Just moments before game three of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, fans were thrown from their seats at Candlestick Park and the world watched in shock as San Francisco shook for 15 long seconds and then watched as it crumbled—live on national television.

The 6.9 quake brought San Francisco to its knees. 63 people perished, a section of the Bay Bridge fell, homes in the Marina district went up in flames, Monterey Bay saw a tsunami, and several of the Bay Area’s major freeways suffered catastrophic failures.

But in the minutes before this devastation began, in homes across the Bay Area, dogs started barking, scratching, and fleeing their yards. With increased reports of strange canine behavior, scientists began to wonder: Can dogs sense earthquakes?


The Bay Area is marking 25 years since Loma Prieta earthquake…Did our dogs know it was coming?

I grew up just south of San Francisco. I remember October 17, 1989 well.

Earthquake in SF - can dogs sense earthquakes


I was outside with my own dog, Rascal. Rascal was a real dog. The kind of mutt that would survive on his own in the wild.

Not like my golden retriever Henry today. I think my lovable Henry might die of a broken heart if he lost his favorite stuffed animal, Nemo. No, Rascal was a real dog. And I think he knew.

Rascal began running in circles and barking—agitated. And then it happened. The ground quaked, the fences swayed, the windows rattled, and the patio cracked.

I grabbed Rascal and ran for cover. Did Rascal really know the earthquake was coming? Or was he just acting like a crazy mutt?


Can dogs sense earthquakes?

There have long been reports of animals behaving strangely before large earthquakes, including an account of snakes, weasels, and rats moving to safety several days prior to an earthquake in Greece in 373 BCE.

After Japan’s magnitude 9 earthquake in 2011, a study was launched investigating pet owner’s reports of unusual animal behavior just before the quake.

In the results, 236 of 1,259 dog owners and 115 of 703 cat owners observed strange behaviors in their pets. Owners reported increased neediness, barking, and howling in their dogs, and some dogs who were so restless they even escaped.

In 60% of the reports, these odd dog behaviors occurred in the seconds and minutes leading up to the quake.

Watch this video of a yellow lab panicking just seconds before a quake. Happy spoiler alert—the dog and people all get out safely!


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