Animal Odd Couples
Introduction

Are animals capable of feeling complex emotions?  Recent observations of unexpected cross-species relationships in zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world may provide some answers.  Endearing interactions between a cheetah and a retriever, a lion and a coyote, a dog and a deer, a goat and a horse, and even a tortoise and a goose offer captivating glimpses of supportive connections in the animal world.  Each interspecies pair challenges the conventional wisdom that humans are the only species capable of feeling compassion and forming long-lasting friendships.  Animal behavior experts weigh in with their opinions, and animal caretakers share their personal experiences with cross-species relationships in this compelling tale of unlikely animal couples. Animal Odd Couples premiered Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 8/7c on PBS.

Read an article about Animal Odd Couples by Dr. Marc Bekoff, who is featured in the film.

  • Patti Hakanson

    this isjust awesome and i have got to see this amazing story! Thanks for filming this :)

  • Judy Brizek

    I myself witnessed several species of birds taking turns in divebombing to peck the head of a hawk which had just killed a bunny in my backyard. All the birds, (cardinals, bluejays, crows, and more) were very agitated, I would say angry. Smaller birds (sparrows) were nearby making a lot of noise. It seemed clear that all the birds were angry at the hawk for having killed that bunny. Indeed, they would not let the hawk carry the carcass off They drove the hawk away. My son witnessed this, too.

    I also have observed a sparrow feeding a baby bird of some different, very large species. The “baby” was quite a bit larger than the sparrow and had apparently been orphaned. It couldn’t fly yet and just stood around on the ground by my feeder. The sparrow would have to sort of jump up to the level of the baby’s beak & would place a kernel of bird food in it’s mouth.

  • lorraine Phillips

    What a great idea! The filming looks beautiful and the research looks very thorough. I can’t wait to see the whole program!!

  • Judith

    Hi, Judy;
    For the first story, I wonder if the fact that the birds attacking the hawk are also predator birds who might like also to snack on the baby bunny, and/or get rid of the hawk from their territory could be reasons they went after the raptor. Maybe they were hungry, rather than fighters-for-justice?
    But the second story sounds indeed as though there was empathy for a helpless baby bird of another species.
    I too look forward to the program!
    Judith

  • Robert

    Bluejays, crow and especially kingbirds (smaller, more sparrow-like) all spend much of their free time engaging birds of prey and sometimes mammalian predators as well. when there’s more than one harassing bird, it’s called “mobbing.” They likely would mob the hawk in any case, but they also do get more excited when the hawk attacks its prey.

    Regarding the small bird feeding the larger species of fledgling, odds are the fledgeling was a young cowbird (or, depending on where you live) possibly a cuckoo. Cowbirds and some cuckoos are a parasitic species in that they lay their eggs in other bird species’ nests for them to raise. Being larger than their hosts, they outcompete the other young and often push them out of the nest. The smaller adult saw the large fledgeling as its own young.

    So the level of compassion you think you observed may not be as high as you thought. sorry.

  • Margaret H

    Hi, Judy!
    Regarding the hawk, other parent birds nesting in the area would definitely be agitated enough to divebomb a hawk to drive it from their territory, as they would perceive it to be a threat to all of them, especially their young. Crows might want to take the meal away from the hawk, but I wouldn’t count cardinals in that category–more that the birds want the hawk far away from them.
    With the little sparrow feeding a baby bird of another species, several birds, such as cowbirds, lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, which may be smaller species. As the larger chick grows, it may force the true offspring of the small bird to fall out of the nest or starve a smaller chick by demanding more food of the parent birds. Strangely enough, the parent birds don’t seem to question the different sized chick and will continue feeding it as if their own, even as it outstrips them in size. Cowbird juveniles are often seen being fed by smaller birds, so that’s a more likely explanation.

    I love the ‘animal odd couples’ stories, which remind me of baby Owen, the hippo, who adopted Mzee, an Aldabra tortoise at Haller Park in Kenya, after the little hippo was rescued after he was separated from his pod during a tsunami. That animals share many emotions similar to humans, I’ve always been quite certain, both from my interactions with other species and my observations of them, and I’m not just anthropomorphising. I’m glad scientific studies are bearing this out and look forward to this program.

