Why do monkeys like to hug?

Monkeys are highly social animals that live in troops and develop strong social bonds with each other. Hugging is one common way that monkeys show affection and reinforce social connections. There are several reasons why monkeys engage in hugging behavior:

For comfort and security

Monkeys, like humans, find hugs comforting. Young monkeys cling to their mothers for security and comfort. Juvenile and adult monkeys also hug each other during times of stress or anxiety. The physical contact and warmth of a hug makes them feel safe and reassured. Hugs release oxytocin in the brain which promotes bonding and reduces fear and anxiety.

To strengthen social bonds

Hugging helps strengthen the social bonds between monkeys. Monkeys form vital social relationships for survival in their troops. Hugs reinforce those important bonds between family members and troop mates. The social bonding effects of hugging behavior likely evolved to promote cooperation and group cohesion in monkey societies.

For play and joy

Monkeys also hug each other spontaneously during play. Play activities help monkeys learn social skills and rules. The playful hugging and rough-and-tumble interactions between young monkeys teach them how to interact with others appropriately as they grow. Hugging during play allows them to experience and express joy and affection.

What types of monkeys engage in hugging behavior?

Many different monkey species demonstrate hugging behavior, including:


Chimps hug to greet each other, bond with friends, and reconcile after conflicts. Hugging is an important social ritual for these intelligent primates. Young chimps cling to their mothers. Adult chimps may hug after being separated for a period of time.


Bonobos are very affectionate and use hugs to reduce tensions in their groups. They hug to greet each other and engage in more sexual behaviors than other apes. Bonobos also use “make-up” sex and hugs to reconcile after fights.

Squirrel Monkeys

These small South American primates hug and huddle together when sleeping to stay warm and protect their infants. They will also hug if startled or threatened. Mother squirrel monkeys cradle and hug their young.

Gelada Baboons

Gelada baboons groom each other frequently and will hug sitting face-to-face. Females hold their infants closely against their chests. They are one of the few primates that show such visible signs of affection.

Capuchin Monkeys

Capuchins hug infant monkeys closely but are generally less physically affectionate than apes. Still, they will hug to reinforce friendships and may cradle injured or distressed groupmates.


Lemurs groom each other extensively which helps maintain social bonds. They don’t actually hug but will lie piled together with their arms wrapped around each other while sleeping.

Why do baby monkeys need hugs?

Baby monkeys need frequent hugs from their mothers for their health, development, and survival:

Warmth and Comfort

Newborn primates are unable to regulate their own body heat. Hugs from mom provide critical warmth and comfort that helps infants survive. Being held against their mother’s chest also provides soothing contact.

Bonding and Attachment

A mother monkey’s hugs stimulate the production of oxytocin in infants which promotes mother-infant bonding and attachment. This early social bonding is vital for normal social development.


The close physical contact of hugging protects vulnerable infants from falls as well as potential threats like predators, aggressive adults, and adverse weather. Hugs keep babies safe.

Nursing Access

By holding her baby close, a mother monkey allows the infant easy access to nurse frequently. Frequent nursing encourages milk production and helps the infant grow.


Mother monkeys need their hands free to climb and forage. Hugging allows a mother to securely carry her infant while staying mobile. This facilitates travel and is especially important for species that are more arboreal.

Reasons Baby Monkeys Need Hugs Details
Warmth and Comfort Hugs provide warmth, soothing contact, help regulate temperature
Bonding and Attachment Stimulates oxytocin, promotes early social bonding
Protection Holds infants close for safety from threats
Nursing Access Allows easy access to frequent nursing
Transport Allows mothers to carry infants while remaining mobile

How do monkeys hug each other?

Monkeys have some variety in how they actually hug depending on the species and context:

Full Embrace

Many monkeys will hug with a full body embrace, wrapping their arms fully around the other monkey. This full contact hug maximizes the intimacy and stimulation of oxytocin release. Mother monkeys embracing infants is the classic full hug.

