PAINTING PONY: This mustang’s artwork gallops into galleries across the globe. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Scientists, philosophers and animal behaviorists have different opinions when it comes to animal art. Some argue that while animals are capable of putting paint on a canvas, it doesn't necessarily mean that their creations can be defined as art.
Check out the adorable videos below and you be the judge of whether these creative critters can be called animal artists.
The meerkats at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere often create works of art to benefit conservation organizations. The adorable animals are given a canvas and scented nontoxic paint, and then crickets are thrown into the mix as a stimulant to get the critters to walk through paint and smear it across the canvas. Zookeepers say the activity is enriching for the meerkats because the crickets and scented paint encourage natural foraging behavior.
Marine animal parks often tout their “paint with dolphins” programs, where participants hold a canvas and move it around while a dolphin grasps a paintbrush between its teeth. This dolphin trainer decided to try something a little different. He set up a canvas outside the pool to ensure the moving water wouldn’t affect the dolphin, and then he allowed the dolphin to paint on a stationary canvas to see what she could create.
Cholla is a Mustang-quarter horse mix who’s famous in the art world for his mouth-painted masterpieces. His owner, Renee Chambers, discovered the horse’s ability to paint when Cholla began following her as she painted the corral fence. Today, Cholla uses an easel and watercolors to create abstract art by holding a paintbrush between his teeth and using his tongue to create strokes. Cholla’s work has been featured in several galleries and has sold all over the world — some of his pieces have even sold for more than $2,000.
The Oregon zoo is home to some prestigious pachyderm painters. Packy, Rosy and Rama have all created their own artistic masterpieces, but there’s a reason that Rama is known as “Oregon’s biggest artist.” This 9,000-pound elephant showed so much interest in the activity that in addition to painting with a brush held in his trunk, he also paints by loading his trunk with nontoxic tempera paint and blowing it onto a canvas. The idea came from a routine health test in which elephants fill their trunks with saline solution and expel it.
Roxanne is a blue-and-gold macaw who has been painting for 20 years. Her abstract-painting skills have been exhibited on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and Animal Planet’s “Petstar.”
Mr. Bailey, a capuchin monkey at the Little River Zoo in Norman, Okla., loves to paint — on paper, on walls and on the zookeepers. Mr. Bailey certainly isn't the first primate to paint. Koko the gorilla and Congo the chimpanzee were both known for their art. In 2009, one of Congo's paintings sold at auction for more than $25,620, more than 40 years after his death.
Lea, a sea lion at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, is an accomplished artist whose work has appeared in Tifane Grayce’s book, “Fur In My Paint.” How do you teach a sea lion to paint? Marine mammalogist Jen DeGroot used fish and verbal praise to train the sea lion, and today, Lea even dips her flipper in paint and uses it as a brush.
Mechi the one-horned rhinoceros has been painting with her lips since she arrived at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Ind., in 2009. Mechi was found alone in the mountains of Nepal after her mother was poached, and since then, the “Picasso in training” has been selling her art to benefit rhino conservation. Painting is a form of stimulating enrichment for Mechi, especially when it’s too cold for her to spend time in her outdoor habitat. How was this rhino trained to paint? At first, pieces of banana or carrot were placed on the paper for her to move around and nibble, and once she became accustomed to the motions she made with her lips, the food was replaced with blobs of nontoxic paint.
Mary Stadelbacher, founder of Shore Service Dogs, has taught many dogs to paint, but she says Sammy, a foxhound mix, was a real natural. Sammy paints with a brush attached to a rubber bone, and his artwork has sold for up to $1,700. All proceeds from his sales go to Shore Service Dogs, a nonprofit that trains assistance dogs for people with mobility disabilities.
This particular artist doesn't like to get her paws dirty, but she's found a way to digitally paint — and have fun in the process.