Animal Gender-Bender

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Girl cow, boy cow. No, not bull; cow.

"Am I sweating milk?! Being a platypus is so gross!"
Candace Flynn while in Perry the Platypus's body, Phineas and Ferbnote 

Frequently, small children will associate an animal with the secondary sexual characteristics only found in one sex (no, not those--usually), and end up applying them to both sexes.

This leads to a lot of Viewer Gender Confusion when you see male "cows" with udders, male calico or tortoiseshell catsnote  female "peacocks" with trains, male kangaroos with pouches, red female cardinals, lionesses with manes, blood-drinking male mosquitoes, and so on. Prehistoric and extinct animals aren't immune; many times you'll see a "female" Pteranodon with a long crest (an exclusively male trait). Barring the theory that perhaps these characters are meant to be transgender, we have to assume this is pure artistic license.

Sometimes Truth in Television.

See Insect Gender Bender for the insect (especially eusocial insect) subtrope. Peacock Girl is a subtrope. Contrast Tertiary Sexual Characteristics and Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism.


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • A Furry Orangina ad had the female "peacocks" with trains. Though that was not the only thing weird about that commercial.
  • Something similar showed up in a Marshall's ad with a fashion designer with a bunch of female models with fake peacock trains. Then again if they didn't, how could you tell they were peafowl?
  • In a Safeway commercial, a peacock Christmas tree ornament speaks with an old lady's voice.
  • "Mr. Cow, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"
  • The Boddingtons' animated adverts featuring an obviously male cow with udders.
  • An OXFAM America OXFAM Gifts commercial featured a male goat with udders.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The 2009 remake of Shimajiro, a Japanese educational show about a little tiger boy, averts this. In the toilet training episode, a kangaroo superhero shows up to help teach Shimajiro learn to use the toilet, and brings his son along with him; because he's specifically a male kangaroo, he has to wear a separate pouch so he can carry the joey while leaving his hands free.
  • Too many male calicos in too many series to count. They do exist, but it's a result of a genetic mutation and is therefore extremely rare.
    • Though averted in Detective Conan where the rarity of a male calico cat becomes a major plot point.
    • Also averted in Haruhi Suzumiya with the cat Shamisen: he's a male calico because of his XXY chromosomes, and the rarity of such a cat is commented on by the characters when they find him.

    Comic Books 
  • In Grimm Fairy Tales #54, Sela saves a pair of ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) from The Horde, one of them is badly injured. Her companion explains referring to the ducks, that "they mate for life, he would never leave her." Unfortunately, both ducks are male as their green heads show. In mallards, the females are brown with some colorful strips, but only male ducks have the green head.

