The internet loves stories of close interspecies relationships. Elephants and dogs, cats and ducks, a deer and a potbelly pig — just like humans, most animal species have the capacity for love and affection.
These unlikely friendships are fascinating. How and why do they even happen?
Some experts say species of mammals such as elephants, dogs, and lions are naturally social and pack-oriented. If they don’t have a pack of their own, they’ll likely be drawn to other animals nearby in order to satisfy their need for companionship. Think of Scar and his loyal hyenas in The Lion King — this might be a silly reference, but similar relationships do occur in the animal kingdom. Whatever the reason may be, these unusual friendships show animals are far more emotionally complex than many of us may realize.
Another heartwarming example is that of Milo, a tiny dachshund, and Bonedigger, a lion cub.
Milo cared for Bonedigger when he suffered from a metabolic bone disease that left him disabled. Five years later, the 500-pound lion is still best buddies with the 11-pound dachshund and his two compatriot wiener dogs, Bullet and Angel.
When some white tiger cubs were separated from their mother during a hurricane, they were adopted by a U.S. animal reserve where they met Anjana, a chimpanzee. By now, Anjana has helped her caretaker raise many different orphaned animals.
As Arizona Humane Society’s pet behavior and training manager Jenny Dagnino shared with BoredPanda.com, social relationships between animals of different species are common; they communicate with each other verbally and non-verbally the same way we try to interpret what a dog might be telling us. A dog can also try to understand its duck, cat, or cheetah companion.
Meanwhile, some monkey species have been known to communicate with one another by producing alarm calls when danger is near.
However, bonds aren’t always purely utilitarian.
The basis for friendship can be pretty much anything, but one of the most common ways it starts is by having fun. When animals play together, they develop attachments. It’s not that different for human beings!