Do Animals Cry and Do They Mourn?

What’s your definition of “crying“?

  • The act of expressing emotions through the production of tears?

  • The physiological response of your body to counteract dryness in the eyes?

If its the first definition, then No, animals don’t cry. However, if its the second definition, then Yes, animals do cry. Animals apart from humans don’t feel what we normally call/define “emotions“. If an animal produces tears in its eyes, its most probably the result of dryness in the eyes or an eye infection.

Of course, this answer isn’t completely comprehensive either. We have animals like elephants who remember the grievances caused against them by humans years ago. We know for a fact that elephants have excellent memories and can hold grudges. We know that elephant mothers are distraught when their calves die. In one village in Southern India, an elephant herd destroyed an entire village through which the corpse of a calf was dragged through (the villagers were disposing-off the calf’s corpse a few days after its death and the scent of the corpse attracted the elephants). Elephants go so far as to investigate the corpse – using their trunks to feel the body and the bones. Sometimes they come back day-after-day, to investigate the bones until the smell wears-off.

Other animals like rhinos, Western scrub jays, chimpanzees and giraffes may not hold grudges, but they have been observed “mourning” their dead. Research shows that rhinos and scrub jays converge around their dead comrades and issue vocalizations that sound different to their normal communication – similar to the sounds humans make when crying. Giraffes have been spotted waiting for their dead calves to get up for hours, even days on end. One of homo sapiens‘ closest relatives – chimpanzees – carry their dead offspring with them for days. Chimps have been noticed tenderly grooming their dead, arranging their fur, posturing their limbs and swatting away insects and predators, keeping the corpses safe for days.

Crying and tears have been observed during some of these cases, but not all. Therefore, there is neither clarity nor validity as to whether animals can feel emotion, can cry or can really mourn (according to our definition of these, at least).

In the scientific community, there is a huge rift between the two groups who study the phenomenon of emotional responses, mourning and crying in animals – one group that truly believes that animals can feel and the other group that believes that humans anthropomorphize animals (attribute human emotions to inanimate objects or natural phenomenon) . The debates and the fights for academic supremacy are endless. Currently, there is enough evidence to support both claims –

  • Animals can really feel.

  • Animals can’t really feel – we only think so, because we anthropomorphize them.

Unfortunately, this creates more problems when trying to understand this phenomenon. Additionally, the concern of possible anthropomorphism often scares researchers and scientists from conducting further studies; at the (assumed) risk of discrediting their other discoveries/research. You see, in the scientific community, one of the worst things a scientist can be accused of is anthropomorphism.

So, until we have more evidence, we cannot make definitive calls regarding the emotional capacity or “crying” ability of non-human animals.



6 thoughts on “Do Animals Cry and Do They Mourn?

  1. Scientists sometimes hold themselves back with their egos and the antiquated notions of what’s “proper” in academia. Anyone who’s ever owned a dog knows that some animals absolutely feel what can best be described as ’emotions,’ although there’s no way to know for sure if animals experience such feeling-states in the same ways as humans. They probably don’t, due to different evolutionary journeys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very true. I’ve seen some farm animals like cows and donkeys who are very temperamental and who get visibly upset if their babies are put in separate stalls. Like you said, their evolutionary journey may lead to a different expression of emotions, but they do seem to “feel”.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I do agree with you. Animals do cry. Animals do feel. Animals do have emotions. The one thing quite beautiful about their feelings is that it is genuine and true.

    I’d like to share one personal experience. I have three dogs at home. I do notice that each of them have varied personalities and each of them react to some certain situations recently.

    One day I came home crying. One of my dogs( the least affectionate) kept looking at me and would dare not leave me. The other dog(the most affectionate) instantly leaped onto my lap and licked me until I smile.

    I don’t think it was a coincidence at all. They do feel and they are quite sensitive to emotions especially to the people around them.

    Thank you for this post. I finally know how different types of animals would mourn for the offsprings. It is indeed a beautiful story 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! That’s amazing!

      Dogs are one of the most sensitive and perceptive creatures around. It’s a wonder that scientists who study animal behavior consciously choose to ignore these evidences, just to look more “legit”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are some things that can’t be explained by science. We just have to see it to believe it.

        Dogs are amazing creatures that often taken for granted. My wish is for all animals to be respected and treated with care. Coz they all feel. 😊

        Liked by 2 people

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