Stereotypes of animals
When anthropomorphising an animal there are stereotypical traits which commonly tend to be associated with particular species. Often these are simply exaggerations of real aspects or behaviours of the creature in question, while other times the stereotype is taken from mythology and replaces any observation-based judgment of that animal's behavior. Some are popularised or solidified by a single particularly notable appearance in media. For example, Disney's 1942 film Bambi portrays the titular deer as an innocent, fragile animal. In any case, once they have entered the culture as widely-recognized stereotypes of animals, they tend to be used both in conversation and media as a kind of shorthand for expressing particular qualities.
While some authors make use of these animal stereotypes "as is", others undermine reader expectations by reversing them, developing the animal character in contrasting ways to foil expectations or create amusement, like a fastidious pig or cowardly lion).
Some modern stereotypes of animals have a long tradition dating back to Aesop's Fables, which draw upon sources that include Ancient Egyptian animal tales. Aesop's stereotypes were so deeply ingrained by the time of Apollonius of Tyana that they were accepted as representative of the various types of animals' "true" natures:
And there is another charm about him, namely, that he puts animals in a pleasing light and makes them interesting to mankind. For after being brought up from childhood with these stories, and after being as it were nursed by them from babyhood, we acquire certain opinions of the several animals and think of some of them as royal animals, of others as silly, of others as witty, and others as innocent.
- 1 Discussion
- 2 Common Western animal stereotypes
- 2.1 Mammals
- 2.1.1 Armadillos
- 2.1.2 Bats
- 2.1.3 Bears
- 2.1.4 Beavers
- 2.1.5 Cats
- 2.1.6 Cattle
- 2.1.7 Dogs
- 2.1.8 Donkeys
- 2.1.9 Elephants
- 2.1.10 Foxes
- 2.1.11 Goats
- 2.1.12 Hippopotamuses
- 2.1.13 Horses
- 2.1.14 Hyenas
- 2.1.15 Kangaroos and Wallabies
- 2.1.16 Koalas
- 2.1.17 Lemmings
- 2.1.18 Lions
- 2.1.19 Mice
- 2.1.20 Moles
- 2.1.21 Moose
- 2.1.22 Otters
- 2.1.23 Pandas
- 2.1.24 Pigs
- 2.1.25 Polar Bears
- 2.1.26 Rabbits/Hares
- 2.1.27 Raccoons
- 2.1.28 Rats
- 2.1.29 Rhinoceroses
- 2.1.30 Seals
- 2.1.31 Simians
- 2.1.32 Skunks
- 2.1.33 Sloths
- 2.1.34 Squirrels and chipmunks
- 2.1.35 Tasmanian Devils
- 2.1.36 Tigers
- 2.1.37 Walruses
- 2.1.38 Weasels
- 2.1.39 Wolves
- 2.2 Birds
- 2.2.1 Chickens
- 2.2.2 Game Fowl
- 2.2.3 Cranes
- 2.2.4 Crows/Ravens
- 2.2.5 Ducks
- 2.2.6 Eagles
- 2.2.7 Falcons
- 2.2.8 Geese
- 2.2.9 Ibises
- 2.2.10 Magpies
- 2.2.11 Ostriches
- 2.2.12 Owls
- 2.2.13 Parrots/Cockatoos
- 2.2.14 Penguins
- 2.2.15 Pigeons and Doves
- 2.2.16 Songbirds
- 2.2.17 Storks
- 2.2.18 Swans
- 2.2.19 Vultures and buzzards
- 2.2.20 Woodpeckers
- 2.3 Reptiles and amphibians
- 2.4 Fish and sea mammals
- 2.5 Invertebrates
- 2.1 Mammals
- 3 Common East Asian animal stereotypes
- 4 Indian animal stereotypes
- 5 References
Many animal stereotypes reflect anthropomorphic notions that are unrelated to animals' true behaviors. Thus, while a shark is instinctively feeding in the way its nature intends, in folklore it tends to be classified as "cruel", a word that implies a conscious and immoral choice to cause unnecessary pain. Likewise, some stereotypes are based on mistaken or grossly oversimplified impressions, spotted hyenas, for example, are stereotypically portrayed as cowardly scavengers, but in reality they are efficient pack hunters with complex social structures.
Despite these considerations, the use of such animal stereotypes is generally much less problematic than it is for human stereotypes.
