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What animal is the most caring?

When it comes to caring for their young, their mates, and their wider communities, animals exhibit a range of caring behaviors. Caring encompasses acts of nurturing, protecting, cooperating and even self-sacrificing for the benefit of others. But which animal could be considered the most caring overall?

What does it mean for an animal to be caring?

Caring in animals refers to behaviors that provide benefits to other individuals, often at a cost or risk to themselves. This includes things like:

  • Nurturing and provisioning for offspring
  • Building nests and dens for protection and warmth
  • Grooming mates and companions
  • Sharing food and resources
  • Guarding territories and defending against threats
  • Assisting the injured, sick or weak
  • Working together for the good of a group or community

Some caring requires great effort and time investment, while other acts are small but still meaningful. Overall, caring improves the survival and wellbeing of vulnerable individuals who cannot fend for themselves.

Caring in mammals

Mammals exhibit some of the most intensive forms of caring due to having live births and nursing their young. Mother mammals provide milk, warmth, protection, transportation and training to offspring that are initially helpless.

Some examples of caring mammals include:

  • Elephants – Mothers invest years caring for calves. Families work together to protect calves and assist injured members.
  • Wolves – Packs cooperate to hunt, feed, protect and raise pups communally.
  • Chimpanzees – Have strong social bonds, grooming, food sharing and defending their communities.
  • Meerkats – One or two adults stay behind at the burrow to protect pups while the group forages.
  • Orangutans – The most solitary great apes, but mothers carry and care for offspring for up to nine years.

Caring in other animal groups

Caring for others isn’t limited to mammals alone. Here are some examples in other types of animals:

  • Birds – Form monogamous pair bonds and cooperate to build nests, incubate eggs and raise chicks.
  • Insects – Social insects like bees, ants, termites and wasps work together in colonies with divisions of labor to benefit the queen and colony as a whole.
  • Octopuses – Females den up and refuse to eat for months while caring for and protecting a clutch of eggs until they hatch.
  • Vampire bats – Share regurgitated blood meals with unlucky or sick roostmates who haven’t eaten.

What makes an animal very caring?

The most caring animals tend to exhibit some key traits and behaviors:

  • Parental care – Intensive nurturing and protection of vulnerable offspring until they mature.
  • Monogamy – Pair bonds and shared duties between mates.
  • Social bonds – Affiliation, grooming, and cooperation among group members.
  • Allonursing – Female mammals nursing offspring that aren’t their own.
  • Food sharing – Passing food to mates, kin or allies who need it.
  • Adoption – Caring for orphaned or abandoned young, even of other species.
  • Empathy – Recognizing and responding to pain, distress or need in others.
  • Helping – Assisting the wounded, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged individuals.
  • Self-sacrifice – Risking own safety to protect or aid vulnerable group members.

The more of these behaviors a species exhibits, the stronger its tendencies for caring and altruism generally are. Next we’ll look at candidates for the most caring animal based on these criteria.

Candidates for the most caring animal

Many animals exhibit remarkable caring behaviors. But a few stand out based on the intensity, range and commitment to caring they demonstrate.


Wolves have complex family structures with breeding pairs heading packs that can include their offspring from previous years. All members cooperate in rearing pups and provide regurgitated food for mother and pups in the den.

Some evidence of wolf caring includes:

  • Pairs mate for life with low rates of infidelity.
  • Fathers help guard, feed and play with pups.
  • Entire pack shares pup care duties.
  • Injured wolves are brought food by hunting packmates.


Chimps have varied community and family structures. Multiple females often care for young together. Adult males form bonds and cooperate in patrols and during conflicts.

Their caring behaviors include:

  • Grooming to strengthen social bonds.
  • Meat sharing, especially with females and youths.
  • Adopting and caring for orphaned young.
  • Defending territory and group members at risk to selves.


Elephants are intensely social and exhibit empathy and cooperation across multiple generations. Peaceful interactions predominate within herds.

Some of their most caring behaviors are:

  • Communal care for all calves in herd.
  • Comforting and aiding injured or distressed herdmates.
  • Burying and mourning dead elephants.
  • Cooperating to rescue calves in danger.


Dolphins form strong social pods with affectionate physical contact and support. They work together to find food, care for young and protect members.

Their caring behaviors include:

  • Mothers and helpers swim alongside calves for years.
  • Helping injured or ill individuals stay afloat to breathe.
  • Adopting orphaned calves and raising with birth mother.
  • Defending vulnerable podmates from aquatic dangers.

Conclusion: The most caring animal is…

Based on the range and intensity of caring behaviors, one animal stands out for its commitment to caring within its family and wider community:

The elephant is likely the most caring animal overall.

Reasons the elephant exhibits such extraordinary caring include:

  • Highly protective elephant mothers invest years raising a calf.
  • Entire herds act communally to protect and teach young.
  • They assist injured or disabled members, even from other herds.
  • They exhibit grief and reverence when mourning elephant deaths.
  • Peaceful and affectionate interactions dominate elephant life.

Elephants appear hard-wired to prioritize and invest in the wellbeing of other members across multiple generations. Their entire social structure and lifestyle centers around mutual care and concern. For their deep loving bonds, empathy and acts of assistance that span lifetimes and extend to other herds as well, the elephant stands out as the animal kingdom’s most caring species.