A Dog as Smart as

A Little Brother? Brilliant!

* How many times have you told someone that your dog is a genius?

Well, scientists may be about to agree with you. A study out today tells the story of Rico, a border collie who knows as many as 200 words. (That's about as many words as a 3-year-old kid knows.)

Scientists tested the 9-year-old dog after Rico's owners claimed he knew the names of 200 toys, stuffed animals and other objects. Scientists put Rico in one room and 10 toys in another room and then told him to fetch two of the toys. Rico got it right 37 out of 40 times. That gives him a vocabulary similar to dolphins, apes, sea lions and parrots who have undergone extensive training.

In another test, 10 toys were put in a room, nine of which Rico knew. Rico was then to fetch the toy that he had not seen before. Seven times out of 10, Rico could use the process of elimination to bring back the correct toy.

Scientists aren't sure whether Rico really is a genius or if any dog can learn that much language. "Maybe this is the Albert Einstein of dogs. Or maybe this is something that other dogs can do too," said Julia Fischer, a biologist who helped test Rico. "We just don't know. We need to find out."

To read more about Rico and dog language, see the story on Page A1.