Humans breathe through one nostril at a time.

Do non-human animals also do so, or do they breathe through both nostrils at once? Has any actual study been conducted on this topic?

  • $\begingroup$ From the explanation given here (which you should definitely have a look at if you haven't yet), there is really no reason to expect that it would be any different in other mammals or at least primate. However, I doubt we will find a study that investigates this question though as it is extremely specific and I would guess of little interest to most people! My best guess that probably all mammals do that! By the way, there is a Ted talk on how dog smell $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ Humans do breath one nostril at a time...generally. Those who practice Yoga tend to train themselves to control the side of the nose through which they breath. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ Suggested edits: correct spelling "breathe" in title; change "animals" to "non-human animals" in title and question (humans are animals too!) $\endgroup$
    – Ben Bolker
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


The post linked by @Remi.b says

The nasal cycle is a natural ultradian cycle (see here and here. Not only is it present in humans, the nasal cycle has been observed in rats, rabbits, domestic pigs, cats and dogs (see references in Eccles 1996).

Proceeding to Eccles 1996 (p. 372):

The nasal cycle is not only limited to the human nose, as it has been found in the rat and rabbit [31], the domestic pig [32, 33], the cat [34] and the dog [35], and appears to be a universal phenomenon at least in all mammals and possibly other animals. ...

  1. Bojsen-Moller F, Fahrenkrug J. Nasal swell bodies and cyclic changes in the air passages of the rat and rabbit nose. Anat 1971; 110: 25–37.
  2. Eccles R. The domestic pig as an experimental animal for studies on the nasal cycle. Acta Otolaryngol (Stockh) 1978; 85: 431–436.
  3. Campbell WM, Kern EB. The nasal cycle in swine. Rhinology 1981; 19: 127–148.
  4. Bamford OS, Eccles R. The central reciprocal control of nasal vasomotor oscillations. Pflügers Arch 1982; 394: 139–143.
  5. Webber RL, Jeffcoat MK, Harman JT, Ruttimann UE. Demonstration of the nasal cycle in the beagle dog. J Comput Assist Tomogr 1987; 11: 869–871.

A Pubmed search for '"nasal cycle" animal' gets a total of 18 hits, including refs 32 and 35 above, as well as

  • Spontaneous nasal oscillations in dog. A mucosal expression of the respiration-related activities of cervical sympathetic nerve. Asakura K, Hoki K, Kataura A, Kasaba T, Aoki M. Acta Otolaryngol. 1987 Nov-Dec;104(5-6):533-8.
  • Proceedings: Studies on the nasal cycle in the immobilized pig. Eccles R, Maynard RL. J Physiol. 1975 May;247(1):1P.

A bit more digging forward & backward through citations finds the article on cats (also by Eccles):

R. Eccles & R. L. Lee (1981) Nasal Vasomotor Oscillations in the Cat Associated with the Respiratory Rhythm, Acta Oto-Laryngologica, 92:1-6, 357-361, DOI: 10.3109/00016488109133272

You might find more if you poke around (Google scholar/Pubmed, look at citations backward & forward, try search terms like "'nasal cycle' bird" or "'nasal cycle' reptile"), but at this point I doubt that anyone's bothered to check this in non-mammalian animals ...

  • $\begingroup$ Good answer (+1). Citing the post I cite, you proved wrong my assumption that we would not find a reference on the subject. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 22:49

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