Prairie dogs are small stout-bodied burrowing rodents with shallow cheek pouches native to both North and Central America.
In 2003 they came to public attention in the U.S because pet prairie dogs spread monkeypox, a mild variant of smallpox previously unknown in North America, to more than a dozen people. The prairie dogs apparently contracted the disease from a Gambian pouched rat in a Chicago-area pet store.
An average size is 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) long. In the United States prairie dogs are primarily found west of the Mississippi River, but they have been introduced into a few eastern locales. All are herbivores, and in settled regions they sometimes damage crops severely.
- ORDER RODENTIA
- Suborder Sciurognathi
- FAMILY SCIURINAE (Mountain Beaver, squirrels, chipmunks, marmots and prairie dogs)
- Subfamily Sciurinae
- Genus Cynomys
- Gunnison's Prairie Dog, Cynomys gunnisoni
- White-tailed Prairie Dog, Cynomys leucurus
- Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Cynomys ludovicianus
- Mexican Prairie Dog, Cynomys mexicanus
- Utah Prairie Dog, Cynomys parvidens
- About 35 other genera in subfamily
The White-tailed Prairie Dog was described by Ludvig/Louis, and was named after the 1805 Lewis and Clark Expedition
where prairie dogs were first identified for scientific study.
Black-tailed Prairie Dog
An alternative classification treats the Sciurinae, including Cynomys as a Subfamily of the Sciuridae.