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20 Unlikely Animal Friendships

Who'd have thought? Even Mother Nature doesn't set things in stone. From a sheep that brought a baby elephant out of a deep depression to natural enemies that snuggle down together for every nap, these heartwarming relationships are unforgettable.

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2. The tiger and the orangutan

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At the Taman Safari animal hospital in Indonesia, abandoned primates Nia and Irma have no problem snuggling with Dema and Manis — who happen to be Sumatran tigers. Both species are endangered, but in the sanctuary, they enjoy the same activities as their wild brothers and sisters: cat naps for the tigers and rope swinging for the orangutans.

6. The hippo and the tortoise

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Even a 130-year age difference can't come between these BFFs: Owen the baby hippopotamus and Mzee the giant tortoise have been friends since Owen was rescued from a reef where he was stranded. The frightened hippo ran over to the surprised tortoise and hid behind him — just as he would have hidden behind his mother!

7. The cat and the red panda

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After its mother left, this red panda joined a group of kittens being raised by a house cat at the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam.

9. The chick and the kitty

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While some cats might spot a helpless baby chick and think “lunch,” this orange tabby kitten in Russia saw a friend in need of a helping paw. Baby pavlovskya hens are particularly susceptible to attacks from rats and other vermin, but this little chick stayed safe all spring, thanks to its frisky feline bodyguard.

10. The deer and the goose

ZUMA Press

In a surprising act of interspecies devotion, a deer recently stood watch for weeks over a nesting Canada goose in a Buffalo, N.Y., cemetery. The goose sat on her eggs inside a large urn at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, and the buck stayed nearby, often positioning himself between the goose and any cars or passersby. After the goslings hatched, this bodyguard buck continued to protect them by chasing off crows!

11. The cheetah and the pup


Cats and dogs really CAN get along! The animals are part of the zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program, which works in conjunction with the Cheetah Conservation Fund to protect these threatened wild cats. The Cat Ambassador Program educates farmers in Namibia and South Africa on how these dogs can be used to protect livestock from cheetahs without shooting the cats.

14. The greyhound and the baby owl


Keepers say Torque seems to have adopted Shrek the owl as his own daughter and is extremely protective of her. Torque keeps his eye on Shrek as the two roam the home of falconer John Picton, and they often spend their evenings curled up on the couch watching TV.

15. The lion, tiger and bear (oh my!)

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Yeah, it's real. Leo the lion, Shere Khan the tiger and Baloo the bear were found together as cubs during a police raid of a drug baron’s home in Atlanta. When the young trio moved to Noah’s Ark rescue center in Locust Grove, Ga., zookeepers decided to keep them together, and they all still live and play in their very own habitat. Visitors can watch the 1,000-pound bear, 350-pound lion and 350-pound tiger cuddle, lounge and wrestle together, and zoo cofounder Jama Hedgecoth says the animals are oblivious to the fact that they aren’t natural companions.

16. The sled dog and the polar bear

Norbert Rosing

When a polar bear arrived on the scene, wildlife photographer Norbert Rosing thought it was going to be the end of the sled dogs, but to his astonishment, the bear nuzzled a dog and the dog licked the bear’s face in return. Thus a heartwarming round of playtime and cuddling began between two natural predators.

17. The baby monkey and the pig

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This adorable video of two unlikely furry friends went viral in 2010, and when Parry Gripp penned a ridiculously addictive song to accompany it, the video became that much better. Warning: Watch at your own risk. This song will be in your head for days.

18. The dolphin and the cat

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When a tabby cat named Arthur encountered a couple of dolphins at an Islamorada, Fla., marine park, no one would’ve expected them to hit it off so well. The two gregarious dolphins named Thunder and Shiloh were clearly delighted by their new feline friend and were quick to nuzzle him as Arthur pawed their noses.

19. The cat and the shepherd dog

ZUMA Press

When a kitten’s mother was killed by a car in Turkey, a shepherd dog named Cotton adopted the orphaned feline. Cotton and the kitten play together and eat from the same plate, and when it’s cold, Cotton lets the cat climb onto his back to sleep.

20. The rabbit and the deer

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When Svetlana Harper spotted a shivering fawn on the roadside next to a dead doe, she brought the young deer home, nursed it back to health and named it Bambi. Bambi took an immediate liking to Ben, Harper’s rabbit.

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