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The term zoophilia derives from the combination of two nouns in Greek: ζῷον (zṓion, meaning "animal") and φιλία (philia, meaning "(fraternal) love").In general contemporary usage, the term zoophilia may refer to sexual activity between human and non-human animals, the desire to engage in such, or to the specific paraphilia (i.e., the atypical arousal) which indicates a definite preference for non-human animals over humans as sexual partners.
Miletski (1999) notes that information on sex with animals on the internet is often very emphatic as to what the zoophile believes gives pleasure and how to identify what is perceived as consent beforehand.
In one study, psychiatric patients were found to have a statistically significant higher prevalence rate (55 percent) of reported bestiality, both actual sexual contacts (45 percent) and sexual fantasy (30 percent) than the control groups of medical in-patients (10 percent) and psychiatric staff (15 percent).
A frequent interest in and sexual excitement at watching animals mate is cited as an indicator of latent zoophilia by Massen (1994).
The terms are often used interchangeably, but some researchers make a distinction between the attraction (zoophilia) and the act (bestiality).
Three key terms commonly used in regards to the subject — zoophilia, bestiality, and zoosexuality — are often used somewhat interchangeably.
Exclusive desire for animals rather than humans is considered a rare paraphilia, and sufferers often have other paraphilias The first detailed studies of zoophilia date from prior to 1910.
Peer reviewed research into zoophilia in its own right started around 1960.
Zoosadism specifically is one member of the Macdonald triad of precursors to sociopathic behavior.
which he defined as a sexual attraction to animal skin or fur.
The nature of animal minds, animal mental processes and structures, and animal self-awareness, perception, emotion in animals, and "map of the world", are studied within animal cognition and also explored within various specialized branches of neuroscience such as neuroethology.
In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), zoophilia is placed in the classification "other specified paraphilic disorder" Zoophilia may also be covered to some degree by other fields such as ethics, philosophy, law, animal rights and animal welfare.
Some researchers distinguish between zoophilia (as a persistent sexual interest in animals) and bestiality (as sexual acts with animals), because bestiality is often not driven by a sexual preference for animals.