Are most animals as right-handed as humans? » ABC of science


Scientists have studied the paws, claws, feet or hands of about 119 different species of animals, from lizards to frogs and from birds to our relatives, the monkeys. They found that many animals have a preference, but it’s not always for the right hand.

If 90% of humans are right-handed, does that raise the question of how common is this trait to the other animals we share this world with? It turns out that “sensitivity” has taken over all of us!

Scientists have studied the paws, claws, feet or hands of about 119 different species of animals, from lizards and frogs to birds and our relatives, the monkeys. And just as the majority of humans pick up our toothbrush with our right hand, scientists have found that 51% of these species prefer to perform their mundane daily tasks by preferring to use one limb over the other.

Moreover, in about 32% of the species studied, only some individuals in the group were either left-handed or right-handed. The entire population belonging to this group could not be assigned a single orientation.

Right-handed animals


Being our close relatives, it is normal that great apes are mostly right-handed like us.

Great apes tend to be right-handed, just like us (Photo credit: Ernestine Wassermann/Shutterstock)

When actions like throwing were involved, chimpanzees and other apes show a 65-70% bias for their right hand. Gorillas are right-handed at a slightly higher percentage of 75%.


Let’s look at the “reversal”. Turtles are known to make stellar nests in the sand they lay their eggs in, and when Eastern Pacific leatherback turtles have been observed doing so, their right hind flipper was the one that actually did the work, in in most cases.


Here is an example of an invertebrate animal showing “claws”. They may have a relatively simpler nervous system, but stone crabs have an advantage if they’re right-handed, as research shows it helps them crack shells better to access the delicious things inside.


Dolphins orient and turn in one direction as they dive near the seabed to pick up sand creatures. Scientists observed 27 dolphins to study this behavior. Due to the tubular shape of a dolphin’s body, turning right means it has a strong left bias, and vice versa.

In the study, 99.4% showed a right-sided bias when turning left. Just like turtles and walruses, dolphins also appear to have straight fins. A plausible explanation for this could be the presence of phonic lips on the right, which facilitate echolocation, an important mechanism that guides them wherever they go.

left-handed animals


Gorillas and chimpanzees may be right-handed, but orangutans, on the other handare mostly left-handed.


It has been observed that parrot species tend to be left or right handed when using their feet for food. This study reveals that all large cockatoos have left feet.



Octopuses prefer to use some limbs over others (Photo credit: kesterhu/Shutterstock)

What arm would an octopus use if it was to clap your hand? Octopuses also have a favorite arm. Scientists have observed that octopuses use an arm based on what they see around them. 92% of octopuses prefer to look at the world with one eye rather than the other, and the arm on the side of that eye is the one they prefer.

The octopus that looked out of the tank with the left eye preferred to use its two left front tentacles more often. Talk about hand-eye coordination!

Animals that do not have a strong preference

cats and dogs

Cat with the raised paw

Cats tend to be right-handed (Photo credit: photomaster/Shutterstock)

Left paw in cats and dogs is more likely to occur than left-handedness in humans. In fact, it’s about three to four times more likely. However, studies conducted only on cats have shown that this preference is subject to the sex of the cat. 95% of toms prefer their left paws, while 95% of cats couldn’t keep their right mitts out of the way. bite of tuna.

When a similar test was performed on almost 18,000 dogs, only 26% were ambidextrous, while 74% of them showed paws, with 58.3% being right-handed and 41.7% left-handed. As seen in cats, a gender bias also prevails in dogs, with males being more left-handed than females.


Marmosets tend to use both hands when engaged in activities like playing and feeding. Research has shown that their laterality could be influenced by posture. If they stand up and are free to use both hands, they will, but if they were forced to use one hand, it was mostly the left.


When a whale feeds, it dives to the bottom of the sea, turns on its side and opens its huge mouth to skim off all the mud, along with its food! This maneuver gives them abrasions on the skin of their jaw. Most whales and dolphins have abrasions on their left or right cheek, but never both. It just goes to show that these advanced marine mammals also “choose sides.”

Blue whales, however, rotate in both directions (rolling barrel), depending on the type of depths in which they hunt.

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A whale performing a barrel roll (Photo credit: Craig Lambert Photography/Shutterstock)

One last word

Limb preference depends on whether the right or left hemisphere of the brain is used. Each half could be tuned in to complete a few tasks. Typically, each half of the brain controls the side of the body opposite to it. Thereby, if brain activity peaks in an animal’s left hemisphere, it will tend to use its right limb more often.

Impartiality, as this study suggests, could be something we inherited from our ancestors. If the ancestor preferred one limb over the other for reaching an object or defending himself, he essentially trained that limb to a point where he became the dominant and strongest limb. If human predecessors developed the use of a dominant arm, so could other animals that learn via evolutionary cues.

Learning what makes animals right or left-handed can provide insight into how their brains developed and what their evolutionary journey was like.


Pets often tend to be left- or right-handed (Photo credit: 1st Sequence/Shutterstock)

If you think you know your pet inside out, but aren’t sure if your four-legged friend is left-handed or right-handed, just give him a treat and see which paw will pop up!

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