The Human Animal: A Personal View of the Human Species is a 1994 BBC television documentary series written and presented by zoologist, ethologist and surrealist painter Desmond Morris. He described the series and accompanying book as “A study of human behaviour from a zoological perspective”. According to Morris this approach “[puts] us in our place as part of the scheme of nature on the planet earth”. He sees us as one animal amongst many.
There are six episodes in the series, each 50 minutes in length. The BBC did not respond to our request for the series and Desmond Morris, with whom we did have correspondence, does not have his own copy. Special thanks to Kevin Stanislawski for uploading the series to YouTube! You can view the full series here. A link and brief description for each episode is provided below.
Please note that the video content of certain episodes may be inappropriate for some users. An alert will appear at the beginning of the video. To view the episode click on “I understand and wish to proceed”.
Episode 1: The Language of the Body
The opening episode introduces the concept of the series and then takes a look at the human animal’s gestures, specifically greetings, insults, signals, gesticulations and body language. Facial Expressions such as stares, smiles and tells are also covered. WARNING: Nudity from outset. Watch episode.
Episode 2: The Hunting Ape
This episode covers the human animal’s diet including a fondness for sweets and culinary variety. The impact of evolution on eating habits is also explored including arboreal vegetarianism, Savannah meat-eating, cooperative hunting with weapons, food preparation and the aquatic ape hypothesis. Vestigial hunting behaviours such a jobs, sport, hunting and war are also covered. WARNING: Vegetarians, vegans, animal lovers and sufferers of misophonia may find this episode distressing. Watch episode.
Episode 3: The Human Zoo
This episode covers urban tribalism, dealing with such subjects as familiarity, theft, uniforms, rituals, conflict, social status and territory. Watch episode.
Episode 4: Biology of Love
This episode covers courtship, finding partners, gender signals, dating, tie signs, pair bonding and intercourse. WARNING: Contains soft focus scenes of a sexual and bodily nature. Watch episode.
Episode 5: The Immortal Genes
This episode covers the human animal’s life cycle with topics including infant-parent interaction, baby signals, child behaviour, rites of passage, cultural indoctrination, fighting, ageing, grand-parenting and afterlives. Watch episode.
Episode 6: Beyond Survival
The concluding episode deals with creativity, more specifically body adornment, architectural embellishments, vehicles and artistic progression, from innate scribbling to realism. It also covers play as demonstrated through childhood experimentation, adult inventiveness, sports, thrill-seeking and symbolic thinking. Watch episode.
The book The Human Animal: A Personal View of the Human Species published in 1994 to accompany the BBC TV series of the same name and a video still of the author Desmond Morris presenting on location.