20 of the Animal Kingdom's Most Surprising Friendships
Social media is abuzz about a video that captured a surprising pair of pals—a coyote and a badger—making their way through a culvert together to safely pass underneath a California highway. While coyotes and badgers have been known to hunt together in the wild, the interspecies friendships below prove that anybody can get along if they really put their minds to it.
1. Peanut the rat and Ranj the cat
When Maggie Szpot adopted two rats, she was worried about how Ranj, the stray cat she brought home in 2008, would react. But she didn't need to worry about Ranj hunting Peanut and Mocha—in fact, Peanut became enamored with the cat, following him around, cuddling with him, licking his face, and eating food out of his bowl alongside him. The two remained besties until Peanut passed away in 2010.
2. Joejoe the capybara and his many friends
Capybaras are known for being very, very chill around other animals. They're regularly spotted happily hanging out with birds perched on their backs, puppies snuggled next to them, and monkeys climbing on top of them. (There's a whole Tumblr devoted to these capybara friendships.) JoeJoe the Capybara, perhaps social media's most famous capybara, is regularly seen cuddling with puppies, swimming with ducklings, and rolling around with the baby chicks he shares a home with in Arizona.
3. Juniper the fox and Moose the dog
Juniper is a rescued fox who made fast friends with Moose, the Australian Shepherd mix with whom she shares a home. The two sleep together, eat together, and groom each other. Their owner, Jessika, often comes into a room to find Juniper sitting on top of Moose's head as the dog patiently allows himself to be used as a couch.
4. Strong Impact the racehorse and Charlie the Pig
A lot of high-strung racehorses have companion animals that keep them calm. Strong Impact, a thoroughbred that raced for eight years, found a loyal companion in Charlie, a pig. The pig chose Strong Impact out of all the other horses in the barn, going stall to stall until he found an equine companion with whom he could cohabitate. According to a 2015 New York Times story on their friendship, they act like an old married couple and hate to be separated. (Strong Impact retired from racing in 2015 and is now part of an adoption program for retired racehorses.)
5. Anthony the lion and Riley the coyote
Anthony the lion and Riley the coyote met when both were one month old, after being rescued by Keepers of the Wild, a sanctuary for rescued exotic animals in Arizona. They immediately took a liking to each other, and their love was captured in a PBS Nature episode called "Animal Odd Couples" playing, grooming each other, and standing watch over each other during naptime. Riley accompanied Anthony when he left the sanctuary for surgeries for a birth defect because the animals experienced such intense separation anxiety that one wouldn't eat without the other present. Sadly, Anthony passed away several years ago, and Riley now lives with another coyote at the sanctuary, Dominic.
6. Simon Cow-ell and Leonardo the tortoise
Simon the cow arrived at the WFFT Wildlife Rescue Center in Thailand in February 2016 after losing part of his hind leg. He was put in a temporary space in a field while he recovered from his injury, and was eventually supposed to join two other cows at the rescue in another enclosure. Instead, he formed an intense bond with the field's other resident, a giant tortoise named Leonardo that had been rescued when a Bangkok zoo closed in 2013. Simon nuzzles Leonardo, rests his head on his shell, and follows him around everywhere. They now live together permanently.
7. J'aime the rhino and Joey the lamb
When J'aime came to the Rhino Orphanage in South Africa in March 2017, she was too young and small to be housed with her fellow rhinos. A few months later, though, she found a friend in Joey, a lamb who had been rejected by his mother and was brought to the sanctuary to be hand-raised. Joey was just a few days old at the time of their introduction, and he and J'aime quickly became best buds. They go for daily walks together and eat out of the same trough. Since May, they've also had another orphan in their little herd, a lamb named Penny.
8. Leo the lion, Baloo the bear, and Shere Khan the tiger
When police made a drug raid on an Atlanta home 16 years ago, they made quite a discovery in the basement: one lion cub, one bear cub, and one tiger cub, which the drug dealer had been keeping as pets. The animals were in bad shape, but had formed a special bond. The trio was moved to the Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary in Georgia, where they were nursed back to health. Baloo's injuries were the most serious; he had to undergo surgery to remove a harness that was so tight his flesh had begun to grow around it. "During Baloo's surgery was the only time the three brothers have ever been separated from one another, and Shere Khan and Leo became extremely agitated because of it, pacing and vocalizing for the lost member of their family of three to return," wrote the sanctuary at the time. Baloo made a full recovery and the trio, who became known as BLT, remained inseparable until 2016, when Leo passed away from liver disease. Shere Khan passed away in 2018, with Baloo nearby.
9. Cleo the cat and Forbi the owl
Brazilian biologist André Costa took in Forbi as a baby, and the owl became immediate friends with Cleo, Costa's cat (you can see a photo of little Forbi just hanging out on Cleo's side here).
10. Bea the giraffe and Wilma the ostrich
Both Bea and Wilma were born and raised in the 65-acre Serengeti Plain exhibit at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. In 2009, assistant curator Jason Green told People that the duo "seem to enjoy spending time together. Bea likes to use her tongue to explore her surroundings, and Wilma isn't fazed by those very close encounters."
