The Animal House

Skyscrapers towering over major cities or spectacularly-designed bridges often come to mind when we think of great feats in architecture and engineering. However, some of the most amazing, creative, and innovative structures on earth are not man-made or urban at all, but residences built by animals in the natural world.

Termites across Africa’s plains build ten-foot-high mounds, temperature-controlled high-rises maintained by solar power and complete with flood contingency plans. Leaf and grass cutter ants move 40 tons of earth to create subterranean cities with highways, homes, farms, trash pits, and nurseries for 12 million residents. Army ants create living houses made entirely of their own bodies. Cave swiflets mold crystal nests from their gluey saliva. New Guinea’s male Vogelkop bowerbirds, meticulous interior decorators, use their artistic visions to woo. Beavers build enormous dams, changing the landscape to create a safe environment for their lodges. And hummingbirds delicately weave tiny camouflaged cradles out of cobwebs, grass, twigs, and leaves. Guided by instinct, animal architects build an remarkable variety of elaborate dwellings with their simple supplies. Every house suits the needs of its owner, to shelter and protect.

NATURE investigates what goes into making a home when you’re wild and cost is not a factor. They may be single-use, multi-generational, or multi-purpose; they may be anything from a small depression in the sand to a many-chambered tunnel, a nest, a burrow, or a mound, but for animals big and small, these dwellings are always impressive home sweet homes. The Animal House premieres November 2, 2011.

  • Bobby


  • David Govan

    I liked the previews and setup portions of this program so much that I wanted to watch it. However, the PBS station has become temporarily damaged, due to storms or animals etc. and so tonight’s episode of “The Animal House” is coming through but at a stop and go pace with little understandability of the narrator. Will this episode be re-aired at the end of this week so that our families will actually be able to ’see and hear’ it unbroken??

  • Rebecca

    I’m really enjoying this program right now, very interesting!

  • Jacklyn

    I really liked this show but you should have included Caddisfly larva. These underwater insects make spectacular and diverse cases (homes) for protection, feeding and stability in flowing water. You could do a whole Nature episode on them!

  • Kara

    Is the narrator Christopher Eccleston?

  • Charlie

    Fantastic and fabulous nature. Very compelling and unusual animals and habitats. God’s creation is surely wondrousQ

  • Dave

    Like Kara, we want to know who is the narrator but cannot find it on this web site…..anyone know?

  • Barbara

    We, too are unable to view and hear large portions of the content due to the interruption of service. I certainly hope this is replayed as it fits right in with our homeschool curriculum!

  • marianne carter-maschal

    This was amazing. To see the complexity with which animals create their homes and cities humbled me and made me want to share this story. Thank you PBS.

  • Kara

    I read the narrator at the end….I think it was Chris Morgan .

  • marie

    Educational and amazing coverage! Enjoyed!

  • Cyndi

    Incredible show! The narration adds tremendously to already wonderful footage. Great job!

  • ciarraighli

    so, who did narrate this thing? my husband changed the channel on me right when i was about to find out! one of the many gross oversights here is that one can never find the credits. …

  • Joan

    The best Nature ever! The work and patience and skill that went into making this program — outstanding. (Narrated by Chris Morgan.) Please re-broadcast so that storm victims can enjoy it when their power is returned. I wish it could be required viewing for parents who don’t let their children watch TV becase they think there is nothing worth watching. Or by members of congress, who just can’t seem to see the point of being excited about learning. Thank you, PBS.

  • Izzy

    I think this PBS Nature episode was taken from the BBC Natural World series – the episode by the same title, “Animal House” narrated by David Attenborough.

  • AnnieD

    Another great “Nature” episode…and one of the things I enjoyed about it was the narrator, Chris Morgan. I thought I recognized his voice from the three-part “Bears” he did earlier this year. Sure enough, when you click on “Production Credits” for “Animal House”, he is listed as narrator. I REALLY enjoy his voice (and he’s easy on the eyes, too…and he’s a naturalist…sigh!)


  • ClaudiaH

    I don’t understand why the full episode is not available. An older show, “Radioactive Wolves” is still available. I missed Animal House and would love to see it.

  • Nic

    This episode is narrated by Chris Morgan. Source: end credits.

  • Claire

    I never got to see this show, but it looks fascinating! Please post the full episode online soon so that I can see it!

  • Joe

    Check this out from BBC Two at
    I think its the same program.

  • Dusty Cole

    what a beautiful collection that shows us the absolutely amazing things our world’s species can do. makes me feel so much love for the connection and incredible reality composed of such an unbelievable array of diverse life. ah, the great chain of being we have on this speck of matter called earth in our vast universe…yesssss!!!

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