It isn’t uncommon in nature or in pets to see animals pair bond. Most of the time the natural hormones involved create bonds between male and females with the need to pass on their blood lines and reproduce at the forefront of their biological instinct. However, we also see pair bonding’s’ in same sex pairs as we do in human culture. 

Do we see gay relationships forming in nature?

Absolutely. Nature is full of same sex pair bondings. 

Reports of same sex relationships have been documented in Bears, Gorillas, flamingos, owls, salmon and many more. 

It has been documented that a pair of penguins in Marwell zoo, Southampton “Ralph and Coral” created a same sex relationship, raising several chicks together at their time in the zoo. Same sex relationships between penguins have been noted before in other zoo’s as in Wingham wildlife park in Kent “Jumbs and Kermit”, London zoo “Ronnie and Reggie” and New Yorks’ central park zoo “Roy and Silo” all had successful same sex relationships also raising chicks together. 

Japanese macaques have been noted to have a preference for other females even in the presence of males showing interest. Dolphins often engage in non-reproductive sexual activity regardless of the biological sex of the recipient. Elephants (Asian and African) display grooming and kissing behaviour, linking trunks and demonstrating sexual behaviour; creating same sex relationships that last decades. 90% of sexual activity in Giraffes is between same sex individuals with males being more likely to partake. Male lions also engage in same sex mutual grooming and sexual activity, as do females but less commonly. Albatrosses famously were documented to create same sex relationships by Sir David Attenborough in Frozen Planet II. It was found that 31% of albatrosses on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu are in same sex pairings. And up to 8% of rams appear to show exclusively same sex attraction (although in other species exclusivity hasn’t been documented).

Why wouldn’t nature eradicate same sex pairings as there isn’t a reproductive benefit?

There are a few theories as to why same sex bonded pairs occur in nature but really – we don’t know! 

One theory is that it is beneficial to have “gay” members within a social group as they are able to nurture the young of relatives without diverting the groups resources into their own offspring. It is also thought that gay individuals may strengthen the bonds within a group; and so creating a stronger family unit. 

Does this mean dogs can be gay? 

There is no scientific evidence that animals or our pets can have a sexual gender preference. Hwever it is seen that same sex pairings will happen in nature as we’ve already identified. Often though, in our homes, there isn’t the social group that would lead to these types of behaviours so we must consider what makes you think your dog could be gay. 

What makes you think your dog has a preference for the same sex?

Some people consider natural dog behaviour as displaying signs of “being gay”.

Mounting behaviour

This behaviour is sometimes thought of as a behaviour of dominance or simply play. And so can be seen in females mounting males, males mounting females or males and females mounting each other. This seems to be much more a bonding / behaviour driven activity rather than related to sexual preferences in dogs. So we cannot determine that a dog has a sexual preference from this behaviour alone. 

Same sex snuggling in the home 

In our homes, our dogs don’t tend to have the same pack hierarchy they would in wild dogs.  So, snuggling with another dog of the same sex or appearing to have a preference for a male or female owner tends to be related to behaviour and the bond between the individuals rather than a sexual preference. Sometimes it’s just nice to snuggle, especially if it’s cold – it doesn’t have to be more than that! 

What if my dog has a sudden change in preference to dogs of the same sex?

It is well documented that dogs can experience a medical condition relating to hormone levels (an increase in oestrogen levels) in the body that leads to a condition known as Feminizing-syndrome. The cause is a Sertoli cell tumour of the testicle which then secretes an excess of Oestrogen. Feminizing syndrome leads to a male dog taking on uncharacteristic female qualities. (e.g., dog’s penis may appear smaller or shrivelled in size; there may be abnormal breast development; the dog may adopt a female position to urinate and show sexual interest in other male dogs). 

Feminizing syndrome is obviously not a true example of a dog having a preference for the same sex. Therefore these dogs are not considered gay. This is a medication condition in which hormones produce the false effect of being gay alongside other medical complications which require treatment. 

14% of Sertoli cell tumours are cancerous and spread to other areas of the body. 

Symptoms of Sertoli cell tumour you may notice

  • Hair loss, usually on both sides of the body in a symmetrical pattern
  • One testicle that is larger than the other, with wasting or shrivelling of the other testicle
  • Feminization syndrome
  • Sertoli cell tumours are seen in higher incidences in dogs that are cryptorchid (have retained abdominal testicles that failed to descend into the scrotum). A mass (large testicle) can sometimes be felt in the abdomen of these dogs when the veterinary surgeon performs a clinical exam. 

It is more common for older dogs to experience these types of tumours especially where the testicles have descended. 

How will my vet diagnose a Sertoli Cell tumour and what can be done to treat it?

To diagnose a Sertoli cell tumour, your Vet will perform a clinical exam and likely take a blood test and may perform an ultrasound. Your vet may want to rule out other causes of fur thinning such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease and will want to differentiate between a benign testicular tumour, a seminoma (another tumour of the testicle) and a Sertoli cell tumour. 

Treatment typically involves castration (removal of the testicles). At best feminization syndrome can be reversed or sometimes only halted. The prognosis for most dogs is very good if the tumour is identified and treated before it has had a chance to spread. 

So, can dogs be gay?

Yes! Although there isn’t enough scientific evidence to say this definitively, I believe there are enough examples in nature of animals choosing to spend time and engage in sexual activity to hypothesise that some dogs may do so too. 

However, in our homes they aren’t in the same social structure to simulate the situations that happen in nature and so what we see and assume to be “gay behaviour” may just be your dog sharing a loving bond with a housemate / litter mate or human of the same sex or it may just play behaviour as in mounting another dog. Our suspicions of our dogs’ behaviour may not be related to biological gender at all.  

However, if you’re worried that your dogs’ behaviour is excessive or changes suddenly, there are other symptoms such as hair loss, an enlarged testicle etc then talk to your Vet and schedule an examination to make sure all is ok.