The Amateur Word Nerd Quiz: Does your pet pronk?

By Barbara MacAllister

If your pet pronks, it:
a) Jumps off the ground with all four feet at once
b) Follows you everywhere
c) Makes a funny sound when eating

The correct answer is a.
Pronking is the ability of some quadrupeds (animals with four feet) to jump vertically with their back arched and on all four feet off the ground at once. This behavior is notably seen in lambs in the spring, but goats, llamas, gazelles and even cats and dogs pronk. It looks like joyful leaping, but in some cases it’s a fright response to startle a predator.
The word pronk is precisely dedicated to this phenomenon and comes to English from Afrikaans, the language that originated from Dutch spoken in South Africa. The Afrikaans verb is from the Dutch pronken: “to strut or show off.”
In Africa, the springbok, a champion pronker, is a small gazelle known for springing high in the air when frightened. The descriptive name is from the Afrikaans spring — to leap up — and bok — a male deer.
If you search pronking on YouTube you’ll find many video clips of animals that look like they’re bouncing with springs on their feet. It is almost impossible to watch a pronking animal without smiling in amazement. Or mentally adding boing! boing! cartoon sound effects.