12 animals that mate for life

If you’ve ever watched “Friends,” you’re aware of the ongoing romantic story line between Ross and Rachel. And if you were a regular viewer, you likely remember the episode in which Ross wanted to get back together with Rachel (again), and Phoebe said that Rachel was Ross’s lobster.

Say what now?

“It’s a known fact that lobsters fall in love and mate for life,” Phoebe explains.

Sadly, Pheebs was mistaken (about the lobsters, at least—as far as we’re concerned, Rachel and Ross lived happily ever after). In fact, dominant male lobsters mate with an entire harem of females, staying with each one for just a week or two at a time.

However, many couples in the animal world do pair up for life. From fish to fowl to ferocious beasts, several species stick it out forever. Find out more about some of the sweetest and most surprising animals that stick together for life (or get pretty darn close to it, at least).

1. Swans

Is it an accident that these gorgeous waterfowls are often used in wedding decor, or that when they nuzzle their beaks, they make a heart shape? We think not. Swans often mate for life, and swan dads—unlike many male animals—hang around to help protect and raise their offspring.

Pixabay | JulieMimages

2. Wolves

Although most wolves mate for life (the females choose their mates at an early age), alpha male wolves are known to stray from their partners on occasion. In addition, when a wolf’s mate dies, the “widowed” wolf quickly finds a new partner.

Pixabay | 4931604

3. European Beavers

These big-toothed, industrious rodents make the list for fidelity, but their cousins across the pond do not. Like the European species, North American beavers do choose partners. However, studies show that they “cheat”—a lot.

Flickr | Mark Round

4. Gibbons

Unlike most other apes, lanky gibbons spend their lives in groups of monogamous couples. As with some other mammals, however, spoken-for gibbons are known to be unfaithful from time to time.

Pixabay | zoosnow

5. Seahorses

While some seahorses have been found to pair up for life, what’s more common is for these fish to form “pair bonds,” which means they stay closely coupled while waiting for seahorse babies to arrive (and, another fun fact, the male seahorse carries them!).

While coupled, these aquatic lovebirds greet one another with a special dance every morning. Their underwater waltz lasts several minutes and reinforces their bond before they part ways for the day.

Pixabay | sectorZwo

6. Mourning Doves

Giving a whole new meaning to the term “lovey-dovey,” mourning dates usually pair up for life. With some exceptions, these birds tend to stay coupled for the duration of their short—but hopefully sweet?—lives.

turtledove pair photo
Flickr | Andy Morffew

7. Barn Owls

Perhaps their heart-shaped faces encourage romance, but whatever the reason, most barn owls mate for life. A male will woo his potential partner with special flying tricks and a comfortable nesting spot.

barn owls photo
Flickr | Airwolfhound

8. Turkey Vultures

It’s probably a good thing that these carrion feeders pair up for the long haul, as one might say that they have a face only another vulture could love. The birds’ courtship ritual includes a dance with outstretched wings, followed by a flight for two led by the male.


9. Coyotes

Similar to their wolf cousins, these wily desert-dwellers practice social monogamy, which means they mate and raise their families together. This is especially beneficial when it comes to protecting large litters.

Pixabay | 127071

10. Kirk’s Dik-dik

Shy and small, studies show that the dwarf antelope species is comprised of faithful, socially monogamous pairs. When they don’t encounter dangerous conditions, pairs also tend to occupy the same territory for life, with the male dik-dik defending the family home.

dik dik photo
Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

11. French Angelfish

Although genetic monogamy has not been established, scientists have observed French angelfish exhibiting social monogamy. Researchers theorize this might be a defense mechanism, but we prefer to believe it’s true love.

french angelfish photo
Flickr | Paul and Jill

12. Bald Eagles

These stoic symbols of freedom also seem to stand for fidelity. Eagles have a significant courtship before mating and display strong bonding behavior that helps them stay partnered for life.

bald eagle pair photo
Flickr | Eric Kilby