Common Western animal stereotypes
- Since armadillos are able to roll themselves up into a ball, this image is very popular in cartoons
- The bloodthirsty or evil bat
- Bats are often said to be blind, such as in the expression, "as blind as a bat", when in reality bats are not blind, but microbats have poor visual acuity. In contrast, some megabats have very good vision
- Another stereotype associated with bats is that the animal will fly into one's hair. This is an urban legend. Bats can navigate very well in the dark thanks to echolocation.
- The dumb and usually fat bear
- The cuddly, sweet bear
- The vicious bear
- The hard working beaver
- The cool or clever cat
- The lazy cat
- The evil or villainous cat
- Cats are known to dislike humans and look down upon them.
- Many cartoons portray cats as mischievous, crafty, unreliable and antagonistic. Examples: Pegleg Pete, Tom from Tom and Jerry, the cats in An American Tail, Sylvester, Mr. Jinks, Catbert, Lucifer, Team Rocket's Meowth from Pokémon, The Cat from "Pinocchio",and The Cat from Hell
- In ancient superstition a black cat was often believed to bring bad luck
- Witches are often accompanied by black cats
- Since cats hunt mice, a much smaller animal, humans' sympathy has always gone to the mouse rather than the cat, despite mice being considered vermin by most people
- A cruel game where the hunter teases his victim before finally striking him is called a "cat-and-mouse game" in many languages. The concept is based on the behaviour that real cats often display before killing their prey
- Other pejorative expressions associated with cats can be found in the Dutch language. Kattengejank literally means "screaming cats" and is used to describe the sounds people make who cannot sing. Kattenkwaad (evil cat behaviour) is used to describe bad children's behaviour
- The cute kitten
- The Lolcat
- Mainly known in popular internet culture
- Typically portrayed as unable to use proper grammar, spelling and general proper use of the English language
- The aggressive bull who attacks everyone and everything with the color red
- This stereotype can be found in many comic strips and cartoons and is based on bullfighting where the bullfighter taunts the bull by waving a small red cape (muleta). This has led to the urban legend that bulls will attack anything in the color red. In reality bulls are dichromatic and attack the waving cape instead of the color. The reason those capes have the color red is its association with blood and the tradition itself.
- In popular culture all bulls used for bull fighting will be announced as "El Toro", which is simply Spanish for "the bull".
- The vicious bull
- The powerful bull:
- The dumb bull, cow or calf
- Since cattle seems to do nothing more than stand in grassy fields, obstruct traffic and stare at everything passing by, people have portrayed them as characters who aren't very bright.
- In many languages being called "a stupid cow" or "dumb calf" is an insult. Being "treated as cattle" or expressing a "herd mentality" are also pejorative expressions.
- The urban legend of cow tipping is also based on this conception.
- The mighty bull and holy cow
- Many ancient cultures have worshipped cattle as divine creatures. In Hinduism the holy cow is still in effect.
- Cows are also brought into association with dairy products, since their milk is used to produce these items. For this reason they are popular as advertising mascots. Examples are The Laughing Cow, Elsie the Cow, Milka cow
- The loyal or heroic dog
- Dogs are often called "man's best friend". Many stories feature them as heroes who save the day or help their master in dangerous situations. Detectives and police often use them to track criminals. They are also often used as watch dogs.
- Many stories, especially cartoons, portray them as the natural enemy of cats.
- Examples: Pluto, Old Yeller, Benji, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, Ace the Wonder Dog, Snowy, Dogmatix, Joost the loyal butler (Tom Poes), Black Bob, Foofur, Balto, Disney's Bolt
- The dim-witted dog
- The vicious dog
- The depressed or low-key basset hound
- The cute puppy
- Poodles are portrayed as being either posh and/or snobbish. They are sometimes voiced with a French accent
- Georgette in Oliver & Company
- Saint Bernards are often portrayed carrying a small barrel of brandy around their neck to warm victims lost in the snowy mountains. This is, however, an urban legend, originating in a painting by Edwin Landseer called "Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler." 
- The intelligent dog
- The feisty or hyperactive small dog
- The stubborn, stupid, lazy or slow ass
- Examples: Nick Bottom, Donkey, stupid and naughty children are transformed into donkeys in Pinocchio,...
- The English expression "you are making an ass out of yourself" refers to dumb behaviour.
- In previous centuries schools often forced naughty or "dumb" pupils to sit in a classroom corner while wearing a donkey-eared dunce cap.
- In many cultures parading on donkey is used as a humiliating punishment.
- The Dutch word for mnemonic is "ezelsbruggetje", literally "donkey bridge".
