The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Tuesday Afternoon Diversion: Let the Kid Play

By Kevin Robinson in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 12, 2011 8:00PM

Among the largest species of deer in the world, and one of the largest land mammals in North America, elk do more than feed and breed. When food is abundant and the elk are healthy, they play, just like most other animals do.

The reasons for animal play have confounded scientists and challenged students of behavior for as long as humans have been observing the beasts we live among. Generally speaking, researchers believe that play serves some sort of evolutionary purpose, teaching players survival through exaggerated movements seen in the wild, or building stronger social bonds. Given the energy costs of play, as well as the physical risk associated with it, most scientists are left without a good answer as to why animals - young and old - play. If it is purely for enjoyment, that is, if animals play just because it is fun, then it's no surprise researchers don't have a definitive explanation for why just yet. Certainly feelings and emotion, especially in the wild, are still not widely understood by man.