"Here's Sonic the Hedgehog, rolling at high speed through a cartoon world just like real-life hedgehogs don't."Sometimes, whether due to a specific visual style or use of anthropomorphism, a character who belongs to a clearly-identified Real Life species ends up looking nothing like what that species actually does. Some examples are understandable and forgivable, especially if they are also an example of Seldom-Seen Species but for the most part Tropes Are Tools and so is making a character look less like their real world species counterpart due to The Law of Conservation of Detail, being able to tell a story easier (as Most Writers Are Human) and sometimes simply because it looks cool and/or fun. Viewer Species Confusion is a subtrope based on the audience reaction to a creature and I Am Not Weasel for in-universe reactions. This is related to the Cartoon Creature (whose actual species is entirely ambiguous), and Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit" (which is about the name of their species, and not the species itself). Many older examples of Seldom-Seen Species look and act very little (or nothing) like their Real Life equivalents.
open/close all folders
List of Common Examples
- Most cartoon fireflies look nothing like their real-life counterparts, the only indication of such being a firefly is the light on its abdomen.
- Most cartoon fleas look nothing like their real-life counterparts, instead looking like nondescript cartoon "bugs" or even tiny human-like creatures.
- Most reindeer appearing in many Christmas specials look absolutely nothing like their real-life counterparts, instead looking more like mule deer, roe deer, or white tailed deer. Regardless of shape and markings, they are invariably depicted as deer-sized (in reality reindeer are closer to the size of horses).
- Many cartoon alligators look more like crocodiles, often having thinner V-shaped snouts and the lower teeth visible when their mouths are closed. Real alligators have wider U-shaped snouts, and their lower teeth are hidden underneath the upper jaw making it an overbite.
- Many cartoon carnivores - occasionally even cats! - are drawn with pointed noses. Civets, raccoons, foxes, meerkats and to some extent weasels, badgers, and skunks do have these features - but dogs, bears (black bears have a somewhat pointed snout and are usually depicted with blunter snouts than in real life), and seals have much blunter snouts than they're commonly expected to have. And cats, of course, probably have the most human-looking faces of any mammals except primates.
- Many cartoon catfishes and dogfishes are often depicted as a cross between a fish and a cat or dog respectively. Although this may have been for a Visual Pun.
- Many cartoon seals are often drawn as resembling sea lions, namely having an upright frame and occasionally ear flaps. However, this may be acceptable if they were fur seals.
- Many cartoon parrots and toucans are portrayed not resembling any real species, particularly having bizarre coloring and patterns. They are also always drawn with typical "chicken-feet" with three toes in front and one in back (real parrots and toucans have two toes pointing forwards and two pointing backwards).
- Many cartoon crows and ravens are drawn with yellow beaks and feet which makes them more closely resemble blackbirds or choughs.
- Many cartoon rabbits and hares are drawn with noses more similar to a cat's or a dog's, rather than "V"-shaped noses like in real life. They also often have their incisors sticking out out of their mouths just like a beaver or a gopher. The same thing also occurs with squirrels, chipmunks, hamsters and guinea pigs.
- Most cartoon porpoises look nothing like real porpoises, instead looking more like bottlenose dolphins. Real porpoises have shorter mouths, blunt snouts, and triangular dorsal fins.
- Most media depictions of dinosaurs do not resemble the real animals. For example, Velociraptor is almost always portrayed resembling the larger Deinonychus or Utahraptor, Troodon is often shown lacking the sickle-shaped claw on its feet making it resemble Compsognathus or Coelophysis, Allosaurus often looks more like a downsized Tyrannosaurus rex with three-fingered hands and longer arms, Spinosaurus is depicted as a giant Baryonyx with a half-circular sail on its backnote , Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus often have longer necks and thinner frames more akin to Diplodocus, Ankylosaurus is usually portrayed with spiky armor like Euoplocephalus and/or spikes along its sides like a nodosaur, etc.