  • Doug Wade

    This episode of Nature will be a required viewing by my cat and dog.

  • Héctor E. Colón

    “Are animals capable of feeling complex emotions? Recent observations of unexpected cross-species relationships in zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world may provide some answers”…

    The introductory citation says: “in zoos and animal sanctuaries”. This is very important because these are not natural environments.

    Also in zoos, where animals can not choose to go to other areas, bizarre mating behaviors occur, such as lions with tigers, horses with zebras, etc. giving bird to hybrids, mating behaviors that usually you don’t find in natural settings.

    More over, social animals, such as dogs, deers, cheetahs, baby lions, are prone to be with other members of their own species. When these other members of these species are lacking, social animals tend to unite with others (are they depressed?). I once saw a lonely Dominican Parrot on the Island of Culebra who followed an American kestrel, everywhere he went. The parrot, being social, “needed this company”, while the Kestrel, being territorial seemed to be annoyed by the forced company imposed by the parrot.
    Odd companies have been also observed among different species of animals for other reasons. For example, parents of birds and mammals that have lost their offspring, sometimes tend to care others, they are hormonally inclined to do so.

    I was once observing Puerto Rican Todies, and noticed that when some parents lost their clutch, they, the parents, continue bringing food to their dead babies, days after their death. It would not be difficult to imagine, these hormonal entunned parents to feed other birds (something that I did not see).
    I believe that this hormonal setting, is a cause for avian brood parasites to take advantage of other species, for these other species take care of different ones.

    I used to raise pheasants using chickens and there are other breeding programs (e.g. Puerto Rican parrot) that use surrogate parents in order to produce more offspring of the target species.

  • paula walker

    Over the past year I have become fb friends with the woman who owns the Great Dane, Kate and the deer, Pip and it truly is all that you see here. These two are amazing friends and very, very close, very affectionate towards each other. Many of the photos she takes and posts of them, the dog and deer are literally intertwined with each other. It is a very beautiful and physical relationship. The deer, Pip, is free to come and go to the surrounding wilderness the humans live next to, and yet she chooses to visit on a very regular basis and will bring her fawns with her Pip even goes so far as to come in the house and sleep on her own dog bed next to Kate. In many of her photos (which are breath taking themselves) the humans are hanging out in the back yard or on their bench and Pip will appear to share fruit and other treats with them and continue to just “hang out” with them and Kate. This has been a very long term and genuine relationship between Kate and Pip. Obviously a blessed and very animal savvy situation for all involved. I look forward on a daily basis to the photos the humans post of the interaction between two very, very BFF’s.

  • Rosalie H. Kaye

    So happy this will air soon as I am chomping at the bit to see it- I love learning about relationships between the various species one would never contemplate being friends. It is a well known fact that females will nurse orphans of other species without being coaxed to do so. Humans can certainly learn about kindness by observing these wonderful animals and STOP KILLING THE WOLVES, BEARS, GEESE and other animals that we have stolen the habitats from!

  • Maverick76

    Has anyone checked to see that this video is NOT working??

  • fultonk

    Hi Maverick76,
    Sorry that you are having trouble loading the video. We’re looking into this. In the meantime, make sure that you have the most updated version of Flash installed. That could potentially be the problem.

    Thanks,
    Kate

  • ipeqi

    Why do humans even wonder about this “phenomenon”? Everything we are capable of like love, hate, pain, etc. has been around many millennia before humans even first appeared on earth.

  • 1softkiss

    I have a YouTube channel that displays a 10 year relationship between my deaf cat and snakes and a playlist called Cat Loves Her Snakes on my main channel. This show made me SO happy after 50 years of raising and working with big constrictors it’s GREAT to see the public being exposed to a positive side of animals that we as handlers witness day in and day out. This made my day !!! Thank You !!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–na838NlmM&list=PL830BBE01FE012FD8&index=2&feature=plpp_video

  • 1softkiss

    I have a deaf cat and snakes that have been best friends for ten years and they are in a playlist (Cat Loves Her Snakes) on my youtube channel under the name 1softkiss. This really made my day !!! My video clip aired on CBS NEWS also. Thank You !! The public needs to open their minds and accept the possibility that animals do bond with other living beings. I’ve raised snakes for 50 years and my cat and snakes have never had a bad day between them.
    Carla

  • helen

    my cat an avid gopher slayer befriended a possum they met up after sundown and stayed out all night and would come to me in the morning when i went out for coffee on the deck. this possum liked carpet pads i had for foot cleaning and wanted to lay next to me which i discouraged and finally one winter he left and didn’t come back.

