We Asked a Zoologist to Risk Assess these Animal Crossing Combos

Throughout the years, Animal Crossing has brought together nearly 500 villagers from across the animal kingdom. The player’s sleepy little village hosts all sorts of different species up and down the food chain living together in harmony in close proximity. While that’s a utopian ideal, the actual reality of how these animals would live together is a lot more complicated.

To dive a bit deeper into how a less ideal Animal Crossing village would look, I spoke with zookeeper Kit Mulkerin, who has worked at an Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited science center for several years and has a wide range of experience with animals of all types. I picked four villagers at random for seven groups and asked Kit to tell me what interactions these Real World-style groups would generate. You can also follow Kit at @DreadKithulhu.

Group 1: Margie (Elephant), Bow (Dog), Tybalt (Tiger), Vic (Bull)

Kit Mulkerin: So I think I think Bow’s in a lot of trouble. This is not really a good group for him to hang around, unfortunately.

Margie’s gonna be okay. Elephants have great personality in our cultural imagining of them, but they are really dangerous animals in truth. If she ever felt threatened, she could very easily hurt any of these other characters here. But for the most part, if the other characters are smart around her, she should be fine to just do her own thing.

I think Tybalt’s gonna cause the most problems. Poor Bow, Bow is just gonna be a snack for Tybalt. Sorry, Bow. I think you should move right away, you’re in a bad neighborhood. You know, Tybalt might even have problems with Margie. If she wants to start a family, her calf could be at risk from Tybalt wanting a slightly bigger snack.

As for Vic, I think we all we all know bulls are a little crazy when they feel threatened, as well. Now, tigers do eat water buffalo in the wild, which are about 1200 pounds, usually. Bulls are much, much, much bigger than water buffalo so I don’t know if Tybalt would try to start something with Vic. Maybe if he was feeling especially bold one day, but they might butt heads and I’m not really sure who would win in that fight.

Imran Khan: Is there a situation where Bow survives this?

KM: If he stays away! Maybe if he kind of hangs around Margie but doesn’t get too close to her. He can kind of use her as sphere of scariness to keep the other ones away.

IK: I’d watch that sitcom!

KM: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, no, you should definitely pick the houses closest to hers but maybe not too close.

Group 2: Elise (Monkey), Julian (Horse), Timbra (Sheep), Weber (Duck)

KM: I think Julian and Timbra and Weber are gonna be just fine. You know, as long as Weber doesn’t get underfoot, I think he hasn’t really have anything to worry about with these hoofed animals.

Elise the monkey… monkeys are a lot of trouble. Monkeys are pretty crazy, very curious, depending on what kind of monkey she is, and I really can’t tell, she might even try to eat [Weber]. Monkeys absolutely go for small animals like birds if they think they can. There have been many, many ducks unfortunately that have lost their lives by going into the wrong monkey exhibit in a zoo.

IK: Wait, really?

KM: Yes, really. Primates are so happy to snatch up some wild animal that was not smart enough to stay out of their exhibit.

IK: Elise here’s the wild card, she could just do whatever. But I would guess a horse and a sheep are not that worried about a monkey like a duck would need to be actually worried.

KM: Actually worried unless she was a very, very small species of monkey then probably not, but if she’s, like, big enough to grab him and wring his neck, absolutely. She might drive the hoofed animals a little crazy by jumping on their backs and stuff, but she can’t really do much to them.

Group 3: Drift (Frog), Merengue (Rhino), Olivia (Cat), Walker (Dog)

KM: This one I found pretty fun because we have a domesticated cat in the mix. Domesticated cats… I love cats, let me just preface by saying that, but they are absolute menaces to animals when they’re outdoors. They are. They’re little psychotic murderers. They will murder for the fun of it just from instinct, if they don’t need to eat, so I completely expect her to do that.

Okay, let me back up a little bit. Walker is kind of like a sleepy lazy dog, right? Yeah, I don’t think they’re gonna have an issue. That’s not going to be the cats versus dogs problem here. But I think Olivia is going to see Drift hopping along one day. And you know, Drift to me looks like a poison dart frog. So I think she’s gonna try and grab up Drift and get instantly poisoned and probably get herself killed.

IK: So this is a mutually assured destruction scenario that she is not smart enough to avoid?

KM: Absolutely. You know, Drift is really lucky he won’t have to take too much damage. Sometimes all it takes is a touch, those poison dart frogs do not play around. Oh, but then off to the side is Meringue, the rhino. You know, female rhinos are pretty chill out there, except they’re kind of like elephants in that as long as they don’t really feel threatened, they’re not gonna threaten you. But they do have really bad eyesight, so if Walker ever spooked her, she could really take him out. So I think he should play it safe and kinda stay on the edges.

Group 4: Belle (Cow), Louie (Gorilla), Savannah (Horse), Vladimir (Bear Cub)

KM: Yeah, Vladimir is just a cub. I looked into him a little bit, he’s kind of a troublemaker, isn’t he? Oh, a sassy boy. So yeah, that’s gonna be bad for him because he’s gonna be causing trouble with all these animals that can easily defend themselves. Belle, she’s a sweet cow. She looks like a domesticated dairy cow. She’s not gonna really be picking fights, but cows kill a not-insignificant amount of people every year because they can absolutely defend themselves if people forget that they’re big, strong animals.

Also Savannah, she’s a horse. She can kick predators pretty well. They’re quite strong and willing to defend themselves. And for Louie, I mean, he’s a male gorilla, it’s his whole thing to be protective. Gorillas are not like the violent animals that I think they’re often portrayed as, but they will absolutely protect themselves and their families. So if this little bear cub keeps coming by starting trouble, this cub is getting tossed.

