What’s a dog to do when you don’t have a roof over your head and times are lean? If you’re a hound in Moscow the answer is an easy one: head underground.

Across Moscow, suburban strays have been making as much use of the city’s subway system as many of their human compatriots. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the easing up of the doggy death squads that used to handle Moscow’s stray animal problems, dogs have learned that not only is the subway a plentiful source of sustenance but also which stops and cars are the best bets for free meals and human companionship.

Did you know?

  1. Before the fall of the USSR, Moscow’s stray dogs were often killed or used in science experiments, which controlled their numbers.
  2. Since the end of those once-common practices the city’s homeless hound population has grown to 35,000.
  3. Some dogs moved underground seeking shelter from Moscow’s bitter winters. Others live in the suburbs and commute downtown.
  4. Almost 500 strays forage around the tunnels, but roughly 50 of them have gained the courage to go right into the stations and ride with human passengers.
  5. These strays have learned how to use the escalators, and generally travel in the less crowded first and last cars.
  6. Experts think they navigate the stops using their sense of smell and by recognizing the voices of overhead announcers to know where they are.
  7. The dogs remember who treats them well. This is attributed to the basic positive reinforcement training theory.
  8. The dogs will sometimes sleep on the cars, and passengers allow them to sit beside them on benches.
  9. One beloved subway dog, Malchik, had a statue erected in his honor after being stabbed in 2002. People now rub the statue’s nose for luck.
  10. As passenger numbers decrease, the dogs will take the subway back to the suburbs for the night.


Story suggested to us by Kamal Shah of Oakland, CA. Thanks Kamal-you’re an interesting guy!