Deer Enjoys a Play Date with Her Dog Friend in the Petrichor

Whether you’re in a city or far out in the country, the smell of rain is a unique and lovely change from the usual smells of where we live. When a storm is about to hit we use not only our eyes to sense changes in the cloud formations, but also our noses to sense what kinds of precipitation might be headed our way. After a short rainstorm or a prolonged period of time people might notice a fresh and damp atmosphere resulting from the rain.

This smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell is called petrichor. Petrichor is a noun that comes from Greek origins. The word petrichor was created for use in the English language by I.J. Bear and R.G. Thomas, who were researching the oils released by specific plants when it rains. The term was first published in 1964 in an article in the journal Nature. The Greek word for stone is petros, and ichor was the fluid that flows through the blood of Greek gods in mythology.

Petrichor is produced by oils that exude from some plants when it rains after a dry spell. Oils and a substance called geosmin are produced. Geosmin is caused by the metabolic by-products of Actinobacteria. The oils produced by plants protect new seeds from the stress of weather changes that may disrupt germination.

Researchers theorize that humans respond favorably to petrichor because we would have relied on rainy weather for survival in the past. Rain meant water, the growth of edible plants, and a break from the harsh sunlight. Petrichor is most common after light rain showers due to the aerosol effect, in which small air bubbles on porous surfaces release scents from the ground and plants.

Even animals can appreciate petrichor. This deer and her best friend, who happens to be a dog, enjoy the aftermath of a rain by playing on the grass.  Pippin, the deer, and Kate, the dog, became fast friends after Pippin was adopted by Isobel Springett, a photographer from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.  Springett found the deer as an abandoned fawn and hand-reared it.  The two animals and become fast friends.



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