Animal Motifs

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_yuruyuri111_1404.jpg

"Ah, the Animal Kingdom offers many useful ideas!"
Dr. Otto Octavius, The Spectacular Spider-Man, "The Invisible Hand"

Humans have always been fascinated by animals. Love them or hate them, they usually provoke a strong reaction in people, from the Jerkass who turns to mush when confronted by a playful puppy to the tough guy who freaks out when he encounters something slithery. Most mythologies feature animals in starring roles; some belief systems feature animals as guides, oracles, or totems representing certain qualities or certain people. So of course animals are going to turn up as symbols in popular media.

This animal isn't around to be petted or kicked, or to assist in taking over the world... well, it might be, but only as a side job. The real purpose of these animals is that of most motifs: they're there to underline a theme, or make a statement about a certain character. They might not even be physically present at all. The "animal" might be the name of a football team, a charm on a bracelet, or an ornament on the mantelpiece.

Animals are used to depict characters more often than they describe themes. Even in the real world, describing a person by comparing them to an animal is a good way to convey your opinion of them: phrases such as "lion-hearted," "eagle-eyed," or "doity rat" are popular to the point of cliché. Therefore, many Animal Motifs are also Characterization Tropes. The wimp who spends his time watching the tigers at the zoo will most likely be stronger than you think. As for the girl doodling big black spiders with suspicious red hourglasses on their underbellies... think twice before accepting her invitation to "coffee."

Animals, like flowers, are a motif that tends to be gendered. Men are usually compared to animals that are clearly predatory: wolves, lions, and bears, for example. Women generally get the cute and fluffy animals as motifs, such as bunnies. However, women have historically had a strong association with the cat which, while cuddly and furry, is also a predator. Cats are therefore a common motif for female characters, but one aspect of the feline mystique will most likely be emphasized over the others — the woman will either be a predator, a seductress, or a sweet little kitten. (Lionesses are especially popular for Action Girls: they look very different from male lions, and most people know it's lionesses who do the hunting, so a lioness motif conveniently emphasizes both femininity and ferocity.) Women are also frequently associated with foxes, also a predatory animal, although it is the fox's attractive nature or reputation as a trickster that is being invoked. A woman represented by a large, predatory animal is most likely to reference Mama Bear because, like the lioness, it is simultaneously feminine and ferocious.

In the world of fiction, someone who doesn't like animals at all is either a nasty piece of work or obsessively clean and germ-phobic. "Animal hater" is the word for them and so to dilute the "hard-heartedness" of this character, expect to see one particular animal that they just can't resist.

Subtropes include:

Usually overlaps with Animal Stereotypes and National Animal Stereotypes. Wildlife Commentary Spoof is this trope lampshaded and played for laughs.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Arts 
  • The Weimaraner is the trademark of William Wegman's works.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Guardian Fairy Michel, the Black Hammers' robots are all shaped like animals, such as a gorilla, a frog, a kangaroo, and a dog.

    Comic Books 
  • Spiders appear as a motif in Marvel 1602, usually around Peter Parquagh. Given who his modern counterpart is, spiders seem to be a symbol for destiny (perhaps a reference to the web of Fate).
    • Many Spider-Man foes also have animal motifs. J. Michael Straczynski's run posited that Spidey is being assaulted by envious pretenders who subconsciously realize that he is a true totemic champion. The Darkest Hours, a book by Jim Butcher based on this run, introduces the siblings of Morlun, an Implacable Man and Energy Vampire who feeds on this type, and it turns out that every Animal-Themed Superbeing has this connection even if it's not obvious. Black Cat is a Badass Normal; she wasn't bitten by a radioactive cat and given feline powers. Yet, if she wasn't cat enough to be delicious and nutritious to the likes of Morlun, she'd never have chosen the name. That's why Spidey, Cat, and even the Rhino must team up when Mortia, Thanis, and Malos come to town.
  • Batman decided to take up bat-themed crimefighting after a bat crashed through his window, which he interpreted as an omen. He strikes from the shadows, wears a costume that makes him look like a giant bat, and has a variety of occasionally-used gadgets that can simulate things like sonar. The similarities pretty much end there, since bats don't punch things very often.
    • Selina Kyle is a Classy Cat-Burglar, and dresses the part too. She's clever, elusive, pulls of heists wearing a mask that resembles cat ears, and is associated with black cats in particular. She also literally keeps cats around her apartment like a old lady.
  • Psychic operatives in Matt Fraction's Casanova all seem to have differing animal totems that manifest when they use their powers. The protagonist had spiders then upgraded to crows and his villainous sister had snakes.
  • Wolverine, a short, stocky, violent, foul-smelling Canadian with a talent for surviving tough conditions.
  • Judge Dredd: Judges' uniforms have a distinctive eagle motif to them, in keeping with the Big Meg's Eagleland origins. Other cities have this too, usually referencing the locale. For example, Brit Cit has a lion motif to its judge uniforms, and the judges in Africa have a Lion and a Gazelle. East Meg judges noticeably lack them, but all but one of the Dark Judges (Fear, although Fire's isn't as obvious because he's a flaming skeleton) have extinct pterodactyls on their right shoulders as a hint to what their job is.
  • Loki developed certain associations with magpies in some stories, maybe not surprisingly for someone who is generally trouble and bad news, not to mention a thief and conman.
  • Arawn: Arawn and Engus resemble wolves; Math and Kern resemble lions.

