You’ve probably heard of Aoshima, right? The island off the coast of Japan where cats outnumber humans 6 to 1? Well these self-sufficient cats aren’t the only ones. There’s a bunch of spaces across the world where animals run free and enjoy completely independent lifestyles. Here’s some.
#1 Rabbit Island
Ōkunoshima, known affectionately as Usagi Jima or Rabbit Island, is found in the Inland Sea of Japan, near the city of Takehara in the Hiroshima Prefecture. Here on the island you’ll find a huge number of friendly bunnies who will, quite literally, smother you in exchange for food. This flock of rabbits are believed to have been living on the uninhabited island for quite a while now. Back in World War II, Ōkunoshima was the location of a poison gas factory and when the war ended and the island was abandoned due to safety concerns, apparently a collection of test-lab bunnies escaped and begun breeding like… well, rabbits.
These days tourists flock to the island to see, feed and inevitably cuddle a whole bunch of rabbits. With so many rabbits on the island, edible vegetation is pretty scarce so it’s not uncommon for the rabbits to chase tourists around if they’re holding a bucket of feed, some lettuce or even a carrot.
#2 Pig Island
Big Major Cay, located in Exuma in the Bahamas, is a completely deserted island… except for the troupe of wild pigs that like to paddle around in the shallow seas. This one’s probably the weirdest collection on the list, but it makes for great television fodder just the same. No one quite knows how the 20 or so happy hogs made their way to this tropical island (maybe they were shipwrecked?) but nevertheless, they now live a pretty perfect island life, eating discarded food from passing boats, practicing their doggy-paddle in the crystal clear water and lazing in the shade on the beach.
#3 Pony Island
Excluding Ginuwine’s iconic slow jam, you don’t really hear much about ponies these days, and it’s probably because the majority of them live harmoniously on a small island off the coast of the US. The island of Assateague on America’s east coast is populated by feral ponies who are bred pretty tough – they’ve got to be strong enough to survive the heat, the story weather and the poor food supplies on the island. The stunningly picturesque island functions as a wildlife refuge and a state park, with its stunning white beaches often frequented by the feral horses. Saddle Club lovers take note though, feeding and petting them is strongly discouraged as they can be dangerous. But hey, that’s the way it’s gunna be, little darlin’…
#4 Dog Sanctuary
I don’t know about you but it’s probably my lifelong dream to visit a park overrun with dogs and in Costa Rica, you can do just that. The Land of the Strays, or Territorio de Zaguates, is considered one of the best places in the world for a dog to live. This huge volunteer-run sanctuary is a free-range refuge for over 900 dogs, each treated to fresh flowing water, a sheltered bed and lots of food and baths. Every one of the dogs are given names, as well as a unique breed name to match. If you’re looking to adopt, prospective parents are welcome to come along to the property and join in on the daily scenic hikes. Even if you aren’t there to adopt, it’ll certainly be hard not to fall in love with one of these happy puppies.
#5 Deer Town
It’s one of the most ubiquitous images that you see from a trip to Japan – a shot of someone surrounded by a herd of friendly deer. But where can one go to meet these adorable creatures? The city of Nara, just a 40 minute drive east of Osaka. In Nara, deer are regarded as sacred animals, so tame deer are free to roam the town, in particular around Nara Park. You’ll be able to purchase snacks from street vendors to feed to the deer and even get them to pose for a selfie or two. It’s all very cute.
(Lead image: Jen Morgan/Flickr)