Appendix: Masturbation rates across species

Created 23 Dec 2014 • Last modified 12 Jan 2015

In the hopes of shedding a bit more light on the interpretation of masturbation rates, here's a table comparing (solo) masturbation rates across animal species. Frequencies attempt to estimate or bound the median rate across individuals, or bound the individual rates. The table is meant to be sorted by rate. However, the entire table should be considered extremely rough and approximate. The research literature on animal masturbation is sparse, fragmented, and idiosyncratic, so I did my best with the available data. See below for notes, calculations, and citations.

The column n gives the total number of animals whose observations were used to calculate the frequency. In the case of humans, rates were self-reported rather than observed. Of course, this means that deceit is a problem for the human data but not for the animal data.

Species Type n Rate Details
horse male 43 high median 10 times per day
dolphin, baiji male 1 high 9 times per day
donkey male 2 high median 4 times per day
bull male 9 common median once per day
chimpanzee, bonobo male, adolescent 2 common median once per 2 days
chimpanzee, bonobo female 6 common median once per week to once per 2 weeks
human male, age 18–39, US 987 common median a few times per month to once per week
monkey, chacma baboon male 26 low median ≤ once per month
monkey, Japanese macaque male 26 low median ≤ once per month
human female, age 18–39, US 987 low median a few times per year to once per month
bird, boat-tailed grackle male ? rare < once per month in all individuals
monkey, western red colobus female >14 rare < once per 2 months in all but 1 individual
monkey, western red colobus male >5 rare < once per 4 months in all individuals
gibbon (various species) male or female 64 rare seen mostly under unusual rearing conditions
bird, auk, dovekie male or female >58 rare seen in only 1 individual (unknown sex)
chimpanzee, common male 20 rare seen only under unusual rearing conditions

For these species, I have no useful numbers, only researchers' verbal descriptions of rates:

Species Type n Rate
dolphin, bottlenose female ? "frequent"
dolphin, bottlenose male ? "a good deal"
monkey, talapoin male 9 "often"
monkey, talapoin female, juvenile 9 "occasionally"

Gory details

Here, in a pretty rough form, are the notes and calculations I made to produce the table.


Boyd, L. E. (1988). Time budgets of adult Przewalski horses: Effects of sex, reproductive status and enclosure. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 21(1–2), 19–39. doi:10.1016/0168-1591(88)90099-8

Chen, D.-Q., Zhao, Q.-Z., Wang, K.-X., Zhang, X.-F., Wei, Z., Kuang, X.-A., … Wang, D. (2002). Relationships between sexual masturbation behavior and serum testosterone of a captive male baiji. Current Zoology, 48, 611–617. Retrieved from

de Waal, F. B. M. (1995). Sex as an alternative to aggression in the bonobo. In P. R. Abramson & S. D. Pinkerton (Eds.), Sexual nature, sexual culture (pp. 37–56). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-00181-4.

Ewen, J. G., & Armstrong, D. P. (2002). Unusual sexual behaviour in the Stitchbird (or Hihi) Notiomystis cincta. Ibis, 144(3), 530–531. doi:10.1046/j.1474-919X.2002.00079.x

Forthman, D. L., & Bakeman, R. (1992). Environmental and social influences on enclosure use and activity patterns of captive sloth bears (Ursus ursinus). Zoo Biology, 11(6), 405–415. doi:10.1002/zoo.1430110607

Hanby, J. P., Robertson, L. T., & Phoenix, C. H. (1971). The sexual behavior of a confined troop of Japanese macaques. Folia Primatologica, 16(1), 123–143. doi:10.1159/000155394

Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Schick, V., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Sexual behaviors, relationships, and perceived health status among adult women in the United States: Results from a national probability sample. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(Suppl. 5), 277–290. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02010.x

Houpt, K. A., & Wollney, G. (1989). Frequency of masturbation and time budgets of dairy bulls used for semen production. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 24(3), 217–225. doi:10.1016/0168-1591(89)90068-3

Ishikawa, A., Sakamoto, H., Katagiri, S., & Takahashi, Y. (2003). Changes in sexual behavior and fecal steroid hormone concentrations during the breeding season in female Hokkaido brown bears (Ursus arctos yesoensis) under captive condition. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 65(1), 99–102. doi:10.1292/jvms.65.99. Retrieved from

Jainudeen, M. R., Katongole, C. B., & Short, R. V. (1972). Plasma testosterone levels in relation to musth and sexual activity in the male Asiatic elephant, Elephas maximus. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility , 29(1), 99–103.