    Comic Strips 
  • Played for Laughs in this strip by Quino.
  • Besides having a tiger for a best friend, Calvin frequently visualizes himself as animals. His favorites are dinosaurs, with him usually as an Allosaurus or a T. rex, and those around him as herbivores.

    Films — Animation 
  • Jafar, the villain of Aladdin, was actually given a snake motif: his hat and robes resemble the hood and body of a cobra, he has vaguely serpentine eyes, teeth resembling a venomous snake's fangs, a constant tendency to flick out his tongue while speaking, he always carries a cobra-headed staff with him all the time, and at the end of the film, he even turns into one.
  • The Book of Life:
    • Manolo with bulls. He comes from a family of bullfighters, but can't bring himself to deliver the final blow.
    • Joaquin with eagles, given the small, but generous number of them surrounding him throughout the movie.
    • Xibalba with snakes, given his magical staff is a two headed snake. Word of God even states that the snake staff is actually a part of Xibalba himself.
  • From Coraline, the Other Mother is especially given imagery of a spider. It's revealed to be her real form, and her kind is known to eat their offspring.
    • Bugs are everywhere in the film as well. The Other Mother added them to the Other World because she thought Coraline liked bugs.
  • An in-universe example in Brother Bear; the protagonist's spirit animal - much to his annoyance - is a bear, and he ends up getting transformed into one.
  • Kung Fu Panda takes it so far as to name characters after what species they are (or what style of kung fu they practise). For example, Tigress practices Tiger Style, and her personality is deeply emotional and fiercely competitive. Monkey is playful and used to be the town prankster.
    • Master Oogway, a tortoise, is patient and wise.
    • The peacock Shen is a vain perfectionist.
    • In an odd case where an animal character has a separate animal motif, Po the panda is frequently associated with dragons.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Sunset Shimmer's "I Am Becoming" Song "My Past Is Not Today" ties her with The Phoenix, rising from the ashes of her old life to make a new start for herself as a better person. This continues in Friendship Games where, after absorbing magic from her friends, her transformation has energy wings and her magic is distinctly fire-looking. The very end has a phoenix rise up from a hill before showing stars representing Twilight and herself.
  • In Ivanhoe Burbank Animation, Bois-Gilbert has a raven motif, and Front-De-Bouef has a bull.
  • Beetles are a motif in Kubo and the Two Strings. A beetle is Kubo's family crest, the character of Beetle is self-explanatory, and, as mentioned above, The Beatles originally performed the song that is used in the end credits.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Many of the characters in Blade Runner are associated with an animal, including all of the (confirmed) Replicants. Roy Batty, in fact, has two.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula has the obvious bat, rat and wolf associations for the titular character, but there's also a snake motif for Lucy: her first appearance has her wearing an evening gown with snake embroidering and a hairdo resembling coiled snakes, the nightgown she wears when attacked by Dracula resembles a snake's belly, and her wedding/funeral dress was inspired by frill-necked lizards.
  • In The Dark Knight, the Joker makes some references about dogs and their loyalty. One of the gangs in Gotham is led by a man who starves and abuses a group of dogs to make them viciously attack anyone. Joker sets them on him.
  • The last shot of The Departed, a movie about a pair of moles within the Boston Mob and the Mass. "Staties" hunting each other, features a rat scurrying across a balcony
    • Spoofed on The Simpsons which did a parody of this movie. As the rat scurries by at the end, Ralph pops up and tells the audience, "The rat represents obviousness!"
  • In Ever After, when preparing for the masque, Marguerite is dressed as a peacock, beautiful and vain. By comparison, her sister, Jacqueline, who is kind and sweet, is dressed as a horse. The brief conversation they had before leaving also reflected Jacqueline's situation. She complained that she always wanted to be the peacock (someone beautiful and admired like her sister), in which her mother then told her a horse is still a noble creature. In the end, she chooses to help Danielle and falls in love with the guard captain, living happily in the castle with her stepsister, unlike her mother and sister.
  • Forrest Gump:
    • Jenny is associated with birds, from the moment she asks Forrest to pray with her:
    • The prayer itself:
      Jenny: "Dear God, make me a bird, so I can fly far. Far, far away from here."
    • Which is recalled in a conversation after he sees Jenny performing on stage:
      Jenny: "Do you think I could fly off this bridge?"
    • Later, we see her contemplating suicide again, ready to jump off a high-riser, with Free Bird's solo wailing in the background.
    • And then, finally, after Forrest finishes talking to Jenny's gravestone, a flock of birds flies out of their tree as Forrest walks away.
