There is a tendency, especially in animated works involving animal characters on the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism
from Nearly Normal Animal
to Petting Zoo Person
, to cast characters of some species as more commonly male and characters of some species as more commonly female. This is about an animal species that has both biological sexes in Real Life
, but has one gender overrepresented in fiction due to stereotyping.
Usually the more ugly, masculine-looking, or androgynous-looking animals (like rhinos, pigs, gorillas, Ravens and Crows
, Frogs and Toads
, dogs, donkeys, turkeys, and walruses) are more commonly male, while the more beautiful, graceful, or feminine-looking ones (like cats, ladybugs, swans, giraffes, gazelles, and ironically peacocks and male-plumaged ostriches) are more commonly female. If butterflies are shown as adult butterflies they're all female, but when an "ugly" catepillar is shown it'll be male, and one of the few male butterflies. Some species can be either/or gender wise (like mice, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, kangaroos, and snakes).
There are exceptions to the "graceful animals are female, big stompy animals are male" part of the trope. Hippos for examples are quite often female in fiction and if so will be cast in the Fat Girl
role. The Women Are Delicate
aspect is often subverted with large animals who will then just act delicately for comedy, like cows and hippos.
Apex hunters such as wolves, bears, and lions tend to be portrayed as male (while unfortunately
also being portrayed as "evil" in an anthropomorphic society
). Generally, villains, especially in youth-oriented works, are more likely to be male, especially when non-human. However, more mature and realistic works know that in many cases, it is the female who tends to be more dangerous. Mosquitoes are the most notable and obvious example of this as not only are the females dangerous, the males are totally harmless. As an exception to the "predator" category, big cats other than lions (tigers, leopards, pumas, etc) are equally likely to be female, reflecting their grace and agility.
In animals which engage in complex courtship rituals, such as most birds, the males tend to be larger and more vibrantly coloured. But because these are more "pretty", they tend to be portrayed as female, especially if the bird in question is a peafowl.
The opposite is true with insects, where females tend to be bigger and stronger and more likely to have distinguishing marks while males are tiny and nondescript. Because of this insects like mosquitoes, mantises, ants, and bees are usually portrayed as male. Spiders seem to come out all right, though. It's become common knowledge that the female attempts to eat the male during/after coitus, so spiders tend to be portrayed as vamps
, especially the Black Widow, probably thanks to her very indicative name.
Anytime a large population of a given species is present, there will be a more realistic balance of males and females to accurately reflect the human population. Thus in films like A Bug's Life
(ants), Bee Movie
(ants), and Disney's adaptation of Tarzan
(gorillas), males and females are seen together. It's still not realistically in the case with eusocial insects (like A Bug's Life
, Bee Movie
, and Antz
), as the different genders tend to have widely different roles and appearances.
This trope can also be combined with Animal Motifs
and Transformation Conventions
. Subtrope to Species-Coded for Your Convenience
. See also Animal Stereotypes
, Animal Gender Bender
, Peacock Girl
, Insect Gender Bender
, Female Feline, Male Mutt
, and Gender Equals Breed
. Related to and usually a subtrope to Women Are Delicate
. Related to Pale Females, Dark Males
and Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves
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Common "Stock" Animal Gender Stereotypes Used Can Include:
- Ants: More likely male, despite being made up mostly of females in Real Life.
- Baboons: Usually male
- Badgers: More likely to be male
- Bears: More likely male, despite being the inspiration for the Mama Bear trope.
- Bees: More likely male except for the queen, despite being made up mostly of females in Real Life.
- Boars: Usually Male; wild sows rarely exist in fiction, but when they do, they usually have several striped piglets following them.
- Butterflies: More likely to be female. Caterpillars are more likely to be male though; when they turn into butterflies, they are the few male butterflies in fiction.
- Cats: More likely to be female if the cat in question has all-white fur or is paired with an almost always male dog. The "alley cat" tends to be portrayed as male though, so cartoons depicting cats hanging out by trash cans will likely depict them as male. The Cool Cat, Fat Cat, and orange cat are also more likely to be male. They are equally likely to be male or female otherwise. Any wild species except lions has a similar either male or female gender coding that domestic and feral cats have.
- Cattle: Can be either male (bull or steer/ox) or female (cow) depending on the needs of the story.
- Chickens: Can be either male (rooster) or female (hen) depending on the needs of the story.
