Animals Who Performed The Most Heroic Acts

By: Calla Conway | Last updated: Oct 13, 2023

For any animal lover out there, you already know the joy brought on by Earth’s creatures. But sometimes animals do more than simply help us to relax or laugh. Read below to see animals who displayed true acts of bravery and courage and the humans were better off because of it.

From sea creatures that save humans from drowning to heroic dogs that put their owners ahead of themselves, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite altruistic and brave beasts for your delight.

Beluga Whale Saves Drowning Diver

Yang Yun was participating in a free-diving competition in 2009 to apply for a whale training job offered at Polar Land Aquarium in Harbin located in China. Due to the water’s cold temperature Yun developed a leg cramp and was unable to swim.


Orlando Sentinel

Mila, one of the two beluga whales in the tank, observed Yun’s distress and swam to her and grabbed her leg to push her towards the water’s surface. Mila saved Yun from potentially drowning.


A Gorilla Showing Maternal Instincts to a Young Boy

A 3-year-old boy fell 18 feet into a gorilla enclosure in August of 1996 at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. The child, who had sustained a severe head injury, was cradled by a female Lowland gorilla named Binti Jua. Gorillas are notoriously territorial, which made the whole ordeal that much more intense.


Source: The Japan Times

Binti seemed to have protective instincts towards the child and carried him 60 feet to an entrance for zoo employees and medical personnel were waiting to treat the boy for injuries he sustained from the fall.

A Pride Saved a Kidnapped Child

Lions are top tier of their habitats on the food chain, which makes this 2005 story of a 12-year-old Ethiopian girl that much more incredible. The child had been kidnapped by a group of seven men who had kidnapped her in order to force her into marriage with one of them.


The Valkyrie Awakening

The girl was held captive for week where she was beaten and assaulted repeatedly before three lions arrived, chasing the men off. The lions stayed with the girl until police came half a day later.

A Rescue Dog Saves a Little Girl

In 2017, a 3-year-old girl wandered away from her abusive home on her own in Michigan. A dog named Peanut, who had been adopted by a family after suffering through appalling abuse, ended up becoming the young girl’s hero


Neastor Pets

Peanut sensed the small child outside their owner’s home and began frantically barking. Finally, Peanut’s owners followed her lead and discovered the hypothermic young girl outside. When first responders arrived, the scared child reportedly mouthed the word “doggie.”

A Deer Saves a Woman From a Mugging

Typically, when one sees a deer in the wilderness, it is the back end of them. They are known to be quite skittish and fearful of human interaction. However, in Oxford, Ohio, in 2012, it was a different story.

Gone Outdoors

A thief attempted to assail a woman by attacking her with the straps from her purse. As the mugger began to beat the woman, a deer charged out from some underbrush nearby and scared the man away. This likely saved her life.


An Elephant Saves a Girl From a Tsunami

Indonesia suffered a hazardous tsunami in 2004, ravaging its coastline and putting Amber Mason in serious peril. Luckily, for her, a quick thinking and heroic 4-year-old elephant put Amber on his back and raced to higher ground, away from the flooding shoreline.



As the thundering waves continued to push onto land, the young elephant turned his back to create a fortress of protection for Mason. It is unlikely Amber Mason would have survived this natural disaster without his help.


A Goat Fed and Nurtured a Fallen Farmer

A lifelong farmer named Noel Osborne began his normal day of farm work. Unfortunately, he suffered a perilous accident that threw him into a manure pile and broke his hip, leaving him unable to move.

Farm Sanctuary

Osborne claimed he was too far away from anyone nearby to hear his calls for help, except for his goat Mandy. Mandy nurtured the farmer for five days, lying on him for warmth and even allowing Osborne to feed on her milk to survive.


A Parrot Saves a Choking Child

A parrot named Willie saved a small child one day due to his observant nature and ability to speak! The child, Hannah, aged 2, was choking while her babysitter was using the toilet.


Readers Digest

The babysitter said: “While I was in the bathroom, Willie started screaming and flapping his wings like I had never heard before. It was when he screamed ‘mommy baby’ that I got worried and walked out. That’s when I saw Hannah with a blue face.”


A Golden Retriever Saves Owner From a Rattlesnake

A golden retriever named Todd came to the rescue for his owner one sunny day on a hiking trip in Arizona. It was 2018 when Todd stepped in between his beloved and a rattlesnake that she had not been able to see.


The dog suffered a bite to the face which left him with a severely swollen snout brought on by the deadly snake. Luckily, Todd the good boy survived his heroic and selfless deed, as did his owner.