Jakubas, D., & Wojczulanis-Jakubas, K. (2008). Variation in copulatory behavior of the Dovekie. Waterbirds, 31(4), 661–665. Retrieved from

Kihlström, J. E. (1966). Diurnal variation in the spontaneous ejaculations of the male albino rat. Nature, 209(5022), 513–514. doi:10.1038/209513a0

Kollar, E. J., Beckwith, W. C., & Edgerton, R. B. (1968). Sexual behavior of the ARL colony chimpanzees. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 147(5), 444–459. doi:10.1097/00005053-196811000-00002

Kustritz, M. V. R. (2005). Reproductive behavior of small animals. Theriogenology, 64(3), 734–746. doi:10.1016/j.theriogenology.2005.05.022

Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

McBride, A. F., & Hebb, D. O. (1948). Behavior of the captive bottle-nose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 41(2), 111–123. doi:10.1037/h0057927

McBride, A. F., & Kritzler, H. (1951). Observations on pregnancy, parturition, and postnatal behavior in the bottlenose dolphin. Journal of Mammalogy, 32(3), 251–266. Retrieved from

McDonnell, S. M., Henry, M., & Bristoif, F. (1991). Spontaneous erection and masturbation in equids. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility, Supplement, 44', 664–665. Retrieved from

Mootnick, A. R., & Baker, E. (1994). Masturbation in captive Hylobates (gibbons). Zoo Biology, 13(4), 345–353. doi:10.1002/zoo.1430130408

Nishida, T. (1997). Sexual behavior of adult male chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. Primates, 38(4), 379–398. doi:10.1007/BF02381879

Orbach, J. (1961). Spontaneous ejaculation in rat. Science, 134(3485), 1072–1073. doi:10.1126/science.134.3485.1072

Orbach, J., Miller, M., Billimoria, A., & Solhkhah, N. (1967). Spontaneous seminal ejaculation and genital grooming in rats. Brain Research, 5(4), 520–523. doi:10.1016/0006-8993(67)90026-1

Post, W. (1994). Redirected copulation by male Boat-tailed Grackles. Wilson Bulletin, 106(4), 770–771. Retrieved from

Reece, M., Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Sexual behaviors, relationships, and perceived health among adult men in the United States: Results from a national probability sample. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(Suppl. 5), 291–304. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02009.x

Rogers, C. M., & Davenport, R. K. (1969). Effects of restricted rearing on sexual behavior of chimpanzees. Developmental Psychology, 1(3), 200–204. doi:10.1037/h0027319

Saayman, G. S. (1970). The menstrual cycle and sexual behaviour in a troop of free ranging chacma baboons (Papio ursinus). Folia Primatologica, 12(2), 81–110. doi:10.1159/000155283

Sannen, A. (2003). Testosterone and behaviour in bonobos: A male hormone in a female-centred society (PhD thesis). Universiteit Antwerpen. Retrieved from

Starin, E. D. (2004). Masturbation observations in Temmnick's red colobus. Folia Primatologica, 75(2), 114–117. doi:10.1159/000076273

Thomsen, R., & Soltis, J. (2004). Male masturbation in free-ranging Japanese macaques. International Journal of Primatology, 25(5), 1033–1041. doi:10.1023/B:IJOP.0000043350.75897.89

Tyler, S. J. (1972). The behaviour and social organization of the New Forest ponies. Animal Behaviour Monographs, 5, 87–196. doi:10.1016/0003-3472(72)90003-6

Wallis, S. J. (1983). Sexual behavior and reproduction of Cercocebus albigena johnstonii in Kibale Forest, Western Uganda. International Journal of Primatology, 4(2), 153–166. doi:10.1007/BF02743755

Wolfheim, J. H., & Rowell, T. E. (1972). Communication among captive talapoin monkeys (Miopithecus talapoin). Folia Primatologica, 18(3), 224–255. doi:10.1159/000155481