How Animals Take Baths
Animals bathe in unique and sometimes odd ways to keep themselves clean. Unlike humans, most animals do not require water for bathing, while some do not have to bathe at all.
Some animals – like birds and elephants are well known for their cleaning behaviors. Ever wonder how rodents, rhinos, and tigers bathe too? Read below for interesting animal bathing rituals!
Have you ever heard of an animal taking a mud bath? Rhinos, elephants, pigs, and other mammals wallow in mud in order to stay cool and remove parasites. The typical process involves the animal rolling around in mud to keep cool as the hot sun evaporates the moisture. The necessity to do this stems from a lack of sweat glands, making it difficult for them to cool themselves. Rhinos and elephants are resourceful; they are able to create larger divots with their feet to wallow in which they use for mud bathing. These animals sometimes submerge themselves in water before beginning a mud bath in order to cool off and to keep the mud sticky. Other animals commonly found wallowing in mud: bison, warthogs, elephant seals, hippopotamus, and certain deer species.
Dust bathing is a common practice in the animal kingdom. Chickens, birds, zebras, and horses utilize sand or dust to keep their skin healthy and free of parasites. Horses typically like to roll around in dirt after bathing or rolling around in water and it’s believed that this helps dry their coat and remove excess fur. Birds take dust baths regularly – the coarseness helps keep their feathers clean and healthy. The frequency of dust bathing varies greatly based on bird species, time of year, and climate, but most birds do it at some point during the year. Birds also remove excess insects by preening with their beaks. Chickens are one of the most well known dust bathers, they do this most commonly in the middle of the day, and it also rids them of insects and parasites. The dust can clog the pores of these parasites that are typically found on chickens which helps keep them clean and healthy. Other animals that bathe in dust: chinchillas, hamsters, gerbils and llamas.
Members of the feline family, like lions and leopards, bathe with their tongues similar to domesticated cats. This tongue bathing helps remove fur, insects, and helps them keep cool in warmer climates. Tigers are exceptions to the feline communitys because they do not mind taking water baths and can often be seen wading in a body of water on a hot day to stay cool. Bears are also creatures that primarily bathe in water. Some of our other bird friends like egrets (representing a variety of heron) help “bathe” other members of the animal kingdom like cattle by picking insects off of their backs. Primates also exhibit this behavior, removing bugs, dirt, dead skin, and tangled fur while grooming each other. This is considered allogrooming; the social grooming between animals of the same species. Thesemutually beneficial relationships are certainly a unique way to stay clean in nature.
Animals have evolved to bathe in many different ways while fascinating humans to understand their hygiene behaviors and being a sight for all to watch.
Sources: Washington Post, TreeHugger.com, The Horse.com, Phsy.org, The Spruce, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Reed College