- Most media depictions of pterosaurs look practically nothing like the real animals. Common errors include leathery bat-like wings (the wing structure of pterosaurs was actually quite different from that of any extant flying vertebrate), teeth and long bony tails in genera that lacked either of these features, grasping talons like those of a bird of prey (as far as we can tell from fossils pterosaur feet seem highly unsuitable for grasping), and a covering of scales instead of pycnofibres (pycnofibres being the fur-like structures that many, if not all pterosaurs were coated with in life).
Anime and Manga
- The tanukis in Animal Land look less like real life tanukis and more like small humans in bear-like costumes.
- One episode of Bumpety Boo involved a Killer Gorilla, which looked little like a gorilla and resembled a Bigfoot instead.
- In NEEDLESS, Miu's "teddy bear" is actually a rabbit, except it looks like a teddy bear, not a rabbit. Even the characters are like "That's a RABBIT???" upon finding out.
- Plue from Rave Master is supposedly a dog. Despite not having any ears, having a drill as a nose, loves lollipop candies, can walk on two legs, deflating when exposed to hot water, and generally looking for all the world like a tiny snowman, Plue is a dog. Elie thought Plue is an insect instead.
- The cats from "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1971)" don't really look like cats, they look more like little bears with whiskers that look like they might have been designed by Dr. Seuss.
- Cerebus, in the very early issues, looked reasonably like a bipedal aardvark, but as the comic progressed and Dave Sim's art improved, Cerebus looked less and less like an aardvark and more like a gray pig-creature.
- Guess which species these◊ two◊ characters from German comic Fix & Foxi are supposed to be. The first one's a wolf - his name "Lupo" should be a hint - and the second one a raven, but honestly, could you have told?
- As noted by the page image, the Beagle Boys from the Disney Ducks Comic Universe, who despite being more canine than the other Dog Faces, still don't look enough like beagles. In a minor case, while Donald Duck's cousin Gladstone Gander is a goose there's basically no difference between him and the ducks.
- The picture of Undertow, the Pristichampsus in Nathanoraptor's Ice Age 5 fanfic, on the author's deviantART page, reveals he looks more like a featherless Velociraptor than a Pristichampsus, or even anything vaguely crocodilian.
- Narf the Mouse from Zany To The Max. He only looks somewhat like a mouse. In fact, he doesn't look at all like a mouse except for his ears, tail, and buck teeth! He doesn't even have visible arms!
- Many animals in the various Dr. Seuss books.
- The eponymous Arthur of the picture books and later animated TV series is billed as an aardvark. In the earliest books there is some trace of a resemblance, and the elongated nose is actually relevant to the plot (though it resembles that of an anteater's more than an aardvark's.) Later in the series, you wouldn't know unless you were told.
Live Action TV
- In Power Rangers, Animal Mecha often don't look much like the animal they're supposed to be. However, sometimes, the zord's name was changed from Super Sentai, where it resembles the animal it was originally named for (Power Rangers RPM especially, where a lot of the less badass animal motifs in Engine Sentai Go-onger were renamed but you can't do anything about the sentai Stock Footage).
- Cat from Red Dwarf is a highly humanoid creature with absolutely no visual clues as to his real species. However, Cat is actually stated to be a creature evolved from the spectacularly inbred descendants of Lister's pet cat.
- Lampshaded in Bloom County that eventually Opus looked more like a puffin than a penguin.
- Garfield looked reasonably enough like a chubby cat in the earlier comics. His more recent incarnations appear to look less obstinately feline, but he still looks somewhat reasonably like a feline.
- Also, Odie, who Jim Davis declared to be a beagle but is even less similar to it than Snoopy. (in the live-action movies he's a dachshund; in this strip◊, Garfield declares he's a "purebred clown")
- Krazy Kat is not readily identifiable as a cat. (S)he looks somewhat like Yakko, Wakko, and Dot from Animaniacs, but with a flesh-colored face and pink nose.
- Mooch the cat from Mutts is not readily identifiable as a cat and looks rather like◊ Yakko Warner◊ from Animaniacs, except with smaller, more pointed ears, a bigger nose, and without the cheek tufts and tan colored pants. The resemblance would be even more noticeable if Mooch were drawn in the same style Yakko is drawn, or if Yakko were drawn in the same style Mooch is drawn.
