15 Bizarre Animal Mating Rituals
Is there anything more pure and natural than love? One man and one woman coming together, sharing awkward come-ons, haphazard courtship rituals, and then finally that special mommy-daddy hug? It’s spontaneous, chaotic, sublime, and borderline supernatural. Well actually, in the “natural” world, love is robotic and sleazy with a heavy dose of violence and rape.
The Lion. The king of the jungle. The majestic master of the Serengeti, gazing out over pride rock; the whole of the circle of life unfolding before his Buddha-like expression. A loving father and protector of his pride. If only everything The Lion King told us was true, we wouldn’t have to go into the barbed penises and filicide.
Lion prides usually consist of one to two males and half a dozen or so females. The females serve as a hard-working harem to the dominant male who uses his greater size to simultaneously protect and subjugate the pride. Like most felines, lions only mate when the female is in heat, which happens every few months. While this means that a lion gets laid less than the average human couple (and about as much as the average married couple) they make up for this by boning as many as twenty to forty times a day.
Also, Lionesses cannot ovulate on their own for some reason, so the males have backward-pointing spines on their penises that cause a slight trauma during withdrawal which induces ovulation. This is also speculated to be the reason lion sex looks so angry and violent. Or this could be due to the fact that since lionesses won’t go in to heat until their cubs reach a certain age, male lions will often straight-up murder the cubs to get females in the mood again.
Animals take sex seriously enough to kill for it, perform it an exhausting number of times, and evolve special super genitalia. You think you’re a sex god having rough-and-tumble trysts with a little biting and hair pulling? Well let’s talk about sharks, the first in a long list of animals who pretty much shit all over you.
When a male shark finds a female that he fancies, he starts out the encounter with a little light music, scented candles, and playful massage before he seals the deal by clamping down on the dorsal fin of the lucky lady and hanging on for dear life. Now one would think that bumping uglies would be a little tricky in an ocean when you have only one gripping appendage (which is already stuffed full of lady-shark dorsal fin). That doesn’t deter male sharks; they simply deploy the sex-claspers located along their pelvic fins and grab hold of the female. Seriously. The sharks whose mating habits have been observed have two mini-arms designed solely for the act of copulation. This sometimes leads to the incorrect conclusion that sharks have two penises–as if they needed another reason to be absolutely terrifying.
While mating rituals seem ridiculous with all their silly dances, weird cues, and flamboyant plumage, they serve the important purpose of demonstrating genetic fitness. A well-fed, generally healthy-yet-balding human can tell you it’s difficult to maintain a lush “coat” unless you’re in tip top shape. Even kisses, through the exchange of saliva, transmit important information about genetic compatibility. Unfortunately, many, many other bodily fluids besides saliva can serve this purpose.
The Hippopotamus is not the only animal to use feces and urine as a way to signal genetic compatibility with a potential mate, but they are the animal that takes it to the most revolting extreme. When happening upon a fertile mate, a male hippo will urinate and defecate (often at the same time) while turning in circles and spinning its tail. The leads to a nexus of waste biologists refer to as a “Shit n’ Piss Hurricane”.
The female hippo, now wildly aroused by all this waste pouring out of what is perhaps the ugliest animal God ever sought fit to create, will lead him to a local watering hole. The final stage of the mating ritual begins with a playful swim. While it’s tempting to hope this is designed to help them clean off, being mostly submersed in water is actually the only way for them to successfully maneuver their bloated forms in to position.
California Sea Lions
Most humans learn all the ins and outs of sex through trial and error, and if you’re a guy you learned through years and years of frustrated masturbation. The California Sea Lion’s Freudian and obsessive sexuality begins by very attentively watching their parents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors furiously humping.
When mating season is approaching, the males switch into high gear. In sort of the opposite of Beach Season, they start by getting outrageously, morbidly fat. They accumulate as much blubber as possible because once the season of boning comes around fat is like money and power in the sea lion world. Fat gives the sea lion three things: the ability to win fights, gain territory and the ability to tirelessly screw without stopping to even eat.
They often fast for as long as 29 days, doing nothing in the interim but screwing and fighting — and it pays off. During the mating season, a male sea lion knocks up an average of 16 lady sea lions, which to put in perspective, is roughly three times what an average human manages by age 44.
Dolphins, along with Bonobo monkeys, are well known as one of the only species besides humans that have sex for reasons other than reproduction. This at first appears incredibly adorable, “They’re just like us!” you might say. Well, unfortunately, they are.
While dolphins, like humans, engage in all those fun sexual things like boning for the hell of it, homosexuality, masturbation, and even banging before reaching sexual maturity, they have also perfected gang rape to a degree unparalleled in the animal kingdom. Groups of male dolphins will hunt down females and force them into sexual servitude for months on end, often doing so when there is no discernible reproductive advantage.