- In Dutch, the word "ezel" is also used as an insult, denoting dumb or stubborn people.
- The unforgetting elephant
- From the folk-saying "An elephant never forgets" and the expression "an elephant memory" (in some languages, such as Dutch, they speak of a "horse memory")
- The mice-fearing elephant
- Confirmed by the MythBusters in their 2007 episode "Shooting Fish in a Barrel".
- The strict and imposing elephant who doesn't tolerate nonsense.
- The noble elephant
- The downtrodden or mistreated young elephant
- Drunks are often depicted as if they see pink elephants or pink rabbits while being intoxicated.
- In a South-East Asian setting elephants will often be transporting people of the higher classes or tiger hunters on their back.
- In popular culture elephants are usually seen eating peanuts.
- In cartoons and comic strips elephants are able to play the trumpet with their trunk.
- Elephants are often named "Hannibal", in reference to the Carthaginian general Hannibal who crossed the Alps with elephants.
- The wily, cruel, cunning or intelligent fox
- Reynard the Fox, a character in stories from medieval Europe, is depicted as a trickster.
- In the fable The Fox and the Crow by Jean de La Fontaine the fox tricks a raven with a piece of cheese in a tree into singing so that he can pick up the cheese and eat it.
- In the fable The Fox and the Stork the fox tricks a stork by stealing his food, only to be tricked himself when the stork puts all his food in a long tube that only his bird beak can reach.
- Mei Ling (Rogue), Master Shifu's villainous ex-girlfriend, in Kung Fu Panda Legends of Awesomeness.
- Goats are often portrayed as omnivores, who eat everything, especially things made from iron.
- Goats are usually anthropomorphized as old men with a goatee. Such as Billy, Bob, and Pete in Spyro: Year of the Dragon.
- The female hippopotamus who acts like an obese human lady
- The gluttonous hippo
- Examples: Hungry Hungry Hippos
- The noble, brave, faithful, strong and fast horse
- Horses are traditionally seen as noble creatures since humans use them for transport. In quite a few countries, like Great Britain, eating horse meat is therefore seen as a taboo. Many languages describe the horse's paws as "legs", an honor that few other animals receive.
- The word horse power.
- The mythological creatures centaurs and unicorns
- Princes or swashbucklers will always travel by horse to underline all their positive characteristics.
- Examples of noble horses: Bayard, Black Beauty, Rocinante, Mr. Ed, Flicka, The Black Stallion, Trigger, Silver, Jolly Jumper, Pegasus, Sleipnir, Quick Draw McGraw, Toronado, ...
- The virile horse.
- The lovable mare and/or cute pony
- Only seldom are horses cast as villains or as bringers of evil.
- The comical / always-laughing hyena, usually portrayed as a bully
Kangaroos and Wallabies
- The boxing kangaroo and Wallaby
- Another myth associated with the kangaroo is that people can climb inside its pouch and be carried around. This general misconception was famously debunked in The Simpsons episode Bart vs. Australia.
- The cute, cuddly koala
- The clever or wise Koala
- The suicidal lemming
- Lemmings tend to migrate in large numbers, which can include jumping off cliffs into the water and swimming great distances to the point of exhaustion and even death. However in these cases it's pure accidental and not intentionally trying to kill itself. Lemmings don't even deliberately throw themselves off cliffs. This stereotype was influenced by a Disney documentary, White Wilderness (1958) where the animals were chased off a cliff by the documentary makers, purely for some sensational images.
- The proud, brave, noble or royal lion
- From the assumed position at the "top" of the food chain, the lion is often referred to as the "King of Beasts" or "King of the Jungle", (even though lions do not live in jungles) and is frequently portrayed as the literal ruler of the other animals in a given territory.
- The expression "a lion's share".
- Examples include The Lion King, Kimba the White Lion, the first movement of Camille Saint-Saëns' musical piece Carnival of the Animals, Socrates in Animals United, King Nobel in Reynard the Fox, King Franz Ferdinand in Alfred Jodocus Kwak, Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia series, King Richard in Disney's Robin Hood
- Many European regions and countries use a lion in their coat of arms or flag.