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai has this, but only a few animals show up more than once.
  • The Howling is filled with wolf motifs.
  • The Splices in Jupiter Ascending, with varying levels of subtlety.
    • Stinger is a beekeeper with incredibly precise piloting skills. He also used to have wings.
    • Caine is described in-universe as a lone wolf searching for a pack. His characterization is defined by his loyalty to Jupiter and martial skills.
  • Mirror, Mirror has the Queen dressed as a vain peacock during the thematic ball. In contrast, Snow White is a swan and Prince Alcott is a rabbit.
  • Napoléon:
    • Napoleon had a pet eagle as a child, and is represented by eagles throughout the film.
    • Robespierre is introduced sitting beneath a statue of a vulture. No points for subtlety there.
  • Count Orlock, of the 1920's vampire film Nosferatu has a subtle plague rat motif as his base. His famous appearance combines needle-like incisors reminiscent of a rat's front teeth, Bald of Evil, elongated pointy ears, Creepy Long Fingers, and a set of facial features (pinched cheeks, long pointy nose) that make one think "rat". He seems to summon a Swarm of Rats wherever he goes and the effects of his feeding are mistaken as some kind of plague.
  • On the Waterfront has a bird motif. There are many references to birds that mirror the various human interactions in the plot.
  • Original Piranha has a sea life motif.
  • Psycho also has a bird motif, associating Norman Bates' female victims with the birds he stuffs. He comments that Marion Crane (note the surname), from Phoenix, Arizona, eats like a bird shortly before killing her. In the finale we learn that he has preserved the corpse of his mother with his taxidermy skills. There are many, many different references to the bird motif throughout the film. Try to find them all!
  • In Rebecca, the animal favoured by the nameless heroine is the lap-dog, Jasper. Rebecca, however, is regularly mentioned in conjunction with horses. The second Mrs. de Winter is meek, mild, and childish, always eager to please and desperate for her husband's approval, to the point where she is almost pathetic. Rebecca, however, is wild and dangerous and too powerful for Max De Winter to keep control of - especially since the horses mentioned alongside her are crazy with pain, as Rebecca whips them into a frenzy.
  • From Sherlock Holmes, a crow is always seen whenever Blackwood is about to kill someone. So at the end, when Blackwood really does die for real, it flies away. The crow turns out to be nothing more than a normal crow.
  • At one point in Star Trek, McCoy indirectly referred to Kirk as a stallion, who had started out wild, reckless and proud. Eventually, he does grow up and becomes "tamed" and more controlled of his emotions.
  • James Cameron has stated that he used a butterfly motif on Rose in Titanic (1997). Most evident in the (in)famous "I'm flying!" scene.
  • The Wolverine: Next to the Wolverine, we also have the Viper, and the film alludes often to the animalistic natures of both.
  • In the opening credits of the 1939 film version of The Women, each major character is represented by an animal, which dissolves into the face of the actress. (As with the human characters, all animals in the movie were female.)
  • The Conspiracy: Members of the Tarsus Club are divided into ravens and lions, complete with masks, and the core of their mythos is the worship of Mithras with a heavy focus on the bull hunting-and-slaying scene and a ritualistic murder symbolic of the latter in every meeting.
  • In Return of the Jedi, the windows in Emperor Palpatine's throne room on the Death Star resemble spider webs, referring to his intricate plotting and scheming throughout the series.
  • James Bond:
    • Skyfall: Raul Silva compares himself and Bond being betrayed by the MI-6 and targeting each other; to rats who forced into a barrel, resorted to cannibalism, and even when released still choose to eat nothing but their own kind. Bond notes on this after he knifes Sliva in the back.
    Bond: Last rat standing Mr Sliva...
    • Spectre:
      • Franz Oberhauser describes Bond as a cuckoo because Bond was adopted into Oberhauser's family and his father loved Bond more than Oberhauser, likening it to how a cuckoo bird would lay its eggs in another bird's nest and kick out the original eggs.
      • The title organization is depicted as an octopus.
  • From The Hunger Games: Catching Fire onward, Katniss Everdeen is strongly identified with mockingjays. She received a pin of one early in The Hunger Games and it became her symbol.
  • In the 2016 The Great Wall, each of the five main groups of warriors protecting the titular wall are coded by the animals on their helmets and ornaments. The horse-riding cavalry are represented by a purple stag. The archers perched at the top are represented by a red bird. The artillery group handling the cannons and heavy-lifting are represented by a golden tiger. The elite female troops who spear their enemies from above are represented by a blue crane. And the main military force guarding the walls are represented by a grey bear.