11. Themba the elephant and Albert the sheep
Themba became an orphan at 6 months old when his mother died after falling down a cliff. The baby elephant was rescued by a team at Shamwari Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa, who put him in an enclosure with a sheep named Albert. "All hell broke loose," filmmaker Lyndal Davies told the Daily Mail in 2008. "Themba made a dash for the sheep and chased him around his watering hole." By the next morning, though, "Albert was clearly bored and started venturing out into the main enclosure. Themba wouldn't leave Albert's side and the two were seen exploring their enclosure together, with Themba's trunk resting on Albert's back. Ever since that moment Themba and Albert have been inseparable." Sadly, while the team at the center hoped to eventually introduce Themba back into the wild, the elephant died suddenly in 2010. You can watch a documentary about the pair above.
12. Mubi the monkey and Iain and Daisey the jack russell puppies
Mubi, an endangered drill monkey, was born at the Port Lympne Animal Park near Canterbury, Kent, but she was quickly rejected by her mother. So zookeeper Simon Jeffrey decided to hand-rear her. "During the day I take her to work and the team look after her at the enclosure where she can see her parents," he told the Daily Mail in 2014. "When I’ve finished working in the reserve, she comes home with me." There, she spends her time playing with two Jack Russell puppies, Iain and Daisey.
13. Sahara the cheetah and Alexa the dog
Cathryn Hilker, founder of the Cincinnati Zoo's Cat Ambassador Program, adopted the cheetah and the Anatolian Shepherd puppy when they were both two months old and raised them together. "They literally moved into my house and bonded with my rugs, my furniture, and each other," Hilker told Good Morning America in 2006. For a number of years, the pair toured schools in America raising awareness for the precarious position of the wild cheetah population. They even lived together at the zoo until 2010, when Alexa retired and went to live with a trainer.
14. Cassie the kitten and Moses the crow
In 1999, a tiny stray kitten appeared in Wally and Ann Collito's yard in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The Collitos began feeding the kitten, but they weren’t the only ones: A crow also helped take care of the kitty, feeding her worms and bugs and protecting her from other animals. Eventually, the Collitos were able to coax Cassie inside, but the cat's incredible friendship with the crow didn't end there. The crow—whom they had named Moses—would peck at the door for Cassie every morning, and they'd spend the day hanging around together. The Collitos shot video and took photos of the two canoodling because they knew no one would believe them otherwise. This routine lasted for five years, until Moses stopped showing up, presumably because he had died.
15. Owen the hippo and Mzee the tortoise
When the waves of the devastating 2004 tsunami struck the coast of Kenya, a baby hippo was separated from his herd and became stranded on a coral reef. The next day, the hippo was rescued by the residents of the village of Malindi with fishing nets and taken to Haller Park Sanctuary, where the 660-pound animal—now named Owen—cozied up to a 130-year-old Aldabra tortoise named Mzee (maybe because the tortoise’s shape and color resembled an adult hippo). At first, the tortoise wasn't interested in this friendship, but eventually, they became inseparable, eating, wallowing in a pond, and even sleeping together. They lived in the same enclosure until 2007, when Mzee was removed from the enclosure because of safety concerns; Owen has since bonded with a female hippo named Cleo.
16. Sabre the mini horse and Arrow the great dane
Enjoy this video from 2013 of Sabre, a then-11-year-old miniature horse, hanging out with his friend Arrow, a 2.5-year-old Harlequin Great Dane, on a twin mattress.
17. Jet the dolphin and Miri the sea lion
Though these two animals would normally be fierce competitors in the wild, at the Pet Porpoise Pool Marine Park in Coffs Harbour, Australia, they're the best of friends. Jet and Miri met as babies and, as pool specialist Amy Carter told Today in 2012, "They struck up a friendship really early on as they are the youngest. If Jet sees Miri going past he sticks his head out of the pool to say 'hi' and they make noises to each other."
18. Pippin the deer and Kate the great dane
In 2008, Isobel Springett rescued a fawn that had been abandoned by its mother in her yard, placing the tiny animal in the dog bed with her Great Dane, Kate. "She tucked her head under the dog's elbow," Springett told People. "Her whole demeanor changed. I knew she was a good dog, but I didn't expect her to mother the fawn." Though the deer eventually returned to the wild, she still came back to visit, eventually with her own fawns. "There's a strong connection," Springett said, "but they have no idea it's a weird one."
19. Tarra the elephant and Bella the dog
Get your tissues out for this one: For eight years, Tarra was best buds with Bella, a mutt who had wandered onto the grounds of Tennessee's Elephant Sanctuary. They had such a strong bond that Bella would let the elephant stroke her on her stomach with her foot, and when Bella had a spinal injury that confined her to the sanctuary office, Tarra "just stood outside the balcony—just stood there and waited," sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley told CBS. "She was concerned about her friend. ... Bella knows she's not an elephant. Tarra knows she's not a dog. But that's not a problem for them."
But in 2011, Bella was found dead, probably of a coyote attack. "When I looked around and saw there was no signs of an attack here. No blood, no tuffs of hair, nothing," director of elephant husbandry, Steve Smith, told CBS. "And Tarra, on the underside of her trunk, had blood—as if she picked up the body. Tarra moved her."
20. Anonymous cat and fox
Fishermen in Lake Van, Turkey, spotted this wild cat and a fox playing, snuggling, and sharing fish together—a friendship the men watched blossom for more than a year!
This story originally ran in 2014.