  • Santa’s Grotto London

    I have noticed this with my recent dog. It was a cross between a Chinese crested and a Yorkshire terrier. It is very odd indeed how these two totally separate breeds still form a couple. However I suppose they aren’t different species.

    Many thanks,
    Marc

  • Jody

    Love transcends race, breed , everything!

  • Marty

    Oh my goodness. One of the most precious things a person can witness is different animals meshing with eachother. So sweet. Made my day – the deer and the dog. Can’t wait to see this show!

  • a h

    My wife and I were really looking forward to this episode but Born wild was on instead. I wonder what happened, either way, we still love NATURE keep up the great work

  • Karen Evans

    Where is the Animal Odd COuples program? It is NOT on at 8 PM on November 7 as it is supposed to be. It’s about BEARS! When will the show air in Gainesville Florida, Cox Cable, Channel 3???

  • Donald Pardue

    I really enjoyed this well put together program. The blind horse being led about by the goat…well, that was close to being a tear jerker. Thank you for Quality television.

  • Pamela

    These stories remind me of when I was a child living on a farm in rural Western Australia. One day a baby kangaroo turned up, my family members had rescued it from the pouch of a mother Kangaroo who had been killed by a vehicle. This is a common problem in Australia as kangaroos just bound out of the woods often. We took in the baby joey, put it in a sach to recreate the pouch and hung it on the wall in a warm place.Hand feeding it formula it grew quickly and was soon able to spend time outside and released. Instead of leaving it began spending a great deal of time grazing in the field with a dairy cow.It wasn’t until this cow became sick and died, that the kangaroo left to join a band of wild kangaroos.

  • Radhika Iyer

    Simply astounding!
    Even my 1st grader appreciated it (and I did not mind him being late to bed tonight)…. glad we caught this show, just by chance. THANK YOU!

  • Rebecca Walker

    Thanks for an amazing show! I, a human, have amazing cross-species friendships with my dogs… ; ) Charlie and Jack got me misty too…

  • Jen

    Will the full episode be posted on-line for viewing? I really want to show my friends the story about the blind horse and his seeing eye goat friend – it was so sweet, it made me cry.

  • Marrie de Vries

    Just watched the first episode tonight. LOOOOOOOOVED it. Especially meaningful to me since my Father and I were the BIG animal lovers in our family. He rescued chickens, crows, even a baby seal pup. He brought home hamsters, rabbits, and dogs that needed a home. Today is the 4th anniversary of his passing. I like to think we watched the show together tonight. Thank you PBS for making my day special for my Father and I.

  • Kristi G

    I just watched this show! So many unique, heartwarming animal friendships. It made me laugh, touched my heart, and was the perfect end to my long, long day. Animals ROCK!!!

  • Laura Vercelli

    Had been anticipating watching this on PBS – KVIE channel 6 for days and forgot until the last 8-10 minutes, the deer and the black lab. Is this going to be shown again?

    Thank you

  • Michael Jones

    In the Bible it states that mans meat,his life giving force shall be the seed bearing plants that dwell upon this Earth.

    And that Man has been trusted to care for all of the animals of this Earth.

    Not to kill and eat them.

    As you can see,these animals Love one and other.

    As should we.

  • judy wheat

    when will odd aminal couples be aired again, i missed the nov 7 airing????

  • Margo WG

    The animal friends were not shown on either of our PBS stations on Wednesday, November 7th. Why do they make blanket statements when the stations are not required to air their shows?

  • WoodsGuy

    They mentioned in this story that they have not witnessed this cross-species bonding in truly wild animals yet, other than the one of the dog and deer (1/2 being a domesticated animals).

    I have one that I personally witnessed.

