Artist Animals

Elephants paint during a Guinness World Record attempt for most expensive elephant painting,
Maesa elephant camp in Thailand

1. Elephants

Elephants can paint after being taught by humans how to hold a paintbrush, stand close to an easel, and apply paint to a canvas. Some elephants have even been trained to do a succession of brush strokes that create landscapes, still lifes, and self-portraits.

Suda the elephant’s self portrait

Srinon the elephant’s “One Lonely Bird”

Unfortunately there has been controversy surrounding what goes on behind the scenes to train elephants like Suda and Srinon to create these works.

According to the Elephant Art Gallery, who merely trains their elephants to hold a brush, stand close to the canvas and apply paint, some elephants love painting and have a distinct style when allowed to create whatever their heart desires. The Elephant Art Gallery strongly maintains that they in no way train their elephants to do any particular brushstroke, but rather allow elephants complete artistic freedom.

“A Beautiful Light” by elephant Wanalee

“The Truth is Out There” by elephant Nua On

These paintings are available for purchase from the Elephant Art Gallery, who partners with and supports the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC):

2. Pigs

Because pigs have high mental capabilities, keepers and owners have to employ a variety of activities to keep them active and engaged. It seems that when certain pig-keepers introduce painting, pig-prodigies can shine.

Smithfield, a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig who was taught to paint by owner Fran Martin, has created over 100 works. Smithfield has become a hometown celebrity in Virginia, where his artworks are sold to raise money for charity.

Smithfield the pig working on an abstract piece

Here are some other pigs that aren’t afraid to get their snouts dirty:

Pigcasso from Pennywell Farm in Buckfastleigh, England

Pinto from the Brookfield Zoo, Illinois

Pinto’s finished piece

3. Primates

Painting has recently been introduced to primates in captivity as a leisure activity, and some primates even grow up playing with crayons much like humans.

Jimmy, a 26-year-old Chimpanzee and Roched Seba, his painting instructor at a zoo in Niteroi, Brazil. After realizing Jimmy didn’t like the toys chimps usually enjoy, Seba introduced Jimmy to painting.


An Orangutan points to a painting he just created at the zoo in Heidelberg, Germany.

4. Dolphins

This dolphin at a sealife park in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province in China, uses its artistic talents to help disseminate knowledge about the sea and sealife to park visitors.

A dolphin painting at a sealife park in China

5. Rhinos

Mishindi the rhino learned to paint when handlers at the Denver zoo were looking to enrich the environment of their resident rhinoceros. The profits from Mishindi’s paintings go towards improving her habitat at the zoo.


6. Turtles

Koopa the turtle’s art is so sought after that he has begun taking custom orders, and his artworks hang in 35 states in America. Koopa works from his owner Kia Varszegi’s home in Hartford, Connecticut.

Koopa creating a summer-themed work for an Australian buyer

7. Horses

Cholla the horse has been described as having the “fire of Pollock” and the “fixed gaze of Resnick.” His artwork has sold for more than $2,000.

Cholla the horse

8. Sea lions

Lea the Sea lion loves to show off her famous flipper prints at her home in the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.

Sea Lion
Lea the Sea lion and her flipper prints

9. Dogs

Sammy, a foxhound mix and a service dog in training, has shown his work at Salisbury University in Maryland. Sammy, along with two other service dogs, have a line of sold-out greeting cards.



Sammy’s finished piece

10. Raccoons

These raccoons from the Hutchinson Zoo in Kansas prefer to paint using objects like seashells, as seen here, as well as their own paws.

Raccoons paint using seashells at the Hutchinson Zoo in Kansas




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