Animal roleplay

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A topless pony-girl pulling her mistress seated on a sulky, at USA's Folsom Street Fair, the world's largest leather and kink festival.

Animal roleplay is a form of roleplay where at least one participant plays the part of a non-human animal. As with most forms of roleplay, its uses include play and psychodrama.

Animal roleplay may also be found in BDSM contexts, where an individual may take part in a dominant/submissive relationship by being treated as an animal. The activity is often referred to as petplay. However, not all types of animal roleplay within BDSM are petplay and not all petplay in BDSM involves roleplaying as an animal; some can be referred to as primal play and furry play.[1]


A girl (left) and a man (right) crawling like pet animals at Folsom Street Fair. They are held using dog leash.

The origins of animal roleplay and petplay are probably various and diverse, again depending upon the participants involved. However, its origins are certainly influenced by costuming, fiction, myth and legend, roleplay and psychodrama in their various aspects. Some of the earliest published images of animal play (especially pony play) are to be found in the work of John Willie, primarily in Bizarre magazine published from 1946 to 1959.

Some of the equipment that can be used in animal roleplay include leash, chain, bit gag, neck collar, bondage harness, catsuit, bodystocking, butt plug, muzzle, ballet boots, etc.[2]

Cultural and ritual use[edit]

Non-sexual animal roleplay was a common and integral part of ritual in many tribal cultures both in recent and likely prehistoric times, where a member (or members) of the tribe would take the role physically and often spiritually of an animal that was either revered or hunted. Examples of the former include many of the American Indian tribes and Arctic native peoples. Examples of the latter are evidenced by cave paintings. In 1911, Julia Tuell photographed the last Animal Dance ("Massaum") performed by the Northern Cheyenne of Montana.

It is also sometimes used in education, especially physical education, as a way to encourage people to exercise the body in unusual ways, by mimicking various animals.

Other forms[edit]

Some superheroes, heroines, and villains also feature elements related to pet play; such as DC Comics's Wildcat, Catwoman, the Penguin and Vixen, Marvel's Tigra, Man-Wolf and Black Cat, or even Nastassja Kinski's Irena Gallier in the 1982 film Cat People (a remake of the 1942 Simone Simon film), and Miss Kitty from the Brendan Fraser movie Monkeybone. All involve animal qualities taken on by a human. Some would even count the enactment or spiritual belief in therianthropy (werewolves, werecats, etc.) as falling under human animal roleplay or transformation play as well.

Peter Shaffer's 1973 play Equus tells the story of a young man who has a pathological religious fascination with horses, but this appears closer to zoophilia than pet play. Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1981 musical Cats traces a tribe of urban cats, and in 2007 War Horse used full size puppets to play horses on stage.

Erotic scenarios[edit]

A submissive woman is publicly disgraced by being paraded nude at Folsom Street Fair. She is held in bondage using a dog leash, one end of which is held by her master. This suggests she is roleplaying his pet animal.
A gagged woman with bound hands sits in a submissive position. Her master holds her with a dog chain tied around her neck at Folsom Fair.

Like much of erotic play and roleplay, animal roleplay in an erotic or relational context is entirely defined by the people involved and by their mood and interests at the time of play. It ranges from the simple imitation of a vocal "whinnying" of a horse to the barking, panting or playful nudging of a puppy, or playful behaviour of a kitten, to crawling around on all fours and being fed, or petted, by hand. To the greater extremes of dressing up as a pony in modified horse tack, masks, prosthetics and temporary bondage based body modification (such as binding the forearms to the upperarms and/or the calves to the thighs).

Public participation in human animal roleplay is varied. A couple could inconspicuously role-play a pet play scene in public, which would look to the casual observer like one partner is merely stroking the other's neck. In the case of some BDSM fetishists, one partner may wear a dog collar with a leash attached.

The reasons for playing such a character or animal can vary as much as the physical manifestations and intensity of the play. Some people enjoy being able to "cut loose" into a different, or more dynamic personality see other variations). In some cases, pet play is seen as a loving, quiet cuddling time where there is no need for verbalizations and the simple act of stroking, rubbing and holding the other partner is satisfying or reassuring in and of itself for those involved. For others, there may be a spiritual side to it. Some feel closer to their animal totem, while others may identify with something akin to a deeper side or part of their own psyche (known as therianthropy). For still others, there is the experience of power exchange setup in a context or structure which they can accept.

Some cases could be considered a type of animal transformation fantasy. They can have strong elements of exhibitionism, be totally enjoyed in the privacy of the home, or lie somewhere between either boundary. While not widespread, erotic human-animal roleplay is still enjoyed by a sizable number of people. However, it is still primarily identified with BDSM practice. Though commonly misinterpreted as being associated with furry or other alternative lifestyle activities, that is generally not the case though some instances may exist.

For most participants, it has no connection whatsoever with bestiality, which is controversial and would usually be considered edgeplay in BDSM circles.

Autozoophilia is sexual arousal that depends on acting out or imagining one's self as an animal. Paraphilic interests that involve being in another form have been referred to as erotic target location errors (ETLEs), and autozoophilia would represent an autoerotic form of zoophilia.[3] Autozoophilia is mostly practised by wearing an animal costume, such as a latex mask, mascot costume or fursuit.

