Animal-made art

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Accidental self-portrait by an elephant with a GoPro camera in Koh Phangan, Thailand[1]

Animal-made art is art created by an animal. Animal-made works of art have been created by apes, elephants, cetacea, reptiles,[2] and bowerbirds,[3] among other species.

Painting animals[edit]

Pigcasso the pig[edit]

Pigcasso is a South African pig that has gained international notoriety for her abstract expressionist paintings, which have sold for thousands of dollars around the world.[4] Pigcasso was rescued from an industrial hog farm as a piglet by her owner, Joanne Lefson, who taught her to paint using positive reinforcement techniques. Lefson uses the proceeds of the sales of Pigcasso's paintings to raise funds for her farm sanctuary in Franschhoek, South Africa.

Each of Pigcasso's works is signed by means of the artist dipping her nose-tip into beetroot ink and touching it onto the canvas.

Pigcasso and Lefson are the first non-human/human collaboration to have held an art exhibition together, which took place at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town in 2018.

[5][6] Three of Pigcasso's most famous pieces are Peacock, Snowman, and Mouse, each of which sold for $5000 in 2021. A painting of Prince Harry that was sold to a Spanish buyer for over $3000 in 2021 also received global notoriety, based on its royal subject matter.[7][8]

Pigcasso's most expensive work sold in December 2021 for $27000, making it the most expensive animal-made art piece ever to have been sold at the time.[9][10][11]


Pockets Warhol creating an artwork

During the late 1950s biologists began to study the nature of art in humans. Theories were proposed based on observations of non-human primate paintings. Hundreds of such paintings were cataloged by Desmond Morris. Morris[12] and his associate Tyler Harris interpreted these canvas paintings as indications of an intrinsic motivation toward abstract creativity, as expressed through an exploration of the visual field and color. Many of these painters progressed over time by expanding or contracting the area of paint coverage, the horizontal or vertical stroke relationships, and even the development of content. Such paintings were exhibited in many modern art museums during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The cultural and scientific interest in these paintings diminished steadily and little note is taken today.

The most successful chimpanzee artist is Congo (1954–1964). Morris offered him a pencil and paper at two years of age, and by the age of four, Congo had made 400 drawings and paintings. His style has been described as "lyrical abstract impressionism".[13] Media reaction to Congo's painting abilities were mixed, although relatively positive and accepted with interest. Pablo Picasso was reportedly a "fan" of his paintings, and hung one in his studio after receiving it as a gift.[13][14] In 2005 Congo's paintings were included in an auction at Bonhams alongside works by Renoir and Warhol. They sold for more than expected, while Renoir's and Warhol's did not sell. American collector Howard Hong purchased three of Congo's works for over US$25,000.[14][15][16]

A more recent example is Pockets Warhol, a capuchin monkey from the Story Book Farm Primate sanctuary, who has been painting since 2011.[17]


A trained elephant painting in Chiang Mai

Elephants in captivity have been trained to paint as a form of zoo environmental and behavioural enrichment. An example of this is seen at Melbourne Zoo.[18] However, research published in 2014 indicated that elephants gain little enrichment from the activity of painting apart from the positive reinforcement given by zookeepers during the activity. The scientists concluded that the "benefits of this activity appear to be limited to the aesthetic appeal of these paintings to the people viewing them". The elephants draw the same painting each time and have learned to draw it line-for-line.[19] It has been alleged that cruelty is involved in some tourist destinations where elephants are trained to paint.[20]


Beluga whale painting

In some dolphin shows, educated dolphins[21][22][23] and beluga whales[24] paint with brushes. The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies has taught several of its dolphins to paint.[25]


Bini in front of his art work

The Bini the Bunny YouTube channel contains several videos of the titular rabbit painting abstract art on small canvases, holding a brush in his mouth.[26]


Et le soleil s'endormit sur l'Adriatique [fr] (Sunset Over the Adriatic), 54 × 81 cm, painting partially made by donkey (Lolo) assisted by Roland Dorgelès.

A painting partially made by Lolo the donkey, Et le soleil s'endormit sur l'Adriatique [fr] (Sunset Over the Adriatic) was exhibited at the 1910 Salon des Indépendants attributed to the 'excessivist' Genoan painter Joachim-Raphaël Boronali, an invention of writer and critic Roland Dorgelès, who painted much of the painting. It sold for 400 francs and was donated by Dorgelès to the Orphelinat des Arts.[27] The painting forms part of the permanent collection at l'Espace culturel Paul Bédu (Milly-la-Forêt).

