Yes and no. Dogs can display homosexual attraction and have same-sex sexual experiences but it would be remiss to say that they can be gay.
Homosexuality is a complex and very human categorization that quite honestly, it is unlikely dogs care that much about.
Homosexuality has been observed in over 1,500 species. Many people are quick to explain away homosexual activity, particularly in male animals, as a quest for dominance.
The existence of homosexuality in the animal kingdoms proves the innate nature of queerness. Homophobia is only seen in humans, which says a lot about our innate human prejudice.
While it is not appropriate to extrapolate human definitions of homosexuality to other species, there is clear evidence to suggest that same-sex interactions play an important role in the animal world.
Being gay is a social construct in humans, and it is hard to imagine that the same thought processes run through the minds of dogs.
Gay animals on TV
In June 2019, UK TV broadcaster Channel 4 created a documentary titled My Gay Dog and Other Animals. This program features research from leading scientists investigating same-sex attraction in animals.
The documentary features many clips of male and female dogs engaging in homosexual activity. It is believed that there may be a genetic reason animals display homosexual behaviors, which may even give them an evolutionary advantage.
In the program, dog behaviorist Leon Towers performed an experiment on one of the dogs that is believed to be gay, Franco. He placed them in a room with a female dog on heat, which most male dogs find impossible to resist.
Franco did not take any interest and continued to court the male dog in the room. Even when the second male was removed, Franco still showed little interest in the female.
This led Leon to draw the conclusion that Franco clearly has a preference for other males.
Historical associations between dogs and homosexuality
There are many historical links between dogs and homosexual acts. There are references to pagan, Eastern Mediterranean priests known as Enarieae. In order to celebrate the rising of the dog star, Sirius, they were purported to have engaged in communal gay sex.
In the Christian Old Testament, male prostitutes are described as dogs. This is likely because humans have been around dogs for centuries and as such, have had the opportunity to see lots of dog sex.
Why do animals engage in gay sex acts?
In some cases, gay sex between male dogs can indeed be a display of dominance. This involves one dog mounting the other and can even result in anal penetration.
It is believed that some animals, dogs, in particular, may do this to strengthen the communal bonds between one another. It could also be seen as a practice run for younger and more sexually inexperienced members of the pack.
Some academics believe that homosexual pack members are cherished as they can assist with the rearing of the younger pups. This makes them very beneficial to the health of the pack and is believed to be evolutionarily advantageous.
Homosexual activity could also be a physical display of a deep emotional connection between animals, known as pair bonding. The sexual activity releases endorphins which is believed to bring the animals closer.
Another explanation is simply that they just feel like it. Dogs are fairly impulse-driven animals and are likely to go for what they want and like, as and when the opportunity arises.
It is also believed that dogs hump other animals and inanimate objects as a kind of play activity, or as a way to relieve stress and anxiety.
Does neutering impact sexual interactions in animals?
It would be remiss to gloss over the fact that there is human interference in animals’ sex hormones. As a result, this impacts upon the sexuality that they display. This then makes it very difficult to ascertain what the ‘natural’ behavior of the animal may be.
Neutering may remove the reproductive urge, meaning that the animals have a shifted primary focus to pleasure. Their sex hormones are depreciated and as such, could be one reason that they engage in more same-sex sexual activities.
Biological exuberance: animal homosexuality and natural diversity
This 1999 book by academic Bruce Bagemihl talks about the familiarity of dog owners and trainers with same-sex activity between dogs.
It is common to see dogs engaging in mounting of other same sex animals. Pair bonding and homosexual activities between dogs is not uncommon and most owners will have a story or two about this.
There are documented records of gay sex to ejaculation between dogs. Breeds such as beagles, Weimaraners, cocker spaniels, and Basenjis are particularly prone to same-sex attraction.
This has also been seen in wild dogs such as wolves and red foxes.
This book was seen as a kind of turning point in the studies of animal sexuality. Since its publication, many scientists have begun to focus more and delve deeper into the issue of animal sexuality.
My Lead Dog was a Lesbian: mushing across Alaska in the Iditarod
In this 1996 book by Brian Patrick O’Donoghue, there are multiple references to the dog being a lesbian. It talks about the attraction to both male and female dogs, describing her as “willing to mount any dog within reach”.
What other animals are seen to display homosexual tendencies?
Approximately 8% of domesticated rams are seen to create long-term homosexual partnerships. Aside from humans, this is the only species where this lasting relationship is observed.
There have been notorious instances of same-sex penguin couples. The most famous made news headlines in 2004 when penguins at Central Park Zoo were declared as dating.
In some populations of Laysan albatross, up to 31% of the romantic pairs are made up of 2 females. They raise eggs fertilized by mainly adulterous males and are shown to grow and learn together during the parenting process.
Female bonobos, the closest relative to humans, are freely sexual animals.