Life Pets and more
The Affectionate Life of Animals
June 3, 2016

I was driving around with my kids in the car when one innocent comment by one of my children sparked a hot debate that seemed to last for hours. Eventually I, myself, was lured in and had to put in my own two cents’ worth. Of all things, we were arguing over which animal, in the whole, entire world, was the most affectionate.

Although I was personally torn between the dog and the elephant, my kids made some very valid points about many other species I had never considered. My daughter, who is usually taciturn company for myself and her brothers, got very excited, engaged with much conviction and flashed around images on her smartphone to prove her points.

It is amazing how quickly almost every single human is moved by such images. Even my oldest son, who is the embodiment of machismo at this time in his life, would break down his walls and “oooh” and “aaah” over such cuteness as two otters holding hands or a couple of bears snuggling.

Has science actually proven that this is affection being expressed between animals? Could what we perceive as affectionate snuggling simply be two creatures trying to stay warm? Do otters hold hands not for an emotional connection but for a physical connection that keeps them together as they float down a river? Well, most researchers and specialists who have devoted their lives to studying this subject have determined that all animals do have a rich and complex emotional life which definitely does include feelings of affection toward other creatures of their own species as well as crossing species boundaries at times.

Physical contact does, indeed, serve to foster the emotional connection and bond between animals just as it does in humans. And, perhaps because they use less vocalization, touch may even be a more important factor in their language. And, of course, some of the cute things they do also have a practical purpose. But that doesn’t make them any less cute. Such as an adorable red panda asleep with its bushy tail curled around itself to keep warm.

It is probably no small wonder that sheep can bond with the shepherds that tend to them. By having regular contact with humans, they become perceptive of facial expressions. In fact, research has shown that they respond positively to human expressions of happiness. Sheep like to see you smile!

Often, when polar bears are mentioned, one can only conjure up images of their strength and savage predatory skills. A person would rarely ask themselves if polar bears have good manners. It seems they do. Wildlife experts who study polar bears have discovered that polar bears greet one another by touching noses. This gesture is also used by one bear to ask another bear to please share whatever he is having. Polar bears and good manners, who knew?

Come to find out, giraffes are sentimental. Well, at least the female giraffes are. When a pregnant giraffe is ready to give birth, she returns to the place where she was born. I suppose the familiarity of the place is a source of comfort and security.

Typically when monkeys are thought of, backdrops of jungle scenes come to mind. However, Macaques live in a region of the world where it snows. And, when they are bored, they gleefully entertain themselves by having snowball fights. So, macaques have a mischievous sense of humor.

Elephants find it difficult to hug. Fat bodies and stumpy legs and all, yes, hugs are out. So, these intelligent creatures have come up with an alternative. An elephant hug involves entwining trunks.

Most people also underestimate the complex relationships that occur within a herd of cows. For instance, there are babysitters. When there are several young calves, one or two adult females will stay with them while the rest of the herd wander about to graze.

Cows are also a bit cliquish. They like to select a “best friend”. These “besties” spend most of their time together. So, next time you see a herd of cows see if you can determine the “bestie” couples that, although “with” the herd, seem to be distinctly separate.

Dogs are either incredibly sexist or incredibly smart from the moment they are able to waddle about and play. When puppies play fight, the male pups let the female pups win.

Unfortunately, my sons have not adopted this wisdom for themselves when arguing with their sister. Thus, the great debate raged on and on until, finally, we arrived home.


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