- The quiet mouse
- The heroic mouse
- Mice are often depicted as heroic characters who have to fight enemies bigger than they are. This is actually ironic, since mice are considered vermin by most people. Examples of heroic mice: Mickey Mouse, Reepicheep, Jerry (Tom and Jerry), Speedy Gonzales, Mighty Mouse, Danger Mouse, Stuart Little, the mice in Redwall, The Lion and the Mouse
- The villainous mouse
- Mice are rarely depicted as villainous characters who are mean to enemies bigger than they are. Examples are Hubie and Bertie and mice from Scaredy Cat. Also Itchy from Itchy and Scratchy, who is a heroic character within The Simpsons universe, but whose sadistic actions are satirically depicted as being cruel and random.
- The blind or near sighted mole
- The word "mole" means a "spy or impostor" in many languages.
- The slow-witted moose
- The cartoon characters Bullwinkle J. Moose and Lumpy are portrayed as slow-witted.
- Sam Winchester from Supernatural is often compared to a moose because of his height and how the Winchesters are great at stating obvious things. i.e. "It was night, and now it's day" and "Today is Tuesday, but yesterday was Tuesday, too".
- The cute and cuddly panda
- The obnoxious, filthy, greedy and/or dirty pig or swine
- All these aspects are due to the natural pig lifestyle (when raised on a farm rather than a feedlot)—"greedy" from the way they devour any food put in front of them, "filthy" from the fact that a pig-sty is generally a soup of mud and feces which the pigs don't seem to mind at all (this also gives rise to the saying "As happy as a pig"). The stereotype may also derive in part from Judeo-Islamic cultures, whose concepts of kosher/halal teach that pigs are "unclean" for various reasons.
- "Pig" is a pejorative nickname for a filthy or ugly person in many languages. It also is a derogatory word for the police in English slang, which is why all policemen in Fritz the Cat are pigs, and why Chief Wiggum of The Simpsons resembles a pig.
- A piggybank also contributes to pigs' association with greed.
- Examples: Napoleon and other pigs in Animal Farm.
- Pigs are also portrayed as straight men or sidekicks.
- The cute piglet
- The wise pig
- Appears in Korean culture stories
- The ravenous polar bear
- The heroic polar bear
- The cute polar bear
- The horny rabbit or hare - Following naturally from the phrase "(to) breed like rabbits". Another stereotype derived from the wild behaviour of rabbits during mating season is the expression "as mad as a March Hare."
- The hyperactive / fast-running rabbit / hare (Again, generally not distinguished from each other.)
- The smart rabbit or hare
- To symbolize fear, as in "scared as a rabbit".
- To symbolize luck, as in a rabbit's foot
- The criminal or scavenging raccoon
- The evil or kleptomaniacal rat
- In contrast with mice, rats are almost always depicted as villains or dangerous creatures. This image is also derived from the rats' reputation as a carrier of The Black Death and other diseases : The rat in Lady and the Tramp, Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective, the rats in Redwall and in the films Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Willard, Rats, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, ...
- A few sympathetic depictions of rats do exist, however: Ben, the title character in the film Ben, Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Rizzo the Rat from The Muppets, Remy in Ratatouille and The Rats of Nimh in The Secret of NIMH,...
- The aggressive or villainous rhinoceros
- The funny and often mischievous monkey/ape
- The monstrous or brutish ape (usually a gorilla)
- The amorous ape who lusts for human women
- The smelly skunk
- The lazy sloth
Squirrels and chipmunks
- The hyperactive squirrel
- The wild Tasmanian Devil hunt animals other scavenging marsupial
- Example Tasmanian Devil (Looney Tunes)
- The vicious tiger
- The heroic and powerful tiger
- Walruses are often anthropomorphized as fat, heavy-weight bald men with bushy moustaches. Usually they are grumpy sea captains or high society businessmen who cannot be trusted.
- The Walrus and The Carpenter, Wally Walrus, Captain Wal Rus (Tom Poes), Kapitein Stoppel (Alfred J. Kwak), ..
- The sneaky and thieving weasel who always manages to flee.
- From the English sayings: "As scared as a weasel" and "to weasel out of a situation".
- The weasel in the song Pop Goes the Weasel is also fleeing from the monkey.
- The weasels in The Wind in the Willows
- The weasels in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
- I. M. Weasel, the titular character in the cartoon I Am Weasel, is an exception, being portrayed as civilised, good-natured and a model citizen with many achievements.
- Buck from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is another exception, being heroic and fearless but insane.
- The backstabbing weasel.
- To call someone a weasel is to call someone treacherous.
- Examples: The Professor from Conker's Bad Fur Day.
- The cruel or evil wolf
- The big bad wolf is an image frequently depicted in fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, Peter and the Wolf, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
- In cartoons evil wolves are also omnipresent: the unnamed wolf in Tex Avery's work, the one in Hoodwinked,...
