Animal MatingNot too long ago, our family dog amused us with her unexpected courtship with one of the neighborhood strays. As the kids watched in amusement, the two dogs were sprayed down with a water hose in a desperate attempt to free them from one another. This, of course, spawned numerous questions from the children about the act with which they had just witnessed. What are they doing? Why are they stuck together? How long do they stay that way? Does it hurt the dogs? Having been inundated with these endless inquiries, I was amazed that even some of the grown-ups who were around did not know the answers. This, in effect, made me curious about the mating habits of other animals. What and how much do we really know? So I did some research ¦.

Birds commonly sing for their mates, but did you know that many primates will do this as well? For instance, male monkeys will often generate a series of cantankerous sounds in order to keep other males away while at the same time attracting females. These calls can even be heard up to a mile away. Besides singing, male animals will dance around in order to attract a mate. For example, the male peacock displays his large colorful tail while performing a dance for the female. Other birds perform a gift giving ritual in which the male presents the female with food or nesting material while other species perform courtship displays in the air. With fish, underwater sounds can be heard by a potential mate and then followed. Once the fish finds the source, a courtship may begin. Did you know that most fish participate in kissing rituals with one another? Insects engage in a variety of rituals, such as dancing, stroking, or singing. In some instances there may be light flashing involved. For instance, the firefly will produce light at night to attract potential mates.

In some cases, there may be intense fighting involved. Eagles participate in the ritual of clasping talons, which can prove fatal if not careful. A male deer (buck) will often come to blows with other bucks in search of a ready female. The strongest fighter, however, will win her affection. For some animals, there may be physical pain or even death associated with courtship. For instance, a male praying mantis actually looses his head when mating. Once he has carefully approached the female and performs the ˜dirty deed,’ she literally bites his head off. Did you know that once the honeybee has successfully mated with a queen, his ˜equipment’ breaks off sending him to his death? Are you aware of the mating rituals of ants? Both the male and female have wings and will do their thing in mid-air. Afterwards, the male loses his wings and dies.

There are, however, some mating rituals that are quite gentle. For example, you might be surprised to know that male alligators tenderly stroke the female and blow bubbles against her cheeks before their mating begins. Did you know that bears will test one another out for a few days before mating occurs? They may chase each other, play together, or even nuzzle and lick each other once they have become familiar with one another. Hippos will twirl their tails to attract mates. Foreplay then takes place by playfully splashing around in the water. Did you know that a male gecko attracts a mate by striking her gently with his tail and licking her sides?

The length of time an animal mates generally depends on the particular species. Some may perform the deed in a matter of seconds while others take only a few minutes. Interesting enough, there are some animal species that actually take many hours or even days. Did you know that some species of snakes can mate up to 25 hours? Were you aware that whales and elephants take only about 30 seconds? In some instances, as with lions, the females have sex every thirty minutes for about five days and nights. Some animals are even considered quite promiscuous, having many partners during courtship. Did you know that some female monkeys have been known to copulate with approximately eight different males in only 15 minutes? Were you aware that some snake species form nesting balls? Within these piles of snakes, one female may have as many as 100 males intertwined with her. Probably one of the most bizarre mating rituals involves the porcupine. Once a female is in the mood, both face each other in an upright position and the male will spray the female with a stream of urine. This courtship can last up to six months before the female accepts the male. Once mating occurs, it will continue until the male is worn out.

Within the animal kingdom, there exists one common instinct”reproduction. All animals, including insects, instinctively partake in some kind of mating ritual. Most of these rituals are meant to arouse and attract the female’s attention. There may be foreplay, such as kissing or licking. Some animals dance while others sing. They may chase one another or they might fight instead. There are rituals that may seem quite bizarre or even downright offensive. Yet, whatever the case, all animals’ exhibit an urge to engage in their own sexual behaviors. From birds, mammals, and reptiles to fish and even insects, it’s simply animal nature.

So why are we so interested in what the other ‘guys’ are doing? Well, that’s animal nature too.