Dogs are stupid and will happily run around with bog roll in their mouth, but cats are always 'discerning'... They come on like they own half of Mayfair, when in fact they'd fucking starve if you didn't give them mashed up animal genitals out of a tin. Assholes.
— Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit?
Want an easy way to show that your character is loyal? Make him a dog! Want your female member to come off as graceful, but don't know how to show it? Make her a cat!
One characterization shortcut is to somehow compare the character to an animal for which the audience's culture projects certain personality traits. This can be done in several ways:
- Actually making said character the animal.
- Make the character an anthropomorphic animal, sometimes with the explanation that they're actually an alien race that coincidentally shares all of their traits with a terrestrial animal. You may want to bring up convergent evolution.
- Alternatively, just give them some of the features of the animal in question.
- Have a character with the ability to transform into said animal.
- Have it mystically revealed that the person's "soul" is that of said animal.
- Just have random people repeatedly compare them to the animal.
- Give them a complementary pet that is said animal.
- Give them a character design that is evocative of that animal.
- Give them a thematically-appropriate name
The respective animal frequently follows the rules set by What Measure Is a Non-Cute?
, Species Equals Gender
, Good Animals, Evil Animals
and Unpleasant Animal Counterpart
Quite possibly one of The Oldest Ones in the Book
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has attempted to make their own version of this page. You decide how good it is.
Be wary of Animal Jingoism
Common "Stock" Animal Stereotypes Used Can Include:
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- Ants: Hard-working to the point of losing all individuality. Ant society is usually portrayed as a harsh, conformist Police State or World of Silence based around a Hive Caste System; it may be rather militaristic, evoking army ants. They are matriarchal, but it's usually less emphasized than with bees, and as with bees, fictional works may or may not realize the workers are Always Female.
- Antelopes and Gazelles: Gentle, graceful, and very swift. Usually female. If male, very likely to be a Bishōnen.
- Archaeopteryx: The "first bird". Often acts very much like a modern bird, despite how primitive it's supposed to be.
- Baboons: Like other monkeys, but fiercer and more aggressive, even females. More likely to be portrayed as Maniac Monkeys.
- Badgers: Cranky, curmudgeony, down-to-Earth loners. "My home is my castle." In a pinch, they're stubborn and tough. Usually not evil, but sometimes their cynicism and irritability leads them to mistrust or look down on the hero. On the other hand, they may show up in the hero's True Companions as a Knight in Sour Armor.
- Barracudas and Pikes: Badass but cruel, ruthless and often evil. Voraciously hungry, expert killers.
- Bats: Nocturnal, often bloodthirsty and most likely evil. This while most bats don't suck blood, only a few species in Latin America and again they'll mostly go for animals that won't slap them of their bodies, like cattle. Another portrayal has them quirky, eccentric or downright insane, possibly due to their severe disorientation in daylight and/or habit of sleeping upside down. They might also be depicted having poor eyesight, which will cause them to fly in people's hair, against all of nature's logic (so expect them to wear glasses or at least contacts). They tend to have high-pitched voices, most likely a reference to some species' use of echolocation. Remarkably can be portrayed as either cute or sexy depending on the theme. Can qualify as Creepy Awesome Usually male.
- Bears: Intimidating and powerfully ferocious when provoked — females with cubs are especially vicious and short-tempered — sometimes portrayed as BoisterousBruisers. They may also be depicted as calm, wise and slow-moving when not angered. Sometimes lazy — don't bother them when they're hibernating. Young bears will be portrayed as cute, cuddly and brave.
- Beavers: Industrious, often with an air of a practical and unpretentious tradesman, but sometimes to Workaholic levels. Usually male. Like to chew through trees and build dams.
- Bees: Hard-working, dutiful and territorial. They live in a Matriarchy; queens are almost always a stern and serious version of The High Queen. Fictional works may or may not be aware that workers are Always Female.
- Birds of Prey: Fierce, dignified and serious, though they may kidnap young children, even though they wouldn't be able to lift them in real life.
- Boars: Extremely aggressive and irritable. Not predatory, but tough and quite dangerous if provoked. Almost Always Male; wild sows rarely exist in fiction, but when they do, they usually have several striped piglets following them. Often regarded by humans as Worthy Opponents.
