Friday, 29 March, 2019
We share many similarities to our fellow animals – and strong maternal bonds are no exception.
Parents have a strong desire to protect and care for offspring and a lot of work goes in before they are even here, including the preparation of a nest and taking care before the arrival. Our strong instinct to protect and nourish our babies when they come into this world is a feeling that many will understand – and why would this be any different to parents of other species?
This post will include some of the ways that animals make great mothers and it will share the similarities that we all have in common.
Like many animals, pigs will want to take themselves away from the communal group to build a nest and prepare for the birth. They will find a nice, safe and quiet place to give birth which will allow them to care for and bond with their little ones, as well as protect them from predators.
When piglets suckle from their mother she gives out rhythmic grunts, which can also be described as singing!
Fish are also known to build nests for their young, they may also have hiding places or burrows to protect their hatchlings. These hard working parents will get to work, digging up food sources and going without nourishment themselves to allow their little ones the opportunity to feed.
Fish are also known to pass cultural information down to individuals and through generations – just as we learn from our parents!
After giving birth, exhausted mama cow will not take any opportunity to lie down until after her calf has suckled. Like many of us she will softly talk to her calf (in the form of quiet grunts) which will help her calf to recognise her voice. While talking, she will spend hours licking her calf to stimulate breathing, circulation and to encourage her calf to excrete – licking also helps her calf to dry off and keep warm.
Mother cow will continue to provide for her calf for several months after or when they become nutritionally and socially dependent.
Goats form a very quick and exclusive bond with their young, as soon as they are born she gives them a good clean by licking them all over – similar to how cows care for their calves. This helps them to dry as quickly as possible and protects them from hypothermia, should they be exposed to elements. She can tell her kids apart from others even if they are the same age and coat colour as others. Shortly after birth she identifies them by scent and also by their bleats, this helps her to find them if they get lost!
Mama has an important role in making sure her kid can stand and keep up with the herd should they move on and so she encourages and supports her kid to move around. She will also hide her kid when the herd has settled, to protect them from predators.
Sheep make great adoptive parents. After giving birth mama will accept a lost lamb and if she loses hers she will happily take in a new-born.
Sheep form very strong bonds with their lambs and stay close by at all times, communicating with each other in a variety of calls and cues. If they become separated this causes both of them great distress until they are reunited – parents, you may also come to know that heart-dropping feeling all too well!
Image: Ro Han (Pexels)
Hens are able to communicate with their chicks before they are even hatched! If mother hen is away for a moment and notices any signs of distress coming from her eggs she will quickly move over to her nest making vocal noises, the chicks will then emit pleasure calls within the egg when mum is close by.
A study showed that chickens will learn from past experiences, it also showed that they will teach this knowledge to their chicks to help them to understand which foods are OK to eat! They were presented with coloured foods, some that were edible and some that were inedible. They found that not only would the chickens learn to eat the colour that was edible, but that they would repeatedly pick up and drop the edible foods in front of their chicks. This was accompanied by additional vocal noises and scratching. They were then able to teach their chicks which food they should be eating – great job mama.
As a vegan, I refrain from the use of animal products that are produced from the exploitation of these precious relationships between mothers and young. If you’re interested in going vegan you can download VeGuide, which will take you on a 30 day pledge to help eliminate animal products – you’ll also get daily quizzes which unlock exclusive discounts and delicious plant-based recipes!
Taking the 30 day pledge is a fantastic way to celebrate Mother’s Day – in honour of all mothers.
By Jennifer Jones