    Domestic feral and pet cats had all but annihilated all the native wildlife on my lands. The dire situation brought to my attention by a mother raccoon who dragged her last 2 starving cubs to my door in the middle of the day one time. She was so starving to death that she couldn’t even make milk for her cubs. She chose the right door to knock on that day. I nursed her and her cubs back to health.

    This started me on a nearly decade-long venture to try to restore the balance of nature back to my land, eventually involving shooting and burying hundreds of these invasive species cats. I also started to feed the last few surviving native wildlife representatives on my lands — that were otherwise being starved to death by overbreeding feral cats. I turned my yard into a wildlife feeding sanctuary. As the years went on, and as the scent-trails spread through the woods to let other desperate wildlife know where help was at, my yard became an emergency oasis for quite a variety of species who were desperate for a little help. (Toward the end of this project I counted up to 60 different wild animals in my yard one night, my stepping over and around them, filling dishes.) With food being now readily available, known predator/prey enemies would often even feed out of the same dish. I suspect they all sensed the dire situation they were in and took a break from their normal food-chain behavior. Fox eating out of the same dish as rabbit, skunk feeding out of the same dish as raccoon, raccoon feeding alongside wild turkey, etc. etc. But these were temporary respites from normal behavior, just to feed here they put aside their differences.

    During these years of feeding native wildlife I had observed quite a few behaviors that have never been recorded in any books, in any nature documentaries. All extremely fascinating. However, one time something happened that still floors me to this very day.

    One early evening, not quite dark yet, the yard was starting to fill up for the night with the usual plethora of species. One of which was a large raccoon who came here for help because she only had 3 legs (1 lost by gunshot, trap, dog, I know not) and had been getting her fill at a plate. I went out to refill plates for them all, and noticed one LARGE opossum standing right behind the 3-legged raccoon – which I named Gimpy. Usual behavior, they’d often wait to take turns at the dozen+ feeding spots, them knowing I’d fill dishes again after the last critter got their fill. So Gimpy was just about getting done with her fill for the night, and started to turn around to hobble off back into the woods. I saw the large opossum approach Gimpy, thinking the opossum would walk around and past to get to the few bits of vitamin-fortified corn-bread in the plate that Gimpy had left behind.

    But no. The opossum walked directly at Gimpy, Gimpy showing no signs of alarm or concern whatsoever. (I wasn’t so calm, thinking I’d have to break-up a snarling critter fight.) Then the opossum moved around to Gimpy’s bad side, the one missing the hind leg. The opossum pressed up against Gimpy, side-by-side, head to head, and then the opossum waited for Gimpy to start moving. That opossum pressed up against the 3-legged raccoon to support it on its bad side. The opossum keeping pace with whatever speed that Gimpy could muster. They both waddled/hobbled off into the dark woods that night, side pressed to side, keeping pace, until I didn’t see them anymore.

    These were 2 completely wild animals of different species, one helping the other. I couldn’t believe what I had seen. Thinking this is the stuff of Disney cartoons. Then I wondered … maybe they saw me (a different species) helping them. Could they have taken a cue from that? Or does this just exist throughout nature in times of dire emergencies?

    I never saw this pair again after that night. Gimpy had returned often that summer, but her strength and health (even though 3-legged) was recovering from my little help and seemed to be doing fine getting around by herself after awhile. Still, I wonder why and how that opossum knew that that raccoon could use a little help, and why did that raccoon even allow that opossum to help it like that. I most certainly wouldn’t have been allowed to touch Gimpy, but Gimpy welcomed the help of that opossum. Nature never seems to stop surprising me.

  • WoodsGuy

    (part 1 of 2)

    They mentioned in this story that they have not witnessed this cross-species bonding in truly wild animals yet, other than the one of the dog and deer (1/2 being a domesticated animals).

    I have one that I personally witnessed.

    Domestic feral and pet cats had all but annihilated all the native wildlife on my lands. The dire situation brought to my attention by a mother raccoon who dragged her last 2 starving cubs to my door in the middle of the day one time. She was so starving to death that she couldn’t even make milk for her cubs. She chose the right door to knock on that day. I nursed her and her cubs back to health.