    Game Books 
  • Lone Wolf: Lone Wolf has a wolf motif, unsurprisingly.

    Manhua 
  • School Shock has Super Soldier Cyborgs named Vanguards. They are themed on bees, praying mantises, ants, moths and spiders.
  • Ravages Of Time leans on the same Shu = Dragon and Wu = Tiger motifs that they usually get in popular lore, while Sima Yi is the titular phoenix in the series' Chinese titlenote , although at least twice the infamous "wolf neck" comes into play.

    Music 
  • The music video of Gangnam Style has horses in it, most likely because it's funny.
  • Suede had quite a bit of animal imagery in their lyrics and music videos, with songs like "Animal Lover", "Animal Nitrate", "We are the Pigs", "Where the Pigs Don't Fly", etc.
  • Blue Butterfly by Violet UK uses The Butterfly Of Life And Death as its symbolism. An insect motif, but as there's no separate trope for insects yet...
    • Speaking of insect motifs, Papa Roach was known for its use of cockroaches in the cover for Infest, as well as their music videos, most notably "Between Angels and Insects", in which cockroaches come out of Jacoby Shaddix's mouth.
  • YUP's 1994 story album Toppatakkeja Ja Toledon Terasta has a main character detective Henri Blavatsky with a mole motif, presenting the character as an one-man underground army on the second song of the album, Minä olen myyrä (I am a mole).
  • Clazziquai Project has pigs in all of its artwork, and they are also seen extensively in the video for "Sweety"; additionally, their debut album was named Instant Pig.
  • Singer Christopher Cross has a flamingo featured in the artwork for all of his albums in some form. His logo also depicts a flamingo indented in the "O" in "Cross".
  • Swedish group Katatonia has a lot of bird imagery in their album artwork and music videos.
  • Cormorant (unsurprisingly) have a lot of bird imagery, although serpents occasionally pop into their lyrics. The album Metazoa also mentions at least one animal in each song, but this was unintentional on their end.

