Women Who Run with the Wolves (and Pandas and Gorillas and Whales)


It’s a trend you may never have noticed, but it exists: “women—attractive, single, childless women—have long been coupled with exotic animals. Gentle women and wild animals are linked in myth and fable, fashion photography and pornography, pulp art and fine art.”

A spellbinding essay by Sasha Archibald for the New Inquiry looks at real-life woman–animal pairings and what society has done with their stories, from Ruth Harkness, who introduced pandas to the West, to Dian Fossey “of Gorillas in the Mist fame,” to SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau.

All these cross-species relationships were intensely emotional and complex, and none of them ended well.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →