Many of us who spend any time on line have seen the pictures of tigers raising piglets, dogs raising squirrels and so forth. What many people do not realize is that some of these pictures are of situations that were fabricated for human enjoyment.
Take the one where a mother tiger was shown nursing piglets dressed in tiger skins. Pictures of this unusual bond floated around the Internet and e-mails back since 2006. However it was all a set up. The tiger reportedly had lost her litter, but in reality this situation was one commonly imposed on such animals in the Sriracha Tiger Zoo, in Thailand. This zoo often made a show of putting such unusual combinations of animals together for human entertainment. Even the tiger skins are for show.
This hoax was exposed on the urbanlegends website, but can such bonds take place naturally?
The answer is “yes”. In fact many pet owners have found their own pet to be nursing unusual animals, one of the most common being dogs nursing cats or squirrels.
Bonds for friendship also often form among our animal friends, particularly those who live in herds. In the wild this is very unusual, but in pets and livestock it is not so uncommon. Animals who are not kept with others of their own kind will often form bonds with what ever animal they are housed with. Farmers use this to their advantage, keeping one llama with sheep, or goats. The larger llama, not having its own kind to bond with, will buddy up to the sheep. As such it acts as a guard animal and many llamas kept in this way will act as guard animals for the smaller sheep. Great Pyrenees dogs are also encouraged to bond with sheep to act as guard animals.
Racehorse owners often use goats to bond with their horses and keep them company due to the amount of time racehorses (particularly in North America) spend in their stalls alone.
Imprinting is a form of bonding where a young animal is raised to think that a species it would normally not socialize with is its natural friend. This often occurs in orphaned animals who are hand raised by humans, these animals form attachments to humans that might not otherwise occur, such as sheep loosing their fear of humans. In some situations the imprinting is so strong that the animal does not recognize its own kind and prefers the company of whatever animal reared it. To recount a personal story, I know of an African Goose who was kept with sheep and goats, and follows its herd rather than swimming in the pond like other geese. Bears and other large predators can form unusual, and sometimes dangerous, bonds to humans in such a way as well.
When we look around we can see unusual bondings even in our own homes. Cats and dogs would not naturally be friends but when raised together they often form bonds. Some intelligent breeds of birds will bond with other pets.
All in all when you see unusual animal bonding you can be sure it was either manipulated by humans or somehow serves a purpose of companionship as in an animal who cannot socialize with its own kind.