- Bulls: Short-tempered, especially around anything red. Intimidating, tough and extremely strong, but somewhat stupid. May be portrayed as clumsy ("a bull in a china shop") or, more rarely, as Gentle Giants.
- Butterflies: Shy, meek and inoffensive as caterpillars, but bold and beautiful as adults - this contrast often symbolizes transformation. Usually female and fragile. More rarely, vain and superficial.
- Moths: The Darker and Edgier version of butterflies, due to their association with the night. Harbingers of death and sorrow but also madness and suicide, being irresistibly drawn to light and fire. Think "like moths to a flame".
- Camels: Often portrayed as storing water in its hump in fiction even though in Real Life, that hump stores fat. Not very energetic, but slow and steady once they get going; they can endure any hardship. Cranky, stubborn and bad-tempered, but not actually aggressive. Likes to spit.
- Cats (domestic, that is): Clever, curious, sometimes playful, but often rather arrogant and vain, with a lazy and hedonistic streak. Aloof and independent, often something of a Tsundere toward potential friends and allies. Often vicious, manipulative and smug, but may be cute or heroic instead. Usually female; tomcats — especially strays — are sometimes portrayed as tough, streetwise, buffoonish, belligerent, and/or oversexed rather than elegant and dignified. Some breeds (especially the long-haired, white-furred, or slender, oriental types) can represent wealth, aristocracy and prestige. Has its own stereotype trope.
- Chameleon: Changeable and able to blend in with their surroundings, both literal and social. May be self-serving collaborators with no true values of their own. Often stealthy tricksters. Rather weird.
- Cheetahs: Known for their speed. Indeed they are the fastest land animal (though they get tired quicker than dogs). Mostly female.
- Chickens: Often cowardly and prone to self-destructive panic. See also more gender-specific stereotypes for both hens and roosters/cocks.
- Chimpanzees: Either portrayed the way monkeys are portrayed despite being apes or as erudite and snarky. Will be shown making grimaces that humans interpret as smiles.
- Cockroaches: At best: dirty, will live in any shithole they can find and crawl over everything in sight. At worst: will swarm en masse and devour everything in sight.
- Mentions of cockroaches supposedly being able to survive nuclear warfare is common.
- Cows: Even-tempered, contented and docile, in stark contrast to bulls. Not especially bright. Often gossipy, something like less panicky hens. Sacred Cow in India. Often assumed to be so dumb that they are easily pushed over.
- Coyotes and Jackals: Cunning and tricky, although their antics can backfire and make them look like the foolish ones. Lacking in courage when it comes to direct confrontation; may be The Starscream. Jackals tend to have more of a cruel streak than coyotes, which are a little more likely to appear as heroic tricksters as long as Roadrunners don't get involved.
- Crabs and Lobsters: Crabby, unhelpful and easily angered. Often Ineffectual Loners. On the bright side, tough fighters and not afraid to engage much stronger foes.
- Cranes: Majesty, grace, and strength without aggression. Like many great migrating birds, a symbol of finding one's way. Also known for their spectacular mating dance.
- Crocodiles and Alligators: Lazy but strong. Usually vicious bullies or unknowable forces of nature. Often more savage than other animals, but are sometimes gentle giants (though this is usually an intentional subversion). Alligators are more likely to be portrayed in a positive light than crocodiles are.
- Crows and ravens:
- Creepy Crows: Cunning and often ominous; an archetypal symbol of death. Slightly more often evil than good.
- Heroic corvids will be clever and somewhat mischievous Guile Heroes, but they sometimes have a slightly morbid sense of humor.
- Crows are occasionally portrayed as being African American. More often male.
- Ravens can be among the creepy awesome as they are unnerving and dark in appearances. In Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven one coldly plays with the emotions of a mourning man taunting and aggravating him, while only replying "Nevermore" to spook the Gent.
- Cuckoos: A harbinger of spring. Also, a symbol for women who secretly make their husband raise another man's children (real cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds' nests). Insanity is another motif associated with cuckoos (see Cloudcuckoolander).
