Lambs do it, alpacas do it, even gazelles do it: pronking. Also known as stotting, that joyous all-four-hooves-in-the-air leap can be one of the happiest ways to signal a hoofin’ good time. Their spines are even built for it.
But pronking’s for more than just fun and games. When danger strikes, hooved animals will do a yipes-like pronk high in the air.
Does this make sense? If you’re being chased by someone, it would seem to make more sense to put your energy into forward motion than just pogo up and down in the same spot while Mr. and Mrs. Sharpteeth come nipping at your heels. Still, pronkers get chased less often, and when they are chased, they’re captured less often than those who just turn tail and flat-out run.
Here’s the thing: It takes a lot of energy to pronk. Get up and try it! It doesn’t take many boing boing boings to see that the best pronkers need to be in tip-top shape. Pronking is an example of honest signaling, which means good pronkers are saying, “You can try to catch me, but I’m in such good physical condition I’ll probably outrun you. See? I have all this energy that I can jump up and down here and don’t even need to run from you yet.”
And the predators say, “Oh. Ok. Thanks for the head’s up. I won’t waste my time. I’ll eat Mr. Slowpoke over here.”And then they do. And the meanest pronkers pronk for joy.