    Films — Animation 
  • Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole has a female snowy owl that looks like a male one, because male snowy owls have less spots than female snowy owls. Also, the female owls are smaller than the males, which is the opposite of real life. In most birds of prey the female is much bigger. Perhaps they thought making the sizes accurate would confuse the audience?
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and every other adaptation of the familiar Christmas myth. Reindeer are the only deer species in which both sexes normally grow antlers, in fact the males shed theirs around the time the story takes place, so that means every deer pulling Santa's sleigh had to be either a doe or a male with sticks glued to his head. Though granted, the deer are usually portrayed looking like some sort of white-tailed deer lookalike species instead of real reindeer, so maybe Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit" is in effect.
    • The original special inverts it for the does by portraying them without antlers like other species of deer.
  • The Princess and the Frog has Naveen and Tiana turned into frogs. Naveen is larger and rather dull in colour whereas Tiana is smaller, cuter and more brightly coloured. Unless they're supposed to be bullfrogs or something of the like, Tiana should have been the big one.
  • In Fantasia, the ballerina ostriches have black feathers, while in real life female ostriches have brown feathers.
    • Likewise, in Fantasia 2000 we see two male ostriches being led into Noah's arc in Pomp and Circumstance.
  • Averted in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, which showed a female brown ostrich alongside a male black one.
  • In The Jungle Book, the elephant herd is led by a male (bull). In real life, bulls are solitary, and only enter a herd to mate, then leave once they've done their business.
    • Averted in the book, in which there isn't a herd in the first place (although Hathi's sons hang around occasionally).
    • This was also lampshaded toward the end, when Colonel Hathi is deciding whether or not he will help Baloo and Bagheera rescue Mowgli from Shere Khan. When Hathi refuses, his wife Winifred threatens him that if he does not help find Mowgli, then she will kick him out and take over the herd. Hathi's response:
      Hathi: "What? A female leading my herd? That's utterly preposterous!"
    • This is also true with an earlier animated work called Goliath II.
    • The only animated Disney film to avert this trope and portray elephants as being led by females (just like in real life) was Dumbo.
  • Averted in Kung Fu Panda 2, where Po and the Furious Five square off against a sickly, albino male peacock who wants to destroy Kung Fu forever. When said peacock's mother is shown (in shadow puppet form), she clearly doesn't have a train.
  • Played with, and played straight, in Bee Movie. One scene involves Barry mentioning that the queen of one of the artificial hives being used to harvest honey for humans is a male bee crossdressing up as a woman.
    • For that matter, all the bees in the hive are worker bees. In reality, only sterile female bees are workers; there is a queen whose only job is to lay eggs, and drones (male bees) exist only to mate with the queen and then die.
    • It also features a male mosquito who drinks blood.
  • In Madagascar the lemurs are lead by King Julien. Lemurs in real life are matriarchal.
  • Averted in The Lion King. Early in development, when the plot and characters were far different, the hyenas were led by a prince named Banagi. Hyenas are extremely matriarchal, where even the highest male is below the lowest female. In the final film the 'leader' of the trio of hyenas is Shenzi, a female. The hyenas in "Be Prepared" all sound male and look masculine, though hyenas are matriarchal and males are incredibly low in the hierarchy. It's possible they simply seem male due to how androgynous hyena females are.
  • The Land Before Time:
    • Averted with Petrie's mother, who is a female Pteranodon with a short crest and his uncle is a male Pteranodon with a large crest. This is a case of Shown Their Work, as real life Pteranodons are believed to have had this exact form of sexual dimorphism. For bonus points, Mama Flyer is actually smaller than her brother overall, again an accurate portrayal of Pteranodon dimorphism.
    • The fourteenth movie, however, plays this straight with Etta, a female Pteranodon who is both tall and long-crested like a male.
  • Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has a example regarding behavior rather than something physically wrong. Spirit is shown running in front of the herd multiple times, something mares do. In real life, the highest ranked mare leads the herd, and the highest ranked (or sometimes only) stallion keeps the herd together by staying in the back driving stragglers forward.

    Films — Live Action 
  • The elephant herd in The Jungle Book (2016) shows all the adults brandishing tusks of varying lengths. In elephant society, females form herds and take care of the calves, while adult bulls live alone or in bachelor groups, and play no part in raising the calves. But in the Asian elephant, only the males have tusks, while females are usually tuskless; sometimes small tusks (called tushes) may grow, but these are very small and usually only visible when the mouth is open. Which means that the elephants in the movie are all bulls, accompanied by a calf that is probably still too young to be weaned - a very odd combination.
  • The 1998 film Dr. Dolittle, where a female voice is coming out of a male pigeon. Female pigeons are not as colorful as their male counterparts.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time the guy arranging the ostrich races repeatedly refers to them and the only ostrich left later in the movie as "she"; however, all the shown ostriches are male.
  • In Garfield A Tail Of Two Kitties a female voice comes from a male mallard duck. Only males have green heads and brown and white bodies, females are brown and speckled.
  • Jurassic World averts this with the Pteranodons, which have stubby crests appropriate for females. On the other hand, the Parasaurolophus are portrayed with long crests that only males have.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A The Far Side comic depicts a male mosquito (obvious from his clothing) coming home from work and talking about how much blood he had to suck that day. Gary Larson knew this was inaccurate, but did it anyway just because. Larson apparently got a lot of mail about this particular comic. He was surprised that so many people were concerned about the male mosquito drinking blood, as opposed to the mosquitoes' wearing clothing.

    Literature 
  • Hedwig, Harry Potter's pet snowy owl, is supposed to be female, but for some reason she is all white, a trait exclusive to male snowy owls. Real female snowy owls have more dark spots. Although it never states in the book that Hedwig is pure white, just that she was a beautiful snowy owl. There are also numerous scenes of Hedwig being talkative, a trait more common to males that isn't helped by her being played by a male owl in the films.
  • There are multiple tortoiseshell tomcats in the Warriors series, including at least one (Redtail) that fathered a kit. Only about one in three thousand tortoiseshells are male, and they're nearly always sterile.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Sci-Fi Channel movie Mansquito, wherein a convict subjected to genetic experimentation is transformed (as in The Fly) into a — well, just look at the title.... He then proceeded to drain the blood of his human victims, rather than, say, knocking over juice stands (male mosquitoes feed on fruit rather than blood).
    • Well, given that his genes are messed up enough to get mosquito traits, it might be "female" mosquito genes, so justified?
  • Sesame Street, which is supposed to be TEACHING kids things, has occasional egregious lapses, such as a sequence of a kangaroo (with a joey in a pouch) singing a song of complaint about the burden of having "someone else's apartment. . . a part of you." The singer's voice is male.