- The werewolf is another evil stereotype in association with wolves.
- The honorable wolf
- Though wolves have mostly been portrayed negatively throughout the centuries there have been exceptions. In many stories wolves have raised little orphans: Romulus and Remus, Mowgli in Jungle Book,... The scouts even have the honorary word akela for a female scouts leader, which is derived from the character Akela in Jungle Book.
- Through the latter half of the 20th century, the wolf was increasingly portrayed in the opposite manner of the evil wolf, as an especially dignified and capable wild form of dog and symbol of nature. (e.g. the Kevin Costner film, Dances with Wolves)
- The solitary or renegade wolf
- From the phrase "lone wolf"
In general birds are often portrayed as being stupid. The English language has the expression "having a bird brain", meaning being not very bright. Another expression "eating like bird" is derived from the idea that birds have a small appetite. Some birds have an association with beauty. In British English the word "bird" can also mean a "pretty attractive girl". The fact that songbirds whistle has also contributed to these animals' association with beauty.
- The stupid, cowardly and easily frightened chicken
- Chickens have a tendency to run around in panic, because they cannot fly away from their enemies. This created their image as dumb and panicky creatures. In many languages the phrase "to run around/operate/work like a headless chicken" also expresses this image.
- In the English language "to chicken out of something" means you're a coward. Calling somebody a "chicken" and making hen's sounds is seen as a huge insult.
- Nanny from Count Duckula, several characters in Chicken Run, the song Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens,...
- The three bold, fox-fighting chicken sisters in Foxbusters are a notable exception.
- The sexy chicken
- In many languages the word "chick" is used to describe an attractive human female.
- A hen night is a bachelor party for women.
- The comedic chicken
- The cock/rooster who has delusions of grandeur or is vain
- The "Chanticleer and the Fox" tale from The Canterbury Tales, Foghorn Leghorn, Tortellini the rooster from the 1997 film The Fearless Four (based on the Town Musicians of Bremen), Markies de Canteclaer in the Dutch comic strip Tom Poes, Rocky and Fowler in Chicken Run, General Tsao from Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves,...
- The skittish and shy quail who manages to evade hunters
- Examples: Various cartoons from Warner Brothers and Disney
- The proud peacock
- The nervous pheasant
- The ominous raven or crow
- In ancient folklore ravens and crows were often seen as foretellers of death and destruction, as portrayed in Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" Also, in Celtic and Irish myths, goddesses of war often appeared in the form of a raven or crow. The stereotype of ravens portraying death could stem from the fact that they are often seen feasting on the gore of dead soldiers after battle.
- Crows and ravens are also often depicted as villains; examples include Diablo, Maleficent's pet raven in Disney's Sleeping Beauty, and corvids such as General Ironbeak and his horde in the Redwall series
- The Afro-American crow
- The overconfident, easily agitated, arrogant duck who isn't as smart as he thinks.
- Examples: Daffy Duck, Plucky Duck, Bill and other duck characters from Sitting Ducks, Donald Duck, Darkwing Duck, Count Duckula, Howard the Duck, Duckman, the duck in Peter And The Wolf (although he is characterized more sympathetically in the Disney version.), Wannes Waggel in Tom Poes, Wade from Garfield & Friends, The Ducktators, ...
- The cute duckling
- Ducks are especially popular in cartoons and comic strips, because the animals already have a funny way of walking in real life.
- The wild duck that evades hunters successfully and puts them in their place
- The child-stealing eagle
- Eagles are often depicted in stories as creatures who like to attack humans and especially children and then pick them up with their claws to feed them to their own children. This is a myth, since eagles can only lift up to 4 pounds and are more likely to attack other, smaller animals.
- In contrast, the giant golden eagle Marahute in Disney's The Rescuers Down Under is a loyal, protective friend of a boy named Cody after he saves her from a poacher
- The proud, noble eagle
- The evil falcon
- Compared to ducks and swans geese are usually depicted more negatively. They are often portrayed as being stupid, arrogant, naïve, gullible and/or gossipy.
- Since geese travel to the South during the winter they are often depicted as travelers.
- The thieving magpie
- This image is derived from the fact that magpies sometimes steal shiny objects and bring them to their nest.
- Magpies are often depicted as thieves who steal diamonds and other types of jewelry. Examples: the opera The Thieving Magpie by Gioacchino Rossini, the magpie in Alfred J. Kwak, the one in the Tintin album The Castafiore Emerald, and in cartoons such as Mr Bean.
