This trope is the tendency for people to refer to any animal that doesn't look obviously feminine by a masculine pronoun like "he" and assume it to be male. This leads to Tertiary Sexual Characteristics
put more on female animals than on male ones.
Trope examples come in three stock situations:
- Instances of characters seeing an animal and automatically referring to it as a male. For example, Bob sees a dog from a distance and calls "Here, boy!"
- Instances in which a character sees an animal that is obviously female, like a cow with udders or a bloodsucking mosquito and referring to it as male anyway. This leads to Animal Gender Bender.
- Characters assuming an animal is male and then finding out otherwise.
Complicating this trope, we have Animals Lack Attributes
in drawn/animated works. In the case of mammalian animals, the characters
might be able to clearly see that an animal is male, even if the audience can't.
There is one main exception; any animal that has a baby in tow
is (usually) unanimously referred to as she. This could it confusing for the male penguins and sea horses who work as primary caregivers. Also, this is often inverted with cats as they are often associated with femininity. This is what leads to Female Feline Male Mutt
whenever a cat is shown or partnered with a dog.
This trope contributes to gender disparity among animal characters in which most animal characters are male. In fact, Florida State University's findings
show that this gender disparity among animal characters is worse than that among human characters. Its authors found that the number of male and female characters in children's books is only equal among human characters. Among animal characters, even cats, males are represented more than twice as much as females. This tendency of readers and viewers to interpret any not obviously feminine looking animal character as male exaggerates this pattern of female animal underrepresentation.
and In Universe
fictional examples, subversions, inversions, parodies, and aversions of someone assuming a gender neutral animal to be male and discussions about this trope only, please.
Subtrope of Men Are Generic Women Are Special
and related to Pronoun Trouble
. Super Trope
to Your Tomcat Is Pregnant
, which is when a character makes this assumption and turns out to be wrong. Female Monster Surprise
is related trope. Results in Animal Gender Bender
In Universe Fictional Examples:
- Inverted in Ladyhawke, in which Phillipe assumes the horse is female until Navarre points out he's overlooked something.
- Kevin the bird from Up was mistaken for male at first, but it turned out that she had chicks in tow.
Stand Up Comedy
- In Priest-Kings of Gor Tarl meets the Priest-Kings, the Physical Gods of the planet, which are basically 20 foot tall locusts. Misk the Priest-King, his friend, shows him the last male Priest-King, which Misk had hidden away from those which don't want another generation of Priest-Kings to replace the current generation. Until he sees that male, Tarl assumed that Misk and most of the other Priest-Kings he met were male. Since this is the only male, he now assumes that they're female. But no, they're not female either, they're neuter. The Mother of the Nest is the only female, and the male is the only male. There is one female egg hidden away; finding it beomes Tarl's Quest in the following book.
- A routine by Dan Rowan & Dick Martin (later of Rowan And Martins Laugh In) involves a discussion about bees, during which Rowan (the straight man) says of the drone "he is neuter. He is neither male nor female." In real life, it's the workers bees, who are all female, who are sterile and neuter. The drones in a beehive are reproductive males.
- The Simpsons: In the educational/propaganda film "Meat and You: Partners in Freedom" Troy McClure refers to a cow as a he. "If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!"
Real Life Examples:
- Averted, Inverted, or played with in Poland where animal gender is assumed based on gender of that animal name. For example Mickey Mouse (in Polish: Myszka Miki) is often mistaken to female and mosquitoes (in Polish: komar) are always asumed to be male even if female are one who suck blood.
- In a Real Life example, medieval beekeepers assumed that the Hive Queen bees were male, simply because they were bigger. Old records of beekeeping practices call them "kings".