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Petting zoo facts for kids

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Child petting a domestic goat at the "Little Kids" Children's Zoo, St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri, US.
Reptile Petting Zoo in TMII Reptile Park 02
A zoo visitor interacts with a Python reticulatus at the Reptile Park in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Petting farm in Germany
Petting farm in Berlin Zoological Garden

A petting zoo (often called, or part of, a "children's zoo") features a combination of domesticated animals and some wild species that are docile enough to touch and feed. In addition to independent petting zoos, also called children's farms or petting farms, many general zoos contain a petting zoo.

Most petting zoos are designed to provide only relatively placid, herbivorous domesticated animals, such as sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, or ponies, to feed and interact physically with safely. This is in contrast to the usual zoo experience, where normally wild animals are viewed from behind safe enclosures where no contact is possible. A few provide wild species (such as pythons or big cat cubs) to interact with, but these are rare and usually found outside Western nations.


In 1938, the London Zoo included the first children's zoo in Europe and the Philadelphia Zoo was the first in North America to open a special zoo just for children.

During the 1990s, Dutch cities began building petting zoos in many neighborhoods, so that urban children could interact with animals.

Animals and food

Petting zoos feature a variety of domestic animals. Common animals include sheep, goats, rabbits, ponies, alpacas, llamas, pigs, miniature donkeys, and miniature horses and a few exotic animals such as kangaroos, emus, zebu cattle, macaws, lemurs, and others.

Petting zoos are popular with small children, who will often feed the animals. In order to ensure the animals' health, the food is supplied by the zoo, either from vending machines or a kiosk. Food often fed to animals includes grass and crackers, and also in selected feeding areas hay is a common food. Such feeding is an exception to the usual rule about not feeding animals.

Mobile petting zoos

Some petting zoos are also mobile and will travel to a home for a children's party or event. Many areas have a qualified mobile petting zoo. One of the first mobile petting zoos in Australia (begun in 1992), was Kindifarm. As a result of its popularity, many Australians use the term kindy farms to describe petting zoos. In Australia, mobile petting zoos are allowed in schools, child care centres and even shopping centres. For many children, a mobile petting zoo is their first opportunity to see and touch an animal.

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