- The nervous and easily frightened ostrich
- Ostriches are often portrayed as being nervous and are widely thought to bury their heads in the sand at the first sign of danger. In reality this is not true; the ostrich is more likely to respond by fleeing, or, failing in that, delivering powerful kicks, easily capable of killing a man or a lion.
- The wise owl
- Although owls are often associated with wisdom and intelligence, this image is not universal. During the Middle Ages, owls were seen as stupid and evil helpers of witches. On many paintings of Hieronymus Bosch the bird can be seen as a symbol of stupidity and/or evil. The Dutch profanity word "uilskuiken" ("owl chick") is used to insult a stupid person and the Dutch saying "Wat baten kaars en bril als de uil niet zien wil?" ("What use are a candle and glasses if the owl refuses to see?") still reminds people of this opposite view of owls. In Asian culture owls are traditionally seen as dumb animals instead of symbols of wisdom. This portrayal of evil owls can also be found in films such as Rock-a-Doodle.
- The talkative, annoying, and/or smartypants parrot/cockatoo (no distinction)
- The formal penguin
- In cartoons penguins are sometimes ironically depicted as being so afraid of the cold that they clothes themselves with bonnets, scarves and gloves.
Pigeons and Doves
- The peaceful dove
- The joyful, beautiful, elegant songbirds
- Since birds' tweeting sounds melodic in human ears, songbirds have usually been portrayed as creatures bringing happiness, beauty and good tidings.
- Examples: the Bluebird of Happiness, Woodstock from Peanuts, Tweety Pie, Willy the Sparrow, the Beatles song Blackbird (song), the Bob Marley song Three Little Birds, Olivier Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux,...
- The baby-delivering stork
- The beautiful, gracious, elegant yet fragile swan
- At the end of the tale of the Ugly Duckling the duck turns out to have been a swan all along.
- The composition Schwanengesang
- The ballet Swan Lake
- The Swan Princess
- Seven Swans
- Female characters in fiction tend to have the surname "Swan" to imply their beauty. Examples are Elizabeth Swann and Bella Swan.
- The Dying Swan is a very popular ballet dance, based on the idea that a beautiful creature like a swan is also mortal.
- The word "swan song" also refers to the final masterpiece by a creator.
Vultures and buzzards
- The starving vulture or buzzard preying on dying creatures
- Inspired by the fact that vultures and buzzards live off of carcasses and dead bodies.
- Beaky Buzzard, What's Buzzin' Buzzard?, the vultures in Disney's Jungle Book (1967 film), in the comic strip Lucky Luke the local mortician has a vulture as a pet, the Lone Gunslinger from Ice Age: The Meltdown.
- The expression "to go at something like starving vultures"
- The villainous vulture or buzzard
- Woodpeckers are often portrayed as if they just peck other creatures as a defense, while in nature real woodpeckers only peck wood on trees.
Reptiles and amphibians
- The weeping and hypocritical crocodile
- Many political cartoons, legends and stories feature crocodiles who claim to be sad about someone else's grief and then cry fake tears as a result. This stereotype is based on the fact that in real life crocodiles can often be observed with teary eyes while they consume their dead prey. The reason for this behaviour lies is that crocodiles are unable to chew and thus forced to rip their food into chunks and swallow them whole. Since the glands that keep their eyes moist are right near their throats this eating habit actually forces them to produce tears. This observation lead humans to believe that crocodiles are crying about the death of the animal they hypocritically just killed themselves and created the expression "crying crocodile tears", which means that one shows emotions without really meaning it.
- The villainous crocodile/alligator
- Crocodiles and alligators are often cast as evil characters in stories, for example the crocodile in Peter Pan (although it only attacks the main villain Captain Hook), Leatherhead (who later becomes the Ninja Turtles' ally), The Enormous Crocodile, Brutus and Nero in The Rescuers, Alligator, Dinocroc, Crocosaurus, How Doth the Little Crocodile,... .
- There are very few exceptions: Wally Gator, and Louis from The Princess and the Frog, to name two.
- The fearsome, terrifying Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus
- Examples: Fantasia, The Valley of Gwangi, Jurassic Park, The Land Before Time, Godzilla (although this character is sometimes heroic)
- An exception is Rex, the toy T. rex from the Toy Story films, who tries to appear fierce but is actually timid and worrisome. Rex in We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story starts out as a fierce predator, but becomes friendly once he overcomes his instincts. T-Bone from Extreme Dinosaurs is shown to be heroic and a responsible leader.
