Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Animals

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.

Zombie Ant
Zombie Ant

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.

West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus

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?


Jack Flacco is an author and the founder of Looking to God Ministries, an organization dedicated to spreading the Word of God through outreach programs, literature and preaching.

23 thoughts on “Zombie Animals

  1. Wow, that was anticlimactic!! I really like all of your theories, especially the zoonotic one. I’m glad there are dogs in The Remaining series. The way they provide companionship and an extra layer of protection for Capt. Harden is interesting. Also, Harden is very distant with most people so this is a way for the reader to see his softer side. I guess that’s what made me wonder what happened to all of the animals. That, and the fact that there are no carcasses anywhere…fields or scavenged houses.

  2. My friend commented at one point in WD Season 4, “How come there aren’t packs of wild dogs running wild in the show?” And with the following episode, bam, wild dogs were shown, eating a rotting corpse. It seems while humankind languishes on the brink of near-extinction, the scavengers are flourishing…definitely seen vultures circling overhead in many shots.

    At this point in The Walking Dead, it’s a year and a half into the zombie apocalypse…do you get the sense that there is a sense of dying, or decay, in the world in general? I asked the question in one of my posts, when I wrote about the Camp Martinez episode. The lake the camp was stationed beside was a dead lake, and the hunting expedition in a lively forest yielded only a couple of squirrels. The pigs on the prison farm succumbed to an ebola-type of virus (ebola does spread through porcine, primate, and bat species, I believe, as well as humans).

    Seems like our fave characters have been eating a lot of possum, squirrel, snake these days…

    Do love the kicker at the end about Charlie Adlard not liking to draw animals as being the primary explanation for the animal question.

    Are you familiar with Walking Dead Wiki? Love the walker factoids it provides .

    Great post, Jack!

  3. I totally believed that it was a virus that did not cross species. That was understandable. For filming it would have been difficult to always dodge the dead wildlife on top of zombie herds. 🙂

  4. Well, that’s an awesome bit of writer/creator lore, but I was hoping for one of the complicated answers! It does make sense though – but for my money, if a zombie apocalypse does come down, and the animals escape – I’m betting for option two (darn those mosquitoes – even an apocalypse can’t kill ’em!)

    1. I’m all in for option two as well! I think we’d have a pretty tough time explaining the apocalypse without some plan in place to explain what happened!

  5. actually I had never thought of the lack of zombie animals in The Walking Dead, or for that matter the lack of animals in general, even when they were on the farm there was not much in the way of animals featured. You would expect roving packs of formerly domesticated dogs or the odd feral cat at the very lest. Something to ponder on isn’t it. if the virus did pass on to animals what are the chances for humanity, the hunters become the hunted? scary thought.

  6. In the story, God commended Noah to build him an ark to house all the animals of the world. Too bad mosquitos survived. …and Jack, Fleas. As for your speculation, I have thought the same. It does make the storyline easier as well as more parablic.

  7. Humanity would be SOL if there were zombie animals. Aw crap, a mosquito just bit me . . . and now I’m a zombie.

    The idea of God’s punishment makes the most sense, even as a nonbeliever. But since it’s fiction I’ll accept it. A virus (or any other biological cause) shouldn’t physiologically be possible, because although they might create a 28 Days Later like ‘zombie’ they wouldn’t truly be the walking dead. Dead things, truly dead things can’t walk. Or do anything besides rot. Unless God wants them to.

    A caveat to the humans already having the virus is this: if you die then you become a walker. Hang yourself, and regardless of if you’ve been bitten you’ll turn. Shoot yourself in the heart, and you’ll be up and walking around soon. Succumb to the bite, and the fever and all that, then you’ll be a zombie too. But, what if the bite isn’t necessarily fatal? Why should it be if that’s not what is causing the dead to rise?

    Think of it this way: a person bites you and you’re bound to get infected by virtue of all the bacteria we carry around in our mouths. I can only imagine that a dead and rotting mouth is that much worse off on the bacterial load. But, why does it kill every person bitten? Why can’t super strong antibiotics fight off the infection? My guess is that it is too rapid, or possibly has something like a 99% mortality rate. And then that 1% has to overcome the fact that everybody else they’ve seen bitten has gotten sick, died, and turned. And even if she were to survive an attack (i.e. not bitten through the jugular or simply torn apart) then she would have to face the other non-bitten skeptics. In this world I wouldn’t suffer a bitten person to live with me. They’d get put down out of fear and the need for survival.

    And then it come full circle to what makes Romero’s original films so great. It’s not the dead that is dangerous. It’s the living.

  8. I like the explanation of why there are no zombie animals in The Walking Dead, and the way you revealed it. It just goes to show that sometimes the logical answer isn’t always the right one. That’s a good lesson for everyone to learn. This is best summed up by the quote from Thomas Henry Huxley: ‘The great tragedy of Science is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.’

  9. That ending caught me by surprise; awesome switch. I’ve often thought like you that the virus doesn’t spread from human to animal, but in the long run, it doesn’t matter since the zombies eat whatever moves. I always enjoy your stories

  10. Good morning, Jack.
    I always just thought that, like all communicable diseases, that some are not transferable between human and animals. So I just figured that the zombie virus, regardless of what movie or tv show that is in question, was not transferred between human and animal. But obvious, in The Walking Dead, Charlie Adlard has a good reason as to why he hasn’t any zombified animals. And really, I believe, the only animal we see, is the horse that Rick rode in on in Atlanta, and I believe, as of this point, that we see a horse again towards the end of their stay at the jail. A horse being used during this apocalyptic time would be appropriate anyways, but a minor detail in this dramatic time. I do wish they would use more horses though. I think it would be prudent to the story because it would help them escape faster and move supplies, etc. But again, a minor detail, and I say this because I love horses and were able to use to ride and I see value in using horses in transportation in times like these.
    Thanks for this post, Jack. A good post to mull over this chilly Monday. Have a great day! 🙂

  11. lol! didn’t expect that tidbit of info. in that last paragraph. 🙂

    the only other explanation that comes to mind is that the virus is not actually transmitted from the bite. the walking dead world from season 2 i believe, shows rick telling the team that the scientist they met whispered to him that they all have the virus dormant in them.

    being bitten by a zombie basically causes death due to the high level of bacteria. when a person dies in the walking dead, regardless of how they die, they will become a walker, assuming they already have the virus in them (we have yet to see some one immune to the virus though i have wondered if that might come about at some point).

    anyway – animals may not have the virus lying dormant in them.

    i know – i’m such a geek.

    1. I was going to raise this point too. In The Walking Dead, the virus isn’t transmitted by bites. Rather, everyone is already infected, but it is only activated when someone dies (whether bitten by a zombie or otherwise). The first time we see this is when Rick kills Shane in season two, and then turns to walk away only for Shane to unexpectedly get up again despite the fact he hadn’t been bitten, forcing Carl to shoot him in the head. This part of the zombie lore also features quite a bit in season three, too. Now that’s being geeky!

      1. lol! i think we’ve both demonstrated how equally geeky we’re being here. :p

        there were actually two hints before shane came back as a walker. but you’re right. shane was the first time we had full proof and witness of how the virus works.

        there were these 2 security guards they found outside a prison (or something like that) that were zombies but they commented that they had to bite marks. we saw that shane killed that kid they kidnapped from the other group in season 2 (forget the kids name but they held him hostage) and he came back as a walker.

  12. The explanation was rather unexpected, Jack. I assumed an explanation like ‘Animals are far more sophisticated as the humans thought – therefore, they have a self-destruction hormone that surfaces if required.’ 😉

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