It's not just humans who feel love

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There is a trope among ethologists (animal behaviorists) that animals or non-human creatures (as if human beings are not part of the “animal” kingdom!) operate simply by instinct and so, they do not have “higher-level” emotions such as love and loss, or abstract moral principles such as justice. Much of those convictions stems from our inability to communicate with them, not being conversant in their languages.
Increasingly, however, studies are showing those notions to be wrong.
Elephants return to the “graveyards” — places in which their family members had died — and use their tusks to caress the bones of their lost ones. How is that behavior not a sign of mourning and grief?
Chimps show they have a sense of justice — about fairness. They are disgruntled when another chimp receives preferential treatment — getting a better reward for performing the same job.
And as for love, defined as ” an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment,” non-human creatures show in their behavior every indication that they do love. Not only that, their love spans some of the range we accord to humans — from the sexual love of eros, to the familial love between parent and child and among siblings, to the platonic love between even inter-species friends. As you can see in these lovely pictures:

Familial love



There is one profound difference between humans and other animals.
As St. Bonaventure once observed: Non-human animals are creatures without sin.
H/t FOTM’s Ken L.

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0 responses to “It's not just humans who feel love

  1. – Dez 🙂

  2. beautiful……

  3. I have a mini farm. I have a jenny (Jenny), a cow named Daisy and goats. When Daisy’s hubby of 21 years died a few years ago, they all gathered around and stood around the grave until we lowered my bull into the ground. When we started covering him up, they walked off as if they had paid their last respects as we human’s do. Same thing happens when we have an animal to die and we bury it in the pasture. These animals are lots smarter than we think.

    • Something us country folk don’t have to go to school to know…

      • You are right. They are family just as we are. I had a mama pot-belly pig who would literally cry (tears and all) when it came time to get rid of the babies. Her name was “Miss Piggy.” She died also at 21 yrs of age. When one of my goats get “down” my jenny cries and lets me know that something is wrong. This is all true. They grieve as we do when one of their family dies.

  4. Aw, I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. Thanks, Dr. E!!

  5. Lovely. There are several stories of dolphins protecting humans from shark attacks by circling the person when the shark is nearby. Dolphins are part of the animal kingdom that feel love and protective instincts.

  6. Animals are awesome, I wish we didnt eat them as much

  7. Thank you Dr. Eowyn for this wonderful post! I love the pictures! St. Francis of Assisi saw God in nature wherein his observations of nature, of animals and birds, brought about his reconversion. I do not know what I would do without my fur and feather children and my little turtle. I have experienced tremendous love and loyalty from them.


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