    Mythology 
  • Greek myth had the Chimera, a fire-breathing three-headed monster with the heads of a lion, a goat, and a serpent. Oddly enough, though the legend describes her as female, the Chimera has a mane on her lion head.
  • Santa Claus' reindeer are often portrayed as male. However, when reindeer lose their antlers depends highly on age and sex - only female reindeer would have their antlers on Christmas.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Moohammed, the terrorist cow of Inter Species Wrestling and the International Wrestling Syndicate.
  • MosCow, Chikara's communist bovine, is male. He doesn't have udders.

    Theatre 
  • Cats has a few instances of this. A few male characters, such as the Rum Tum Tugger, Mungojerrie and sometimes Alonzo, are usually portrayed as either calico or tortoiseshell. While this does occasionally happen in cat breeding, it is extremely rare, and because having both orange and black coloring is a sex-linked trait, male cats with those colors are invariably sterile. (Which makes the Rum Tum Tugger's portrayal as a "ladies' cat" accidentally hilarious.)
    • Not quite invariably, but close. Most males are hermaphrodites, hence the sterility. Those males that can reproduce, by the way, are chimeras-cases where two embryos fuse in the womb.
    • Maybe that male calico is especially popular with the ladies who don't want another litter of kittens quite so soon ...

    Toys 
  • In Transformers: Kiss Players, Angela transforms into a lion. With a mane.
    • Similarly, Waspinator from Beast Wars despite being male, actually transforms into a female wasp.
    • Likewise, Inferno is a male, but has the alt-mode of a female worker ant. Then again, given his habit of referring to Megatron as "my queen", gender confusion seems to be a pretty inherent part of Inferno's personality.
  • The original My Little Pony series has Kingsley. Kingsley is a lion complete with mane and and a very masculine name, so you'd expect a boy. However her backstory refers to her as "she" and "her". It's odd since the same series was typically rather accurate back then. Lioness' with hirsutism have manes however it's unlikely Hasbro was going for that.

    Video Games 
  • Mostly averted in Animal Crossing.
    • All of your lion townsfolk, who do have manes, are male. Similarly, all of the kangaroo townsfolk (with babies in their pouches, even!) are female. There's also Pave, a flamboyant dressing and brightly colored peacock.
    • New Leaf, however, introduces two male kangaroo: Rooney and Walt. Being male, they have neither a pouch nor a baby.
  • Lord Woo Fak Fak in Banjo-Tooie is an enormous, male anglerfish. However, the creature we envision when we think of an "anglerfish" is in fact female — male anglerfish are extremely tiny, parasitic, and don't have the "lure". Or much of anything in the way of distinguishing features.
    • Similarly, Edie the Anglerfish in the original Feeding Frenzy was referred to as a he. Edie's gender was swapped for the sequel after this mistake was discovered.
    • Kirby's Epic Yarn has a particularly egregious example of this one - one of the stages in Water Land is blocked off by a gigantic, apparently male anglerfish on the map; you get him to move by summoning a much, much smaller female anglerfish to lure him away. Um.
    • Glimmer the Anglerfish from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest also had the same mistake.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Parappa The Rapper had a female moose with antlers. When this was pointed out to the creator, he said that he was fine with people considering her a transsexual if they wished.
  • Harvest Moon:
    • Harvest Moon: Animal Parade has female ostriches with male black-and-white plumage.
    • Adding onto that, most of the games contain chickens who lay fertilized eggs and crow like a rooster while sitting on said eggs.
    • Averted in Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life along with Another Wonderful Life, which strives to be more realistic than other installments. All the farm animals look sex appropriate and the sounds they make are even different in the ducks cases.
  • A puzzle in Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse: The City That Dares Not Sleep involves getting a chicken to lay an egg. The chicken is male. Lampshade hung in that he points this out, but agrees to lay an egg for Sam anyway. He also lays an egg in Sam & Max Beyond Time And Space: What's New, Beelzebub?, to which Sam adds, "Don't ask me how."
    • Max Imp is supposed to 'skitter inside the sinus cavities of humans to lay his terrible eggs'.
  • Averted and played straight in Pokémon:
    • The kangaroo-like Kangaskhan is an all-female species. However, Kangaskhan for some reason, is always born with a joey in her pouch, and the joey is not a separate species!
    • However, Black and White play this straight and subvert it with Sawsbuck, a deer Pokemon, played straight in that both genders have antlers all year around, but subverted for the females, as female reindeer in real life do grow antlers during the winter.
    • As for the series' own gender differences: in the PokéPark Wii games, Garchomp is male, but uses a female Garchomp's model (no notch in the dorsal fin), which is also used in most other art and merchandise. This lends credence to the theory that male Garchomp get their fin notches from fighting/scarring, and aren't born with it.
  • In Deadly Creatures, the tarantula is apparently supposed to be female, since male tarantulas in real life are much smaller.
  • Charmy, a male honey bee from Sonic the Hedgehog, has a stinger. Adding to the strangeness, he also doesn't lose it and die when he stings something.
  • Mister Mosquito
  • All of Fallout: New Vegas's Bighorners have ram's horns, even the calves.
    • Of course, they are mutants...
  • The Zoo Tycoon series sometimes gets things correct, and sometimes falls into this trope. In the first game, male and female ostriches look identical, and female kangaroos are incorrectly just as red as the male ones.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Lampshaded/subverted in AH.com: The Series, in which the crew is initially terrified that a Giant Mosquito created in a teleportation accident (who becomes a recurring character) will suck their blood, only for the mosquito to patiently explain it's male and just wanted to drink all the nectar from their hydroponics lab.
  • Magical Trevor, though it may be more a case with Pronoun Trouble. "the cow is back, back from his (?) magical journey... what did he (?) see..."
  • Cows With Guns: Male cow with udders, through which he seems to be able to urinate. Alternatively, the narration and the animation aren't telling the quite same story at that point. Also probable Lampshade Hanging in the lyrics, like they're acknowledging how silly it is: "(A cow well hung.)"

