Weird Nature Juggling Otters And 11 Other Species That Have Oddly Human Hobbies  

Anna Lindwasser
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While activities like singing, juggling, and painting might seem like human hobbies, you can find many animals that enjoy playtime just as much as people. Whether their behaviors are related to mysterious instincts, or simply the result of boredom, they're definitely funny.

Animals acting like people are far more common than you might think. If you take a closer look at the natural world, you'll notice all kinds of animals with human hobbies. There are turkeys who play soccer, ravens who love frolicking in the snow, Japanese macaques who hang out in hot springs, and so many more. Check out these whimsical animals, and maybe get inspired to try a new hobby yourself.

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Just when you thought otters couldn't get any cuter, it turns out that they can juggle. But instead of using rubber balls, otters prefer to juggle with small stones and pebbles. Why do otters do this? One theory suggests that, like humans, otters do it for entertainment purposes. However, the fact that otters almost exclusively use pebbles, and don't exhibit a lot of play activity otherwise, indicates that the juggling might actually be related to eating behavior. Otters use rocks as tools to smash open mollusks to get to the meat inside. Juggling does tend to decrease when otters are well-fed, but that doesn't mean the activity isn't play related - after all, humans aren't at their most active after a big meal, either.

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Beluga whales can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, so you might not expect their favorite hobby to be as delicate as bubble blowing. Actually, they're masters of the art. The whales blow huge bursts of air through their blowholes when surprised, create streams of bubbles when traveling in pairs, and even make bubble rings. 

What motivates their bubbly behavior? There are a few different theories. An extensive study by biologist Michael Noonan and his students on this phenomenon suggests that it might be due to boredom. The belugas that Noonan studied were residents of the Marineland Park near Toronto. No matter how much effort any zoo or aquarium puts into stimulating its animals, life in captivity just isn't the same as life in the wild. This theory is backed up by the fact that when belugas are busy with something else - for example, mating season - bubble blowing decreases.

But the study also suggested that perhaps belugas blow bubbles for the same reasons that humans sing, dance, draw, or write: to express engagement with the world. 

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You might think that humans are the only species with an artistic flair, but you would be wrong. Dolphins can be artists, too. While their work does tend to lean toward impressionism rather than realism, these aquatic mammals still express themselves creatively. A lack of hands mean that dolphins do most of their painting by holding a brush in their mouths, and touching it to a canvas or a piece of paper taped to a vertical surface.

One of the most famous dolphins to dabble in the arts is Winter, the first dolphin to receive a prosthetic tail. Another noteworthy example is Chicky, who was taught by trainer Frank Sanchez to jump out of the water and pick up the brush on her own. According to Sanchez, "Chicky even started painting without me rewarding her with fish."

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A long soak in a hot spring, or onsen, is a popular activity for humans in Japan, especially during the winter. People aren't the only ones to appreciate this relaxing pastime, though - Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, are huge fans, too. Jigokudani, also known as Hell's Valley, is home to approximately 250 macaques who get through the area's frigid winters by hanging out in local hot springs.

Many of these hot springs are actually the sites of resorts, so the presence of the macaques can be troublesome for guests and employees. Macaques can be aggressive, and they aren't above using the hot springs as their personal toilets. That said, the bathing monkeys can also be a major draw for tourists; as many as 90,000 visitors show up every year just to see them.

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