    Sports 
  • 1960s Portuguese soccer player Eusebio was also known as "The Black Panther" because of his speed, his powerful strike, and the fact that he was black.
    • Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin was "The Black Spider" for its impressive saves and an all-black uniform.
  • Quite a few national soccer teams have animals on the logo (France has a rooster, England has three lions), or as a nickname (Brazil are the "Little Canary team", Nigeria the "Super Eagles", Cameroon "The Indomitable Lions").
    • Common for domestic clubs as well. The Premier League currently includes The Tigers (Hull), The Black Cats (Sunderland), The Eagles (Crystal Palace), The Foxes (Leicester), The Magpies (Newcastle), The Swans (Swansea) and The Throstles (West Bromwich Albion, though largely out of use).
  • Many American sports teams—too many to count, really. A decent estimate is that about a quarter to half the sports teams in the US and Canada are named for animals, and all of those will exploit this in their advertising.
  • Kobe Bryant is known as "The Black Mumba".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, the familiars of wizards, sorcerers, and adepts bestow minor skill bonuses to their masters, which vary with the familiar's animal type. While some grant bonuses derived from their genuine aptitudes (e.g. Move Silently for a cat), other bonuses reflect the animal's anthropomorphized reputation (Bluff for snakes, Appraise for ravens).
    • This was present in 4th Edition too, with the Arcane Familiar feat available to those playing a class with the Arcane power source.
  • Exalted: Many Exalts take an animal for their character motifs. Lunars take it one step further, in that they can turn into any animals, provided they ritually hunt the animal first. Infernals on the other hand, takes some characteristics of their Coadjutors, which tends to be demonic version of certain animals. (Erymanthoi are demon-gorilla, Theodozjia are demon-cats, etc.)
  • All of the Clans from BattleTech are named after various badass animals. Many of them extraterrestrial or genetically engineered (i.e. the sea fox was an aquatic predator native to Strana Mechty, while the diamond shark was engineered by Clan Snow Raven to wipe out sea foxes after a dispute with Clan Sea Fox, who later changed their name to Clan Diamond Shark in defiance). Except for Clan Blood Spirit. They had an animal named after them.
    • Reinforced by Clan warriors sometimes wearing full-head masks patterned after their Clan's respective animal for ceremonial purposes. While this is seen most frequently in the fiction when the Khans assemble for council, it's not actually limited to them; similar occasions involving lower-ranking warriors are simply not shown as often.
  • The Imperium of Man is symbolized by a double-headed eagle, in homage of various great empires through human history.
    • Several Space Marine chapters have taken up animal themes too, like Space Wolves, Raven Guard, Minotaurs, etc.
    • The Chaos Gods have their own: Savage Wolves for Khorne, Creepy Crows for Tzeentch, and Flies Equals Evil for Nurgle. These are just to the most easily recognised motifs, however, and there are many animals that befit the Chaos Gods. For example, snakes can be symbols of Slaanesh and of Tzeentch, bulls of Khorne or Slaanesh, and toads and slugs of Nurgle, etc. In the background lore, it's said that Chaos cults will often disguise themselves as unassuming animal totemists.
  • The various clans of Legend of the Five Rings are each named for an animal, and each draws on the symbolism of that animal as inspiration for their clan's nature.

    Theater 
  • Most of the Cirque du Soleil shows directed by Franco Dragone from Saltimbanco through La Nouba invoke bird imagery, usually through one or more characters and their costume(s).
    • Saltimbanco: The Songbird (the lead singer).
    • Mystere: The Red Bird, the Birds of Prey, and the bungee trapeze artists.
    • Alegria: The evil nobles are known as the Nostalgic Old Birds, and wear masks that appear a cross between human and bird faces.
    • Quidam: Zoe has a pet bird in a cage in the opening scene.
    • La Nouba: The Green Bird.
  • A Little Night Music:
    Carl-Magnus: Watch him, Charlotte. Watch them both like a...
    Charlotte: Hawk, I know, dear. You're a tiger, I'm a hawk. We're our own zoo.