    This started me on a nearly decade-long venture to try to restore the balance of nature back to my land, eventually involving shooting and burying hundreds of these invasive species cats. I also started to feed the last few surviving native wildlife representatives on my lands — that were otherwise being starved to death by overbreeding feral cats. I turned my yard into a wildlife feeding sanctuary. As the years went on, and as the scent-trails spread through the woods to let other desperate wildlife know where help was at, my yard became an emergency oasis for quite a variety of species who were desperate for a little help. (Toward the end of this project I counted up to 60 different wild animals in my yard one night, my stepping over and around them, filling dishes.) With food being now readily available, known predator/prey enemies would often even feed out of the same dish. I suspect they all sensed the dire situation they were in and took a break from their normal food-chain behavior. Fox eating out of the same dish as rabbit, skunk feeding out of the same dish as raccoon, raccoon feeding alongside wild turkey, etc. etc. But these were temporary respites from normal behavior, just to feed here they put aside their differences.

    During these years of feeding native wildlife I had observed quite a few behaviors that have never been recorded in any books, in any nature documentaries. All extremely fascinating. However, one time something happened that still floors me to this very day.

  • WoodsGuy

    Well, I tried to share some proof that this also happens between completely wild animals, no domesticated species involved. But this site doesn’t want more than just a few words. Your loss.

  • Gerri

    I watched this episode last night and it was wonderful. I hope you air it again.

  • Rickdhmd

    Thank you for this amazing show and lesson in unconditional love. We humans have so much to learn from “non-human” animals.

  • Roadrunner12

    LOVED this program! The inclusion of Temple Grandin was particularly interesting, but all of the speakers contributed much to the show. There were two rescue organizations mentioned in the show; can you provide the names/locations of those organizations? No doubt they could use donations! Thank you.

  • Scott B.

    I happened across this show part way through. Bravo PBS, more quality broadcasting. The Jack and Charlie story was especially touching. When will it be aired again? I’d like to watch the full episode.

  • Sara

    I’ve already watched this program twice! It is so lovely and of course I already knew that all animals have the capacity to “feel”. Why it is that humans ‘assume’ that they are the only creatures that emote (love) is beyond me. This is just one of the reasons I watch PBS. Great programs! Thank you PBS!

  • Catherine

    One of the BEST episodes ever!! When I didn’t have tears in my eyes, I was laughing out loud! Animal behavior is so fascinating–and shame on humans for thinking that animals aren’t capable of “certain feelings”. Of course only people are that conceited to think such a thing. YEAH!! animals–and humans–take notes! We SHOULD all be able to be tolerant of each other. This was some of the warmest and most touching animal footage I have ever seen.
    THANK YOU PBS for again letting us into the Animal World.

  • aries

    As an animal lover, I m full of compassion for them. As I watched the program I forgot for a brief moment all the atrocities going on in the world. I was specially taken by the blind horse and goat…… Thanks for the wonderful show Nature. <3

  • erika lopez

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!!!! this was like the most spiritual thing i’ve stumbled upon in a loooong time. i get so full of despair about humanity and what we’ve done to this world as well as each other and my friend and i stumbled upon an early 7pm episode casually, and were SOBBING at the stories! i love them!

    as a colored girl, it’s horrifying how humans use the same explanation for lording over animals that colonists did when enslaving “savage” peoples.

    this episode is a life changer. or it will put you back on track regarding compassion. at least it is for me. i’m not always a jerk or anything, but this was a huge wake up call to try and listen more to animals and others in the ways that they communicate that’re different from MINE.

    i’ve had to learn how to understand the quiet men in my life, without forcing them to use a ton of words, so i figure now i can expand that even more to animals and how i LISTEN better.

    thank you.

    oh, the story of the goat and the horse? ay! a killer. a beautiful killer of a story. oh my heart! thank you soooo much. and the dog and deer?

    this was beautiful. all we ever have to do is STOP and listen and be more careful in the moment.

    thank you again for all this!

    –erika lopez
    san francisco

  • Brandy Brady

    Can someone please tell me the name of the rehabilitation ranch in Oklahoma? The one with the dog & deer as well as the goat and horse. Thank you

  • Tammi

    Please tell when the Odd animal couples show will air again on PBS???
    Or is it on “demand” to watch on cable? My husband caught the show while he was out of town working and told me about it. I missed it and would love to know what future schedules look like for re-airing. Please advise?? Thanks.

