Animals That Can Actually Paint

pexels chris carter 913652

The beauty of painting lies in its universal nature. Thanks to paint by numbers kits like the ones at, everyone can paint. The art form crosses generational, gender, national, and racial lines.

Now, it seems that painting may cross species lines as well. While many animals create structures like shells, webs, and nests that we humans consider art, few in the wild seem to paint on their own.

Painting by animals is mostly the result of human intervention. A few people were curious about whether different animals could paint. So, they set the animals up with a canvas, a brush, and some paints. Here’s what happened.


A major barrier for animals that would potentially paint is their lack of thumbs. Because elephants have very dexterous noses (we call them trunks) it’s easy for them to hold a paintbrush.

One of the first painting elephants was named Ruby. She lived in the Phoenix Zoo until 1998. When her caretakers noticed her drawing in the dirt, they decided to see what she would do with a brush and paints. One of her works of art sold for $25,000.


Probably the most famous gorilla in the world, Koko was known for her love of kittens and fluency with sign language. She was also an abstract painter. How do we know they weren’t just random splashes of paint? Koko named her paintings herself.

She painted a bird, a dog, and more abstract concepts like love. Limited edition prints of her artwork, and those of her companion Michael, sell for hundreds of dollars. Her painting of a heart is often used as a design for Valentine’s Day cards and t-shirts.

Milo, Harper, and Parker

The trio of Milo, Harper, and Parker are sea lions who live at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. Their trainers taught them how to hold a special brush and apply paint to a canvas. The sea lions decide how they want their paintings to look. Their paintings have been sold at auction to benefit the aquarium.

Seyia and Faru

Faru is a male black rhino who lives at the Cincinnati Zoo. Seyia is his daughter, born in 2009. Since poaching has nearly eradicated black rhinos in the wild, breeding programs in zoos are important to keeping the species alive.

Seyia and Faru raise money for rhino conservation by creating custom paintings for zoo patrons. On the zoo’s website, you can choose your paint and canvas colors. Don’t be surprised if your painting ends up with straw, dirt, or rhino treats as part of the process.


As you might have guessed, Pigcasso is a pig. She lives in South Africa and was saved from slaughter by Joanne Lefson. Jo chooses the color scheme, setting out different pots of paint for Pigcasso to choose from.

Her original paintings sell for over $5,000. The proceeds from her paintings go to the non-profit Farm Sanctuary in Franschhoek Valley where she lives with other rescued farm animals.


Dolphins are known for their intelligence and ability to solve complex problems. Now, it turns out that these aquatic mammals can also be quite talented painters! Dolphins have been trained to use their fins to hold onto special brushes and create abstract works of art. Researchers believe these paintings could be used as a new form of communication between humans and dolphins.