Copyright issues[edit]

The copyright to an artistic work is typically held by its author. In cases where the artistic work was created by an animal, intellectual property analysts Mary M. Luria and Charles Swan have argued that neither the human who provides the equipment used to create the work, nor the human who owns the animal itself (when applicable), can hold the copyright to the resulting work by the animal. In these cases, the animal's work was not an intellectual creation of the humans, and copyrights can only be held by legal persons—which an animal is not.[28]

The question of ownership of copyright for photographs created by animals was tested in the monkey selfie case, in mid-2014. Equipment owned by nature photographer David Slater was used by a Celebes crested macaque in Tangkoko Nature Reserve in Indonesia to take a series of self-portraits. Slater claimed copyright over the image, arguing that he had set up the situation. Other individuals and organizations, however, argued that the photographs, as the work of a non-human animal (and thus not the work of a legal person), were public domain.[29] Slater stated that the upload of the images to Wikimedia Commons, a free media repository, had cost him more than £10,000 in lost income; he unsuccessfully attempted to have the media removed.[30][31] In August 2014, the United States Copyright Office clarified their rules to explicitly state that items created by a non-human cannot be copyrighted, and lists in their examples a "photograph taken by a monkey", which would appear to reference this case.[32][33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The amazing elephant selfie. But is it a world first?". BBC. 22 May 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  2. ^ Ramde, Dinesh (7 April 2008). "Dumbo paints! Animals make zoo artwork". USA Today. Gannett Company. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. ^ Diamond, Jared (1 May 1986). "Animal art: Variation in bower decorating style among male bowerbirds Amblyornis inornatus". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. National Academy of Sciences. 83 (9): 3042–6. doi:10.1073/pnas.83.9.3042. PMC 323443. PMID 16593691.
  4. ^ Peter, Zamayirha. "Pigcasso a millionaire". Citypress. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  5. ^ "WATCH: Pigcasso launches art exhibition - and it's anything but hogwash!". Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  6. ^ "Meet Pigcasso, The World's First Pig Artist". DOGOnews. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  7. ^ "Princely sum: Pig's portrait of Harry fetches R50,000". TimesLIVE. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  8. ^ "This Prince Harry portrait sold for £2,000 – and you won't believe the artist". 2021-03-19. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  9. ^ "Pig painter Pigcasso's artwork sells for whopping £20,000, creates history". 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2021-12-21.
  10. ^ "Move over, Banksy: SA's Pigcasso sells painting for more than R400k". The South African. 2021-12-20. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  11. ^ "Pigcasso brings home the bacon after selling an abstract artwork for a record R400 000". Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  12. ^ Morris, Desmond (1962). The biology of art: A study of the picture-making behaviour of the great apes and its relationship to human art. Taylor & Francis.
  13. ^ a b Waldemar Januszczak (2005-09-25). "Congo the chimpanzee". TimesOnline. London. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
  14. ^ a b "Dead Chimp's Art Sells Big". CBS News. 2005-06-20. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  15. ^ "No Chump Change for Chimp Art". All Things Considered. NPR. 2005-06-21. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  16. ^ "Paintings by Chimpanzee Outsell Warhol, Renoir at Auction". 2005-11-29. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  17. ^ "Meet the Monkeys of Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary". Archived from the original on 2021-04-29. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  18. ^ "Animal artistry". Zoos Victoria. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  19. ^ English, M; Kaplan, G; Rogers, LJ (2014). "Is painting by elephants in zoos as enriching as we are led to believe?". PeerJ. 2: e471. doi:10.7717/peerj.471. PMC 4103097. PMID 25071994.
  20. ^ "Elephant Artists? Here's Why Making an Elephant Paint is Cruel, Not Cute". One Green Planet. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
  21. ^ Padgett, Sonya (February 3, 2013). "Mirage dolphins take artistic turn, making paintings for guests". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  22. ^ Phillips, Steve (2014). "Dolphins at IMMS learn to paint for new interactive program". WLOX-ABC. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  23. ^ Sanchez, Frank (2008). Dolphin Painting Project. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  24. ^ The Telegraph:Beluga whales learn how to paint
  25. ^ McCoy, Amanda (February 24, 2014). Painting Dolphin. SunHerals Multimedia. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  26. ^ "Talented Little Bunny Creates Beautiful Works Of Art, All On His Own!". Jumble Joy. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  27. ^ Daniel Groinowski, Aux commencements du rire moderne. L'esprit fumiste, José Corti, Paris, 1997, p.296.
  28. ^ "Monkey Selfie Lands Photographer in Legal Quagmire". The Lightbox. Time. Archived from the original on August 7, 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  29. ^ "Can monkey who took grinning self-portrait claim copyright?". Metro. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  30. ^ "Photographer 'lost £10,000' in Wikipedia monkey 'selfie' row". BBC News. August 7, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  31. ^ "Wikipedia reveals Google 'forgotten' search links". BBC News. August 6, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  32. ^ Axelrad, Jacob (22 August 2014). "US government: Monkey selfies ineligible for copyright". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  33. ^ "Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition (public draft)" (PDF). United States Copyright Office. 19 August 2014. p. 54. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 September 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2014.

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