And just in case you thought they are only misunderstood adorable little rapists that you’d still like to swim with, they are also one of the only other species that engages in bestiality — which often manifests as them sexually assaulting human divers. Let’s tack on two more nightmarish facts:
A) While their sex usually only lasts less than a minute, the can repeat is several dozen times.
B) They have rather large penises which are also prehensile.
Teiidae refers to a genus of lizards, two species of which have a rather strange mating ritual. When mating season rolls around, these lizards — colloquially known as “whiptails” — will pair up and start humping like every other lizard. A pretty standard affair, they knock boots for a while, part ways, eggs are laid, and the circle of life continues.
Except it’s all a farce. The whiptail lizards are parthenogenic, which basically means that almost every member of the species is female. When they go through the act of “mating”, it’s simply the result of ingrained reproduction instincts. Both the “male” and the “female” lay clutches of eggs that develop in to exact clones of the mothers, and the pitcher and catcher each swap roles every season. If you have even a basic understanding of evolutionary biology, you are probably wondering how this makes any goddamn sense. Good news because that’s exactly what the experts say.
Insects have it really rough when it comes to mating. They’re typically much smaller than their female counterparts, and are often viewed as little more than a vial of genetic material with legs by nature. While spiders and preying mantises often eat their tinier mates after copulation, it appears God was going through that vindictive feminist phase when he designed honey bee reproduction.
You know how you were always told that when you got stung by a bee, you could take a vindictive comfort in the fact that the bee tore out its guts while stinging you and would soon die? Well that is exactly what happens with his penis after coitus. While bees don’t engage in regular mating as humans would think of it, every once in a while a queen (the only fertile female in the hive) will need to be replaced. The newly-birthed queen flies out looking for some drones, who are more than happy to commit sexual suicide, since the other sterile female workers will just kill them anyway.
Ducks, geese and other waterfowl are interesting among birds because they’re the only group that possesses a penis. When copulating in water, it’s often difficult to gain any traction or leverage. As a result, much like the shark’s sex grabbers, waterfowl developed titanic, corkscrew penises. Combined with the fact that birds in general have little to no sexual dimorphism (essentially physical differences between males and females of the species), this leads to some hilarious homoerotic confusion.
Greylag Geese consistently form unisex pairs that stay together for long periods of time. Since they’re birds with brains the size of peas, they aren’t clever enough to discover sodomy and every year simply forget that last year the other one didn’t allow it to “mate” with it. The reason this consistent and flagrant homosexuality didn’t quickly lead to extinction is that the female geese are clever enough to occasionally slip in between the two domestic partners and mate with one. The resulting children have the distinct evolutionary advantage of being raised by three parents instead of two.
A good way to approach human sexuality is the simple maxim of “everyone has their kink”. It may be strange and revolting, but we all recognize that everyone has that one strange things that gets them going; it’s best to live and let live. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take a break from all these twisted animals and deal with one that has a very relatable courtship combined with one very simple, straight forward kink: the porcupine.
As you may have noticed if your brain is located in your skull and not your sphincter, porcupines tend to be covered in painful quills. Unsurprisingly, this ensures that no male is going near a female porcupine without her express written consent. So, like with humans, it’s often ultimately the woman who says yes or no. As a result, when a female porcupine is ready to mate she first requires potential suitors to duke it out for her affections. This usually leaves her with the largest, most hulkingly muscular of the bunch, who is often marked by the numerous sharp quills of his opponents sticking out of his scalp. So far, something anyone on the Jersey shore could relate to.
After the female has expressed interest, the male must present her with several gifts, cook for her, meet her family…wait, no… he just has to pee on her. If the female is suitably impressed, she and the male finally get down to business, presumably after the male high-fives his bros and bounces a few quarters off his abs.
In the world of strange sexual behaviors, hermaphrodite invertebrates are so far ahead of any other species that it’s not even fair to draw a comparison. Like the kid who’s the star running back in middle school simply because he hit puberty first, it’s not even fair to consider them in the same category. However, some species of slug have a mating behavior so cringe-inducing that it would be a crime not to mention it.
As hermaphrodites, slugs possess both male and female reproductive organs. Put simply, when two slugs start doing the nasty, they are both trying to impregnate the other. Sometimes they succeed, other times… their dicks get all tangled up.
Instead of awkwardly apologizing and swearing that this has never happened before, the slug with the smaller penis shows what a go-getter he is by chewing off the other slug’s man parts. Assuming that the mere existence of this behavior hasn’t caused the universe to collapse from men everywhere doubling over in pain, the now-bereft slug ends up being the “female”.