    Toys 
  • LEGO:
    • Numerous LEGO Castle and Aquazone factions.
    • The animal tribes of Legends of Chima utilize motifs based, of course, on themselves.
    • BIONICLE:
      • Vastus had a snake motif, with snake ornaments on his shoulders, a helmet based off a snake, and a snake-like staff with the fangs forming a blade that injects venom (in the story, not on the toy, duh).
      • Although the '08 Makuta and Shadow Matoran respectively shapeshifted or were mutated into bat or insect-looking forms, it seems the mask that some wore had been vaguely animal-like to begin with.
    • Hero Factory's Jungle Planet line had the Heroes adopting various animal motifs for their new armor.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Saber (aka Arturia, the gender flip version of King Arthur) is often given a lion motif.
    • Rider gets both horses for her ability to summon Pegasus and snakes as befits her real identity of Medusa.
    • Fujimura Taiga, although she really doesn't like being compared to a tiger. One would think that she would stop wearing the yellow striped shirt and take the tiger strap off her shinai if that were the case, but... well, logic has never been her strong point.
  • Yumiko Sakaki and Michiru Matsushima in Grisaia no Kajitsu, with a cobra and bear, respectively, during their Lightning Glare showdown.
  • Little Busters!
    • Rin is strongly associated with cats, considering that she's constantly surrounded by them and looking after them, has a generally Tsundere, skittish personality, is occasionally drawn with cat ears when she gets angry or shocked, and wears a bell in her hair (and her name is the sound of a ringing bell, too).
    • Kud, on the other hand, is associated with friendly dogs, having a playful and easy to please personality, dearly loving two pet dogs of her grandpa's, and sometimes being drawn with dog ears when upset. She's even great at fetch! She's also associated with bats based around a story about a bat being excluded both from the village of beasts and village of birds, representing the isolation she feels being not entirely Japanese.
    • Sasami is an odd case - her hair ties strongly resemble cat ears and her battle title is 'self-centered cat queen'; but if you follow the mini-route focusing on her, it's revealed that she's actually a huge dog lover.
  • Kazuko in Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! is heavily associated with dogs. She is frequently depicted with dog ears, and occasionally a tail. She's trained to respond to a whistle and will run to the person who blows it whether she wants to or not. Most notably, though, she has two nicknames referencing dogs, Wanko (used by everyone) and Inu (used by Chris). Mayucchi comes up with an animal motif for everyone.
  • In Sunrider, it’s safe to say that Sola’s uncle Crow Harbor is heavily associated with crows. Apart from being named after them, when we finally see him during The Stinger of Sunrider Liberation Day he’s wearing a large bird’s skull on one shoulder and a cape made of what appears to be crow feathers on the other. Given that he plunged the entire galaxy into a bloody civil war just to put himself on the throne of the ancient Ryuvian Empire and is poised to do the same thing to the modern galaxy, he fits the motif of crows as harbingers of doom.
  • Tsukihime compared Arcueid to a cat a few times with her mood swings, occasionally impish nature and impulsive behavior. And Neko-Arc in the hints corner. Kagetsu Tohya took that and ran with it. Neko-Arc everywhere, a leopard booby trap in her underwear drawer (Yes, really) that eats Shiki, Arcueid in a catsuit, normal Arcueid with cat ears... Len also has a cat theme, but that really doesn't count considering what she is.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Beatrice is most frequently associated with golden butterflies (appearing early on a cloud of them), signifying the questionable nature of reality as presented in the series. Bernkastel, the self-entitled "cruelest Witch in the world", has a cat's tail. In what may have been a partial Cultural Cross-Reference, Battler is a few times compared to a Phoenix (for his determination).
  • Akane, of Virtue's Last Reward, has a rabbit theme; an artificial intelligence she designed is modeled after one, and she lives on a lunar base, thus referencing the 'rabbit in the moon' myth.

