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Adorable Animal Friendships: Unlikely Pairings Will Melt Your Heart

August 20, 2014

Prepare to have your heart melted.

That’s the power of unlikely animal pairings, the subject of journalist Lisa Rogak’s book One Big Happy Family. “I am not a cute animal person. I was a crazy cat person, yes, but I’m not one of those people who sits on Facebook and posts cute animal photos,” she confessed to weather.com. Alas, once she started working on the project, she was hooked. 

It’s hard to not be moved by a Springer spaniel feeding a lamb a bottle (in the slideshow above) or a chicken standing guard over Rottweiler puppies (Rogak’s favorite). “There are so many great pictures in the book. But,” Rogak said, “the chicken has such an attitude on her face. ‘Don’t mess with my puppies.’ She was so serious.”

The idea of an animal from one species caring for another isn’t new — some of Rogak’s stories date back to the 1960s. But according to one applied animal behaviorist, both parties likely need to benefit in some way for the relationship to continue. “How we define ‘benefit’ is another matter,” Jill Goldman told National Geographic. “Social companionship in some cases may actually be enough.”

Or as applied animal behaviorist John C. Wright notes in the intro to Rogak’s book, nurturing comes naturally for many species. “The instinct to care for another animal can be hormonal, or simply related to age. If they’re young, their behavior is malleable and they’re open to just about any experience, opportunity or companion. Like humans, animals … yearn for company.” 

These odd couplings have been seen rarely in nature but they happen much more often in zoos and on farms. “Interspecies-parent cases tend to appear more frequently among animals — endangered or otherwise — in captivity than in the wild,” Rogak writes. 

Regardless of why these animal come together — and they are truly fascinating stories to read — we promise you won’t be able to look away.

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