Are animals capable of experiencing emotions? And if so, are they capable of mourning the death of a “loved one”? Well, if the results of several studies are to be believed, it seems that animals truly can feel just like humans can. For example, in an experiment on rhesus macaques, a type of primate, most monkeys refused to pull on a chain that would deliver food because doing so would cause a companion monkey to receive an electric shock. There’s also a research on chimpanzees where the animals were observed consoling (through acts like embracing and grooming) other chimps that had experienced aggression. In fact, even mice were observed to display sensitivity to the pain experienced by a mouse in the same cage. But how about mourning? Can animals possibly feel pain resulting from the death of a fellow animal? Or in the case of a pet, from the death of its owner?
Here ten cases of animals reacting to the deaths of others — cases which make it almost impossible to deny that animals actually mourn the deaths of their loved ones:
10. Service Dog Cries at a Tombstone
The Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC) in Ventura Country, California, specializes in caring for horses and wolf dogs, the canines occasionally being provided to war veterans to help them deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. One of those such wolf dogs is Wiley. The dog was placed in the care of a veteran whose grandmother, Gladys, passed away in 2013. Apparently, the passing of Gladys had quite an effect on Wiley, who was videoed shaking and wheezing as he lay on Gladys’s tombstone. According to the owner of the video, Wiley “had never done that before and hasn’t done it since.”
9. Zoo Elephants Gather Around Dead Calf
In 2011, an elephant calf named “Lola” was born to her 22-year-old mother, Panang, at the Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich, Germany. However, soon after she was born, Lola was discovered to be suffering from a heart condition. Doctors at the zoo arranged for tests to be conducted in preparation for groundbreaking heart surgery, but unfortunately, the three-month-old calf succumbed to her condition as she was undergoing a preliminary CT scan. Because elephants are believed to mourn the deaths among their herd, zookeepers decided to bring Lola’s body to the enclosure for elephants so that Panang could say her goodbye to her daughter. And as the zookeepers expected, the herd gathered around Lola’s corpse and gently nuzzled it with their trunks as if in grief.
8. Dog Mourns for Dead Beaver Friend
It’s quite unusual for two very different animals to form a bond of friendship between them, but this is what happened between Bella and Beavis, a dog and a beaver, respectively. Bella was actually a house pet of a family from Bloomingdale in the United States, but she somehow became acquainted with Beavis, who would come to the family’s yard and interact with the dog. For years, the two pets were inseparable as they ate together, played with one another, and even occasionally shared living quarters. However, in July of 2012, Beavis died, and Bella appeared to be inconsolable. She rested her head on Beavis’s body, and for six hours, whimpered as if in agony. She also refused to allow other dogs to get close to the corpse until it was buried. And tragically, in April of 2013, Bella herself went missing and was never found.
7. More Than a Hundred Penguins Mourn Their Dead Chicks
It’s difficult to look at Emperor Penguins and not be compelled to smile at their striking black-and-white feathers and adorably clumsy gait. But aside from being hopelessly cute, these birds are also devoted partners and parents. The monogamous creatures travel long distances just to breed, the female of the species laying just one egg each season. Then, her male partner doesn’t eat for up to two months as he incubates the egg until it hatches, after which both parents have to feed and care for the bird till it reaches sufficient maturity.
Sadly, in January of 2011, photographer Daniel J Cox captured over a hundred Emperor penguins either bent over or lying down as if expressing tremendous grief. The reason: their chicks had died en masse for an unidentified reason, possibly the weather or starvation. Cox described, “To see the Emperor Penguins mourning in a human-like way over the death of their chicks is heart-wrenching.”