    Web Comics 
  • Stephanos has a spider motif, completely with Arachnid Appearance and Attire, and Yoni has a wolf motif, bearing a long scarf that resembles a wolf's tail and can transform into one. Their symbols match this (Yoni's one faintly). The fact that Stephanos has a spider motif might be because he frequently was/is the person who likes to be and was in control. The wolf motif of Yonathan is probably reflective of his brash and savage nature. The wolf also represents loyalty, which is fitting to the fact that he only is being evil because his best friend is. Stephen has a bird motif, specifically, a phoenix.
  • In Koan Of The Day, the tortoise represents being lost in thought or in a dream state.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has several animals associated with particular characters:
    • Antimony is associated with Wolves. She carries a stuffed wolf doll around with her, and she's named after an element that the alchemists of old associated with the wolf. Others often find her hard to approach (the 'lone wolf' idea). And she keeps running into supernatural canines.
    • Kat has decorated a few of her possessions with cartoon felines. Also, not to be Captain Obvious, but her name is Kat. And she has an unhealthy obsession with birds.
    • Alistair was associated with birds. Besides the obvious connection, both his room at the Court and his old home had artwork of birds on the wall. Since his departure, Kat had developed an interest in birds (perhaps too much of an interest).
    • Zimmy is associated with insects and spiders. She was first introduced beneath a sign that read (in Greek) "Danger: insects", and her anger tends to be visualized by symbolic swarms of bugs. When she gets energetic, she likes to pass time by hunting spiders in the library.
      • After Jack is accidentally transported to Zimmy's bizarre mental Dark World, his astral body gains a spider image on its face. The two hairs on his forehead look an awful lot like spider fangs, too.
  • Trash Talk has Mr. Mudo, one of the teachers in the school, who doubles as a disgruntled security guard. He is compared in-series to a rabid police German Shepherd. Complete with the attitude.
  • El Goonish Shive has a little bit of this.
    • There's a minor character named Catalina Bobcat, whose character design and choice of hairstyle (along with her personality) does make her seem rather catlike. Word of God states that this was intentional and that no, she cannot transform into a cat. Until Pandora gave her a magic mark, something she was reluctant to do because it was so obvious and boring what powers she'd get.
    • Grace has a much more obvious squirrel theme, but this makes sense: thanks to Bizarre Alien Biology and LEGO Genetics, she's actually part-squirrel.
    • Rhoda has a puppy theme. She's naive, loyal, and rather timid, and Diane even specifically refers to her as "pup." Surprisingly, she gets along quite well with catlike Catalina, and squirrel-like Grace.
  • Sister Claire is absolutely obsessed with cats, even beyond the obvious fact that one is the Big Bad. Claire herself is a Friend to All Living Things who loves playing with the local strays, her room is decorated with cat posters and dolls, the chapel has banned all cats, and Sister Catherine seems to be a bit too connected to the animals...
  • The Beast Legion universe involves characters who transform into powerful beasts with Awesome powers.
  • In Sakana each of the primary characters' design is based on some kind of seafood: Jiro has hair similar to a shark fin, Taro's design is based on a whale, Taisei's hair looks like jellyfish and Yuudai resembles an eel.
  • Several of the trolls in Homestuck have animal motifs, associated with their lusus and their Zodiac sign. Karkat - crabs, Nepeta - cats, Terezi - dragons, etc. Vriska's spider motif is the most obvious though, working its way into her typing quirk. John seems to be picking up on it. The kids (with the exception of John) each have one as well, relating to what their sprites were prototyped with: Dave's crows are the most obvious, constantly flocking around his house, in addition to his hair vaguely resembling the profile of a crow as well; then there are Rose's cats (in addition to her affinity for all things tentacled), and Jade's radioactive god dog. Among the alpha kids, there's Roxy's cats, Dirk's seagulls, and Jake's "frightening fauna".
  • In Moon Crest 24 a few of the characters, namely the female ones so far, have showed signs of having a motif when it comes to the things they wear. But the only ones to actually have an animal motif are Lucy and Rachel - them being Ladybugs and Rabbits, respectively.
    • Non animal motifs: Dory's is moons and stars; Liz's is skulls and hearts.
  • The protagonists of Panthera can turn into different big cats. Most notably, the team's leader is a lion.
  • Many of Judecca's inhabitants are animal-themed. Sharky is a Shark Man, Frederick Dickenson is a rabbit, Lilith turns into a bird, and Cleo is a snake lady.
  • In Alice and the Nightmare, Edith has a strong rabbit motif going. Her ribbon looks like rabbit's ears, she's easily scared and Word of God is that she's the Expy of White Rabbit.
  • In Drowtales, most of the major clans are associated to some degree with a specific animal, often riding an oversized versions of it as mounts. The Vel'Sharen have dragons, the Val'Shargress wolves, the Val'Illhar'dro birds, the Val'Beldrobbaen spiders, the Val'Nar'sarkoth yaks or oxen, the Val'Kyorl'solenurn unicorns, the Vel'Vloz'ress snakes, and the Val'Sullisin'rune cats. The extinct Val'Dutan'vir clan had deer-like animals called ligrs, the Balvhakara and Jie'yen of Nuqrah'shareh have the crab and a separate breed of dragon, respectively, and the Kavahini of Mimaneid have the owl.
  • Tiger Telematics from Consolers has, appropriately enough, a tiger motif, with an orange tiger-striped suit, Cat Smile and fangs.