One-armed Side Hug

The side hug with one arm is common between juvenile and adult monkeys interacting. It allows quick hugging while still permitting mobility and visibility. This can be a greeting hug or reassurance between friends.

Grooming Hugs

Grooming between monkeys strengthens social bonding. Monkeys may groom each other while sitting in a hugged embrace, sometimes with their legs wrapped around each other too.

Clustered Huddling

Monkeys in sleeping groups will huddle together in balls or clusters with their arms embracing each other for shared warmth and protection. Infants are gathered in the center.

Hands Only

Some macaque and baboon species will hug with just their hands or arms when reconciling after an argument. This may progress to full makeup hugs over time.

Monkey Hug Types Description
Full Embrace Full body wrap around hug, common in mother-infant pairs
One-armed Side Hug Brief side hug with one arm, common juvenile/adult greeting
Grooming Hugs Prolonged embracing while grooming each other
Clustered Huddling Full body contact while huddled in groups for warmth while sleeping
Hands Only Brief hand/arm touching when reconciling after conflicts

What emotions do monkeys convey when hugging?

Monkey hugs allow them to express and share a range of emotions with each other:

Affection and Joy

The affectionate hugging of playmates and friends expresses the positive emotions of liking, joy, and happiness monkeys feel from those social bonds. Laughing and play often accompanies affectionate hugs.

Security and Comfort

Monkeys feel safer and more secure when hugging, especially infants with their mothers. The comfort of hugging is visible in their relaxed facial expressions and body language. Gentle hugging calms monkeys.

Reconciliation and Forgiveness

Monkeys may hug as a way to reconcile following aggression, displaying forgiveness. This helps restore valuable social relationships after conflicts. The hug signifies moving forward.

Excitement and Enthusiasm

Energetic, frenetic hugging accompanies highly excited and enthusiastic greetings when monkeys are very happy to reunite with close social partners after a separation.

Fear and Uncertainty

Monkeys sometimes hug each other tightly when frightened such as when startled or facing threats. The hug seems to give reassurance in uncertain situations.

Emotion Conveyed Observable Cues
Affection/Joy Playful interactions, laughing, smiles
Security/Comfort Relaxed body language, gentle contact
Reconciliation/Forgiveness After aggression, moving forward
Excitement/Enthusiasm Energetic, frenetic hugging when reunited
Fear/Uncertainty Tight embrace when startled or facing threat

How do monkey hugging behaviors compare with human hugging?

There are many similarities as well as some differences between monkey and human hugging behaviors:

Similarity: Emotional Communication

Like monkeys, humans use hugging to communicate a wide array of emotions including affection, joy, sadness, fear, and more. The neurochemistry of hugging is likely very comparable.

Similarity: Social Bonding

Hugs serve an important social bonding function for both species. Human relationships are strengthened through hugging just like monkey social bonds are reinforced.

Difference: Kissing

Kissing on the lips is not typical monkey hugging behavior while it often accompanies human hugging. Monkeys do kiss but not usually on the mouth.

Difference: Frequency

On average, monkeys appear to engage in hugging behaviors more frequently than modern humans in their typical daily interactions. Wild monkeys hug daily.

Difference: Gender Norms

Human hugging has more gender norms about who hugs whom. Male-female hugging is viewed differently than same gender hugging. Monkeys show less gender bias.

Similarity: Use by Infants

For both species, hugs are very important for infants. Human babies need frequent hugging just like monkey infants. Hugs provide contact comfort, warmth and bonding.


In conclusion, monkeys hug frequently in their daily social interactions to bond, find comfort, reconcile, play, and express emotion. Many monkey species hug, with apes showing the most full embrace hugging. Baby monkeys need maternal hugs for their development and survival. While human and monkey hugging share similarities in emotional expression and social bonding functions, they differ in aspects like kissing and gender norms. Understanding why monkeys hug provides insight into the evolutionary roots of human affectionate behaviors. Monkeys hug because close physical contact meets crucial social and emotional needs just like it does for humans.

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