Other considerations[edit]

Each type of play can focus on a certain "strength" of an animal character. Pony play often involves the practice and training that a horse owner or trainer would put their horse through to learn how to walk, canter, etc., as modified for human limbs. Puppy and kitten play often can involve BDSM related discipline. Cow Play often involves fantasies of lactation and impregnation. The usual limits of safe, sane and consensual apply to roleplay as much as any other activity between humans who accept and respect their partner's interests and limits. For most, this does not include bestiality.

Note: Just because one partner is playing the "pet" does not necessarily make them the passive or submissive play partner in the scene. .

BDSM scenarios[edit]

Some people believe that they have certain animal 'instincts' and through animal roleplay can let them out. This is especially true in the BDSM communities, where some people 'live' as their chosen animal 24/7.[citation needed] This type of mentality goes beyond roleplay and becomes a full lifestyle for the parties involved. There are also 'hybrids'. These are humans who live part-time as one type of animal, and part-time as another. This is usually determined by the situation.

There seems to be a growing trend among the BDSM scene in animal roleplay, especially pup and kitten play. Playing the role of a pup or kitten is one of giving over complete control over to another, while the 'master or handler' expects only unconditional love and obedience from his/her animal.[citation needed]

Pony play[edit]

Ponyboy and ponygirl
"PONYPLAY" exhibition in Sevastopol, Crimea

Pony play is where at least one of the participants dresses to resemble and assumes the mannerisms and character of an equine animal. People involved in pony-play ("ponies") generally divide themselves to three groups[4][unreliable source?] although some will participate in more than one category:

  • Cart ponies pull a sulky with their owner.
  • Riding ponies are ridden, either on all fours or on two legs, with the "rider" on the shoulders of the "pony" (also known as Shoulder riding). Note that a human back is generally not strong enough to take the weight of another adult without risk of injury, so four-legged "riding" is generally symbolic, with the "rider" taking most of their weight on their own legs.
  • Show ponies show off their dressage skills and often wear elaborate harnesses, plumes and so on.

A documentary film Pony Passion was produced by British pony play club De Ferre in 2003 showing their club's activities and the 2005 documentary film, Born in a Barn, depicted the lives of several pony-play enthusiasts.[5]

Pony play is sometimes referred to as "The Aristotelian Perversion", in reference to an apocryphal story where the philosopher Aristotle was persuaded to let a woman named Phyllis ride him like a horse, in promised exchange for sexual favors: an episode depicted in various woodcuts and other works of art.[4][unreliable source?]

Puppy play[edit]

A submissive male "puppy" using bondage restraints to restrict movement and eating from a dog bowl. The cage in background and kneepads are for extended play.
A pup with a neoprene dog hood at Sydney Mardi Gras. Masks and hoods are frequently used to help a person feel less human and more connected to a "dog persona".

In puppy play, or pup play, at least one of the participants acts out canine mannerisms and behaviors, which is sometimes associated with leather culture. If there is a dominant role it can be taken by a "handler", "trainer", "master", or in the case of someone who also identifies as a pup, an "alpha". If there is a submissive this may be considered by a "pup" or a "dog". Unlike other forms of animal roleplay, it is not uncommon for two or more pups to play together as equals, fight for dominance, or play where one is clearly the "alpha".[6]

Puppy play is often about being playful, mischievous, cheeky and instinctive.[7] Many human puppies like to simplify their desires and motivations as they embrace the side of themselves that acts solely on instinct.[8] In relation to other BDSM play, a "puppy" who is "unowned" or "uncollared" can be referred to as a "stray". Many pups use a headspace when getting into a roleplay scenario known as 'pup space' which allows them to take on their puppy persona more easily.[clarification needed][citation needed] Other elements rooted in BDSM play involve bondage and restriction with collars, leashes, kneepads, harnesses, rubber suits, hoods and mitts. Both sexual and non-sexual services are requested, and "training" may take place in order to teach commands or tricks.

There are groups across the world involved in puppy play,[9] with a number in the United States.[10] Pup Pride Australia has participated, since 2015, in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras[11] and has featured in an Australian TV documentary aired by the Special Broadcasting Service.[12]

Kitten play[edit]

In kitten play, a person dresses to resemble and assumes the mannerisms and character of a kitten or cat, a characteristic of which is that it keeps some independence and, as part of the fantasy, might retaliate against the partner trying to tame/train him or her. Some might be trained to do tricks such as bring toys back, to beg, or go on walks. Like in puppy play, a "kitten" or "cat" that is unowned or uncollared may be called a "stray".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Sirius Pups". SiriusPup. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  2. ^ Taormino, Tristan (2012). "Chapter 12. A romp on the wild side: erotic human animal roleplaying". The ultimate guide to kink : BDSM, role play, and the erotic edge. Berkeley: Cleis Press. ISBN 9781573447829.
  3. ^ Lawrence, A. A. (2009). Erotic target location errors: An underappreciated paraphilic dimension. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 194-215.
  4. ^ a b Malfouka. "Pony people, ponyboys and ponygirls". Retrieved February 14, 2011.[unreliable source?]
  5. ^ "Born in a Barn". 1 February 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  6. ^ "What is an Alpha?". SIRIUSPUP. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  7. ^ Dog play in the BDSM Dictionary Archived May 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. accessed 4 July 2008
  8. ^ "What is human pup play?". SIRIUSPUP. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Pup Play?". Puppy Play. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Information on puppy play". SEA-PAH. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  11. ^ "2017 parade float running order - Float 103". Mardi Gras. 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  12. ^ "Pup play men who live as dogs". Special Broadcasting Service. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  13. ^ "What is kitten play?". Kitten-Play. Retrieved 28 September 2017.

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