A Sea Lion Saved a Man Trying To End His Life

Sea lions are known to be territorial; you know sea lion. However, when Kevin Hines was 19 years old in September of 2006, he saw a very different side to the sea creature.


Curbed SF

Hines jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, C.A, surviving the 25-story jump, and breaking his back and shattering several vertebrates. Before he began to sink, a sea lion circled and nudged him, keeping him above water just in time for authorities to pull him out of the water.


A Dog Protects a Survivor of a Car Crash

In 2017, Lako, a King Shepherd from British Columbia was inducted into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame due to his act of valor and cleverness in the face of massive adversity and tragedy.

K9 Web

Sako and his family were in a horrifying accident that killed all but himself and his teenage owner. Sako tended to his badly hurt owner, keeping him warm, leading him to water, and fighting off coyotes for 40 hours before they were finally rescued.


A Mother Bear Wards Off a Mountain Lion

Robert Biggs of Paradise, California, was observing a mother bear and her cubs safely from a distance when he was surprised attacked by a mountain lion from behind. The mountain lion jumped on his back, while Biggs tried to fight the cat off with a rick hammer.



The mother bear became aware of the scuffle and charged the cat, ripping it off of Biggs and flinging it around by the neck. The mountain lion ran off and the bear returned to her cubs.


A Brave Dog Saves a Toddler From a Snake

Another brave dog who saved their owner from a snake was Khan the Doberman. Khan had only been rescued 4 days before and was playing in the backyard with his new toddler friend. Khan noticed the snake and began trying to nudge the toddler away to safety.

Source: Yahoo News Canada

When the toddler, Charlotte, did not take heed, he threw the child a meter away from the venomous snake. The girl was safe, but Khan was bitten. Luckily, he and his friend Charlotte survived.


Dolphins Save a Woman Lost at Sea

Yvonne Vladislavich was somewhere in the Indian Ocean in 1971 when the yacht she was on exploded and sank. Because it was a leisure trip, the route her and the passengers were on was not on any shipping routes, making the chances of being noticed very slim.



Three dolphins approached Vladislavich, with one allowing her to grab onto its body, while the other two swam alongside. This went on for hours until she reached a buoy and was picked up by a passing ship.


A Brave Dog Wins a Purple Heart

In 2012, a Belgian Malinois named Lakya, who was overseas with troops in Afghanistan, metaphorically won the Purple Heart for her act of service and bravery, as well as surviving her injury. Lakya was shot four times with an AK-47 while going through a Taliban compound. The injury cost her a leg.


The soldiers she served alongside accredited her actions as lifesaving. When she survived and returned home, one of those soldiers, Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald adopted the three-legged hero.


A Woman Climbs Aboard a Sea Turtle After Shipwreck

In June of 1974, a 62-year-old woman named Candalaria Villanueva was shipwrecked and ultimately saved by a giant sea turtle. The Philippine Navy wrote an official account of the events, citing the ship that saved Villanueva as having seen her “aboard” a sea turtle before they plucked her from the sea.



Allegedly, the turtle swam for two days—forgoing deep-dives and food, while the woman clung on. The rescue crew thought that Villanueva had been clinging to an oil drum before seeing the turtle circle three times and dive-down after her rescue.


A Seal Fends Off Shark After Attack

A man in Cape Town, South Africa, almost lost his life after a shark attack and lost almost two gallons of blood. British tourist Michael Cohen’s right leg was severed, and his left was bitten through.

Source: Natural Resources Council of Maine

Two men swam out to rescue him, but the shark had not left the scene. A seal began to swim circles around the two men until they reach Cohen, of whom they got safely to shore. The seal may have been using the men as protection, but it seems the inverse worked for them all.


A Pit Bull Brings Light Into a Dark Time

A pit bull puppy saved a man from ending his life just by sheerly being herself. Cheyenne was adopted by Senior Airmen David Sharpe from an animal shelter a few months prior to his sad plan to end his life.


Best Friends Animal Society

As he sat on the kitchen floor, handgun in hand, Cheyenne came up alongside him and licked his ear, making him laugh. Sharpe, who was suffering from undiagnosed depression and PTSD, said that this small act gave him a refreshing lease on life, and pivoted his act of despair.


Altruistic Sea Creatures Band Together to Save Man

Ronnie Dabal was tuna fishing in Puerto Princesa Bay of the Philippines in 2008 when his boat was upset by an intense localized storm. Dabal battled against the sea for 24 hours, his only means of survival a piece of Styrofoam.

