Animals Also Use Hugs To Show Affection

By Shivam B

Hugging is seen as a uniquely human trait, but not because we invented it. Primates all across the animal kingdom hug one another to show love and affection; they are just as sensitive about hugs as humans are! This may sound surprising, but if you think about how deep the desire for touch is, it must be primal!

Joshua J. Cotten/Unsplash

Hugs are a common occurrence in the lives of primates, too. So what is a hug? A “hug” happens when people wrap their arms around each other (or sometimes, when one person holds another person, say, for comfort). Humans may see hugs as an exclusively human behavior; however, it turns out that hugging actually plays just as prominent a role for nonhuman primates like us.

As the peace-loving hippies of the jungle, bonobos are very affectionate. A developmental and comparative primatologist and psychologist at Durham University in the UK, Zanna Clay, studied these primates in the United Kingdom; it’s common to see tons of babies clinging to one another desperately as they go through their habitat.

Bonobos who were not raised by their mothers actually offered fewer hugs to their peers, showing a lower ability to empathize and show sympathy. It’s difficult for humans to read animals’ emotions, but Clay has found evidence points towards comforting each other in a hug is just as reassuring for apes as it is for us.

Spider monkeys are the best-studied example of hugging as a means for proactive damage control. They embrace what Aureli called “preemptive peacemaking,” and humans could learn from these careful creatures how to manage conflict, making it much better to prevent than repair.