Fellatio in captive brown bears: evidence of long-term effects of suckling deprivation?

Zoo Biol. 2014 Jul-Aug;33(4):349-52. doi: 10.1002/zoo.21137. Epub 2014 Jun 4.


Sexually stimulating behaviors that are not linked to reproduction are rare among non-human (especially non-primate) mammals. Such behaviors may have a function in the hierarchy of social species. In solitary species, such behaviors are more enigmatic, and possibly indicative of something abnormal. Here, we report on a case of two male brown bears, raised in captivity since being orphaned as cubs, which engaged in recurrent fellatio multiple times per day until at least 10 years old. The roles of provider and receiver in the act remained unchanged, and the behavior itself became highly ritualized. The provider always initiated the contact involving vigorous penile sucking that appeared to result in ejaculation. We suggest that the behavior began as a result of early deprivation of maternal suckling, and persisted through life, possibly because it remained satisfying for both individuals. This constitutes the first descriptive report of fellatio in bears, and suggests that some bears may suffer lifelong behavioral consequences from being orphaned at an early age.

Keywords: Ursus arctos; captivity; fellatio; oral stimulation; sexual behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Zoo / physiology*
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Male
  • Observation
  • Penis / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*