Are homosexual animals a real thing? Across decades of research, the answer is a resounding … YES.
In modern society, many people associate homosexuality with human beings and their behavior. Males are supposedly born with a predisposition to be attracted to females, and vice versa. As the logic goes, this is because the goal of attraction is to reproduce the species.
Unfortunately, what this model lacks is a recognition that many variables contribute to the survival of the species, including flexible and varied relationship dynamics between numerous members of the species.
Plus, what are the chances that humans are the only species that display homosexual activity? According to science, approximately nil.
Homosexuality is an “unnatural” idea to many people. “Unnatural” as in the act doesn’t occur in nature.
But it does. Humans aren’t the only species engaging in homosexual behavior. Hundreds of species of vertebrates have been documented to engage in all kinds of sexual behaviors and lifestyles.
As the research continues, in all likelihood, this behavior will be documented as ubiquitous across the animal kingdom.
Keep reading to learn about homosexual animals and a wide range of relationships dynamics that are naturally occurring.
Evidence of the Existence of Homosexual Animals
Konrad Lorenz studied the behavior of a wide range of animal species—from primates to parasites— until he died in 1989. During his research, he reliably recorded 450 of these species as exhibiting homosexual activity, including mating behaviors, emotional bonds, partnership, and courtship. Some same-sex individuals even engaged in child-rearing behavior together.
In a fascinating book titled Homosexual Behaviour in Animals by Paul L. Vasey, et al. (2006), the authors note that “animals that routinely engage in homosexual behavior include birds, dolphin, deer, bison and cats, as well as monkeys and apes, such as macaques, gorillas and bonobos.”
Other biologists claim that homosexual animal behavior occurs in at least 1,500 species.
In a study conducted by Dr. Nathan Bailery at the University of California, the researchers concluded: “Same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species, from worms to frogs to birds.”
Regardless of the research team, we can find examples of homosexual behavior present across a wildly diverse range of species.
Animals Known to Exhibit Homosexual Behavior
What is becoming increasingly clear is that homosexual activity between animals is an advantageous, evolutionary process. This behavior tears down the belief that homosexual practices are only a cognitive trait of human beings.
Below, we highlight interesting examples of homosexual activity across several different species. As you will see, these same-sex encounters and relationships are just as unique among animals as they are among humans.
Among giraffes, homosexual sex is even more common than heterosexual sex, with gay sexual encounters accounting for over 90% of all observed sexual activity in the species.
To establish dominance within a group, male giraffes engage in necking behavior and a byproduct of this is that it causes high levels of testosterone. Unsurprisingly then, young male giraffes often mount one another after a session of necking and playing to release their sexual arousal.
They’re not the quick and fleeting type either. They flirt. Male giraffes do so by necking with each other. This foreplay has been documented to last up to an hour. After this caressing, it can lead to mounting and climax.
— Cade Hildreth | LGBTQ+ (@CadeHildreth) February 25, 2020
One paper from 1985 notes that across a three-year period, scientists documented 1 successful heterosexual mounting (out of 46 attempts) and 16 homosexual ones.
In a famous book by Bruce Bagemihl titled Biological Exuberance (1999), up to 94% of observed mounting incidents took place between two males.
While the exact percent varies from tower to tower (a group of giraffes are called a “tower”), what is clear is that this homosexual behavior is extremely common among giraffes.
In the dolphin world, homosexual activity is taking place as regularly as heterosexual activity. Both male and female dolphins dapple in homosexual behavior.
Male dolphins, for instance, engage in sexual behavior together to form alliances with other males. Many male bottlenose dolphins are bisexual, but most go through periods of being homosexual for an extended period.
Their sexual encounters also include activity where one dolphin pleases the other with its snout.
Lions take part in homosexual behavior to court other lions.
Two to four male lions will form a coalition, where they work together to woo females. As they do this, they depend on each other to protect the coalition and fend off other courting lions.
To make sure no one breaks their promise, male lions have sex together to strengthen their bonds.
In an interesting example of this behavior that was captured by wildlife photographer, Paul Goldstein, he told the Daily Mail:
“When lions mate it normally lasts a few seconds. These two [males] were at it for over a minute and the obvious affection afterwards was very evident, as opposed to the violent withdrawal when male and female mate. Even as he dismounted he did not back off as is normal after mating, he crept round to the other male’s muzzle, for a nuzzle…”
Yes, same-sex relationships are universal across the animal kingdom and have been observed across 1,500+ species. Here’s one of the many thousands of documented examples…🌈🦁
— Cade Hildreth | LGBTQ+ (@CadeHildreth) February 25, 2020
Female bison only mate with their male counterparts once a year, so male bison take part in more homosexual activity than heterosexual copulation.
When mating season rolls around, male bison have the urge to engage in sex several times a day — this means their partner usually ends up being another male.
More than 55% of sexual mounting in young male bison happens with the same gender.
Same-sex activity occurs among both female and male macaques. Males macaques tend to engage in these activities once, while female macaques form intense bonds that tend to become monogamous.
In some macaque communities, female homosexual behavior is the norm. When they’re not sexually active, they sleep with and groom each other. They also help defend each other from outside enemies.
We know bonobos as the “sex-crazed” species of the animal kingdom. They do engage in frequent sexual activity, with different and same-sex partners. And, they do it for pleasure.
They also copulate to form bonds, climb the social ladder, and reduce tension within communities. Most homosexual activity occurs among female bonobos, but males also take part.
Scientists consider bonobos interesting to observe because they have homosexual sex frequently and they clearly do it for pleasure, among other reasons.
In species such as fruit flies (and other insects), homosexual behavior occurs because they don’t know the difference — and don’t care who their partner is, anyway.
According to Nathan Bailey, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biology at UC Riverside, male fruit flies may court other males because they lack a gene that enables them to discriminate between male and female flies.
We know swans for being monogamous, romantic creatures. They pick a partner — usually of the opposite sex — and stick with them for years.
20% of swan couples are same-sex pairs that choose to start families together.
In some situations, the male in a heterosexual swan couple will mate with the female and then force her to leave when she lays eggs. Female swan partners will adopt the abandoned eggs.
The Layson albatross is a large seabird that nests in Hawaii. There are many homosexual partnerships among these birds.
In fact, around 30% of monogamous pairings on the island are of females. On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, for example, 31 percent of the pairs are same sex couples.
They usually stay together for life and raise chicks together.
Other birds that engage in same-sex behavior include black swans, ibises, mallards, penguins, vultures, and pigeons, among many others.
Homosexual Animals Across the Animal Kingdom
In recent history, homosexuality has become controversial in some societies. However, same-sex relationships appear to occur across a wildly diverse range of species and have become a part of their evolutionary journey.
In the past, the scientific community was prone to ignoring studies on this subject. Thankfully, information is now readily available to prove that homosexual animal behavior is both common and beneficial.
So, there you have it: same-sex relationships and encounters are natural and we have animals to prove it.
What same-sex relationship dynamics do you find interesting within the animal kingdom? Let me know in the comments below.