Despite their name, prairie dogs are not actually dogs. They are classified as ground squirrels, a type of rodent. Their name could come from their warning call which sounds similar to a high-pitched dog bark. Typically, these stout, little mammals grow to be between 30 to 40 cm (12-16 in.) long and weigh between 0.5 and 1.5 kilograms (1-3 lb.).
There are 5 species of prairie dogs and all are native to the grasslands of North America. They live in large colonies and collections families that can span hundreds of acres.
Prairie dogs have some of the most complex systems of social structures and communication in the animal kingdom. Members of a family group interact through oral contact or "kissing" and grooming one another.