IK: So this is like three animals that just keep to their own houses, never leave their rooms, and one Dennis the Menace torturing them all.

KM: Absolutely, but not for long. Not if he knows what’s good for him.

Group 5: Bree (Mouse), Hector (Chicken), Nan (Goat), Viché (Squirrel)

IK: Again, the picks were all random, but this feels like the most peaceful one to me. There’s Bree, a mouse; Hector, the chicken; Nan, the goat; and Viché, a cosplayer squirrel.

KM: Oh, is that what she is? She’s the coolest.

IK: She is cosplaying apparently as one of the Splatoon characters.

KM: Oh, that makes sense. Well, good for her, good game. So little Bree, I don’t think Bree’s gonna be causing any issues. She’s gonna be doing her own cute little mouse thing. Nan the goat, I mean, goats are kind of crazy, but they’re not predatory. They’re kind of just wacky little farm animals.

I think the problem is going to come from Hector and Viché. They’re kind of the more crazy wild cards because, you know squirrels are very [unpredictable]. They do also steal chicken eggs, if they get the chance, they will eat birds’ eggs. I don’t know if Hector’s gonna have some issue with that. But Hector, chickens are actually pretty violent opportunistic omnivores as well. They’re kind of like very small pigs, you can think of them like that. They have quite the aggressive hierarchy amongst themselves. They’ll peck at other chickens, they’ll peck at wounds that they see, they will absolutely eat a mouse if they can get one, though they usually can’t because mice are too fast. But if anything happened to a mouse, it would absolutely be little Bree. And yeah, I think Hector is going to have an issue with Viché if she gets too close to the eggs.

IK: I always assumed they were just docile. Like, they just kind of hung around and ate feed all day. That was like their thing.

KM: Oh, man, no, they’re very opportunistic. I mean, they’re not going to really pick fights with humans. Well, excuse me, let me take that back. A rooster will absolutely pick a fight with a human if they don’t want you to be there. They’re kind of known for that. I got chased by a rooster when I was a child. But, they’re pretty aggressive to animals that they think they can eat. I don’t think chickens have ever forgotten that they are descended from dinosaurs.

Group 6: Cyrano (Anteater), Hugh (Pig), Twirp (Bird), Zucker (Octopus)

KM: So this was kind of interesting. One, Cyrano, he looks kind of like a Tamandua anteater just by how light his face is, which are kind of like small, arboreal anteaters. They’re not really going to start any trouble, they’re not that big. Hugh the pig, he looks like a domesticated pig, those guys get really, really big and pigs are used as a horror element in stories for a reason. They’ll kind of eat everything if they get a chance.

IK: I’ve heard stories of people who pass out and are killed by their pigs eating them.

KM: Oh, yeah, yeah. They’re omnivores. opportunistic omnivores. Twirp kinda looks like a European Robin, so even though he’s got a little feisty personality, he’s not gonna be doing much of anything. He’s gonna get himself into some trouble. And Zucker is maybe a giant Pacific octopus. I don’t know how much trouble Zucker’s gonna get into unless he can get out of the water. You know, but maybe Twirp’ll get too close to the water’s edge and it starts some problems and Zuck could easily take out poor little Twirp. But I think Hugh is actually the one to watch out for in this group. I think Cyrano is going to stay far away from everybody and not cause any issues. But I kind of think Twirp needs to watch out for Hugh and Zucker, especially if he’s going to be picking fights.

IK: When I made this list originally, I picked randomly, but I thought Zucker was going to be the biggest problem because I’ve seen octopi fight and beat things on land.

KM: Right. Yeah, they’re strong. They rip the masks right off of divers easily and then suddenly your oxygen is gone and you can’t get your oxygen back from this octopus that’s just investigating.

IK: But overall, Hugh would definitely be the most dangerous one to watch out for here?

KM: Yeah, he could just like, you know, nonchalantly come lumbering by and if you’re not careful, maybe a little chomp. I mean, Zucker looks like a takoyaki.

IK: He even has a nice little yukata and everything.

KM: Yes, yes. It’s like he’s begging to be eaten, so I think it’s a little weird.

Group 7: Big Top (Elephant), Hippeux (Hippo), Rory (Lion), Wolfgang (Wolf)

KM: Alright, this group is really fun because it’s a very scary group and it’s not because of the carnivores. Rory the lion really can’t do anything by himself to a hippo and Big Top. They’re just way too large; lions in groups can take out a hippo and take out like an elephant calf, but I think he’s gonna just get into huge trouble if he goes anywhere near those two because they will just assume he’s out to start a fight and they’ll just take him out, no problem. Wolfgang should just move. Normally he would be like the alpha in an appropriate ecosystem, but with these African animals he just does not fit in. He’s gonna get eaten by that lion for sure.

IK: Is there worth in Rory and Wolfgang teaming up together, like a kind of [dark] alliance?

KM: You know, I saw two lions — no I think it actually was like three, possibly four, work to take down a hippo, so I don’t know that just an extra wolf is gonna cut it. We’re not even gonna go to Big Top because he’s a male elephant and those guys, depending on the time of year when they’re going through their kind of hormonal period, they actually get really, really aggressive and they’ll just kill and attack things for no real reason other than they’re in that kind mood for it, so I think everyone should just stay away from Big Top.

IK: That it takes multiple lions to take down a hippo is drastically changing my estimation of hippos.

KM: Oh my gosh, they kill more people in Africa than like any other large animal.

IK: Great. Yeah, a good vacation tip.

KM: Yeah, don’t, don’t, don’t go near the rivers. At least not in a small boat.

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