Are there any animals that are known to celebrate events? For example, we humans might celebrate a birthday or passing an important test. An event causes us to perform some sort of celebration that is motivated simply by joy and not any sort of survival instinct.

To clarify, I am more interested in positive celebrations. I know a number of animals having mourning behaviors (which absolutely count as a response to external events, no denying); I'm just more interested in celebrations in a positive sense.

I'd like to take this one step further.

Are there any cases proven or postulated of animals celebrating. I don't necessarily need something firm and proven, could be a theory.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very interesting question! Thanks for the clarification as well. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2017 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ What is the difference between a celebration and a bunch of animals happy about something together? For example, a bunch of happy dogs racing around like crazy because their owner came home? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 4, 2017 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ I expect there are two elements to what a "celebration" is, maybe three: social animals displaying joy to each other over the same event (where Will's happy dogs might apply); 2) doing so in a ritualized fashion (this is where I expect most examples to fail); 3) doing so on a differed timescale (ie not exactly after the celebrated event happened) (this one I not only expect not to happen much if at all, it seems it would be hard to impossible to observe). I think if any animal does this it would be highly intelligent and social ones, ie orcas, elephants, bonobos, parrots... $\endgroup$
    – Oosaka
    May 5, 2017 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ So far I've found "greeting ceremonies" among orcas; I can't seem to find a definite source on them but you'll see references if you google it, it's a ritualized behavior when orcas from a certain group meet each other after being separated awhile. Might not be what we'd call a "celebration" (after all we have "greeting ceremonies" too and we don't always call them "celebrations" per se). Orcas do illustrate one potential problem tho: if it's culture-related it's a behavior we're unlikely to observe in captivity, and might be disrupted by environmental change/human intervention. $\endgroup$
    – Oosaka
    May 5, 2017 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm, good question Will. I suppose that does qualify. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


An event causes us to perform some sort of celebration that is motivated simply by joy and not any sort of survival instinct.

Celebrations usually mean large group activity but a play can be considered an event which is simply by joy and not any sort of survival instinct, and hence would fit your question. One can easily spot their pet playing around with objects when they are sitting around, busy in something 'boring' for the pets, like - reading a newspaper. But here it can be argued that pets have learned to do this to get the attention of the owner, and hence associated benefits.

Well, plays of pure enjoyment have been documented in wild animals too.

I once observed a young elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, running across a snow field, jumping in the air and twisting his body while in flight, stopping, catching his breath and doing it again and again. There was plenty of grassy terrain around but he chose the snow field. Buffaloes will also follow one another and playfully run onto and slide across ice, excitedly bellowing “Gwaaa” as they do so (Canfield et al. 1998).

Certainly, there was no motive here apart from having fun.

I would encourage you to go through this article - Bekoff, M. (2000). Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate NaturesCurrent interdisciplinary research provides compelling evidence that many animals experience such emotions as joy, fear, love, despair, and grief—we are not alone. BioScience, 50(10), 861-870.

Speaking of the celebration, such as - birthday, or the largest homo sapiens gathering Kumbh Mela, I would also be interested to know of some group of animals doing it periodically.


  • Canfield, J., Hansen, M. V., Becker, M., & Kline, C. (1998). Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health.
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly what I was looking for :) $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2018 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ Good answer but this answers the question "Do animals have fun?" and it is much more evident. Celebration is very different. $\endgroup$
    – ermanen
    Jan 20, 2018 at 16:03

You want scientists to measure animal emotions and social behaviours, and they rarely agree about animal psychology unless it's measured chemically and physically.

Celebration (behaviour for events) is not a word defined zoological science research. You can imagine that thirsty elephants that walk for 3 days to find a riverbank have a celebration when they arrive there.

Scientists don't use the word alien planet to mean exoplanet, and they don't use the word cyberspace to mean internet. For that reason, the word celebration is mostly a dramatic and reporting term that a scientist would be uncomfortable to use with proof as the basis of a document.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you please add sources for your claims? $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    May 5, 2017 at 10:14

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