    Web Original 
  • Communications Workers of America has a See 'n' Say toy which depict business officials as animals based on their negative traits.
  • Downplayed: Jon of the Game Grumps tends to prefer bird Pokémon, along with having a bird sidekick in his own series.
  • In The Cartographers Handbook the Wendigo are often compared to big cats such as pumas.
  • Given that the Faunus of RWBY are humans with animal traits, this trope was inevitable. For example, the cat-eared Blake is independent and cynical, with a hidden playful side.
    • The (fully human) Team CRDL are all themed after different birds.
    • Word of God states that he tried to make Ruby look 'wolfish' but couldn't quite manage it.
    • Adam Taurus has two horn-like appendages on his head, the charge-up for his Limit Break involves the lines on his mask turning red (so he's "seeing red") and he stubbornly ignores the views of others (so he's bullheaded.)
    • Emerald Sustrai, with her green colour scheme and curved sickle pistols, kind of resembles a mantis.
  • Worm
    • Taylor (the protagonist) is noted by other characters to be like the insects she controls. Both positive and negative meanings are in play here- insects are creepy, potentially poisonous, and on the bottom of the food chain. But they're also tough, versatile creatures, talented at working in groups and creating useful things like honey and silk. Taylor shows nearly all of these traits over the novel's course.
    • The character Bitch controls dogs, and due to a traumatic childhood, thinks and acts like a particularly intelligent one. She essentially considers her pet dogs family (and is deeply touched when Siberian gives her a wolf cub) but is Not Good with People.
  • Dogs (to be more precise, Pomeranians) are Maximilian's animals of choice. After all, his mascot, Benny, is one. Taken to a logical extreme where, in Tokyo Jungle, Max plays as a Pomeranian while his friend Matt favors the saber-toothed tiger.
  • From Killerbunnies, we have Arachne, who, fitting of her name, tends to have a spider motif and behaves very much like one, which is to say, she won't bother unless bothered.
  • This bizarre music video depicts various symptoms of PMS as women turning into animals; a prickly hedgehog, a starving black bear, an emotional elephant, and a solitary lioness.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Sharkface is identified as a shark, ironically enough. His helmet visor is painted with a shark's mouth akin to old-school nose art, and a tattoo of a shark jaw on his chest. He is also a fierce hunter trying to find Carolina and Washington to kill them.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko has an animal motif in the theme of dragons, creatures associated with fire. However, his motifs were of two dragons, one blue and one red, representing the dual aspect of his nature. The dragons also refer to his Uncle Iroh, the Dragon of the West who protected the last of the dragons, from whom Zuko and Aang later learn the true source of Fire Bending from.
    • His sister Azula's motif is the snake; she is also associated with the blue dragon.
  • Ever After High:
    • The Cheshire Cat's descendant is fittingly enigmatic and manipulative, in addition to having a cat's ears and tail.
    • In the Hale novelizations, each character is able to summon a familiar: Raven summons a powerful, intimidating dragon. Apple summons a fox, which is sly yet adorable. Darling summons a white horse.
  • Moral Orel has a blue bird appearing in key shots throughout the two-parter "Nature." The bird also appears in Beforel Orel. Dino says the bird represents Orel's innocence.
  • Mummies Alive!: Each mummy has an animal motif for their Powered Armour - falcon (Ja-Kal), cat (Nefertina), ram (Armon) and snake (Rath). Big Bad Scarab also has one in his (much less friendly-looking) transformed state.
  • The main characters of Motor City all have Cool Cars named and designed after animals:
    • Mike: Mutt (dog)
    • Julie: 9 Lives (cat)
    • Dutch: Whiptail (scorpion)
    • Texas: Stronghorn (rhino)
  • Adelaide from Over the Garden Wall has a black widow spider theme: she has a red hourglass pattern on the back of her shawl, has a web of yarn strung all over her house, and traps Wirt and Greg by wrapping them bodily in yarn.
  • SilverHawks
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer loves primates, has been portrayed as an ape, and has been compared to a gorilla by Bart. Attempts by scientists to determine his species have been... inconclusive. "He is either a below average man, or a brilliant beast."
    • Chief Wiggum has been called a pig for more than just being a cop. He even appeared as a pig man in a WoW parody.
    Wiggum: Sideshow Bob has no decency! He called me "Chief Piggum!"
  • Steven Universe:
    • Steven's favorite ice cream treats are Cookie Cats, he has grown cats on his fingers, has a Leo horoscope, spawned a wrestling persona named "Tiger Millionaire", and even got a pet lion.
    • Quartz gems seem to be associated with felines in general. Amethyst has a cleft lip resembling a cat's mouth, frequently shape-shifts into a cat, and has a wrestling alter-ego known as the "Purple Puma". Jasper's striped form, golden-stilted eyes, and cat-like gem-nose makes her resemble a tiger. Rose Quartz seems to be associated with lions, stated to be a deliberate allusion by the creators to the goddess Ishtar who was said to have seven lions pulling her chariot.
    • Because of her beaklike nose and panicky nature, the fandom have nicknamed Pearl "Bird-Mom".
    • Peridot reacts to being captured in much the same way as a cat: hiding in corners, clambering over furniture, and developing a fascination with mirrors. The metaphor fits well with her cunning, distrustful nature.
    • More cats- in the crossover episode with Uncle Grandpa, he pulls out a checklist of other Cartoon Network series he's visited. Smack-dab in the middle are the SWAT Kats. (They were likely included because Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe, stated in an interview that she watched the show back in the 90s. Perhaps that's why there are so many cat motifs in this show, then?)
    • Sugilite, the fusion of Amethyst and Garnet, produces a dragon-shaped aura when she is formed, while Sardonix, the fusion of Pearl and Garnet, produces an aura that takes the form of a swarm of dragonflies.
  • Megatron in Transformers Prime has rather shark-like facial features, which fits into his powerful, bloodthirsty and frightening character.

Alternative Title(s): Animal Motif

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