Dolphins World

Luckily for Dabal, a pod of roughly 30 dolphins and two whales came to his rescue, nudging his makeshift raft all the way to shoreline of Barangay and he was able to survive.


A Patrol Dog Saves Countless People From Explosives

Another pooch who served in the line of duty and lived to the tail (oops…tale) was a half German Shepard and half Belgian Malinois named Luca. She led roughly 400 patrols in the search of improvised explosive devices, positively identifying almost 40 and saving countless lives.


Source: K9 Web

In her final act of service, Luca was struck and lost a leg. However, she survived and became the first U.S military working dog to receive the Dickin Medal, recognizes devotion and bravery by service animals in civil defense and armed forces.


Beavers Snuggled a Cold and Frightened Boy

Rheal Guindon of Ontario, Canada went camping with his parents when they took the boat to go fishing. Rheal stayed behind on shore. Sadly, he witnessed in horror as his parent’s boat tipped and they both drowned.

Source: Smithsonian National Zoo

He tried to walk to the nearest town for help as the sun set but was left out in the cold. He laid down crying, only to be met with a warm fuzzy body against him before he fell asleep. When he awoke, he found three wild beavers snuggled to him, which has saved him from freezing to death overnight.


A Cat Senses a Newborn in Trouble

A cat in Russia saved a small and helpless child from freezing to death. A newborn baby was left in nothing more than a box in a cold stairwell and was at risk of freezing to death.


Paws Whiskers & Claws, The Feline Hospital

Luckily, a stray cat saw the child and began to meow relentlessly and in a panic until nearby neighbors became alarmed and came to see what the commotion was. They discovered the child in the cat’s fur and were able to save the newborn. Masha the cat is now considered a hero.


Dolphin Protects Athlete From a Great White Shark

Dolphins seem to have a natural heroic streak and are known to rescue drowning or unconscious people. Adam Walker, a British swimmer, was very much awake and was in the middle of his 8-hour marathon in the Pacific Ocean when he saw a large great white shark ahead of him.

Dolphin Academy

Thankfully, a pod of dolphins arrived and shielded Walker for the next hour, swimming around him in a protective manner. Walker considered this a double win, as he was able to swim with these majestic creatures as well as stay out of danger.


Dogs Lend Their Support During September 11th, 2001

On one of the worst days to date in United States history, September 11th 2001, a lot of help and resources were required to help find and save lives in the midst of the terror. About 100 dogs were included in the frantic search and rescue.


The New York Times

Dogs have an exceptional sense of smell and were able to make an important impact on finding survivors. The dogs worked through the day into the night in hazardous conditions. The dogs were able find the victims and offer needed support and warmth.


An Intelligent Pig Saves Woman From Heart Attack

A woman who goes by Joann adopted a potbelly pig named LuLu after she was rejected by her first home. This decision ultimately saved her life. Joann suffered a heart attack and fell to the floor.

LuLu ran from the house and threw herself down into traffic. While most ignored her, LuLu would return to Joann and check on her before running back to try for help. Finally, a man followed her back and discovered the ailing Joann, who survived thanks to her pet pig.


A Marine Biologist is Saved By a Maternal Whale

A 28-year veteran marine biologist named Nan Hauser experienced bizarre behavior from a 50K-pound humpback whale during a dive—the whale kept nudging her and trying to get her on its head, belly, or back. The whale continued to attempt to tuck her into its pectoral fin.


Source: The Portland Press Herald

It wasn’t until Hauser noticed a 15-foot tiger shark lurking nearby that the whale’s behavior began to make sense. The entire interaction was caught on video, with scientists believing this instinct stemmed from whale’s instinct to protect their calves.


A Horse Saves Her Owner From a Mad Cow

A Scottish farmer named Fiona Boyd was attacked by a mother cow who mistook her attempts to help her calf as a threat. The cow butted, stomped, and shouldered Boyd as Boyd received the beating helplessly.

Deep Hollow Ranch

Thankfully, Boyd’s horse Kerry who had been grazing nearby charged the cow and kicked, giving Boyd enough time to roll to safety. According to Boyd, “I am in no doubt Kerry saved me. If she hadn’t been grazing in the same pasture, I really believe I would have been killed. Kerry was fantastic. She saved my life.”


A Rabbit Knew Something Was Gravely Wrong

Animals seem to have a perception and sixth sense that we cannot always pick up on. Rabbit is not known for their smarts, however, a pet rabbit in the U.K may have been the saving grace for resident Simon Steggall.



