Why aren’t there any zombie animals in The Walking Dead? I’ve wondered this since the first episode. I have yet to see a zombified dog, cat, horse or goat, let alone a zombified pig, donkey or squirrel. And as anyone who follows my Monday Mayhem series would know, I can’t let go of an idea until I’ve exhausted all possible solutions to the question.
During my first stop of the show’s folklore, I looked at the virus that’d infected the walkers. For those unfamiliar with the show, walkers are what become of humans who contract the deadly virus ending human life, spawning a zombie life—or rather an undead life, if that makes sense. I noticed those who’d fallen victim to the virus caught it from a bite delivered by the infected. The other form of transmission affects victims after they’re dead, lending credence that the virus always existed in humans but a condition occurred to awaken the dormant strain. The typical effects of the condition varies: Pale skin, fainting, dehydration, chills, soreness, loss of hair, portions of scalp missing, fever/hallucinations, dilated pupils and coughing blood.
Once I’d learned about the virus and its effects on humans, I next investigated its transmission to animals. Apparently, if a walker encounters an animal it will do what it can to eat it as the animal breathes its last. This rule of thumb goes for all living creatures a walker meets. The caveat to this scenario rests on the expected behavior of the animal bitten by the walker. Like humans, animals should rise from the dead after the bite. They don’t. Therefore, walkers can bite human and animal alike, but only humans will spawn as the undead.
This is where I tossed my preconceived notions and allowed myself the benefit to indulge in some interesting speculation.
To begin, the general makeup of a virus dictates its effectiveness on its target. It is common for a virus to affect only humans. However, when a virus hops from one species to another (eg. human-to-human, animal-to-human), this process goes by the name of zoonosis. The West Nile Virus falls into this category. Birds transmit to humans, but humans can’t transmit to dogs and cats since these animals possess the immunity to fight the bug. The opposite stands true when humans carry the virus spreading it to animals, called reverse zoonosis or anthroponosis. In The Walking Dead, the infection bounces from human to human making it a zoonosis-type virus. Therefore, the possibility we haven’t seen zombie animals on the show lies in the fact the infection itself cannot spread to animals.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s a dry explanation, but good, nonetheless. Don’t you think? But what if science or medicine has nothing to do with the lack of zombie animals?
Another theory came to mind. Growing up I read the story about Noah’s Ark. I read how God became so angered with humanity’s penchant for sinning that he brought a flood upon the earth to wipe everyone out of existence. You might call it divine retribution. In the story, God commanded Noah to build him an ark to house all the animals of the world. Too bad mosquitos survived. At least we have our delicious turkey for Thanksgiving. Anyway, this demonstrates God’s love for animals. Perhaps we don’t see zombie animals in The Walking Dead because it’s God’s way of protecting them from his anger directed toward humanity due to the disobedience of his law, much like he had done during the time of Noah.
That makes sense, too. Right?
Wrong. It has nothing to do with zoonosis. It has nothing to do with God’s wrath. There is a reason, though. Avid fans of the series probably already know this. Some of you may have even skipped to the bottom of this post to read this final paragraph. Are you ready for it? Are you? Okay. The reason The Walking Dead does not feature zombie animals is that the original comic book illustrator Charlie Adlard “loves drawing people, loves drawing zombies, does not enjoy drawing animals so much,” Robert Kirkman, the creator of the series said on Conan, Mar. 7, 2013. That’s it. Nothing scientific. Nothing divine. It’s a personal preference. And here we’re thinking it has to do with some grand scheme.
Did you think the answer would have been a complicated scientific explanation?