Play between animals (especially cubs) is also fun, communication, sharpening of reflexes and establishment of hierarchy
People are already used to a dog having crazy fun rolling around in a meadow or a cat with a ball of wool. People are also used to and enjoy watching TV documentaries about animals, their way of life in nature and the games they play. People hardly realize that even wasps can be carried away by game.
Throughout the past 20th century, people have been debating about mammals (which play is inherent) and higher species of animals.
This dilemma was resolved only in the 21st century when Leonardo Daporta and Elisabeth Palagi (from the Natural History Museum of the University of Pisa) conducted a 6-year study. Scientists have proven that invertebrates and insects play. An article about their research was published in the Italian magazine “La scienze” from 2006. Palagi explains that simulating a fight between newly hatched wasps is actually a game. Young wasps behave similarly to wasps fighting for queen status. Their behavior means there is no goal, it’s just fun – scientist Palagi explained at the time. And the American scientist Gordon Burhard (ethologist from the University of Tennessee) defined the game of animals. He established 5 rules that must be satisfied to establish that “animals are just playing”. The first rule is that these activities should be aimless, but mean satisfaction, spontaneity and strengthening of psycho-physical abilities. The next criterion is that these activities differ from more serious and usual activities. Repeated behavior of an animal says that the animal is actually playing (at times when the animals are fed and free). The first evidence that some lower species of animals enjoy parties (except mammals) dates back to 1990. Zoologist Jennifer Mather from the Canadian University of Lethbridge determines that octopuses have a great time with objects they accidentally touch with their tentacles. In the literature, there are descriptions of the behavior of cockroaches that are very reminiscent of playing, but they have not been scientifically explained and proven. Play among mammals to the contrary (especially among cubs) is more than obvious. Attacks, defenses and many other movements (which later play an important role in survival) are simulated during the game. Among the biggest fans of gaming are monkeys, elephants, dogs and wild cats. Rather, the game helps wild cats become skilled hunters.
Dogs start playing from the age of 3
The game serves dogs to increase mobility, motor skills, reflexes, practice bite strength, but also to establish hierarchy within the pack or towards the owner.
Mark Becoff of the University of Colorado has for years examined the similarity between animal-animal play and animal-human play. Cubs of all breeds quickly adopt social rules (applies to domestic and wild animals). For more than 15 years, Becoff and his colleagues observed cubs of all species, made videos and drew conclusions. For example, chivalrous Fair-play behavior in the game is normal among hyenas, bears and some other species that know how to change their behavior to continue playing.
Cats, wolves, dogs and foxes play almost identically
Elephants are lovers of water sports and entertainment. No one can outsmart ravens among birds. Becoff is sure that play is a very complex and important activity among animals. Becoff concludes the research with the words: “The rules of the game are the rules of life, that’s why the game is everything but not a waste of time.”