20 heartwarming stories of interspecies adoptions

Dogs raising bunnies, pigs raising kittens and other progressive animal families

Topics: cute animals, wildlife, Family, ,

20 heartwarming stories of interspecies adoptionsKoa the Labrador acts as a surrogate mother to abandoned baby wild rabbits. (Credit: Tina Case/Rex Usa)

When Werner Herzog spoke of the overwhelming indifference of nature, he had obviously never heard of the golden retriever that discovered and raised a litter of abandoned bunnies, or the chicken and goose couple that together brought up a flock of ducklings.

Lisa Rogak, an author and journalist, combed through news and historical archives to find an entire book’s worth of stories that testify to animals’ willingness to overlook their differences and take care of one another. The result, “One Big Happy Family,” portrays 40 years of unusual pairings.

Interspecies adoptions, Rogak told Salon, happen relatively often in captivity, where new mothers often lack more experienced role models to show them how to raise their young. At zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, humans often keep dogs around for this very purpose. Other families form organically, and there don’t seem to be any two species that aren’t able to make things work when the circumstances require it. “After researching and writing about some very unusual pairs in the book, I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Rogak said. “After all, more than several of the stories involved animal combinations that were clear predator and prey relationships.”

It’s unclear just how out of the ordinary these modern families are. Says Rogak, “Who knows how often interspecies adoptions take place without a human to witness it?”

Below, some of the inspiring pairings that humans did manage to witness, and to capture on film:



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    Newspix / Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Rex, a 10-year-old German pointer, rescued a 4-month-old joey kangaroo at Bells Beach, Victoria, after its mother was killed by a car.

    Adri de Visser/Caters News

    Interspecies adoptions

    After eating its mother, this lioness, spotted in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, began to treat an orphaned antelope like one of her own cubs.

    Richard Austin/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Rocky, a Great Dane, is inseparable from Cindy, an abandoned Roe deer fawn, at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue center in England.

    Masatoshi Okauchi/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    After the death of her three kittens, Hiroko the cat became surrogate mother to two ducklings.

    John Drysdale

    Interspecies adoptions

    This kitten, raised alongside a litter of pigs in Norfolk, Great Britain, was known to nurse alongside them.

    Stephen Barker/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Little Brown, a Jersey cow, nurses two newborn lambs in New Zealand.

    Media Mode Pty Ltd/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Rejected by his mother, this lamb began to identify with Zoe, a dalmatian.

    John Drysdale

    Interspecies adoptions

    Anna, a chimpanzee, helps raise puppies at a wildlife park near Daventry, England.

    Karine Aigner/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    On an Iowa farm, Henrietta the chicken and Gertie the goose together adopted three ducklings.

    SWNS

    Interspecies adoptions

    Lion cub Zara's parents at the Linton Zoo in Cambridgeshire had trouble coping with her, so she spent her childhood under the care of the zoo director's cat, Arnie, before being sent to Uganda.

    Mike Hollist/Daily Mail/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    At the Blue Cross Animal Hospital, Mac, a border collie, stepped in to lick and cuddle four Vietnamese pot-bellied piglets that had been rejected by their mother.

    John Drysdale

    Interspecies adoptions

    Zookeepers taught Judy, an orphaned dog, to take care of a similarly orphaned bush baby.

    Gallo Images/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Solo, a tricolor border collie, takes care of baby tigers and hyenas at Seaview Lion Park in South Africa.

    Richard Austin/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Murray the dog is a surrogate parent for three badgers at the Secret World Animal Sanctuary.

    Adam Harnett/Caters

    Interspecies adoptions

    Mabel, a year-old hen, would hop into this basket of puppies every time their mother wandered off.

    Nils Jorgensen/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Sugar the cat's owners snuck Chestnut, an sick baby squirrel, in with her litter of kittens -- and she helped nurture him back to health.

    Richard Austin/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Springer spaniel Jess, a sheepdog, bottle-feeds orphaned lambs that can't be fed by their mothers.

    Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    After accidentally sitting on goose eggs, Valentine, a peahen, ended up raising a newborn gosling as her own.

    Northscot Press Agency/Rex USA

    Interspecies adoptions

    Summer the rabbit helped raise an entire litter of abandoned kittens brought home by her owner.

    Tina Case/Rex Features

    Interspecies adoptions

    Koa, a golden retriever, cares for the wild bunnies she discovered outside her San Francisco home.

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Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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