Top Ten Badass Things That Animals Do


Play isn’t just limited to the dogs you see rolling around together in delightful fur bundles at the local dog park. It’s also observed all across the animal kingdom. White-winged choughs play follow the leader. Chimps in Uganda have been seen entertaining themselves with stick dolls. Naturalists have observed crocodiles providing piggyback rides to smaller reptiles and young elephants utilizing riverside embankments as waterslides.

Form Unlikely Friendships

Examples of unlikely bonds include the bobcat kitten and the fawn, an elephant and a stray dog at an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, Koko the gorilla with Ball the kitten, and Humphrey the Hippo with the pygmy goat in South Africa. Intra-species animal friendships are more likely to occur in captivity— in part because, as biologist and primate specialist Barbara King notes, “that’s where constraints are relaxed, where the animals aren’t fighting for their basic needs—which allows their emotional energy to flow elsewhere.”

Subvert Our Expectations

“There is a great tendency to see an animal do just what it is supposed to do,’ warned the ornithologist Edmund Selous. But ‘uniformity of action’ is in proportion to paucity of observation.”–The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

Reversed Gender Roles and Homosexuality

It’s not always the ladies who flaunt their beauty to attract a mate. In the animal kingdom, male peacocks are the ones to court, relying on the ostentatiousness of their grand, colorful tails. Blue-footed boobies woo the ladies of their species by way of a dance that draws attention to their vibrant blue feet. And according to National Geographic, “During mating season, male quetzals grow twin tail feathers that form an amazing train up to three feet (one meter) long.”

Problem Solving

It’s not just humans who solve problems. Animals, too, show remarkable mental capability. Just because they can’t speak English or communicate in the way we are accustomed to and measure as a sign of cognitive prowess doesn’t mean they lack intelligence. One 2004 study showed young cows’ heart rates increased when they solved problems. Some of these cows even jumped and kicked after encountering solutions! Clark’s Nutcrackers gather thousands of pine nuts every year before burying them in small stashes in separate locations.

Cool Hygiene Practices

What to do without a bottle of Head and Shoulders and access to a bathtub or shower? Our animal friends have their own unique ways of staying clean. Bees, for instance, clean themselves while they are flying, using all their limbs to rid their bodies of accumulated pollen. Guillermo Amador, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute, referred to this as the “hovering hygiene strategy.”

Bizarre or Unorthodox Sex/Reproductive Practices

Another animal with interesting reproductive body parts: the penises of seed beetles contain sharp spikes. Though these spikes sadly physically harm their female partners, it’s been theorized that these spiky penises help anchor the males during sex or scrape away the sperm of her previous partner(thereby increasing the probability of his own sperm inseminating her).

Stealth and Camouflage Hunting

Lacking bones, stingrays possess skeletons made of fibrous cartilage—and because they’re flat, they can conceal themselves effectively, hiding beneath the sand. They can’t see their prey after capturing them since their eyes are located on top of their bodies (while their mouths occupy their underside). But similar to sharks, they use smell and electroreceptors in place of sight. Another commonality shared with sharks is coral reefs—the preferred feeding grounds for both species, especially during high tide.

Working Together

An example of hyena collaboration: Researchers constructed a trap door with food inside it and two ropes attached on the outside. Yanking the ropes—which had to be done in unison—would lead to the opening of the trap door and the subsequent release of the food. The hyenas picked up on this, working together to successfully get the food without even needing to be trained to do so. The more experienced hyenas in the pack taught the neophytes the trick to getting the food.

Make Music

Chirping is a guy thing in the cricket world; the ladies don’t do it. The boys make these harmonious sounds by rubbing their wings against each other. When they rub both their wings and legs together, it’s called stridulation. Heat gives crickets energy, so you’ll hear them chirping faster on hotter nights. You can even estimate the temperature based on the speed of their chorus! The slower the chirp, the lower the temperature.