Why do dogs lick their testicles? Because they can.
It’s an old joke, but watching a pup lap away at his nutsack makes it seem like it must be partially true. While there are other reasons a canine might regularly choose to tongue his scrotum — cleaning it, getting some kind of kick from licking his owner’s face straight afterwards and so on — the primary motivation seems to be the same as what made George Mallory wish to climb Mount Everest: “Because it’s there.”
Dogs that have testicles famously lick them a lot, occasionally to the point that they get painful and red-raw. Benutted cats are the same. Hamsters are into auto-ballatio. Lions can’t get enough of it. Rats lick theirs. Bats? You bet! Wolves? Oooooowwwwwww! (Yes.)
So are there any animals, any at all, that can effortlessly get their tongue to their crown jewels but, for whatever reason, opt not to? Blasé bollock-bypassers?
“I don’t see why they would choose not to,” says Daniella Rabaiotti, wild dog expert, New York Times bestselling author of Does It Fart?: The Definitive Guide to Animal Flatulence and postdoctoral researcher at the Zoological Society of London. “In mammals at least, if they can reach there and need to groom in such a way, it would be weird if they didn’t.”
To her point, most mammals groom themselves to some extent, and if one of the areas they’re capable of grooming has a set of fat nuts in it, it would indeed be much stranger for them to choose to forego said nuts. It would be like having an itchy stomach, being perfectly capable of scratching it and just choosing not to. (Another old joke: Two men are watching a dog lick his testicles. One says, “I wish I could do that.” The other says “Give him a biscuit, he’ll probably let you.”)
But alas, not all animals can reach. Horses, for instance, can’t lick their balls. There is, however, a thing called a horse lick — a block of salts and minerals placed in a stable in order to both deliver nutrients and keep horses entertained — which occasionally comes in spherical form. Stumbling upon one product, Uncle Jimmy’s Hangin’ Balls Horse Lick Ball, might really throw you for a moment, but rest assured, horses can’t lick their balls. Bulls can’t. Giraffes? Not a chance. Plenty of animals cheerfully lick each other’s testicles all the time, but can’t quite get to their own.
There used to be a widespread belief that, if being chased by a hunter, a beaver would bite its own balls off and fling them at the hunter pursuing it. But it isn’t true — in fact, a beaver’s testicles are internal, precluding licking, let alone gnawing off.
But what about humans? The majority of people with testicles aren’t capable of licking them. But would they if they could? According to a very unscientific survey — i.e., asking some friends — homo sapiens might be slightly more discerning than the rest of the animal kingdom when it comes to their-own-ball-licking. Or, at least, they claim to be. Answers ranged from “Yeah, probably,” to “No, even the thought grosses me out,” to “No, I’m too lazy,” to “I expect, if I could, I’d probably have tried once or twice.”
Yes, they would have. Animals do everything they’re capable of — if they can reach the highest fruit on the tree, they do. If they can track their prey using smell, they do. Animals aren’t sitting on abilities they don’t use. That’s how evolution works — millions of years of natural selection and endless minor, infinitesimal adaptations and mutations mean any beast that can casually give their knackers a slurp will do so.
What a beautiful world.