6. Dog and Cat Mourn Together
The animosity that exists between most dogs and cats is well known, but pet dogs and cats that have gotten along well are no longer that uncommon. However, the story of the bond that existed between two dogs and a cat is truly quite unusual. In 2013, a pet owner had to put down one of his dogs, Maujua. Surprisingly, his two other pets, a cat and another dog, seemed to visibly grieve the loss of their companion. The two surviving pets, Kooky and Gracie, had never slept together in the past, but soon after Maujua’s passing, the two were photographed sleeping side by side in Maujua’s crate. The image went viral with many other commenters claiming that they had also observed grieving behavior in their pets when another pet passed away.
5. Rottweiler Grieves Over Dead Twin’s Body
Hank and his twin Rottweiler brother Brutus had been in the care of Washington State’s Brett Bennett even since their adoption from a rescue shelter. As the canines were growing up, Bennett even set up a Facebook page and a YouTube channel to share the lives of his dogs with the world. Unfortunately, on January 20, 2015, Hank passed away, and Brutus appeared to be severely affected by the loss. A video posted by Bennett showed Brutus with a seemingly sad expression as he meekly laid his head over the torso of his brother’s lifeless body. Bennet recalled, “[Hank] was a protector of my family and a great brother to Brutus. Hank will be missed and never forgotten.”
4. Dog Refuses to Leave Owner’s Graveside
Lao Pan of Panjiatun, China lived by his lonesome in a small village with only his dog to keep him company. Sadly, when Lao passed away in November of 2011, his dog refused to leave his graveside even after going without food for seven days. A villager who pitied the dog tried to adopt it and brought it home, but the loyal canine escaped and immediately rushed back to his master’s graveside. Fortunately, a few concerned villagers have been bringing the dog some nourishment and even planned to build a small shelter for the dog to stay in at night.
3. Dolphin Carries Dead Calf on Its Back
Visitors on a dolphin-watching trip would usually expect to see something cute and entertaining, but that’s not what tourists on a boat off of the Dana Point, California coast witnessed in March of 2013. Instead, they sighted the disturbing image of a dolphin carrying a dead calf on its dorsal fin. What made the scene all the more heartbreaking was that the calf was in a visible state of decomposition, meaning the dolphin had been carrying the corpse for quite some time. Dave Anderson, the captain of the tour, said he had never witnessed such behavior from a dolphin in his twenty years of conducting the attraction.
2. Gorilla Mourns Death of Pet Kitten… and of Robin Williams
Koko is a female gorilla that became famous after researchers at the Gorilla Foundation in the United States claimed to have successfully taught her sign language. In 1983, Koko was said to have asked for a pet kitten as a Christmas present. In response, caretakers at the foundation gifted Koko with a stuffed animal, but a visibly unsatisfied Koko repeatedly signed “sad” upon receiving it. Thus, in July of 1984, Koko was allowed to interact with a gray and white Manx kitten, which she named “All Ball” and gently played with for an hour each day. Unfortunately, the following December, the kitten was run over and killed on a nearby highway. When caretakers informed Koko about what had happened, she first acted like she hadn’t heard the news. However, after around 10 minutes, the gorilla began whimpering in sadness and signing “Sleep. Cat.”
That wasn’t the last time Koko exhibited sadness upon learning of a death. In 2014, when she was informed that actor Robin Williams had passed away, “Koko became very somber, with her head bowed and her lip quivering.” The two had become friends years earlier when they filmed a PSA that aimed to raise environmental awareness for the benefit of gorillas.
1. Chimpanzees Watch Silently as Dead Companion Is Taken Away
Dorothy was a 40-plus-year-old female chimp at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon. Before being taken to the facility, she had been on display at a Cameroon amusement park, where she was taught to smoke cigarettes and drink beer. That lifestyle took its toll on her, and in September of 2008, she passed away due to heart failure. As Dorothy’s lifeless body was being wheeled away by keepers at the Center, more than a dozen of her fellow chimps watched in seemingly respectful silence. Monica Sczupider, a volunteer at the facility, described, “Her [Dorothy’s] presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group…. Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration, but perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence. If one knows chimpanzees, then one knows that [they] are not [usually] silent creatures.”