Some people don't believe that animals are capable of love and compassion, but science suggests animals feel a wide range of emotions. Researchers have observed empathy, grief, and a variety of complex emotions that are often only attributed to humans. Not only that, studies have also found that animals are capable of sincere and enduring friendships with each other. From dogs and ducklings to giraffes and ostriches, these unexpected friends show that animals can form deep, loving attachments to each other.
An African elephant named Bubbles became unlikely pals with Bella, a black Labrador Retriever when Bubbles was rescued from ivory poachers in Africa. The elephant was brought to a safari reserve in South Carolina, and the pair bonded early on during Bubbles' stay. The friends love to play in the water together; Bubbles throws tennis balls with her trunk, and Bella splashes through the water to fetch them.
Another unlikely pair, Bea and Wilma, spend time together at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida. The giraffe and ostrich share a 65-acre enclosure with other safari animals and became fast friends when Bea was introduced to the group. Although most animals in the enclosure choose to stay with their own species, Bea and Wilma can often be found cuddled up next to the small pond in the evening.
Does real life imitate art? A classic Disney movie depicts a fox and a dog becoming best friends, but this is real life for Tinni and Sniffer in the forests of Norway. Tinni, a domesticated dog, loves to run with the wild fox Sniffer any chance she gets. The pair met on a chance encounter, and Tinni's owner photographs the two playing at every opportunity.
In an unlikely pairing, a lonely chicken struck up a surprising friendship with a house cat. After a fox killed 13 baby chicks and left Gladys as the only survivor, a farmer brought the scared chick indoors to heal from her wounds. Snowy, the farmer's house cat, took a liking to the baby chick and nursed her back to health. Now, the pair are inseparable, and Gladys is never going back to the hen house.
Few things in life are cuter than a baby hippo, but the world was awestruck when a giant tortoise took an orphaned baby hippo under its proverbial wing. Owen separated from his herd in Kenya and looked to Mzee for support and protection. Mzee was slow to warm up at first but quickly embraced his role as caretaker. Unfortunately, Owen grew too large to interact with Mzee safely and had to be separated from his dear friend.
Sharky, a gentle pitbull, loves caring for other animals. A doting father who adores his biological puppies, Sharky happily included Max, an orphaned Siamese cat, and a gaggle of ducklings in his brood. Sharky's owner says she often finds the group snuggling on the bed or frolicking in the yard together.
Koko the gorilla shocked the world by proving she could communicate with humans through sign language. When she used her skills to ask for a pet kitten, her researchers didn't have the heart to say no. Smoky and Lipstick were orphaned kittens when given to Koko, but the pair soon had an adoptive mother who loved them as her own. Koko was incredibly gentle and mothering with the kittens, whom she regularly rocked in the palms of her hands.
Themba was orphaned at six months old, well past the time another elephant mother would bond with him. Caretakers tried encouraging other elephants to accept the young Themba, but none would. After some head-scratching, someone suggested a sheep. Sheep are well-known for their emotional intelligence, and Albert proved to be the perfect companion. Albert and Themba can be found roaming their enclosure together before snuggling up for an afternoon nap.
Most people have heard of seeing-eye dogs, but what about a seeing-eye cat? Libby, the house cat, found herself thrust into the role when her beloved friend Cashew began to lose his vision. Cashew, a lab mix, had always gotten along well with his housemate, but Libby's protective instincts kicked in when the dog started to go blind. Libby helped Chashew navigate their home until his death.
Bonnie, a Morgan Quarter horse, had always been a compassionate animal, seeming to sense when her humans were sad or distressed. One day, however, her compassion extended to a young fawn being attacked by coyotes. The large horse rescued the small deer, and the pair have been inseparable ever since.
Dennis the duckling lost his mother after being mauled by a fox. Fred, a Labrador, found the young chick when out on a walk with his owner. After taking the orphaned duckling home, Fred watched over Dennis day and night until he was grown. It was not the first time the dog helped an animal in need—years earlier, Fred rescued an orphaned baby fawn.
While there are many stories about domesticated pets taking care of orphaned chicks, it is not often that a chicken takes care of puppies. Mabel, the chicken, moved into the farmhouse after she sustained a foot injury and discovered a litter of puppies in the farmer's home. The chicken roosts on the puppies in an attempt to keep them warm while the mother dog enjoys a frolic in the yard.
If one heard a story about a lion becoming friends with a dog, many would likely picture a Mastiff or a Great Dane. Bonedigger, however, prefers small companions. The large lion developed a debilitating bone disease, and his caretakers thought a gentle friend would bring joy to the large cat's days. They introduced Milo, an 11-pound dachshund, and the pair became fast friends. The lion enjoyed the dog's company so much that his caretakers brought in two more dachshunds to keep the big lion company.
When a family found a wild piglet starving in the fields behind their home in Germany, they brought him home to nurse him back to health. Unexpectedly, their Jack Russell Terrier named Candy took an instant liking to the small pig. The dog looked after the piglet as it regained its strength, opting to share its bed to keep the wild hog close. Now fully recovered, the friends love to play hide and seek together in their home's front bushes.
Suryia, an endangered breed of orangutan, and her handlers were out for a walk one day when a Blue Tick Hound followed them back to the nature preserve. The dog refused to leave, and after a fruitless search for its owner, the caretakers decided Roscoe could stay. The pair share an enclosure where they swim, snuggle, and play together daily.
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