Why are babies so cute?

Whether animal or human, babies are universally cute.

MunchkinOne of my Munchkin kittens.

Through the years, we’ve raised registered Quarter horses, Cocker Spaniels, Munchkin cats and three children. One of the most enjoyable things about raising animals and children is they are so darn cute. Whether it’s a kitten, colt, calf or baby, watching them play will bring a smile to your face.

Which brings to mind the question as to why we often view babies as more appealing than their adult versions? One hypothesis is that they are adorably disproportionate.

A puppy has huge paws and ears that are way too big for his body. The baby monkey, kitten or person’s eyes are huge for its face and convey innocence. A fawn or colt’s legs are much too long, and they learn to run as if they were on stilts.

pewterPewter, AQHA colt born this spring.

Biologist Michael C. LaBarbera of the University of Chicago says all mammals inherit the ability to recognize their young’s special features. Some species, including humans, take this recognition to the next step. Koko the gorilla adopted a kitten and, just a few years ago, a female gorilla at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo protected a child that had fallen into the gorilla exhibit. They not only recognized their own young but that of another species.

An interesting article by Steve Gould, a geology professor at Harvard University, touches on this in one of his more famous essays, “A biological homage to Mickey Mouse.”

20130713135902!Mickey_Mouse

During the fifty years since Mickey’s creation, his image has evolved from a rather unsavory rodent into a squat creature with a large round head, big eyes, and short limbs. Mickey now resembles the baby animals we love so much.

I know my year old grandson, Sawyer, is the epitome of cuteness. And I’m not just saying that because I’m his grandma. It’s a scientific fact.