- Peanuts: More of an informed breed, but Snoopy and his brothers look nothing like real beagles. Notably Snoopy wasn't originally intended to be a beagle, and even denied being one in an early strip.
- Winslow from Prickly City is supposed to be a coyote pup, but he looks more like a cross between a bobcat and a Cairn Terrier.
- Pogo from Pogo looks nothing like a possum; he looks more like a monkey.
- In Mother Goose and Grimm, while Grimm is clearly a dog, he doesn't really share much of resemblance with Bull Terriers, which he's stated to be. Combined with Art Evolution, in the earlier strips he actually did look a lot like the particular breed.
- The University of Minnesota's mascot, Goldy Gopher doesn't look much like a gopher. Upon consultation the conclusion was he looks more like a chipmunk.
- Many animals in Transformers are informed species. Birds in general often fall victim to this, as do most cats. The toys of feline characters tend to fall into a very similar (but not actually resembling any actual cat) build.
- In BIONICLE's 2007 line, the Barraki have launchers used to fire squids that look more like lampreys than actual squids and are also stated to be vampiric like the latter.
- Given that seeing a lion in 18th century Brazil was difficult, the ones made by local sculptor Aleijadinho looked like monkeys◊ - most notably in his statue of Daniel◊ in a series with The Bible's prophets. (which also includes another example, the whale carved on Jonah's statue◊)
- Sea monkeys are a good example. The cartoons on the packages look nothing like the brine shrimp they are in real life. They are not monkeys either. This is probably an intentional attempt to fool gullible kids into buying them - a kingdom of merpeople in your aquarium sounds cooler than a bunch of brine shrimp.
- Because only the ivory made its way to Europe for a long time, walruses were initially depicted as elephants, and later as pig-fish hybrids.
- Earl Sinclair is said to be a Megalosaurus, but looks nothing like the actual dinosaur.
- Likewise, his wife Fran is supposed to be an Allosaurus. Allosaurus never had that Dilophosaurus-like crest on its head.
- B. P. Richfield is meant to be a Triceratops, but has the spiky frill of a Styracosaurus.
- It's a Big Big World:
- Snook is supposed to be a modern-day tree sloth, but he looks more like a prehistoric ground sloth instead.
- Bob is supposed to be a Tamandua, a type of anteater, but looks more like a cross between Gonzo and a cat.
- The Muppets:
- Fozzie Bear is hard to identify as a bear; he has more of a toy teddy bear or even koala look to him while other Muppet bears like Bobo look like actual bears.
- Pepe — if he didn't tell you he was a king prawn would you have any idea what he was? He's clearly some kind of crustacean, so...they got us to "within a subphylum", anyway.
- Sesame Street:
- An animated music video about animal families featured featured a chickadee as one of the featured animals, but the chickadee looked more like an Baltimore oriole (a bright orange bird) than an actual chickadee (actual chickadees have gray bodies, black heads, and white cheeks).
- Rosita was meant to be a fruit bat but she looks more like a blue Elmo or a mutated flying squirrel than a bat. After 13 years they removed her wing flaps and retconned her into being a Monster. The in-series reason for this is that she 'lost' her wings while flying through a cave.
- Big Bird looked much more like an actual bird in the beginning - and even then, he never looked as avian as his sidekick Little Bird.
- Carson the Muskrat in Dork Tower. He looks more like Snoopy than like an actual muskrat. This is lampshaded in one strip where he goes as himself to a costume event and gets told "Worst muskrat costume ever!"
- In Narbonic, none of Helen's gerbils look anything like real gerbils. Whether they look like in-universe gerbils that are not the creations of a Mad Scientist varies between strips.
- Layla Flaafy from Sonichu, looks absolutely nothing like the Pokemon Flaafy except possibly for her curly hair, instead just being a sort of generic furry. Word of God (well, word of troll) says that she was created by one of the author's internet girlfriends and it was his idea to make her a Flaafy despite not changing her design at all.