We All Cried, Gasped, Rooted For, And Laughed At These Top Animals Of The Decade
Remember when we all held our breath as a raccoon climbed a high-rise?!
Animals gave us so much in the 2010s — hope, fear, humor, sadness, confusion, huge WTF vibes. They were our escape from grim, chaotic news cycles. Our respite from the daily dumpster fire.
We held our breath as a raccoon literally scaled a skyscraper. We got mad as shit when a gorilla was shot dead in his zoo enclosure. We cheered the determination of Pizza Rat. We cried when a dog dropped off at a shelter saw its family return to adopt a different dog.
Yes, Animal Content had the range in the 2010s, although it didn't really start going ~viral~ in the modern sense until about five or six years ago. And for the record, this is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list, otherwise you'd be scrolling for eternity. But it's a pretty good recap, so let's get on this emotional roller coaster as we review some of the biggest animal stories we covered at BuzzFeed this decade.
Harambe, forever in our hearts
It was just another day at the Cincinnati Zoo for Harambe in May 2016 when a 3-year-old boy climbed under a railing and through wires and fell 10 feet into the gorilla's enclosure.
What ensued was a very scary 10–15 minutes for everyone involved as Harambe gorilla-handled the boy. Officials said when firefighters arrived, they saw Harambe "violently dragging and throwing" the boy.
A short time later, the zoo's Dangerous Animal Response Team decided to shoot and kill the gorilla — a move they said saved the boy's life.
Harambe's death, though, also set off a firestorm of anger on social media. The trolling got so bad that the zoo at one point deleted its Twitter account.
Adventures of Green Woodpecker and Baby Weasel
When this photo of what appeared to be a tiny mammal riding a woodpecker in some sort of real-life Disney scene appeared in 2015, everyone freaked out. How could this be real?!
Well, turns out nature, that's how. And this wasn't some epic Ride Your Dragon Adventure.
Martin Le-May, the photographer who captured the moment in Essex, England, said the baby weasel was actually trying to KILL the woodpecker! Don't worry, the bird was eventually able to free itself of the treacherous little weasel (which I did not know could be that small) and fly away.
Llamas on the lam
Feb. 25, 2015, was a big day for The Internet, due in no small part to a pair of llamas who went on the run in Sun City, Arizona, capturing the hearts of Americans glued to their TVs.
The llamas were able to elude capture for about 20 minutes before they were finally lassoed in. Authorities said the llamas were participating in animal therapy at an assisted living facility when they got spooked and escaped.
The llamas, though, wouldn't have long to bask in their newfound internet fame. That same day, BuzzFeed broke the internet when it published The Dress post.
This seems like a good spot to remind you someone made a purse out of a literal cat.
The cat was found as roadkill and made into a purse by a New Zealand artist for an exhibition. It was eventually sold in 2016 to an anonymous bidder for about $545.
Spider Trash Panda
We all know raccoons can get into just about anything. But this little trash panda got more than it probably bargained for when it started climbing a 25-floor building in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2018.
Fire officials reportedly determined that trying to rescue the raccoon from a ledge would pose too great a risk to firefighters to justify, so they left cat food and water on the roof. And all day and into the night, people cheered on the raccoon (and bit their nails) on social media and in person.
The raccoon eventually made it to the top, where it was caught by wildlife officials and relocated.
And while we're on the topic of Raccoon Content, let us never forget the trash panda that was found dead in Toronto in 2015. Animal Services was called, but hours later, passersby started paying tribute to the raccoon we sadly never knew — and it quickly went viral.
Remember Yogi, the 1-year-old Shih-poo who went viral last year because of his humanlike face?
Humans vs. Animals
Harambe aside, there were of course plenty of controversial and epically violent interactions between humans and a wide array of animals. Like the jogger in Colorado who killed an 80-pound mountain lion with his bare hands after the big cat attacked him on a trail. Or the junior high school science teacher in Idaho who fed a sick puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students. (He was eventually found not guilty of animal cruelty.)
There was also that time last year when an Instagram model captured the moment a shark bit her in the water as she was getting that 'gram in the Bahamas.
(Fwiw, swimming with nurse sharks, which are typically chill and safe to be around, isn't uncommon.)
Things were decidedly more gruesome for a woman in South Carolina who died in February after her two dogs started "eating her." By the time neighbors responding to her screams got the dogs off her, they said she was "already so far gone."
"One arm was already bit completely off, the other arm was barely hanging on by a piece of meat," one neighbor said. Yikes.
