April 17, 2024


Simple Impartial Art

Why Humans Love Animals

Throughout history, no species has ever been as fascinated with its fellow creatures as human beings. We have hunted animals, eaten them, raised them, bred them, domesticated them, drawn them, composed songs and poetry about them, and loved them for millennia. But why? What is behind this intense fascination we’ve always had with other creatures, whether fuzzy and cute or scary and dangerous–or both?

The thrill. Nothing compares with the thrill you get when you see a big animal in its natural environment for the first time. We love the excitement of encountering bears, big cats, deer, eagles, owls, and other herbivores and predators. Even though it’s ill-advised to do this in the wild, we love to watch them unseen, our breath caught in our throats and our hearts filled with wonder. Just seeing the majesty and power of these remarkable creatures once can be a life-changing experience. Another thing that makes an encounter with a large animal in the wild so memorable is the fact that it’s so rare–very few people have the privilege of encountering these animals anywhere, let alone in the wild. We love to go to zoos to see big animals we’d never see in the wild, from a safe vantage point behind glass or bars. Even seeing them in captivity can give us the same sense of excitement.

Curiosity. What do animals do when we’re not looking? How do they behave when they’re happy, sad, scared, angry, or hungry? How do they hunt, what do they eat, and what can they teach us about being alive? So many of us are thirsty for knowledge about animals and their lives. We want to know how they’re similar from us and how they’re different. Maybe if we knew all there is to know about other animals, we could better understand ourselves as a species–and have a clearer picture of where we came from. We love zoos and other animal facilities for the opportunity they give us to learn about animals and see them close-up–some zoos even let you shadow a zookeeper for a day. It’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t love to have an opportunity to learn more about animals both rare and numerous.

A sense of wonder. As a child, did you have a favorite animal–one that seemed so beautiful, outlandish, powerful, or special you were convinced it had to have magical powers? Some of us fell in love with the expressive beauty of horses, some of us with bizarre and outlandish animals like elephants and giraffes, and some of us with powerful hunters like lions or wolves. We’ve always secretly wondered what it would be like to run like a cheetah, fly like an eagle, swing like a monkey, or swim like a dolphin. From the biggest whales to the tiniest amoebas, animals have always filled us with a sense of wonder. And with their physical abilities often far beyond ours, animals really do have special powers. As a species, animals have inspired us to learn to fly in planes and go under the sea in submarines–but we can never do it with the grace of a bird or a fish. Maybe that’s why so many people care about protecting animals from pollution and poaching. If we lost the great variety of animal species on our planet, we’d kill humanity’s sense of wonder and inspiration, as well.

Making a connection. So many of us have loved a pet–whether a dog, a cat, a horse, a parakeet, or a hamster. Anyone who’s ever owned a pet will tell you that animals have feelings and emotions, their own intelligence, and their own way of communicating–and that they experienced a strong emotional connection with their pet. We love that connection we have with our pets, and many of us believe it’s possible to foster a connection with any animal, no matter how different from us. We dream of forging bonds with lions and tigers, getting to know monkeys and horses, and communicating with dolphins and whales. We love when a fierce bird of prey lands on our arm without hesitation, when a cat cuddles trustingly in our laps, when a horse nickers to us like he’s greeting an old friend. Many animal-lovers will tell you that animals make wonderful friends–they don’t lie, they don’t judge, and they don’t hate. No matter your reason for craving that connection with an animal, most in our species do. When we’re communicating with an animal, we humans feel less alone.

In the end, it’s hard to say exactly why we love animals. But humans have always wanted to get as close to animals as possible–and not just to hunt them. Animals have always inspired our imaginations, thrilled our spirits, and tugged at our heartstrings. It’s a partnership that will continue as long as humans share space on earth with other living creatures.