We’ve all seen the cute videos. The dachshund cleaning a lion’s teeth. The goat leading the blind horse. The dog humping a swan. Cross-species animal friendships are making people go “aww” all over the Internet, causing many to reconsider the intellect and the souls of these animals. It’s all very sweet, but what if the nature of these cross-species relationships is more complicated than the surface affections we celebrate? Here are some tales of animal friendships with complex wrinkles.
The Penguin and the Polar Bear
An Arctic explorer noticed the two unlikely friends frolicking near the North Pole one autumn day. The polar bear chased its stubby-legged friend, who ran and slid on his belly, trying to get to the water. This brief friendship ended when the polar bear ate the penguin.
The Chickadee and the Crocodile
Tampa caretakers of a protected wetland area have reported on a chickadee who likes to alight on one of the crocodiles and pick debris off its back. When it senses the bird, the crocodile will spin and submerge itself, in an attempt to suffocate the bird, which simply flies away, safely. The crocodile leaps and snaps at the bird, which seems to interpret this as play, easily eluding its reptilian partner. The crocodile submerges itself for hours at a time, but every time he surfaces, the chickadee is waiting. Observers feel the chickadee is oblivious to the torment he is causing his “playmate,” but he knows. He knows.
The Crow and the Kitten
An elderly couple in northern Massachusetts were the first to witness the sight of a black kitten and a crow playing together in their backyard. The kitten didn’t seem to have a mother, but the crow would protect it from anyone who came too close, and would bring the kitten food. Every day the pair would return to play and eat the scraps the couple provided. Years went by. Eventually the cat grew up and died of old age. Still the crow returned. For he was not just a companion to the cat. He was the harbinger of death, and he had come not just for the cat, but for the elderly couple as well. When they both died, he came to their graves, cawing in triumph.
The Horse and the Turtle
Abe and Sam have been friends ever since Abe was a colt. They are inseparable. They seem to be the best of friends, but Abe subtly mocks Sam for being slow, and Sam thinks Abe is shallow. They trade ugly gossip with their other animal friends, none of whom think this codependent relationship will end well.
The Dog and the Other Dog
Rufus and Cameo are inseparable buddies in a two-dog pack. They seem like best friends, but in fact, they are master and servant. Rufus plays the part of the alpha dog, with Cameo the subordinate pack member. The fact that this is the natural way of dogs makes it no less insidious and unfair. Does Cameo even know he is a slave? Also, the fact that they are both dogs adds a new wrinkle to this cross-species story of animal friendship, in that it is not crossing species. They’re not even different breeds. They’re both beagles.
The Ant and the Grasshopper
Seemingly friendly, the ant secretly begrudges the grasshopper his freedom and resents his laziness. Eventually, he will watch the grasshopper slowly starve to death and won’t lift a finger to help him.
The Man and the Polar Bear
It’s important to remember that man is an animal too, and perhaps the greatest instigator of cross-species friendships. This story goes very similarly to the way the one with the Penguin and the Polar Bear did.