But let's not forget the measure of Mother Nature's justice doled out to a group of would-be rhino poachers, who were eaten by a pride of lions in South Africa after they broke into the Sibuya Game Reserve in 2018. The crew must have included at least three people because that's how many pairs of shoes and gloves were found among the remains. A park official said the poachers were equipped with a high-powered rifle with a silencer, wire cutters, an ax for cutting out the rhino horns, and enough food to last several days.
Cecil the lion
The sport killing of Cecil the lion, one of Africa’s most famous big cats, sparked a true global outcry in 2015.
American dentist Walter Palmer was roundly criticized for reportedly paying $50,000 to lure Cecil, a 13-year-old male lion, out of the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe with bait and fatally wound it with a crossbow.
Cecil, one of the main attractions at the park, was reportedly found decapitated and skinned.
As outrage spread (Jimmy Kimmel even broke down in tears discussing Cecil in one of his monologues), trolls filled Palmer's Facebook page and online reviews for his dental practice with hateful comments as he started trending online.
The dentist later said he had no idea the lion he "took" was famous locally, and insisted that the local hunters he worked with had appropriate permits.
However, the Zimbabwean hunter who took Palmer on the trip was charged with "failing to supervise, control and take reasonable steps to prevent an unlawful hunt."
He pleaded not guilty as part of the Zimbabwe Parks And Wildlife Management Authority's investigation into the killing.
OK, let's lighten up with the 2016 story of Gobi, a stray dog in China who, after a chance meeting during the route, started running alongside ultramarathoner Dion Leonard.
The pairing started on Day 2 of the intense, multistage ultramarathon across China's longest-spanning desert. Leonard quickly formed a strong bond with the apparently homeless doggo, and with the help of some crowdfunding, started the adoption process to eventually bring Gobi back home in the UK. But while that played out, he left the dog with a friend in China — and that's where the story took a dramatic turn: Gobi ran away from the friend's house! Bad!
Gobi's disappearance sparked a search all over Urumqi, a city in Northwest China, as people pitched in to help find the dog online and in person, including Leonard.
Emotionally and physically spent after days of false leads, Leonard told BuzzFeed News he followed up on yet another tip anyway. He finally found Gobi!
"When I got to the house where Gobi was, I walked through the lounge room door and didn't say a word. It was so noisy in there with everyone talking, but Gobi saw me," Leonard told BuzzFeed News. "She must have known it was me and she came running up behind me, jumped on my leg, and jumped into my arms, and was just so excited."
Quasimodo the Great
Speaking of special dogs, Quasimodo, a purebred German shepherd, made a huge splash on social media in 2016 after he was found as a stray in Minnesota.
He's the product of an extremely rare condition called short spine syndrome. Shelter officials said he did not appear to be in any pain as a result and was able to get around and snuggle just fine.
"Mr. Sandman" Cat
While we're on the topic of social media, you may have heard of TikTok recently. It's great for Animal Content, and it's where a 17-year-old high school student in Ontario made her cat famous with a massively viral post set to the 1954 song "Mr. Sandman," inspiring a slew of....copycats.
Shelter dog passed over
OK, back to sad. In 2016, tears were shed over the story of Zuzu, a German shepherd that was brought to a shelter in California after people who found her in their backyard presumed her to be a stray.
It wasn't long, though, before Zuzu's owners arrived at the shelter, prompting the dog to light up "like a Christmas tree," a volunteer said.
But what happened next required a box of tissues: When the volunteer walked over to the family and asked if they had come to reclaim Zuzu, they said no, they were there to adopt a new dog instead of Zuzu.
"Their reason was because she was crying and sad since her father passed away. She wasn't a happy dog anymore," the shelter volunteer said.
Zuzu's fate went viral as her story spread on Facebook. She was eventually taken in by a foster group that promised to find her a perfect home where she'd be treated as a family member.
YouTuber Brooke Houts appeared to have uploaded an incomplete version of her "plastic wrap prank on my doberman" video earlier this year in which she is seen hitting and shoving the dog.
The footage prompted a whole lot of online criticism and a police investigation into possible animal abuse.
We lost three internet legends this decade: Grumpy Cat, Boo, and Lil Bub. Sad!
Grumpy Cat died in the arms of her owner in May at the age of 7, while Boo, the ridiculously cute Pomeranian who became an internet sensation, died in his sleep in January at the age of 12. Lil Bub, the goofy-faced cat who rose to internet fame starting in 2011, died in her sleep Dec. 1 at the age of 8 after dealing with a host of health problems throughout her life.
All three pets harnessed the power of social media to generate multimedia empires over the course of their lifetimes, and we'll never be the same because of it.
Some honorable mentions!
One of the most-read stories was about this service dog being included in the school's yearbook!
Here's lookin' to another decade of great Animal Content!