Friend with a foe: Uncommon animal pairings

Often friends have loads in common – and sometimes, they don’t even share the same species. But they still love each other.

The book “Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom” by Jennifer Holland, a science writer for National Geographic, depicts shared affections between disparate creatures in sometimes quite odd (a golden retriever and a goldfish?) pairings.

Do their instincts drive them together? The author explores the science behind the 47 interspecies bonds, and tells the tales, of say, how a lion, tiger and bear (oh my!) became buds – and what do they do for fun anyway?

Seen here on the book cover, an orphaned rhesus monkey and white dove that seemed to have lost its mate forged a special bond at the Neilingding Island-Futian National Nature Reserve in China. The monkey was born on the island but had strayed from its mother. Luckily, it was taken in by work staff in the protection center and became friends with the pigeon that had lingered there after possibly losing its mate.


It’s not clear why or when this stray black cat turned up in the bear enclosure at the Berlin Zoo. But something is clear: She’s been coming back for 10 years to see her friend, the oldest known female Asiatic bear.

Anatolian shepherds keep cheetahs away from livestock in Africa. But at the San Diego Zoo, the former foes are paired because the calm dog makes a good friend to the nervous cat.

Photo: Ken Bohn

Chicks perch on a Siamese-snowshoe cat, who keeps the little ones in a line with her nose, and a pit bull, who is a loving father figure to many animals on their Texas farm.

A big goldfish, or koi, named Falstaff swims over to the pond’s edge for another meeting with a golden retriever named Chino in a backyard pond in Oregon.

An orphaned Madagascar teal duckling snuggles under orphaned kookaburra (a predator to the former).

Mikael Buck/

A young elephant, who lost his mama, cozies up to his comforting sheep pal at the Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in South Africa.

Caters News Agency Ltd / Rex Usa

A lion and tiger and bear hang out at their “clubhouse” at Noah’s Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center in Locust Grove, Georgia.

Barcroft/fame Pictures

A cockatoo named Coco throws her whole body into a backrub for cohabiting friend, house tabby Lucky, in Savannah, Georgia.

It’s naptime for an orangutan baby and a tiger cub, hand-reared as siblings at the Taman Safari Zoo in Indonesia.

Achmad Ibrahim / AP

Jennifer Holland is a senior writer for National Geographic magazine, specializing in science and natural history. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her husband, two dogs, and dozens of snakes and geckos; none of whom, to her dismay, have crossed the species barrier to befriend the others.