Alpacas, gazelles, some deer and baby lambs are all known to pronk. That is, they leap into the air as if leaping for joy, lifting all four feet off the ground at once. The fact that – in some species like sheep – young animals do it more than older ones does suggest playfulness.
Among wild animals, pronking may be a way of avoiding predators. It means something like:
Hey, I’m very fit so don’t bother chasing me.
And dogs? I didn’t find much online discussion about true dog-pronking, although many of us, at one time or another, may have seen our dog leaping for joy. I recall my own dog Snoop (rest his soul) released from the car in a South Dakota meadow, leaping and running like crazy through the long grass for maybe 20 minutes, until we called him back. It was one of the most joyful things I’ve ever seen, and definitely one of my best memories of Snoop.
So enjoy the videos on this page. And, by the way, although it is a survival strategy for some, the very word pronk comes from an Afrikaans verb pronk-, which means show off or strut. It has the same linguistic derivation as our English verb prance.
Bottom line: Among wild animals, pronking seems to be a way of avoiding predators. But when you see an animal pronk, you can’t but think it’s leaping for joy. Videos here.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.