Examples from Modern Times

Cultural anthropologists have historically illustrated how funerary beliefs and practices provide insight into people’s thinking about life on earth, and our relationships with other people, nature and other animals. This section explores how such beliefs apply to funerary practices involving animals, with implications for:

  • how we view our relationships with animals,
    • their roles in our lives,
    • the discrepancies in how people treat animal bodies of those who are loved vs. those considered ‘food’ or ‘material,’ and
  • how we relate to ‘nature’ and its role in our everyday lives.

We will also illustrate how some consider burrying the remains of a beloved animal in a ‘whole-family burial plot’ as a beautiful conclusion to earthly life, while others might sadly regard such a practice as an offense.


We are the first generation to behold the Internet and experience the many ways it alters our world and lives. In just a couple of decades, privacy has become an increasingly rare phenomenon. A few have shared extremely private matters of the heart – their experiences with natural burial. We thank them for their courage and vision in sharing these stories with the rest of us.


Below are stories of pet burials as well as those about animals who would not fall into the category ‘pet’. We will post an exploration of the term ‘pet’ in the future, but for now – in this section – we include stories of time-honored tributes to animals who were loved, respected, and considered either family or friend.

Martha Stewart’s dog Paw Paw

Read Martha Stewart’s moving Burying Paw Pawtribute to her beloved dog, Paw Paw, in her 2008 blog. At right, Francesca and Sharkey paying last respects to Paw Paw before his burial. Martha writes, “April 12th, 2008 was an early spring day.  It was the day Paw Paw was laid to rest amidst the crocus and greening grass.”

Dian Fossey & Digit

Graves of Dian Fossey and DigitFamed primatologist, Dian Fossey, filmed a moving burial of her beloved gorilla friend, Digit. Upon her death in 1985, she was laid to rest beside Digit in a burial ground behind her Rwanda cabin (the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International).


Men digging Titus' graveA more recent gorilla burial (9/09) has been documented by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.  Karisoke staff and researchers provide a loving burial for Titus in the same burial ground where Dian Fossey rests.

Dorothy at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center

“More than a dozen grief-stricken chimpanzees joined in an extraordinary expression of mourning as an elder in their family was laid to rest at a West African animal sanctuary” NY Post. The original story was presented by National Geographic (10/09).

See the video on YouTube (unfortunately, the original audio is not yet available):

More to come …

updated April 29, 2014

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