  • fultonk

    For those of you who have asked about future air dates for Animal Odd Couples, you can check re-broadcast times here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/schedule/. You can also watch the full episode on our website or on the PBS iPad and iPhone apps.

  • Brenda

    Can I buy this on DVD? I need this in my permanent collection. The story of Jack and Charlie was so touching I cried. I swear that goat had some Buddha in his walk and demeanor.

  • Jon B Barry

    I see nothing unusual about any of this. People …aren’t we, too, animals, have long been making friends with countless species. I think this is totally normal. I had a fishing village down at the coast of louisiana, and a duck and a german shepherd were also inseparable until a hunter shot the duck, and then the dog went ballistic and attacked the man. The duck used to fly two feet over the back of the dog when the dog was running, and at night they slept all balled up together. It was neat to watch them in the fields together.

  • Christina

    I just watched the program last night completely enraptured! The comment that stuck with me (paraphrasing) “Humans are not the template by which all other animals are compared.” Indeed, we share this trait of emotion with them no matter how each species expresses it.

    During the story of Charlie and Jack, the owner said that after Charlie passed away, Jack began a decline and she believed he wouldn’t last much longer…has he also passed away since the airing of the show?

  • Rose Longshore

    Ever since I was a very small child I believed that animals had a soul. No amount of telling me only humans have souls could alter my belief. They can certainly feel grief and loss I have witnessed this so many times in my life. I have plenty of stories of my own. I’m old now, but thank God there are still people who believe that animals have much the same feelings as we do. The evolution of the animals came first. Humans followed a couple of million years later. Unless, of course, you believe in magic and we were created with the wave of a finger.

  • Cheryl

    PLEASE do another soon – we absolutely loved it!

  • pamela reynolds

    Hi I totally agree that animals have more intelligence, more love and more empathy than we give them credit. My stray cat that I had for over 20 yrs. learned to get along with fish, a turtle and had a very special bond with our golden retriever. He played what we called cat in the box games with her and took his naps sleeping between her front legs. When she died he cried or I should say screamed for weeks. He loved her and she loved him. If he got in over his head she was there to help him out always. We underestimate animals and their value. Many people are not teaching our children a respect for animals which is sad. They have little respect for the animals themselves. Animals actually love us unconditionally and forgive us everything. I wrote a book called “Stimpikins” which is about love family caring and the life and death cycle within one family. It is a true story based on his life. It came out this past November. Loved hearing about this and others comments. pam

  • michael

    all your show’s are so good.

  • Paul Andrew Anderson

    What makes humans and animals the same, is that emotions are emotions; it does not matter what species. Humans have more complex emotions, but only because the human brain is physiologically more complex. Any living entity can recognize the absence of that, which they became familiar with, and especially the imprints of youth. PBS aired a great story called My Life as a Turkey (a must-see). Any living thing can pair bond with any other living thing, when that imprinting occurs in youth (attachment emotions). Even wild animals can seek attachment if/when they stumble upon another species (mother to child or child to mother).

    The ironic part of this particular perspective (Animal Odd Couples) is that the scientists become a bit anthropomorphic. After all; our view of emotions are tainted by our personal emotions, and by the emotions common of our species. All animals (human included) exist in different states of being; the well-fed and taken care of group, will behave, act, think, and feel differently than the starving group, no matter what species it is. All of these examples were the products of the well-fed group. Even the stress idea of primates with “friends” is, in reality, predicated upon the fact that animals in larger groups have better odds of securing territory and food, than a loner. The loner or the small group will obviously feel more stress (via the survival paradigm) than a large group, pride, pod, or pack. Stress is relative to resources.

    Humans compromise daily for the opportunity to be employees so they can get their needs met with money; if they lived in a culture or system that had no money, and they had to rely on basic survival skills to live, they would be radically different people, and most people know it (consciously or not). Lifestyle is what motivates humans to compromise for that coveted employment role: the only other option is hard labor, growing or catching your own food and building your own shelter, and most modern humans fear labor, preferring sedentary employment. Our existences (humans or animals) are shaped and molded by the survival paradigm, which then determines how we feel; how we think; how we act; how we live.

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.