'The Mirror Test' Shows How Animals React When They See Themselves

A hilarious look at animals of the wild.

Every day, billions of people wake up in the morning and take a look at themselves in the mirror. But for animals, this practice is far less frequent.

That's what makes this experiment from French photographer Xavier Hubert Brierre so fascinating. Brierre placed a large mirror in several locations throughout the woods of Gabon, Africa, and then set up a camera to film how certain animals reacted to the unfamiliar object. Gorillas, chimpanzees, leopards, elephants, and birds all reacted differently to the mirror, showing off both their fascination and confusion with themselves.

The "mirror experiment" is not entirely new, though. Originally, the mirror test was designed by Gordon Gallup Jr in the 1970s to help discern an animal's self-awareness. Gorillas, orangutans and elephants all ranked high in his tests. Measuring the animal's awareness was rather simple: They'd put a dye on the animal's skin or fur and look to see whether it turned or adjusted itself in order to get a better look at the color. 

Mirrors have also been shown to help ease the stress and anxiety of horses, birds, monkeys, rabbits and other barn or zoo animals. Reasons for mirrors' comforting effect are not entirely known, but there are widely accepted theories. 

"The animal confronting its own reflection in a mirror has complete control over the behavior of the image, and, therefore, the image is always attentive and ready to reciprocate when the animal is," Gallup Jr. and Stuart Capper wrote in 1970.

In this video, you can see the gorillas exercising their territorial nature, the chimps making movements to inspect themselves, and a bird who doesn't quite understand what a mirror is.

Check it out for yourself: