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This should be a relatively simple question—one that I cannot seem to find anywhere.

Does, for example, a dog sit down on its haunches, or sit up on its haunches?

"Charlie sat up on his haunches and tilted his head in confusion at the strange command."

 

"Charlie sat down on his haunches and tilted his head in confusion at the strange command."

Which one makes more sense? Or is it a universal term?

  • 3
    I think they just sit on their haunches. – Hot Licks May 20 '15 at 18:02
  • I agree with Hot Licks. "Sitting on his haunches" is correct and enough. Adding "sitting up" or "sitting down" adds connotations to the action: "sitting up" suggests going into an alert sitting position from a more relaxed or inattentive one, while "sitting down" suggests going into a relaxed sitting position from a more alert or tense position. – Kevin May 20 '15 at 20:09
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Not having a dog with me to experiment with, I would guess that the anatomical position is identical, but that the preposition reflects the direction of movement. He would sit down on his haunches from a standing position, but sit up on them from a lying position.

Either way, it results in 'sitting on his haunches':

dog sitting

The big blackie then dropped to all fours and turned to walk away, but changing his mind in midstride, he swung his head about to sit down on his haunches so he could stare at me some more.

When she stopped, he sat up on his haunches and offered her his paw, then rolled over, then played dead dog, and then began it all over again, by sitting up on his haunches and offering her his paw...

  • I had not considered the latter. That makes sense, even if I see a lot of cases where they're both treated universally. – Michel May 20 '15 at 17:52
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An animal does not sit on its haunches the way you might sit on a chair. It sits on its haunches the way you might sit in a slouch. It is a manor of being in a sitting position.

The animal sits, and it is on its haunches.

So, as the other answers suggest, whether it sits up or sits down is irrelevant to whether it is sitting on its haunches.

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