It’s a winter tradition to build snowmen, go sledding, and get into massive snowball wars. Not just for humans, but for baby monkeys. At the first sight of snow, young Japanese macaques will start gathering and packing the white powder into a ball, take it to the top of a slope, and watch it tumble down.
During the winter in valleys of Japan’s Shiga Highlands, you’ll find juvenile Japanese snow monkeys—also referred to as snow babies—roll and make snowballs. As the narrator in the BBC video above explains, such behavior. “has become a part of their unique culture.” At the 1:07-mark, you can see one fuzzy baby macaque take his snowball to the top of a hill, watch it roll, before chasing after it.
“At first they’re just curious, then they get creative,” the narrator says. “Snow monkeys are quick learners.”
The species is privy to an array of intelligent behaviors in addition to playing with snowballs. They will bathe in hot springs to keep warm in frigid winter temperatures, and swim to keep cool during summer. Researchers have also observed adult macaques wash and dip their food in saltwater to both clean and enhance the taste. In communities, individuals will emit “coos” to talk to each other while feeding or moving.
But researchers say rolling snowballs is just a way for young macaques to socialize and have fun.
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