- Chimpanzees: Usually male
- Crows: Most likely male
- Dogs: More likely male, especially when paired with an often female cat. Poodles and Salukis are usually female though.
- Donkeys and Mules: Usually male
- Elephants: Asian Elephants are usually male, as are elephants in works that don't tell and Asian elephant and an African Elephant apart. African Elephants can be either male or female, though there can be a slight male bias. Also, the leader of an elephant herd will almost always be male, despite that in real life male elephants are solitary and females lead the herd.
- Foxes: Often female in Japanese works, but often male as a protagonist in Western works. Equally likely to be male or female otherwise.
- Frogs: More likely to be male
- Giraffes: Often female, but can be male sometimes
- Goats: Most likely to be male
- Gorillas: Usually male, especially if only one shows up in a work of fiction. Females are usually only shown if a whole troop is shown.
- Hippos: Often female and playing as either a Big Beautiful Woman or a Fat Girl.
- Horse: Most likely to be male because stallions considered are badass, but ponies seem to be an exception (see the whole My Little Pony franchise).
- Humans: Can be either equally likely to be male or female or more likely to be male depending on the needs of the story.
- Kangaroos: More likely to be female. Joeys are more likely to be male though. If the kangaroo is male, it is also normally depicted with a pouch, which only females have.
- Ladybugs: Usually female.
- Lions: Usually male, thanks to the King of Beasts trope. Lionesses are usually only shown if a whole pride is shown.
- Mantises: Most likely to be male.
- Mice: Can be either male or female.
- Monkeys: Most likely to be male.
- Mongooses: Most likely to be male.
- Mosquitoes: More likely male, despite the fact that in Real Life, only females suck blood.
- Moths: Can be either male or female
- Ostriches: Usually female, even if they are depicted with the male's black and white plumage.
- Otters: More likely to be male
- Peafowl: Usually female, despite being usually depicted with the peacock's blue and green feathers and train as well.
- Pigs: More likely to be male.
- Rabbits: Can be either male or female.
- Ravens: Usually male, even though "Raven" as a name is more commonly a female name.
- Rhinos: Usually male
- Sheep: Can be either male or female.
- Skunks: Can be either male or female or slightly more likely to be female.
- Snakes: Can be either male or female
- Spiders: Often female, but can be male sometimes
- Squirrels: Either male or female.
- Toads: Usually male.
- Turkeys: Usually male.
- Walruses: Usually male because it's whiskers resemble a moustache.
Notable Examples, Subversions, and Exceptions:
- Madagascar has Alex the male lion, Marty the male zebra, and Gloria the female hippo. However, Melman is a male giraffe.
- Kung Fu Panda is a near-perfect example, with a male panda bear, a female tiger, female snake, male monkey, and male mantis.
- The sequel subverts this with the Soothsayer, a female goat.
- A Bug's Life has ants of both genders (although, naturally, the protagonist is male), as well as a female spider, male caterpillar, male mantis, and female butterfly. However, it also has a subversion in the form of Francis the male ladybug, who is constantly being mistaken for a girl.
- Tarzan subverts this trope with the two female gorillas Kala and Terk because gorillas are usually portrayed as male.
- Subverted with Francis The Badger, who is female as badgers are more likely to be male in fiction.
- In Mega Man X series, all of the animal Mavericks are male - which means you can find a male peacock (Truth in Television, but not in fiction), male kangaroo (without pouch, thankfully), male butterfly (moth, but still) and male ostrich.
- Subverted with Rhonda, the female walrus in one episode of The Penguins of Madagascar.
- Also subverted with two female badgers in one episode, two female baboons in another episode, and a female chimp in yet another episode.
- Also subverted with Marlene the female otter.
- Subverted with Jenny the female donkey in the Donald Duck cartoons, "Don Donald" and "The Village Smithy."
- Played straight with Magic, Eva's two henchdogs, and the dog palace guards being male and Princess Ava, her sister, Eva, and the cat palace guards being female, but subverted with the female crow in Puppy in My Pocket Adventures In Pocketville.
- Besides a male cat as the main character, Cats Don't Dance is a near perfect example, with a male elephant, penguin, goat, and turtle, and a female hippo, cat, and fish.
- Inverted in an episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers has a female gorilla named Kookoo. She's an Expy of the Real Life female gorilla Koko, who was trained to use human sign language.
- A similar to the above inversion shows up in "Kiki's Kitten," an episode of Animaniacs, with the titular female gorilla antagonist.