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Border collie who knew 1,022 words dies at 15

Chaser understood common nouns as well as proper nouns.

The dog who became famous for knowing over 1,000 nouns has died at the age of 15.

In 2004, John Pilley, a retired psychiatrist, bought a black-and-white border collie he named Chaser. He taught the dog to understand 1,022 nouns, which earned them both worldwide recognition.

For three years, Pilley trained her for four to five hours a day by showing her an object, said its name up to 40 times, then hid it and asked her to find it. He used 800 cloth animal toys, 116 balls, 26 Frisbees and an assortment of plastic items to teach Chaser the words.

Chaser had been living with Pilley’s wife, Sally, and their daughter Robin in Spartanburg, South Carolina after Pilley died last year at 89. Chaser passed away July 23.

Chaser had been in declining health in recent weeks. “The vet really determined that she died of natural causes,” daughter Pilley Bianchi told a reporter for The Independent. “She went down very quickly.” She had helped her father train Chaser.

“What we would really like people to understand about Chaser is that she is not unique,”

Bianchi said. “It’s the way she was taught that is unique. We believed that my father tapped into something that was very simple: He taught Chaser a concept which he believed worked infinitely greater than learning a hundred behaviors.”

She said Chaser understood that words have independent meaning and understood common nouns as well as proper nouns.


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