Do Baboons Really Keep Puppies as Pets?
This headline is not from a random word generator. It is an actual question that people have been debating for a few years after the following documentary showed up on YouTube. The footage is originally from a UK show called Animals Like Us It purports to show a population of wild baboons and a population of feral dogs that both forage at the same dump in Ta’if Saudi Arabia AND that sometimes an adult male baboon will abduct a puppy (this is where it gets weird) and raise the puppy up as a companion !! This part is controversial because it’s been widely accepted that humans are the only species that keep other species as companion animals.
(A brief word of warning: from about :20 seconds to about the 1:35 mark it’s kind of disturbing because you’re not sure what the baboon is going to do with the puppy. It turns out okay, as far as we can tell from the video.)
So, I included the following as one of my 5 Random Facts: Baboons have reportedly kidnapped puppies and raised them as pets. I stand by that because it HAS been “reported” that this occurs. But, as you might imagine, some dog behavior experts as well as some baboon behavior experts dispute what is really going on here. This video may be slickly edited to make it seem like the baboons keep the puppies as pets. But, in the video all we actually see is a baboon briefly playing/assaulting a puppy. When then see the puppy get up and scamper off, presumably back to his mother and litter-mates. Then we see a completely different, older dog kind of chilling out with baboons. If you notice at the 2:21 mark the dog we’re shown seems to be wearing a collar. Very suspicious for a supposedly “feral” dog.
Here’s a link to an article in Psychology Today that offers some varying expert opinions, but here’s the short version: no one yet has done enough long-term research in the field to establish if the baboons are actually keeping puppies as pets or if the two populations have just kind of adapted to tolerating one another. As the author of that Psychology Today article puts it, it’s an interesting question and “if you are a grad student looking for a doctoral dissertation, this could be a winner”.