10 Disturbing Animal Behaviors That Scientists Can’t Explain

Part of the reason why humanity has been able to work with animals in the ways we have is because we usually can predict how animals will behave. However, there are times when animals don’t always act the way we think they’re supposed to act. With science increasingly finding unusual, often worrisome behavior in animals, it’s safe to say we might not be as knowledgeable about disturbing animals behavior as we’d hoped. Here are ten of the most unsettling behaviors science has yet to explain.

Colony Collapse Disorder

It’s a well-known fact that honey bee colonies around the world are beginning to collapse and die out without explanation. The behavior always starts the same way, and it sadly always seems to end the same way as well. Worker bees that were once able to find their way home become disoriented, then soon are unable to reach the hive.

The bees simply seem to vanish, and this is terrible news for the rest of the world. Without bees to pollinate flowers, many major ecosystems will collapse. Scientists have yet to find a reason why this is happening, and why similar behavior has been recorded in the past. Since 2006, the decline in bee populations has become even more pronounced, which means that time might be running out for us to find a solution.

Herbivores Eating Other Animals

If you know anything about animals, you probably couldn’t believe that a cow would ever eat a chicken. However, many videos and news articles describe animals that are typically known for eating plants choosing to eat animals instead. These aren’t disturbing animals, they are just a part of nature. For example, one farmer found that his cow had killed and eaten over 50 of his chickens. Another example includes a deer that was videotaped eating a squirrel. This happens more often than you think, in both nature and captivity.

Some scientists have theorized that herbivores do this in order to get their need for calcium and protein met. However, wouldn’t that mean that deer, sheep, cows, and similar herbivores are actually just opportunistic omnivores?

The Subconscious Dining Position Of Cows

Cows really do have a lot of strange yet unexplainable behaviors, but one which was only recently discovered was the fact that cows will always face North or South when they eat. It’s already been observed that cows seem to sense magnetic pulls of the Earth, and it’s also been noted that electromagnetic frequencies from power lines can actually interfere with a cow’s ability to eat. While we can understand how cows are able to figure out how to face North, no one can come up with a good explanation as to why they would do this while eating.


As the name might subtly suggest, zoochosis is the documented phenomenon of mental illness in animals that have been living in captivity. According to zoologists who study this behavior, animals that suffer from zoochosis can experience a variety of different symptoms, including rocking back and forth, cage biting, an unnatural obsession with eating fecal matter, vomiting, and even self-injury.

Tests have been repeatedly run on animals that have exhibited signs of zoochosis. It is not typically developed from a virus or bacterial infection – it is clear to zoologists that zoochosis is a sign of extreme stress in animals. But it’s unclear why so many captive animals become zoochotic. This behavior has been documented in some of the most natural-looking zoos and reserves, so why are so many animals unable to cope?

Nature's Ability To Predict Disaster

Most people have heard tales of animals fleeing to higher ground before a tsunami, or of animals that behave strangely before a major earthquake. Science has documented animals’ ability to predict natural disasters time and time again. In fact, this behavior has been documented for as long as people could write.

In a number of studies, scientists have been able to figure out how certain animals are able to predict disasters that we never saw coming. At times, it has to do with sensitivity to magnetic frequencies, strong noses, or even a better sense of touch. However, not all animals’ predictive abilities have been fully explained quite yet. Who knows what else they see?

Elephants Hunting Rhinos

Most people think of elephants as big, cuddly animals that have a personality similar to Dumbo. After all, they are known for being gentle herbivores. One can only imagine the shock that scientists had when they discovered a pack of teenaged elephants deliberately going out of their way to kill rhinos on a reserve.

Historically, elephants have never really been known to hunt down other large animals. Though scientists were eventually able to figure out that it had more to do with teen elephants not having a role model than a sudden change in instinct, it still makes one wonder what why elephants would have chosen such a huge, dangerous opponent to fight. Wouldn’t it make more sense for elephants to fight each other instead?

The Overtoun Bridge

There are very few verified mysteries as creepy in zoo life as the mystery of the Overtoun Bridge. Since it was first built in 1895, this Scottish bridge has been the site of dozens of instances of dogs jumping to their deaths. This isn’t just a legend; some canine suicides have actually been caught on tape. So far, over 50 dogs have plummeted to their deaths in the past 50 years.

Generally speaking, scientists do not believe that these dogs are suicidal. Instead, they believe that there is something around the bridge that is luring dogs to jump. This is corroborated by the fact that most of the dogs that do jump all seem to jump from a particular point in the bridge. Unfortunately, that doesn’t explain why some dogs that survive the jump the first time will climb up the bridge to jump again.

These puppy suicides continue to happen to this day, and scientists still have no clue what’s causing them to do it.

Behavioral Sinks

Back in the 1960’s, a famous animal behaviorist by the name of John Calhoun decided to see what would happen to mice when they were given a utopian existence with only space limiting them. Without fail, each utopia he created would result in the behavior of the mice turning increasingly stressed, aggressive, androgynous, and avoidant, until the mice would stop reproducing. After the mice stopped reproducing, the mouse society would collapse.

It was once the mouse population would peak that the really unexplainable behavior would happen, and this behavior became known as “behavioral sinks.” Even when the populations were reduced to only a dozen or so mice, they still would refuse to reproduce. In fact, after the population reached a certain density, mice would stop acting like mice at all. They would cannibalize one another, become reclusive, or have sudden gender role reversals. While it’s understandable why mice would stop reproducing, what remains to be explained is why mice could never re-establish a normal society once a peak population was reached.

Interspecies Rape

This could be the most disturbing animals situation. Interspecies rape has been regularly documented for decades. Seals have been observed raping penguins. Multiple newspapers and media outlets have also reported stories of dolphins attempting  to have their way with human beings. Obviously, this is neither normal behavior nor conducive to anything healthy in either species. As well-documented as it may be, no one really understands why it happens in nature.

Mass Hysteria

In humans, mass hysteria is seen when people start believing in things that clearly aren’t real, or when people begin to go crazy in large groups. A good example of mass hysteria in humans is the Salem Witch Trials of the 18th century.

Believe it or not, animals can experience bouts of mass hysteria as well.

In 2013, a group of baboons that lived in a Netherlands zoo began to appear agitated. They all huddled together, looking in the same direction. After a while, they began to shriek and scream at the top of their lungs. Almost as soon as the noise began, the baboons went silent, much to the concern of the zookeepers. Then they stopped eating and wouldn’t move. All they would do is sit and stare in a single direction. After a couple of fretful days, the younger monkeys snapped out of it and the group went back to normal.

Scientists still have no idea what caused this bizarre behavior in the baboons, but it’s not the first time this has happened. This behavior has been documented for over a decade in a number of zoos, but isn’t considered to be a form of zoochosis. Even if there was a natural explanation, it feels like this would be the perfect beginning to a horror movie plot just because of how unnatural their behavior appeared to be.

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