Red-sided Garter Snake
So you think you’re all that because you’ve uncomfortably coerced your girlfriend in to a threesome. Suppose you’ve even been to a couple of orgies. Suppose you are even Wilt-Fucking-Chamberlain and have slept with thousands of women. It shouldn’t be surprising, but there is an animal that makes you look like an awkward virgin on prom night.
During the winter, Red-sided garter snakes gather in large, creatively named “snake pits” as a means of protection and mutual warmth. Come spring however, the females become fertile and begin releasing pheromones. The drowsy, half-drugged men proceed to swarm and gang-bang her, forming a tightly-knit ball of horny male snakes with a single lady snake in the middle. While this may seem like a silly, chaotic, and slightly “rapey” way to breed, it actually allows the females to benefit from the competition of tens of thousands of male snakes.
Humans are often compared to chimpanzees, who are considered our closest living relatives. But the social structure of chimpanzees is much more brutish, hierarchical, and violent than humans (well, depending on how charitable you are toward humans). It’s been posited that a much more relevant analog for our social structure is in fact the Bonobo monkey. This is due to several factors that relate to the nuance and complexity of human and Bonobo society. But for our purposes it boils down to one simple fact: We have a lot of sex.
Simply put, Bonobo mating rituals are bizarre because they are possibly the only ones in the animal kingdom that come close to resembling humans. As weak, flailing, and soft-skinned as we are compared to many species, no one fucks like people do. Constantly fertile, persistently horny, able to screw for more than five minutes — humans are the Olympic champions of sex. But the Bonobos just might have us beat.
While humans have a lot of casual sex within generally monogamous relationships, Bonobos fuck as often as they say hello. Gay, straight, brother, sister, mother, father, sex for these monkeys — like with humans — is the most primordial, international, and reliable form of social currency. It’s interesting to consider our closest relatives the Bonobo, for whom sex is a form of conflict resolution, in contrast with humans, for whom sex is a near-constant source of conflict.
Nature is so majestic and beautiful, so full of life and a sublime, supernatural order. Just kidding — it’s nasty, homicidal, and gives birth to completely irredeemable species like the Bed Bug. Not only does this mite get in to our mattresses and give thousands of people painful, itchy sores, but they are also possibly the most intrinsically biologically evil creatures on the planet.
For example, you hear of a criminal who has been raping women at knife point. That sounds like one of those irrefutably evil acts, the kind that makes your moral sense recoil in terror. Well say hello to your worst nightmare because the bed bug is designed with a knife-penis that impregnates lady bed bugs simply by stabbing them.
The bed bug has a relatively simple, open circulatory system, so the male bed bug has a really good chance of impregnating and not killing the female bed bug with his knife-penis. The process is officially called “traumatic insemination” which is a scientific name that somehow manages to take absolutely no sting off the idea.
The stuff of “AHHH! FUCK THE OCEAN!!!” nightmares, the Anglerfish is quite possibly one of the most terrifyingly ugly creatures ever to exist. With needle-like teeth and twisted, leathery visage, they look like what would happen if Jabba the Hutt had sex with the creations of H.R. Giger. Also, they’re all female.
If you look at most pictures of Anglerfish, you’ll notice something strange. They all appear to have misshapen, cylindrical nodules protruding haphazardly from their bodies at strange angles. While it’s tempting to just write this off as a further example of the fish’s ugliness so we don’t have to think about it any more, the truth is these are actually male Anglerfish.
Males are actually born as glorified sperm, with little more than a mouth and genetic material. Lacking even a digestive system, they latch on to females and co-opt their mate’s physiology to keep them alive, in return providing the genetic material necessary for reproduction. The roles are so subtle and bizarre, that early biologists actually believe the male Anglerfish were some sort of previously undiscovered parasite [insert “lazy man leeching off his woman” joke here].
In a long list of animals that have probably made you feel inadequate, it feels right to end with the octopus. Long believed to be the smartest invertebrate, octopuses are perhaps the closest any intelligent creature will get to understanding the multitude of insects, arthropods and mollusks. Unfortunately for the otherwise awesome active-camouflaging mollusk, it has what is perhaps the lamest mating ritual of all creatures.
While some animals will simply spray sperm over the unfertilized eggs of females, octopuses very politely hand it over to the female, presumably asking several times if everything is okay or if he is hurting her. The female lays the eggs somewhere safe and tends to them until the hatch, even going so far as to blow water over them to ensure they have proper circulation. Having completed his entirely unselfish, chivalrous task, the male octopus promptly dies. So no matter how you cut it, no matter how noble we are, nature doesn’t give a damn. Maybe we should take a second look at how the Bonobos are doing things.