Stegall went into a diabetic coma while watching TV at home with his wife. Instinctively, the animal seemed to know that something was dangerously wrong. The bunny jumped onto Stegall’s chest and began thumping on it and licking his face, alerting Mrs. Stegall to issue, and saving his life.


A Dog Sacrificed Herself and Saved Her Family

Chantelle Lister had already left for work in the early hours when her home in Kettering, England went up in flames on the ground floor. Her sleeping children slept above, unaware. The family’s four-year-old Terrier-mix, Bailey, began to panic and bark, scratching at Loren’s door, aged 17, the eldest.

Dog Gone Problems

Loren sprung into action and was able to successfully wake and save the rest of her siblings and leave the house. Bailey had run downstairs after waking Loren and was not able to successfully get out. Bailey is eternally a hero.


A Cat Elects Herself as Night Nurse

Pippa the cat was abandoned in a box but was lucky enough to be re-homed, but it was not just her luck in the mix. Mia, 8, had type 1 diabetes and her blood sugar would drop dangerously low while asleep. This can lead to a coma, medical complications, and even death.



Pippa began to take it upon herself to check on the sleeping child, like a night nurse. She would try to wake Mia, and if she would not rouse, Pippa would begin to make noise, alerting Mia’s parents.


Rats Save Civilians From Landmines

A Belgian organization, APOPO has trained giant African pouched rats to detect landmines and avoid tragic civilian casualties. Rats, which are intelligent, sociable, and trainable, seemed like a fiscally solvent and wise choice.

The New York Times

The rats are socialized as pups to search for the target scent. They have been trained to sniff out TNT explosives or TB. Since 2007, the rats, which live up to 8 years in captivity, have detected 56,000 landmines and explosives. Since the rats are so light-footed, there have been zero rat casualties.


Golden Retrievers Help Children Mourn

After a senseless massacre in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, that left 20 first grade children and six school employees dead, the school turned to the comfort of human’s best friend.


The mourning children were provided the sweet relief from the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, to hold, hug a pet. The golden retriever provided a simple and sweet relief in the face of the unimaginable. “When they come over and you pet them you kind of forget about what’s happening for a little bit,” then-12-year-old Ryan Williams said.


A Recovering Dog Lends Himself to a Search and Rescue

After a devastating tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, Lily the dog became a central part of the rescue mission. Lilly had only recently began recovering from a mysterious illness only months prior that nearly killed her and was still sickly and on medication when the storm hit. Lilly spent two weeks searching for survivors underneath the rubble.


Lilly was nominated for her work in the rescue mission by the 2012 Hero Dog Awards sponsored by the American Humane Association.


A Carrier Pigeon Saves Hundreds of Men at War

Cher Ami, the much-admired Black Check cock carrier pigeon played a big part in World War 1, helping to save hundreds of lives. Cher Ami, meaning dear friend French, helped to deliver imperative messages to French troops stationed during battle.


Her most famous feat was still delivering a message to an encircled battalion, all while critically injured, ultimately saving the lives of hundreds of men. He was shot through the breast and leg and died from his injuries many months later.


Snow Dogs Bring Medicine to a Remote Village

A remote village in Nome, Alaska, was hit badly with a deadly bout of diphtheria in 1925. No plane or boat was able to transport the needed diphtheria antitoxin due to the town being snowed in, so sled dogs were commissioned to the task.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

The lead snow dog, Togo, and his team traversed for more than 200 miles though arduous conditions such as blizzards and ice floes, but eventually reached the village to administer the necessary medicine.


A Horse Named Magic Casts Her Spell

The aptly named Magic, the blue-eyed therapy mare frequented group homes and hospice care centers to bring joy, light, and some well-deserved happiness throughout the day. The mare was brought to an assisted living facility in Florida to offer a spoonful of her magic medicine.



Magic was presented to a woman who had not spoken a word in three years. At the sight of Magic, the woman exclaimed, according to Time “Isn’t she beautiful?” Sometimes heroism is simply helping someone find their voice.


A Good Boy Saves a Drowning Baby

A woman named Patricia Drauch thought her 14-month-old son, Stanley, was directly behind her one day as she went to grab something from the garage, however frantically noticed that he was not behind her. He had fallen into the pool.


The toddler was blue but thankfully face up in the water thanks to their Labrador Retriever, Bear, who was underneath Stanley, who was propping his head above the water. Patricia was able to retrieve her son, who likely is alive and healthy today thanks to Bear.