- Also, the mother T. rex in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a caring and responsible mother, although she becomes fierce when her babies are threatened.
- The vicious, cunning Velociraptor/Deinonychus/Utahraptor
- The timid, noisy, clumsy, awkward hadrosaur (usually Parasaurolophus or Edmontosaurus)
- The stupid, slow Stegosaurus (This is due to a small brain to body ratio)
- The friendly, gentle Sauropod
- The angry, powerful, bad-tempered, heroic Triceratops
- The giant, powerful, fearsome Spinosaurus
- The awkward, birdlike Pteranodon
- Examples: Petrie from The Land Before Time, Elsa from We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, Bullzeye from Extreme Dinosaurs
- Pterosaurs have also been depicted as menacing and/or evil; examples include the Mahars of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar, the Marvel Comics villain Sauron, Dr. Fossil from Darkwing Duck and the Pterodactylus flock from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
- Toads and frogs are often humanized into fat people.
- Frogs are also often portrayed as being shy, kind and having hidden talents.
- The evil or untrustworthy snake
- From its depiction in the Book of Genesis where it deceives Adam and Eve into the first sin.
- Examples: Sir Hiss, Kaa (in Disney's The Jungle Book) Nag, Nagaina and Karait from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the Midgard Serpent in Norse mythology
- Exceptions: Adder in The Animals of Farthing Wood and Kaa in The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling's original book); both of them, while disturbing to other characters, prove to be helpful allies
- The patient or slow-witted turtle / tortoise
- Exception: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Fish and sea mammals
- The clever goldfish
- The forgetful goldfish
- The vicious, ravenous, merciless orca
- The powerful, majestic orca
- The gluttonous piranha
- These fish are often portrayed as if they guzzle up anything thrown into the water they swim in. Though piranhas are notorious for this behaviour recent studies have proven that they don't always attack creatures in the water straightaway.
- Examples: Piranha (1978 film), the piranhas in You Only Live Twice, ...
- The evil or bloodthirsty shark
- Examples: Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, Sharktopus, Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus...
- Bruce, Chum and Anchor, the three sharks from Finding Nemo, are trying to swear off eating fish in order to avert this stereotype
- Exceptions: Kenny the Shark, Jabberjaw, Street Sharks, Sherman's Lagoon, Lenny from Shark Tale
- The man-eating whale
- The majestic, graceful, gentle whale
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- The diligent ant
- The militant ant
- The thieving/bothersome ant.
Crickets and grasshoppers
- Crickets and grasshoppers look very similar and because of this they are often confused with each other.
- The violin playing cricket/grasshopper
- Male crickets are known for the chirping sound they make. In some cultures this sound is seen as a sign of good luck, while in other cultures it is associated with bad luck. Some cartoons depict crickets as violinists because the movements they make to produce their chirping sound resemble someone playing a violin.
- Examples: The grasshopper in the Disney cartoon The Grasshopper and the Ants and in Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach.
- The lazy / carefree grasshopper
- This stems mainly from a fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper, in which the ant works hard to prepare for the winter while the grasshopper wastes the summer and fall having fun, only to have to beg for food from the ant or starve. For this reason, grasshoppers are also sometimes characterized as social parasites (as in the Pixar movie A Bug's Life).
- An exception is the Old-Green-Grasshopper in Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, who is portrayed as a well-mannered gentleman and musician. Similarly, the Humbug from The Phantom Tollbooth.
- The patient mantis
- Because mantises are able to wait for hours for food to approach them.
- The sinister/evil mantis
- The evil spider
- Spiders often scare people due to their strange appearance. Arachnophobia is still the most common phobia. Although all spiders are venomous, only a small number of them are dangerous for humans. In horror stories the giant spider is a popular monster, for instance Shelob, Tarantula, Arachne, The Giant Spider Invasion, Eight Legged Freaks,...
- Rare examples of a positively depicted spider include Anansi, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Charlotte A. Cavatica from Charlotte's Web and Miss Spider from James and the Giant Peach.
- The diligent, persistent spider
- As seen by Robert the Bruce, according to legend
- The man-eating monstrous Giant octopus who attacks and destroys ships
- Octopuses are also often portrayed as dangerous sea creatures.
