Do other mammals have blood types?

26 July 2015


Do any other mammals have blood types like humans do?


We asked Kat Arney to answer Sarah's question.

Kat - The very quick answer is yes. But I thought I'd unpack that a little bit and explain why. Blood groups are due to the molecules that are on the surface of your red blood cells.

In humans, we have two different sorts of molecules. The ones that for want of a better word, let's call them and A type and the B type, and then you've probably also heard of blood group O and that is basically neither A nor B. So, this gives us 4 possible human blood groups, A, AB, or O. In other animals, they don't exactly have the same molecules as us because these molecules enable us to recognise what's us - our self - versus what's foreign - not self. So other animals, they have a very similar system because it's all part of the immune system, how you check out, is this tissue belonging to me or not. So, apes because they're very closely related to humans, they have very similar blood markers. There are other types of markers in other species. So for example, dogs have about 13 different blood groups because they have a whole bunch of different molecules that are found on the surface of their blood cells. Cats - quite simple - they have about 3. So yes, other animals do have blood groups, not the same as ours, but fulfilling a similar function.

Chris - It didn't stop some people in history trying to put those blood samples into people though in the mistaken belief that this might be a good replacement for human blood.

Kat - I think there was lots of experiments with dogs. Dogs have done a lot of hard work in the circulatory research area. People putting dog blood into humans and vice versa and all sorts of things.

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