Neil deGrasse Tyson Challenges Chaser the Border Collie to Retrieve a Doll She’d Never Seen Before

On an adorable 2012 episode of the PBS series NOVAScience, popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson challenged Chaser, the amazing border collie who understands over 1,000 words, to a memory game. Tyson took several items from Chaser’s enormous pile of toys without the dog’s knowledge and then asked her to retrieve each item as he named them. Chaser scored 100% on that test.

Tyson then decided to make the challenge a bit more challenging by introducing into the mix Darwin, a toy that Chaser had neither seen nor heard before. He then asked Chaser to retrieve Darwin. It took the dog a bit more time to deduce that the unfamiliar toy was the one Tyson had asked her to get, but she finally did, much to the host’s surprise.

I smuggled this into the house. It’s a Charles Darwin doll. …Chaser’s never seen Darwin, hasn’t even ever heard the name Darwin so we’re gonna see if she picks out Darwin by intuition …so while searching for the other toys Chaser knew exactly which one to pick up right away but now she seems to have to think about which one might be Darwin …finally she makes a choice… Chaser’s never seen that doll before… yet somehow she made the connection that the name she’d never heard before went with the toy she didn’t recognize…

RIP Professor John Pilley. Thank you for being such a good human to Chaser for so long.

Former Wofford College Professor John Pilley, owner and trainer of Chaser the Border Collie, “the world’s smartest dog,” passed away on Sunday, June 17. He was 89 years old.