Do animals have a sense of humor?

Sea sponges can be pretty funny.

Especially when they wear funny pants.

I once had a cat who would get a goofy look on his face and start doing silly things like attack the corner of the dishwasher or try to bite a wastebasket. I had the impression that he was deliberately being funny.

A former girlfriend and I once caught her cat coming back into the house in a suspicious manner. Girlfriend asked “What are you hiding?” and the cat responded “I have nothing to declare except my genius . . . and this dead bird.”
So, I’m gonna say no.

You mean, like, farts and such ? :slight_smile:

Anecdotally: I once knew a pony crazier than most horses (which is a feat in and of itself) whose stupid previous owners had taught to play cat and mouse. That is to say he had been trained to, if a human ran in front of him, run after them and bite them in the small of the back, then turn around and trot away. Of course, the beast didn’t know when it was time to play cat & mouse so he did it all the fucking time, to any human who moved ahead of him. Predictable result: the house’s little girl got bit too hard or once too many for her liking, and out went the pony to be foisted on the rescuing ranch where I met it.

Only sometimes, instead of doing the bite-and-run routine he’d just run after you, stick his nuzzle in the small of your back as usual and then just… stayed there, quietly breathing at your tuchas. If you didn’t move, he didn’t do anything either. The second you tried to move away or turn around, bite run away neighing.

I still wonder whether that was his little joke, or if he did that more along the lines of “Go ahead, asshole. Try to run. Make my day”. Or maybe he was just tired of being “forced” to run after people all the time and had found a way to catch a breather once in a while, I dunno.


I was a programmer at a dolphin research project, and I also participated in the dolphin training. In between doing useful things, I played with the dolphins all day intermixed with the Calculus lessons.

One day my pen fell out of my pocket into the tank. One of the dolphins snatched it and swam out into the middle of the tank. This is a very bad thing because dolphins, brilliant Einstein intellects that they are, tend to be stupid about what things are okay to swallow.

I reached out over the water as far as I could, hoping to coax the dolphin to bring my pen back. Dolphin approached close enough to where I just barely couldn’t reach it, and sat there a while. When I tried to reach out for it, the dolphin tossed it back out toward the middle of the tank. Then swam out the the middle of the tank and got it.


Repeat again.

After that, I managed to snag it finally.

Now, do you think dolphins have a sense of humor?

One afternoon, after the training sessions, one of the trainers taught one of the dolphins to twirl a frisbee on the end of its snout. Apparently the dolphin thought this was a big kick, because that dolphin spent the rest of the afternoon and all night and most of the rest of the week, swimming around the tank, twirling a frisbee on its snout. By the next day, the other dolphin had picked it up too, and both of spent all their free time twirling frisbees. (Dolphins are extremely imitative.)

Then they got into the habit of putting the smaller frisbee inside the larger frisbee and twirling both of them at once.

We had to drill holes in all the frisbees, because the dolphins were fond of putting a frisbee over the drain so that the tank would overflow. Then they would swim around the outer edge of the tank at top speed, causing tsunami waves in the tank and flooding the surrounding deck.

It’s pure slapstick when they get together with squid and starfish.

Mundane though this may be, it does tend to have a point, so I’m going to move the thread to IMHO, where opinions may be successfully garnered and shared. And shit.

Snakes have a true gift of witty charm.

I saw a documentary a while ago about one of those super-intelligent bonobos, one of those that communicated with a picture board.

She apparently played slapstick type jokes on people, and even the dog. I think the “tap them when they’re not looking, then look away pretending it wasn’t you” sort of joke.

I also remember seeing in a nature documentary, young apes who would lean down from trees to pull the tails of lion cubs who were lying below. Then quickly scamper up the tree, shrieking with (apparently) laughter.

My dog has a sense of humor. He will retrieve a thrown object (stuffed toy, tennis ball, whatever), then come trotting back as if to give it to me to throw again. But as soon as I reach for it, he’ll take two quick steps back, snatching it out of my reach. If I put my arm down, he’ll lean forward with it again, but then again lean backward as soon as I reach out for it again. He will continue this ad infinitum, all the while with a gleeful grin on his face.

Okay, the gleeful grin might be a bit of anthropomorphism on my part. But the rest is pretty much factual.

In the book The Cowboy and His Elephant, the narrator mentions that they kept a goat to keep their baby elephant company, but the elephant occasionally got tired of being followed around by a critter that could not figure stuff out like the elephant could. So the elephant, Amy, would do things like lock the gate or move things around so the goat couldn’t get out of the paddock and follow her.

A creature which can do that has to be capable of humor.

One of my dogs, Bailey, has a juvenile sense of humor.

If I’m sitting at the computer desk, or otherwise not pay attention to her, she’ll often some up and silently sit by my side, staring upwards. When I turn to look at her, she’ll burp, and laugh afterwards; more accurately, it’s called expressive panting.

She’ll also fart and quietly sneak out of the room.

Thanks Clothahump, that’s the one! I got all my facts totally wrong, they’re not apes but monkeys, they’re not lions but tigers*. But it still seems like a sense of humour. :smiley:

Tim R. Mortiss, my dog does the same thing, and I was thinking of that. But that got me to wondering about the difference between “play” and “sense of humour”. Because it’s obviously a game, it’s fun because you need to continue to chase. But is that the same as a sense of humour?

  • But which one would win in a fight? Hmmm? :dubious:

Gorillas absolutely do. When I volunteered with them at the zoo they’d scare you for the fun of it and obviously think it was hilarious. They’re dicks, which is what’s so cool about them - they have real personalities. (Bad ones.)

One time the bigger male, who wasn’t usually a damned jackass, got into his overhead transfer just as I was about to walk under it. Now, it’s built to hold a gorilla but that thing creaks when he gets in it and I just don’t like to walk under it, so I wait. And he looks at me. And I look at him. And I retreat a bit so he can go on his merry way and he slams his fist into the bottom of the transfer - BANG! I shrieked like a little girl and he was all “Oh yeah, baby” and went on about his business with I swear an honest to god smirk. It was the funniest damned thing, once I got over my heart attack.

I read a science article not long ago about chimpanzees (or maybe bonobos) laughing. When tickled, they laugh (but both on the inhale and exhale, whereas humans only laugh on the exhale, and so we tend not to recognize it as laughter). They also sometimes do that sort of laughing after some sort of slapstick moment.

So yes, some other apes have senses of humor.

Hey, you’re a clownfish. You’re funny, right?

I don’t know about animals, but if Vinyl Turnip is any indication, at least some plants have a riotous sense of humor.

Nah, they’re gibbons- lesser apes.

How you do define a sense of humour anyway? A lot of animals appear to have a sense of ‘fun’, but half the things we find funny just don’t work with no language. How can you really tell if your dog’s finding something funny when it looks happy after doing something silly, or if it’s just happy that you’re enjoying something it did?