The Universal Language of Play

December 23, 2020

Unlikely Friendships

You know those unlikely friendship animal videos? The ones that might have a rhino and a goat, or an orangutan and otter, or dog and cheetah? We’re big fans of those unusual friend stories and there’s something we’ve noticed. Read on for our epiphany.

Everybody’s Best Friend

A recurring theme is having a dog as a partner in the pair. Of the fourteen duos listed in this article, eight of them have a pup as one of the leading characters in the friendship. It all begs the question: more than just man’s best friend, do dogs have the beautiful ability to befriend many different creatures?

Expression Mimicry

In an April 2020 Inside Science article, a similar observation was noted. Titled “Dogs and Horses Mimic Each Other’s Expressions During Play,” the study discovered that by imitating each other, both the horse and dog were able to let their guards down and play. The article explains: “The scientists found the dogs and horses both often displayed relaxed, open mouths toward each other, a common playful facial expression in mammals. Both also often placed themselves in vulnerable positions through actions such as rolling — likely to signal friendly intent.”

Play in a Common Way

What does it all mean? The article does an excellent job of summing it all up: “The findings suggest that despite the size differences and evolutionary distance between them, dogs and horses can play in ways that reduce the chances of misunderstandings escalating into aggression, according to the researchers.”

Read On

Learn more about their findings in the original study in the May issue of Behavioral Processes.

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