    Western Animation 
  • Lana from the comics/animated show Animal Crackers was a lioness. With a mane.
  • Back at the Barnyard is infamous for this as it has a level of confusion somewhere between bizarre and Squick.
    • Its hero is a male cow—not a male cattle or a bull. He has udders. And at the end of Barnyard, his girlfriend has a calf, and he clearly says it's a boy, even though the kid's got udders too. What makes all this REALLY odd, though, was that in one episode of the TV series, he becomes a wrestler, and fights a BULL! An actual, fully male bull with dark fur, a big chest, large horns, and a nose ring. Just when you get used to the idea that we're in a universe where ALL the cattle have udders, he's wrestling a fully male bull!
    • Word of God says the did this because "it's funny."note 
    • Another cast member is a female bull. It's healthier to assume they're separate species in this universe.
    • And if it wasn't confusing enough, one episode uses the idea that he's a steer (a castrated bull) as a plot point.
    • The whole debacle was the center of a Robot Chicken sketch titled "Bulls Don't Cry", where Otis admits that he's actually female.
  • On the other hand, Rocko's Modern Life makes a point to correct anyone who calls Heffer a cow. He's a steer.
    • The titular character averts this. He's a male wallaby (a type of small kangaroo) and clearly lacks a pouch.
    • Averted in one episode where a mosquito feasting on Filbert the turtle's blood (which passes the disease onto Bev Bighead after she eats the sickened insect) has a bow on its head, implying that it's female.
  • In Futurama: Bender's Big Score, Leelu (used as an allegory for Leela) is a female narwhal with a tusk. Luckily the writers did the research and learned there are rare occasions where female narwhals do indeed have tusks and they changed an earlier line introducing her to read "a RARE toothed female narwhal"
  • In The Wuzzles, the male Eleroo (half elephant, half kangaroo) has a pouch. So not only is he half-elephant, he's gender-confused too.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar:
    • The kangaroo Joey, who clearly a male kangaroo, sports a pouch that one of the title penguins actually falls into. To be perfectly clear, the pouch is for carrying the kangaroo's young, and is only found on females. One episode features a bunch of apparently male hornets with stingers.
    • There is also a technical example in both the series and the films it's based on. Julien, a male ringtailed lemur, is ruler over all lemurs. In real life, lemur society is a matriarchy (a society ruled by females). Julien is also shown to be gender-confused at times, among other things, and most of the other lemurs aren't especially bright either, so there's a good chance this is just some sort of mix-up. Male lemurs have extra claws on their wrists, which Julien appears to lack - probably just because of simplified cartoon anatomy, but ... Well, as a result it's become common Fanon to portray him as designated-female-at-birth transsexual. note 
    • All Hail King Julien shows there was a king before Julien: his uncle.
  • Kestrel from The Animals of Farthing Wood had the plumage of a male kestrel (brown back, grey head) but a female voice.
    • Averted with the two Pheasants, whose sexual dimorphism is accurate to reality (males are far more colourful with longer tails), and the personalities match their looks - the male Pheasant is very loud, brash and self-centred, while the female is very quiet and meek (one might even say hen-pecked...)
  • Perhaps parodied on Phineas and Ferb, which occasionally brings up the idea that Perry the Platypus could lay an egg. Nobody ever seems to realize that he's a male platypus.
    • Played straight in the above quote; when Perry and Candace switch bodies in "Does This Duckbill Make Me Look Fat?", Candace somehow can sweat milk, something that female platypi do. Since Perry is said to be male, either their genders somehow switched when their minds switched or the Flynn-Fletchers need to change veterinarians. However, that second theory does raise the question of why Perry would go along with the misunderstanding with his boss and his nemesis. And a later episode ("Primal Perry") shows that Perry has venomous ankle barbs, something only male platypi have.