- Many propaganda posters often portray persons or ideologies as an octopus sitting on a globe spreading its tentacles to take over the entire world
- Ursula the Sea Witch in Disney's The Little Mermaid has octopus-like tentacles
- The destructive termite
- Because of the termite's reputation of eating wood and wrecking homes and buildings, which is greatly exaggerated in cartoons
- The wanton and vicious wasp
- Wasps are often portrayed as deliberate stingers of humans.
Common East Asian animal stereotypes
Animal stereotypes in East Asian cultures (China, Japan, Korea, etc.) include:
- The loyal / savage dog
- While domesticated dogs were welcomed, wild dogs were dangerous to both humans and their cattle.
- The royal elephant
- Most notable in Thailand and India, elephants are symbols of royalty.
- The proud horse
- The thieving mouse
- As a mouse was a common pest, they were likened to thieves. However, in Japanese tradition, a mouse also guarantees a good harvest.
- The comical or lecherous octopus
- The stupid / rich pig
- The lucky / acquisitive cat
- The cute kitten
- The devoted / tricky rabbit
- The former is from a Buddhist story where a rabbit offered itself as a gift to Buddha by leaping into a fire. In Kojiki, a white rabbit appears as a trickster. This is also due to the mythology of the rabbit in the moon.
- In a Korean folktale, a wise rabbit rescues a man from a greedy, ungrateful tiger.
- The friendly snake
- The proud tiger
- The cruel tiger
- The folktales about man-devouring tigers appear frequently in Korea. At times tigers can be gullible or loyal.
- The wise and old turtle / tortoise
- The protecting wolf
- The wolf protected Japanese farmers crops from raiders.
- The grateful/loyal magpie
- In Korea, a magpie chirping near one's house indicates that long-anticipated guests are finally coming.
- In one Korean folktale, a magpie sacrifices herself to save the man who rescued her chicks from a serpent.
- In Japanese folklore, the kitsune and fox represent the trickster, similar to the jackal in Africa, or coyote and fox in North America.
- In Japanese folklore, the tanuki and raccoon dog, are related, represents the trickster.
- The buddies of friendly fish
- The faboulus / rich frog and toad
- The clever otter
- The thinkful seal
- The joyful songbirds
- The cute and cruel bear
- The brave and proud panda
- The power and proud lion
Indian animal stereotypes
India has a rich tradition of animal stories and beast fables, including one of the world's oldest collections of stories, the Panchatantra, and its later derivatives such as the Hitopadesha. Throughout these fables, the talking animals behave as humans (unlike the Aesop model where animals behave as animals), and, are used to invoke characters with stereotypical personalities. There is also a distinction between wild and domesticated animals. Some of the common stereotypes include:
- Lion: Is king of the forest, and demonstrates all the royal strengths and weaknesses. Is brave, noble and proud animal, but can also be haughty and foolish. Has a natural rivalry with the elephant.
- Jackal: Is greedy and cunning (akin to the fox in European tradition), and sometimes gets punished but often gets away. Is often a manipulative minister to the king.
- Hare: Is small and vulnerable, but compensates for it by being crafty, outwitting stronger rivals.
- Elephant (wild or domestic): Is noble, proud and strong, and an enemy of the lion, but like the lion can also be naive, and, when in rut, wild and unpredictable.
- Cat (domestic or wild): Is cunning and hypocritical, with a calm appearance hiding murderous intentions.
- Tiger: Symbol of might and courage, also celebrated as national animal of India.
- Dog: Is considered unclean and impure, and is reviled—not a pet but a pest. Is considered to lack self-respect.
- Mongoose (domestic): Is a loyal and useful pet, best known for its natural enmity toward snakes. See The Brahmin and the Mongoose.
- Eaton, Marcia. "Fact and Fiction in Aes App of Nature". Accessed 17 September 2006.
- Philostratus, Flavius (c.210 CE). The Life of Apollonius of Tyan, 5.14. Translated by F.C. Conybeare. the Loeb Classical Library (1912)
- Straight Dope. 26 May 1999. "Do ostriches really bury their heads in the sand?". Accessed 15 September 2006.
- Stebbins, Elinor. 1998. "Pallas Athena, Goddess of Wisdom". Accessed 17 September 2006.
- Olivelle p. 29, Törzsök p. 41.
- Törzsök p. 40, Olivelle p. 29
- Törzsök p. 39, Olivelle p. 28
- Törzsök p. 37, Olivelle p. 27
- "National Animal -National Symbols - Know India: National Portal of India". National Portal of India. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
- Törzsök p. 42, Olivelle p. 30