11 February 2016

Can animals fall in love just as humans can?

How heartfelt is the courting behaviour of albatrosses? And what depths does the sorrow for a deceased partner reach? In the animal kingdom, wedding bouquets are offered and beautiful structures built for the partner. These acts have all the trappings of love!

Yet what exactly is love? Even for humans, it is a vaguely described phenomenon consisting of various aspects. There is the longing to be together (forming a bond), being in love itself (a period of no inhibitions in order to enter into an intimate relationship with someone) and sexual cravings (lust). All these emotions are coordinated from within the brain and boosted by hormones.

The question is whether animals experience love in the same way as humans.
Claudia Vinke
Behavioural Clinic for Animals

Feelings of love

The question is whether animals experience this sensation in the same way as humans, but we must acknowledge the fact that they are definitely sexually motivated and very capable of forming stable social bonds. Among animals, there are monogamous relationships of dozens of years as well and females in particular have clear preferences with regard to their partners.

What we do not know, however, is how extensive such complex feelings of love are in this respect. Still, it is certain that it leads to sufficient motivation to opt for actively staying with a partner.

In addition, when selecting a partner, more pragmatic criteria often play a role. These criteria seem to be mostly aimed at creating the healthiest and strongest match and, in doing so, the largest number of offspring. Without being aware of it, this factor often seems to play a role as well where humans are concerned. In that sense, we actually resemble animals.

Dr. Claudia Vinke
Behavioural Clinic for Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine