Human animal roleplay

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Ponygirl Ivy from pulling a cart at Folsom Street Fair 2005.

Human animal roleplay (also called petplay, ponyplay or pup-play) is a form of erotic sexual role-play where one or more of the participants takes on the role of a real or imaginary animal in character, including appropriate mannerisms and behaviour, and sometimes a partner will act as another animal, or in a sexual context may take the role of rider, trainer or caretaker (or sometimes breeding partner). The principal theme of human-animal roleplay is usually the voluntary or involuntary reduction (or transformation) of a human being to animal status, and focus on the altered mind-space created. This is a form of objectification, since the victim is not regarded as human and would not normally be allowed to talk. A gag or other bondage is often used to keep the victim in animal character. Props such as masks may be used for authenticity.

The most common examples are probably pups, dogs, wolves, cats, kittens, lions and ponies. Any animal can be roleplayed, even fantasy ones such as unicorns or griffins.

Human-animal roleplay is also used in a BDSM context, where one person may be a 'slave', treated or used as an animal by their Mistress/Master. A human pony is known as a ponyboy or ponygirl.

Non-sexual animal roleplay was common in many tribal cultures, such as American Indian culture and prehistory, where it formed an important part of their rituals. In this case the animal was usually either one that was revered spiritually, or one that was hunted. It is also used in physical education especially with children, as an enjoyable way to encourage certain exercises.



The origins of human-animal roleplay and pet play are probably various and diverse, again, depending upon the people involved. However, its origins are certainly influenced by costuming, fiction, myth and legend, roleplay and psychodrama in their various aspects.

Cultural and ritual use

Non-sexual animal roleplay was a common and integral part of ritual in many tribal cultures both in recent and likely prehistoric times, where a member (or members) of the tribe would take the role physically and often spiritually, of an animal that was either revered, or hunted. Examples of the former include many of the American Indian tribes and arctic native peoples, examples are evidenced by cave paintings. In 1911 Julia Tuell photographed the last Animal Dance ("Massaum") performed by the Northern Cheyenne of Montana.

It is also sometimes used in education, especially physical education, as an enjoyable way to encourage people to exercise the body in unusual ways, by mimicking various animals.

Erotic use

Like much of erotic play and roleplay, human-animal roleplay in an erotic or relational context is entirely defined by the people involved and by their mood and interests at the time of play. It ranges from the simple imitation of a vocal whinnying of a horse to the barking, panting or playful nudging of a puppy, or playful behaviour of a kitten, to crawling around on all fours and being fed, or petted, by hand. (In the latter instance, its motives may be similar to those of ageplay, ie taking on a role that one feels spiritually appropriate or which allows for nurturing, and a change from usual roles in everyday life). To the greater extremes of dressing up as a pony in modified horse tack, masks, prosthetics and temporary bondage based body modification (such as binding the forearms to the upperarms and/or the calves to the thighs).

Public participation in human animal roleplay is varied. Inconspicuously, a couple could role-play a silly, but loving, pet play scene in public, but it would look to the casual observer like one partner is merely stroking the other's neck innocently. In the case of many convention going Furries and some BDSM club/party fetishist, one partner may wear a dog collar with a leash attached (some carry their own leashes, others are carried by their partner).

The reasons for playing such a character or animal can vary as much as the actual physical manifestations and intensity of the play. Some people enjoy being able to "cut loose" into a different, or more dynamic personality (eg, Were-creatures or Catwoman; see other variations). In some cases, pet play is seen as a loving, quiet cuddling time where there is no need for verbalizations and the simple act of stroking, rubbing and holding the other partner is satisfying or reassuring in and of itself for those involved. For others, there may be a spiritual side to it. Some feel closer to their animal totem, while others may identify with something akin to a deeper side or part of their own psyche (see: Therianthropy). For still others, there is the experience of power exchange setup in a context or structure which they can accept. Clearly, again, it depends on the people involved and what they bring to it or take from it.

Additionally, some authorities classify this as a type of animal transformation fantasy. Some claim it has strong elements of exhibitionism, others that it is something adult people have enjoy in the privacy of their homes. Before the Internet got widespread use the later group was virtually unknown. But the sharing of ideas, in forums and chatrooms have revealed that this is a kind of erotic roleplay, while not widespread, still are enjoyed by more than one fringe group or BDSM practitioners. But for most it is still best known as a BDSM practice, or integrated into furry or other alternative lifestyle activities.

This activity is a pure roleplay whose principal theme is the voluntary or involuntary reduction (or transformation) of a human being to animal status, and focus on the altered mind-space created, for a majority it have no connection whatsoever with zoophilia or bestiality. The latter is controversial, and would usually be considered edgeplay in BDSM circles.

Other considerations

Each type of play can focus on a certain "strength" of an animal character. Pony play often involves the practice and training that a horse owner or trainer would put their horse through to learn how to walk, canter, etc, as modified for human limbs. Puppy play often can involve BDSM related discipline. Cow Play often involves fantasies of lactation and impregnation. The usual limits of safe, sane and consensual apply to roleplay as much as any other activity between humans who accept and respect their partner's interests and limits. For most, this does not include bestiality.

Note: Just because one partner is playing the "pet" does not necessarily make them the passive or submissive play partner in the scene. For example, if the form of pet play is for the meek and timid wife to "transform" into a werewolf or mischievous anime catgirl, she may take the upper hand and dominate the partner. Again, how the play is interpreted is entirely up to the people involved.


BDSM ponyplay

Ponies (people involved in ponyplay) generally divide themselves to three groups, although some will participate in two or perhaps all three:

  • Cart ponies: usually pulling a small cart carrying their owner.
  • Riding ponies: used to be ridden, either on all fours or on two legs, with the "rider" on the shoulders of the "pony" (a.k.a. Shoulder riding). Note that a human back is generally not strong enough to take the weight of another adult without risk of injury, so four-legged "riding" is generally symbolic, with the "rider" taking most of their weight on their own legs.
  • Show ponies: just showing off their dressage skills and often elaborate harnesses, plumes and so on.

Born in a Barn, a 2005 documentary film, depicted the lives of several pony play enthusiasts.

BDSM pup-play

(main article: Dog play)

Pup play is sometimes (though not always) associated with the leather subculture. The focus may be on training, living as, showing, or similar.

BDSM kitten-play

Similar to the above, but the bottom assumes the less serious role of a pet that keeps some independence and - as part of the fantasy - might retaliate against the partner trying to tame him/her.

Other variations

Some would consider Costume Play, or cosplay, Anime catgirls to be a form or look of pet play as well, because these are generally young female characters that have the combined aspects of females and cats (generally a human girl with cat ears, a tail, fangs and a propensity for catlike affection or curiosity). Examples would be Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, Pink from Dragon Pink and others. Some superheroes, heroines and villains could also be classified as related to pet play, such as DC Comics's Wildcat, Catwoman and Vixen, Marvel Comics' Tigra, Man-Wolf and Black Cat, or even Nastassja Kinski's Irena Gallier in the 1982 remake of the 1942 Simone Simon film Cat People, and Miss Kitty from the Brendan Fraser movie Monkeybone. All involve animal qualities taken on by a human. Some would even count the enactment or spiritual belief in therianthropy (werewolves, werecats, etc) as falling under human animal roleplay or transformation play as well.


Pet play can simply be a roleplay or state of mind without any special equipment, perhaps only involving the use of a ball or toy, others might utilize items found in any petstore like a pet collar. Costume players, or 'Fursuiters', might have entire animal costumes created for themselves, sometimes in conjunction with a collar and in a few cases with various BDSM accessories.

Those involved in the heavy BDSM side of this kind of play might utilize an endless array of bit gags, bridles, blinkers (or blinders), saddles, tack (harnesses), butt plugs with tails, pony boots with "hooves", leashes and collars, BDSM-style "gloves" that prevent use of individual fingers (making a hand more akin to a hoof or paw), and related items are produced and sold commercially to those who wish to act out such fantasies.

See also

External links



Cat / Kitten


Equipment suppliers

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