from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. Any of several burrowing rodents of the genus Cynomys in the squirrel family, having light brown fur and a warning call that sounds similar to a dog's bark. The prairie dog lives in large colonies, chiefly in the Great Plains of North America.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A small, stout-bodied burrowing rodent with shallow cheek pouches, native to North America and Central America.
- v. To pop up from a hole or similar in a manner that resembles the way a prairie dog pops his head up from his burrow.
- v. To struggle to hold back an involuntary bowel movement.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. a small American rodent (Cynomys Ludovicianus) allied to the marmots. It inhabits the plains west of the Mississippi. The prairie dogs burrow in the ground in large warrens, and have a sharp bark like that of a dog. Called also prairie marmot.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A sciuromorphic rodent quadruped of the family Sciuridæ, subfamily Spermophilinæ, and genus Cynomys, of which there are two species, C. ludovicianus and C. columbianus, the former living east and the latter west of the Rocky Mountains: so called from their habitat and from their cry, which is like the barking of a dog.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. any of several rodents of North American prairies living in large complex burrows having a barking cry
prairie + dog (Wiktionary)
By analogy with how the animal pops its head up from its burrow. (Wiktionary)
Say you have eighteen white-footed ferrets, with a balanced sex ratio, but the prairie dog colony on which they depend for food and shelter is being killed off by a virus.