Whether it's a grieving dog, a depressed horse or even a whale mysteriously beaching itself, there is a long history of animals behaving suicidally, behavior that can help explain human suicide, says newly published research. The idea that animals could actually be very good models for human suicide started to take root in the 20th century, said Edmund Ramsden, one of the study's authors. If animals can be deliberately self-destructive, they could also then help us to better understand the same behaviors in humans, argue the study's authors, Ramsden, of the University of Exeter in the U.K. and Duncan Wilson of the University of Manchester.
“You begin to challenge the definition of suicide. The body and mind are so damaged by stress and so it leads to self destruction. It's not necessarily even a choice,” he said. There are many stories of animal suicide dating back centuries. In 1845, for example, the Illustrated London News reported a “Singular Case of Suicide” involving a “fine, handsome and valuable black dog, of the Newfoundland species.” The dog had for days been acting less lively than usual, but then was seen “to throw himself in the water and endeavor to sink by preserving perfect stillness of the legs and feet.”