Sexuality Wiki
Sexuality Wiki

Leda and the Swan, Michelangelo

Bestiality is cross-species sexual activity between human and non-human animals. Zoophilia is a paraphilia involving a sexual fixation by a human on non-human animals. The terms are often used interchangeably, but some researchers make a distinction between the attraction (zoophilia) and the act (bestiality).[1]

Although sex between humans and non-human animals is not outlawed in some countries, in many countries, bestiality is illegal under animal abuse laws or laws dealing with crimes against nature.


Instances of this behavior have been found in the Bible.[2] In a cave painting from at least 8000 BC in the Northern Italian Val Camonica a man is shown about to penetrate an animal. Raymond Christinger interprets that as a show of power of a tribal chief,[3] and so we do not know if this practice was then more acceptable, and if the scene depicted was usual or unusual or whether it was symbolic or imaginary.[4] The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art says the scene may be humorous, as the penetrating man seems to be waving cheerfully with his hand at the same time. Potters seem to have spent time depicting the practice, but this may be because they found the idea amusing.[5] Dr "Jacobus X", said to be a nom-de-plume for a French author, said this was clearly "before any known taboos against sex with animals existed."[6] Marc Epprecht states that authors such as Jacobus X do not deserve respect because their methodology is based on hearsay, and was designed for voyeuristic titillation of the reader.[7] Masters said that since pre-historic man is prehistoric it goes without saying that we know little of his sexual behaviour,[8] depictions in cave paintings may only show the artist's subjective preoccupations or thoughts.

While some authorities claim bestiality is unnatural and animal cruelty, others claim it is only abusive if non-consensual. Some claim that animals don't have the mental capacity to consent, much like humans that are severally mentally handicapped. Others believe that such restrictions against a non-human animal or mentally disabled person amount to discrimination.

Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of PETA, said, “If a girl gets sexual pleasure from riding a horse, does the horse suffer? If not, who cares? If you French kiss your dog and he or she thinks it's great, is it wrong? We believe all exploitation and abuse is wrong. If it isn't exploitation and abuse, it may not be wrong.”[9]

Princeton University philosopher and personist Peter Singer, the father of the animal rights movement, has put it, "Sex with animals does not always involve cruelty."[9]


Three key terms commonly used in regards to the subject — zoophilia, bestiality, and zoosexuality — are often used somewhat interchangeably. Some researchers distinguish between zoophilia (as a persistent sexual interest in animals) and bestiality (as sexual acts with animals), because bestiality is often not driven by a sexual preference for animals.[1] Some studies have found that a preference for animals is rare among people who engage in sexual contact with animals.[10] Furthermore, some zoophiles report that they have never had sexual contact with an animal.[11] People with zoophilia are known as "zoophiles", though also sometimes as "zoosexuals", or even very simply "zoos".[1][12] Zooerasty, sodomy, and zooerastia[13] are other terms closely related to the subject but are less synonymous with the former terms, and are seldom used. "Bestiosexuality" was discussed briefly by Allen (1979), but never became widely established. Ernest Bornemann (1990, cited by Rosenbauer, 1997) coined the separate term zoosadism for those who derive pleasure – sexual or otherwise – from inflicting pain on animals. Zoosadism specifically is one member of the Macdonald triad of precursors to sociopathic behavior.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Commentary: Zoophilia and the Law
  2. References to the paraphilias and sexual crimes in the Bible
  3., Link to web page and photograph,
  4. Worshippers and warriors: reconstructing gender and gender relations in the prehistoric rock art of Naquane National Park, Valcamonica, Brecia, northern Italy Archaeopress
  5. The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art Cambridge University Press
  6. Abuses Aberrations and Crimes of the Genital Sense, 1901
  7. "Bisexuality" and the politics of normal in African Ethnography Canadian Anthropology Society
  8. Forbidden Sexual Behavior and Morality, Masters, Robert E. L., p. 5
  9. 9.0 9.1 Robert L. Jameson Jr.. Bestiality has no business in Olympia. Seattle Post-Intelligencer accessdate=25 May 2015.
  10. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment
  11. Deviant Behavior
  12. The International Handbook of Animal Abuse and Cruelty: Theory, Research, and Application
  13. zooerastia definition. Medical dictionary. Retrieved on 13 December 2011.
  14. American Journal of Psychiatry
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