The term “animal contact” is so loose as to require a more precise definition before discussing incidence and frequency. In the first place, we limit animal contact to activity occurring after the onset of puberty with living vertebrates other than human. Secondly, we limit the term to unequivocal and specifically sexual activity entered into with sex gratification as the prime motive. We exclude, for example, the masturbation of dogs which is a not infrequent experiment by juveniles prompted by curiosity or humor. Likewise, we exclude such incidental experiences as having a penile erection from the weight and warmth of a pet seated on one’s lap. Consequently, for the purposes of this study, we have by definition limited animal contact to instances in which the penis of the human was inserted into the vagina, anus, vent, or mouth of the animal, or (much less often) where the penis of an animal was taken into the mouth or anus of a human male. Penile penetration of the body is the criterion. This gives a clear and simple definition at the cost of only a few borderline cases.
The majority of animal contact is with either domestic mammals (cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and dogs chiefly) or with chickens. Obviously it happens more often among rural males than among urban, and this factor has been taken into account in our comparisons. Animal contact also tends to be a monopoly of youth—usually occurring between puberty and the late teens. In most cases it is also a transitory phenomenon, which vanishes forever as true sociosexual activity is established.
In many ways one can legitimately view animal contact as simply another technique of self-masturbation, using an animal for stimulus rather than a part of one’s own body or an inanimate object. Groups that exhibit high masturbatory frequencies tend also to include relatively large numbers with experience in animal contact.
Since animal contact is a minority phenomenon and usually restricted to a few occasions over a short period of time, statistical treatment is inevitably hampered by small sample size.