Are Animals More Human Than We Give Credit?
It was a harsh Russian winter in 1997 as poacher Vladimir Markov went outside for the last time of his life as he tried to hunt an Amur tiger (or Siberian tiger). When Markov finally shot the animal, he only managed to injure it, not kill it. He also stole a part of the tiger’s kill.
Now, most tigers- hell, most animals- would’ve immediately attacked and kill the hunter. But did this particular animal attack immediately? Surprisingly, no. This Siberian tiger waited for around 12–48 hours, holding a brooding grudge against Markov, waiting for the damned hunter to return to kill it. When Markov did return eventually, the tiger killed him, dragged him into a bush, and ate him.
It’s highly unusual for animals, especially wild animals, to hold grudges against people like this, isn’t it? After all, the biggest difference between humans and other animals is the human’s ability to think beyond instincts. But are we really the only species out there who has that ability? After reading this article and thinking about my past experiences with my pet, I often wonder if animals are more human than we give credit.
For example, humans are known for having complex emotions and thoughts, so why would this Siberian tiger hold a grudge against Vladimir Markov? And how was it able to hold a grudge in the first place? Well, I personally think animals can feel emotions that are more complex than we thought; they just can’t express it the way humans can. I have a dog named Phoebe and a cat named Lily, and I can definitely tell which their emotions they’re feeling- at least, most of the time. I can tell my dog Phoebe is happy when I play fetch with her, and I can tell when my cat Lily is happy when I scratch behind her ears. I can also tell when Phoebe is upset when nobody does anything with her, and I can tell when Lily is upset when she tries to attack me when I’ve held her for too long. Animals do have emotions just like us, but they just express them in different ways than humans.
There’s also the case of Tim Flach, a photographer from the United Kingdom specializing in studio photography of animals. In 2012, he published his most well-known and most fascinating publication More Than Human, a series of photographs showing the more emotional side of animals that almost look like human emotions. Flach brings his animal subjects into close focus to let the viewers read the gestures and body languages much like we would a human. These photos are really stunning and breath-taking, and I can clearly see the emotions some of these animals have in these photos! It’s like they have they’re thinking and feeling something just like we humans do. Perhaps animals do have emotions, and we just don’t know yet.
And with emotions comes thoughts. Some people like to say what they think the animal is thinking in their heads; I know my mother and I do this. My question is- do animals also have thoughts like humans? And if so, then how do they think? Do they think the same way as us, or do they think in different ways? I often like to imagine my pets thinking a reply to me in English, but do pets think in their owners’ language, or do they think in their own language? And what about wild animals? Do they think in the native language of the country they live in, or do they think in their own animal language?
Sometimes, animals like to pose in human poses- at least, we humans think they’re posing like humans. I used to have a cat named Ash, and I have a picture of him sitting on a couch just like a person.
Look how cute he is! Ash was always kind of unusually nice for a cat, and I miss him so much. And early in the mornings, my dog Phoebe likes to hug my mother to wake her up. Isn’t that adorable? Anyways, back to the topic on hand.
It’s really rare for animals to pose properly for a photo, especially when they’re posing like humans. There are actually a couple of gorillas who went viral for posing like humans in a ranger’s selfies a couple of years ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it really blew my mind (and made me say “aww” at the same time). Could animals pose like humans despite being four-legged and not two-legged, or were these just weird coincidences and those gorillas and my cat Ash are just unusual?
Ash was a pretty smart cat; so are Lily and Phoebe. Phoebe knows the names of all her toys, and she knows that Lily’s an indoors cat. Lily knows how to open cabinet doors and brings me straws all the time. Does this mean other animals might be as smart as us humans? The average human IQ is around 100, but what about other animals? Dolphins are known to be very smart; they’re known as one of the smartest animals in the world. Their brains can even be compared to a human’s brain!
Dogs are also pretty intelligent. They can respond well with simple commands and do tricks, and some dogs can even jump on the furniture (actually, all my dogs liked to do this). They know how to play games like fetch with humans, show emotions and empathy, and can understand around an average of 165 words. But I’ll tell you more about my dog Phoebe some other day…
Elephants can also understand some words and show emotions and empathy. Do you know the phrase “An elephant never forgets.”? There’s a reason for that saying. Elephants are able to recall familiar places, people, behaviors, and their own species they were separated from even decades later! They’re also able to mourn the death of another elephant just like a human would mourn another human’s death. Even a baby elephant can mourn death and be traumatized by it. What does this say about us in comparison to other animals? Does this mean we’re not the only animal species to grieve and mourn death? Can other animals like elephants feel trauma just like humans?
I have another story to tell, and it’s a rather heartbreaking one. My older sister used to live with my dad and stepmother several years ago, and they had a Pitbull named Daisy. Daisy had come from an abusive home, so she was afraid of men and yelling and would tear up the walls if she was stressed out or afraid. One night, the night of my sister’s high school graduation, Daisy was left all alone in the house. Of course, she was afraid and started tearing the walls up in a panic. When they got back, my stepmother freaked out at the torn walls and beat Daisy so badly that she ended up with a bloody nose. I know Daisy’s not a human or an elephant, but I can tell she’s faced some serious trauma in her life and that tearing up the walls was her way of coping with her fears- not a good coping mechanism, but a coping mechanism nonetheless. Maybe other animals have ways of coping with things just like humans do.
Animals can feel emotions, and they know how to think. They just don’t express them the way a human would. And humans are animals, too; we’re technically a type of primate like monkeys and gorillas. The only difference is that we just have more of a capability to think and feel emotions beyond our instincts. So, are animals more human than we give credit, or am I just reading too much into this? Let me know what you guys think, and I might respond back.