Can we sniff out wine better than dogs?

It’s a well-known fact that dogs have a much better sense of smell than us. Isn’t it? Well, Dr John McGann, a psychology professor from Rutgers University in America argues something rather different. Ideal Wine Company discusses the truth behind this.

In fact, he says that not only can we smell certain scents, like wine and fruit, better than dogs, we also have ‘excellent olfactory abilities’. This goes against the popular belief that dogs far outstrip us in matters of the nose.

Ideal Wine Company wine aroma
Do humans have a better sense of smell than dogs?

What do we already know?

Dr McGann has recently published an article in the Science Journal called ‘Poor human olfaction is a 19th century myth’. He is convinced that the idea that our sense of smell is somehow inferior to dogs and other animals is actually no more than “an unproven hypothesis”.

But whose hypothesis kickstarted this outdated belief? Dr McGann cites the idea as belonging to Paul Broca, a neuroanatomist in the 19th century. His work was the basis of an ideology that caught on and became falsely constructed into ‘fact’.

Rodents as well as dogs

Dr McGann says that human beings are actually towards the middle of the pack when it comes to the strength of our sense of smell. There are have been numerous studies in this area, and results show that mice and rats, for example, have around a thousand smell receptors, while humans only have about 400.

While on the surface this would seem that our olfactory system is inferior to rodents, let alone dogs, Dr McGann says this isn’t the case. As we have far more complex brains than rodents, including different orbitofrontal cortices and olfactory bulbs, we can use these to work out what we’re smelling. So, the 400 receptors are passed through a much more complicated and diverse system than in rodents, meaning we can pick out far more smells.

The focus of the test

Dr McGann’s tests focus on the kind of smell detected, and he has found that ‘”when an appropriate range of odours is tested, humans outperform lab rodents and dogs in detecting some odours, while being less sensitive to others.”

So, while Fido may indeed me better at us at sniffing out a noxious smell in the park, we definitely outrank him when it comes to sniffing the nuances of scents in our favourite wine. Wine, along with bananas and the smell of human blood are just three smells that we can pick up on better than our animal friends. I think we’ll stick to the wine!


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