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11 ‘Gay’ Animals (Slideshow)

11 ‘Gay’ Animals (Slideshow)
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Homosexual behavior* in animals has always been observed by both biologists and lay people, but it was not until the 1990s that science began to take it seriously. Since Bruce Bagemihl’s seminal 1999 book “Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity,” the behavior has been observed in 1,500 species and is well understood in 500.

Until recently, the behavior and its inferences was dismissed due to observer bias, or assumed to be a prelude to ‘real’ heterosexual behavior. According to Bagemihl: “the animal kingdom [does] it with much greater sexual diversity – including homosexual, bisexual and non-reproductive sex – than the scientific community and society at large have previously been willing to accept.”

Paul Vasey, animal behavior professor at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, says:

“They’re engaging in the behavior because it’s gratifying sexually or it’s sexually pleasurable. They just like it. It doesn’t have any sort of adaptive payoff.”

Said Petter Bøckman, academic adviser for the Against Nature? exhibit held at Oslo’s Natural History Museum in 2007:

Many researchers have described homosexuality as something altogether different from sex. They must realise that animals can have sex with who they will, when they will and without consideration to a researcher’s ethical principles.

That exhibit then traveled to five other European cities. One of its aims was to “help to de-mystify homosexuality among people … we hope to reject the all too well known argument that homosexual behaviour is a crime against nature.”

Sex, courtship, affection, pair bonding, and parenting among same sex animals have all been observed. Exclusive homosexual orientation appears to be rare, although it is found in domesticated sheep, with about one in ten of rams (males) refusing to mate with ewes (females). A 2009 review of existing research showed that same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species.

The idea of ‘gay’ animals has been widely picked up in media reports. The most famous case being of Roy and Silo, a male pair of chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo in New York City who in 2004 successfully hatched and fostered a female chick named Tango from a fertile egg they had been given to incubate.

Silo later took up with a female penguin, Scrappy, and both are still thriving at 25 years old at the zoo. A 2010 study by France’s Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology found that homosexual pairings in penguins is widespread, but they don’t usually last more than a few years.

Their story became the basis of the illustrated children’s book “And Tango Makes Three” (see cover), which has gone on to be one of the most challenged books in American libraries.

Many other stories of ‘gay’ penguins have since appeared in the media and become the source of heated debate, with the religious right citing Silo’s move to Scrappy as Exhibit A on their side of the ‘nature/lifestyle’ argument. The ‘nature/potential crime’ implications are decidedly political. Homosexuality in animals was cited in the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down the sodomy laws of 14 states.

Click through for more stories of homosexuality in animals, like Bison, Bonobos — and Dragonflies >>>

*’Exhibiting Homosexual behavior’ is the correct scientific term.


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478 comments

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4:19AM PDT on Mar 29, 2014

Thank you

11:04AM PST on Dec 24, 2013

It is so sad that the two vultures were picked on for being gay. :(

Ponder/Meditate/Pray for Peace.

Mary Oliveau { hugs }

3:09AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

7:37PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

thank you for the interesting article - love the story about the black swans; knew about the mallard ducks

1:58PM PST on Feb 8, 2013

thanks for sharing! how many nice stories! i like the vultures the most!
and this sentence is also funny:
"Homosexuality has been reported for all great apes (including humans)."

4:49PM PST on Feb 4, 2013

A few things--if a female in heat is on the botton, and a hormone-crazed male is on top, it's sex. Otherwise it is domination--the dog on top is proving he's top dog. The other, if he doesn't throw him off,is accepting the under dog or submissive position. This can be male on male, female on female, or my personal favorite for shock value is female on male.
Marie--the german shephard was not gay, just picked the wrong dog to try to be alpha with. And size has nothing to do with it. This is true for pack animals like dogs and wolves.
If you want to figure out sexuality--where I live we have lots of white tail deer and lots of bucks. When the hormones rise a buck will hump ANYTHING-cows, tractors, a few attempts on dogs.

8:36PM PST on Feb 2, 2013

Well Paul, years ago I had a Newfoundland male. One day a german shepherd that I had rescued jumped on my dog like he would a female dog. Let me tell you, my Newfoundland beat the crap out of him. I had to take the shepherd to the vet and also to board him. So that's your answer.

5:53AM PST on Feb 1, 2013

I wonder do straight animals look down on "Gay animals" and treat them differently ?
The way us Humans do..

3:36PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

:) now lets get this out there :)

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Nature is always filled with variety and fascination, the life of animals, plants, humans...the wonders and intrigue of the Natural world is always visible for us to see in its infinite diversity.

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