Updated: Jan 17
Above Photo by @thenatureeducator
Humans have had relationships with animals for thousands of years. Some animals have evolved alongside us through domestication, and some animals have maintained relationships with us while remaining wild. Humans have worked alongside animals to survive, and we have even allowed some of them to live with us in our homes. Our bond with animals has allowed our society to grow into what it is today. So what are some of these human animal bonds, and what benefits do we get from them? Let’s get into it!
Above photo by Claire Spottiswoode
Our bond with animals began as a means of survival. Humans and animals were able to cooperate to find food together in different ways. In Northern Mozambique, the Yao people have a very special relationship with the Honeyguide bird. As the name implies, this bird guides the people to bee hives filled with honey. This mutualistic behavior benefits both the human and the birds because after the humans are led to the honey and take their share, the birds are free to consume what is left for them. What makes this relationship even more remarkable is that both the humans and the birds have developed a special language to communicate. The bird has a specific call that indicates that they have found honey and are willing to lead the humans to the nest, and the humans have a specific call to indicate that they are ready and willing to be led by the birds. Research found that the birds were twice as likely to respond to the specific calls of the Yao people indicating they were ready to be led to the honey compared to other control sounds.
The domestication of animals has changed the course of human history. Our bonds with species like the horse have enhanced our ability to travel, farm, hunt, play sports and even battle. Horses greatly enhanced the migration of humans around the world and the ability for us to communicate with people from long distances. They allowed large empires to form and function, and cultures to be shared. Today, like other animals, horses are also recognized for their ability to form bonds with their human companions and even provide therapy for people in need of it. Equine therapy has been shown to benefit emotional and behavior therapy, as well as other conditions including anxiety, grief, and eating disorders. This therapy involves more than just riding the horses, but also caring for them too. Caring for these animals promotes self awareness, confidence, and empathy
There is plenty of research today that shows the effects animals have on our mental and physical health. People that have animals in the home have reduced feelings of loneliness and depression. Dog owners are also more likely to have a regular routine of walking outdoors for exercise. In addition to this, the simple act of petting an animal like a dog or a cat causes us to produce oxytocin, which is the hormone associated with love and connection. Not only that, the animals also produce the same hormones while being pet. For all the cat lovers out there, the sound of a purr has been shown to promote relaxation in humans and reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Above photo by @sd_phoenixrising
Some human animal bonds have taken it to the next level by using their abilities to help humans with specific disabilities maintain a normal lifestyle. Some dogs have been trained to recognize when diabetics’ blood sugar level is low, which is a potentially dangerous situation. Dogs also have the amazing ability to smell cancer cells. This is because these cells produce volatile organic compounds that are excreted from the body in various forms. Dogs can be trained to recognize these compounds and convey this information to us, which can save lives.
The human animal bond has been part of our history for thousands of years. Throughout history, animals have helped us grow, thrive, expand, stay connected, and stay healthy. They even have allowed us to go beyond our bodies’ capabilities by sharing their amazing adaptations with us to promote better health and quality of life. If you have an animal companion, more likely of the mammal species, you can rest assured that they love you just as you love them. Thousands of years of coevolution has allowed you two to be able to live and thrive together.