8 Interspecies Animal Relationships Prove That Love Is All You Need

In which curious animals model love, kindness, and companionship

By Alexandra Malloy

February 14, 2017


Photo courtesy vvita/iStock

Valentine’s Day can be an excuse to get lovey-dovey with your significant other—or a reminder that you’ll probably end up spending your night alone, cuddling up with those 50-percent–off candy hearts. 

This gilded holiday also falls at a time when many are suffering from “election stress disorder” and may not be feeling warm and fuzzy.

Whether you’re downright blue, or pink and red, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to remember that in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take—even between cats and lizards (or does and Great Danes, or dogs and badgers, or…).

That’s right: Turns out animals in cross-species relationships have a thing or two to teach us humans about setting aside our differences and kissing up. The scientific community is increasingly looking at what makes cross-species relationships tick, and why they captivate us. Dr. Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, noted in a New York Times article that videos depicting such interactions offer a way for people to connect with nature, “from which they feel increasingly detached.”

Bekoff has seen coyotes befriend dogs and badgers. He notes that while such meetings often involve tension and a cacophony of snarls, “odd couple” friendships often develop between domesticated critters, or else those in captivity. “It's important to the animals that form these relationships, because they’re social beings and benefit from that,” he says.

Bekoff, whose dog Jethro once rescued a baby bunny and later, a bird (Jethro has since passed away), notes that the scientific community is increasingly accepting the fact that animals are conscious beings, exhibiting a variety of emotions. “I think humans are drawn to [animal relationships] because they are novel, and they are surprising,” he says. “Studying them opens the door to plasticity, flexibility, and diversity—and it also shows that a lot of behavior isn't hard-wired like we thought.”

What’s more, they’re swoon-worthy. In need of proof that even in 2017, love and friendship abound? Read on.

João Pereira de Souza the human and Dindim the penguin

In May 2011, a retired bricklayer living on the shores of Proveta Beach in Ilha Grande, Brazil, spied a small, black-and-white bird floating in the surf. João Pereira de Souza walked to the water, where he plucked an oil-covered Magellanic penguin from the Atlantic. De Souza cleaned, nursed, and named the bird Dindim, eventually returning him to the water. Instead of swimming back to his penguin home, though, Dindim opted to stay with his rescuer until February 2012, sleeping in de Souza’s backyard and relaxing in the family room. Dindim did eventually return to the water, but he continues to visit his savior and friend every year, staying for months on end. The story was first reported by João Paulo Krajewski for Globo TV. You can watch that original story in Portuguese here.


Desi Moo Moo the dairy cow and Lucy the pig

This pair calls the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary in Aldergrove, British Columbia, home. Desi the rescued dairy cow—sanctuary owners Diane Marsh and Stephen Wiltshire’s first calf—first met Lucy the piglet when he was only two weeks old. The two bonded immediately, and although they’ve gotten a tad older and much bigger, they still spend their days lounging about. They’ve recently been joined by a cute new companion: Baby the donkey.


Koko the gorilla and her kittens

This is one of the more famous animal relationships of our time. In 1971, Stanford University student Penny Patterson spotted Koko at the San Francisco Zoo and began to tutor the gorilla in sign language. A project that was supposed to last four years has since stretched to 44. Koko now lives at The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California, actively uses more than 1,000 signs in American Sign Language, and can understand more than 2,000 words of spoken English. Besides interspecies communication and her friendship with Patterson, Koko’s main hobby is feline friendships. Her first cat, which she named All Ball, joined her in 1984. Sadly, All Ball was killed by a car one year later. Then, on July 4, 2015, Koko’s 44th birthday, the gorilla gained two new friends: Ms. Gray, a little, aptly colored furball that the gorilla chose and cuddled, and another of the six kittens called Ms. Black. Fear not, kitten lovers—after Koko had her pick, the remaining four kittens were adopted by humans. Meet Koko’s new kittens on Youtube, and check out more photos of them here.


Kate the Great Dane and Pippin the fawn

While walking through the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island with her Great Dane Kate, Isobel Springett heard the bleating calls of an abandoned fawn. After Springett took the baby deer home, Kate immediately took the fawn as her own, snuggling the tiny deer, Pippin, in her dog bed. After staying with Springett and Kate for two weeks, Pippin returned to the wild. Still, Kate made a point to venture into the woods to find her doe friend. Since their 2008 meeting, Pippin has started a family of her own, but still, she regularly returns to Springett’s yard to race around with Kate. Watch the magic unfold right here.


Hessel the dog and Hannes the cat

The dog-versus-cat rivalry is a classic interspecies dynamic, but Dutch photographer Bert Jonkhans has been lucky enough to capture a shift in the domestic pet sphere—namely, the abundant love between his Labrador retriever, Hessel, and his cat, Hannes. Before Hannes arrived, Hessel wasn’t fond of cats, Jonkhans said in an interview to DogHeirs.com. Like a typical dog, Hessel thought felines were for chasing. But almost immediately, Hannes and Hessel became friends. Now, they are almost eight and seven, respectively. Hannes spends his days following the Lab around, sleeping on his bed, and supping from his food bowl. Witness the love right here.


Sniffer the dog and Tinni the fox

This is a real-life fox and hound story. Norwegian photographer Torgeir Berge was out on a walk with his dog Tinni when the two stumbled across a wild fox. Now Tinni and the fox (since named Sniffer) regularly race through the woods while Berge tries to keep up, so as to document their friendship. Not only do these two pals have a popular song on Youtube, but they also have a book about them. Sniffer & Tinni: A True Tale of Amazing Animal Friendship was published in June 2016. Berge and author Berit Helberg hope their tale will raise awareness around the fox fur trade.


Puppet the cat and Puff the bearded dragon

What’s better than basking in the Texas sunshine of your favorite windowsill with your best friend? Puppet the cat has no qualms about the fact that her best friend, Puff the bearded dragon, isn’t even a mammal—their tightly knit relationship, documented here, has been going strong since 2010.


Deer and Goose

One spring in Buffalo, New York, a mateless Canadian female goose decided to nest in a cemetery urn. Soon thereafter, an employee noticed that a male, antlerless deer had begun to watch over the goose, and even to position itself between the bird and any passersby. The deer stayed by her for at least four days of her pregnancy. “From a human standpoint, we can fill in a lot of blanks, but it doesn't mean we're right,” Joel Thomas, the Erie County SPCA wildlife administrator said in an interview with Reuters. “Does he know she's nesting? I don't know. Is he going to leave when the chicks hatch? I don't know.” Check them out here.