  • Abused quite a bit in Hero108. For example, in "Peacock Castle" the team face off against a mesmerizing yet vain peacock queen. She and all her brethren are presented with the spectacular plumage of the male, but are all depicted as females (coupled with the fact that there are no plain peafowl present also suggest that they are all hermaphodites). Also in "Sheep Castle" the sheep leader has horns but presented as female.
  • Margaret from Regular Show is a female cardinal with a male cardinal's colors. Even worse: Word of God is that she's a robin. So she's got the coloration of the wrong gender of the wrong species.
  • Mr. Twitches from Tinkerbell and The Great Fairy Rescue is a male calico cat. Tortoiseshell and calico cats are usually female. Male Calicos do exist but they're rare and have two X-chromosomes and one y-chromosome, also called 'Klinefelter's syndrome'
  • Daisy Duck of the Classic Disney Shorts apparantly has curved tail feathers, a trait exclusive only to male ducks.
  • Surprisingly averted in the 2007 TV series George of the Jungle, where the clumsy hero is taken advantage of by a pair of scheming MALE peacocks.
  • One episode of Ren and Stimpy had a swarm of mosquitoes feasting on Ren's blood on their camping trip. The point of view of the mosquitoes had them speak in male voices after feasting and declaring that they will lay eggs afterward. However they could be females with Larynx Dissonance
  • The male anglerfish in Creature Comforts is actually a female one with a decidedly male voice.
  • In the pilot of Kaeloo, Bad Kaeloo was animated with a vocal sac. This has been fixed in later episodes.
  • An episode of Looney Tunes, "Golden Yeggs", had the mobsters Rocky and Mugsy force Daffy Duck to lay golden eggs after hearing about his fame, despite the fact Daffy is obviously a male duck. What's even more jarring is that the goose who actually did lay the golden egg and pinned it on Daffy is a male goose, or gander, himself.
  • Melissa the Magnificent Moose in the Higglytown Heroes episode "Overnight Moose" has antlers, which only bull moose have.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), Buzzoff and Stratos are searching for the spidery villain, Webstor, whom they know has eaten ambrosia that gives the consumer power, although it is not know what the side effects are. Eventually, they find spider eggs and are puzzled as to how the definitely male Webstor was able to lay them and decide the thought is too repellent to ponder too much and focus on simply finding him instead.
  • In Growing Up Creepie, the main character's adoptive father is a case of this, as her father is a male mosquito who has an entire episode around the fact that he sucks blood. This is never brought up, despite the show's tendency to throw in random facts about insects and such.
  • Averted with Purple Kangaroo in Blue's Clues. He's a male kangaroo and does not have a pouch.
  • One Danger Mouse episode had DM and Penfold getting a Kangaroo Pouch Ride from a male kangaroo.
  • The bee in the first episode of Rainbow Brite was a male. Worker bees are female.
  • The Lion Guard:
    • The show has a male hyena in a leadership position. Real life spotted hyenas are led by females and males are very low ranking.
    • The female ostrich in "Bunga The Wise" is black like a male. Females are a dull brown in real life.
  • Aversion: The female ostrich in The Alvin Show is brown like real life female ostriches.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The male ostrich chick in the cartoon "Mother was a Rooster" is brown like real life female ostriches. Justified because, although adult male ostriches are black, male ostrich chicks are brown like adult and chick female ostriches.
    • Hippity Hopper averts this. He is a male kangaroo joey who doesn't have a pouch.
  • Averted in the Simpsons episode "How Munched Is That Birdie in the Window" which showed female ostriches with brown or gray feathers like in real life.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AnimalGenderBender