I'm quite curious on how animals view incestual pairings. Given there are enough mates around, i have quite observed that most females (subjects are dogs, cats, pigeons and chickens) would go choose another mate that is not a direct family member (parent, sibling, offspring). How does this work? Is it instinct to not favor family members or does it still revolve around who's the fittest mate?

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    $\begingroup$ Is your observation borne out in any studies? It's hard to explain how something works when one is unsure if that is true to begin with. For example, if I said, "I've observed that when I mix yellow and blue, I get orange. How does that work?" I had a farm, with lots of different animals and dogs and cats. If there was an animal in heat, the males of the species didn't seem to be hesitant in my experience. There is evidence that males like to cat around, but I don't know that this prevents him from going after a relative as well. $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2014 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ No it's not. Just a random observation on our domestic animals. True. Males would not mind relatives but most females choose those who are not directly related. Came here to read about specific studies about this and get enlightened. $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2014 at 3:40
  • $\begingroup$ Since inbreeding can lead to greater chances of genetic abnormalities, it seems reasonable that individuals who avoid it would be selected for in the long run but I don't know of any studies on this. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Nov 19, 2014 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. Thought there would be tons about it. Found this one reference saying they actually rely on to avoid similar scent. But then read on few other sites saying this behavior greatly depends on the animal's social structure. thenakedscientists.com/HTML/questions/question/2908 $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2014 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse It's standard practice on farms to have a small number of bulls or boars or whatever breeding with all the females for several years, inbreeding is inevitable in this situation. Our own farm had 1 bull for about 10 years before we bought a second bull, but kept the first bull for another 5 years, so there was a lot of opportunity for inbreeding. $\endgroup$
    – user137
    Dec 21, 2014 at 2:10

1 Answer 1


Anecdotally I have never observed a preference in lab mice, but we have never made a detailed study of it. Males do not seem to favor non-incestuous over incestuous breeding. Though inbreeding does tend to produce smaller litter sizes over generations and inbred strains of lab mice do tend to be less hearty. Though lab mice are a bit removed from the situation in the wild.

  • $\begingroup$ edited my question to be female focused. right, males would not hinder kin-breeding but observation seems that the females avoid it as much as possible. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2014 at 1:01

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