays for over 30 years says: “In Moscow there are all sorts of stray dogs, but there are no stupid dogs. The street is tough and it’s survival of the fittest. These clever dogs know people much better than people know them.”
Photos by Maxim Marmur & English Russia. Read an excellent article about Moscow’s dogs here.