- Deer: Delicate and unperilous. Their grace hints at wary senses and swift flight, and so being hard to find. Stags, with their impressive antlers, symbolize nobility without being predatory, though their tendency to simply look majestic and fight over females means they may be depicted as vain braggarts.
- Dodos: Generally associated with stupidity and, unsurprisingly, death and extinction (e.g "gone the way of the dodo"). Sometimes, the stupidity and death go hand in hand. Could likely be given the Back from the Dead or They Killed Kenny Again treatment. More rarely, there end up being hints that they never went extinct at all.
- Dogs: Loyal and friendly, unless they are an Angry Guard Dog. Possibly not too bright but can smell things very well. May also be overly concerned with their "territory," and with burying (and then losing) bones. Certain breeds have their own characteristic stereotypes. More often male, except for showy breeds like poodles, which are almost Always Female. Also, easily distrac-SQUIRREL!
- Dolphins: Cheery, playful, clever, and extraordinarily graceful in the water, much like otters, despite the fact that real dolphins are almost universally sociopaths. Always friendly. See Heroic Dolphin, Friendly, Playful Dolphin, and Sapient Cetaceans.
- Donkeys and Mules: Humbler, more hardworking version of a horse. Proverbially stubborn, which may be portrayed as either a good thing (the donkey as Determinator, or the Only Sane Man willing to speak truth to power) or a bad thing (the donkey who doesn't Know When to Fold 'Em to the point of sheer stupidity). Often rather irritable. Usually male.
- Dromaeosaurids: Fast, intelligent and ferocious hunters. Usually associated with packs like wolves, even though this is controversial.
- Ducks: Clumsy and a little dim, but also possessing a strong will and perhaps a hidden grace. A little weird. Anthropomorphic cartoon ducks are traditionally highly temperamental and selfish, at best being attention whores and at worst outright sociopaths (though rarely as serious villains).
- Eagles: Noble, strong Giant Flyers who command impressive heights. Not above eating human flesh if they're starved for meat.
- Earthworms: Usually portrayed in a more positive light than other worms but just as unattractive.
- Elephants: Powerful, majestic and wise, with great memories. Usually Gentle Giants, but you don't want to insult their dignity or otherwise piss them off. Inexplicably afraid of mice. (This last point was tested on MythBusters and, contrary to everyone's expectations, actually got a reaction — Truth in Television?) African elephants are often female, Asian elephants are mostly male and always Indian (accent optional).
- Falcons: Swift and agile fliers but often cruel, vicious, and evil.
- Flamingos: Often bright, energetic creatures who love to party, almost always living in pretty blue lagoons (instead of the boiling, sulfurous crater lakes they inhabit in real life).
- Fleas: Often portrayed as likable, sympathetic hobos who associate with their hosts on a friendly basis. Also portrayed as associating only with dogs despite being external parasites to many species of mammal in Real Life.
- Ferrets: Clever and extremely playful, often hyperactive. Usually more like a land-based version of otters than like their weasel cousins, although evil, scheming, malevolent ferrets sometimes appear.
- Flies: Often considered of ill-omen, sometimes associated with the Devil, due to their habit of buzzing around people as well as feeding and breeding on rotten meat and feces. Often symbols of disorder, peskiness and insignificance.
- Foxes: Tricky, pragmatic and confident. Unlike their coyote and jackal cousins, which are otherwise portrayed similarly, foxes often have connotations of sexiness, although not all of them do.
- Interestingly, these tropes transcend culture; both European and and East Asian mythology not only portrays the red fox as a trickster, but associates vixens with beautiful, seductive women.
- Frigatebirds and Skuas: Bigger, meaner and nastier versions of gulls, oftentimes with more pirate-like qualities, like thievery and brutality.
- Frilled Lizard: An anomalously cute and hyperactive little reptile.
- Frogs: Jolly musicians or luck-bringers, usually cheerful and friendly if kind of weird. Associated with rain and water in general. Usually male and always use their tongues to catch insects in the air. In school they will be subject of dissection, but luckily freed in the end.
- Geckos: Cute and likeable, but a little on the odd side. Always shown climbing walls and ceilings and licking their own eyelids, even if they happen to be Leopard Geckos or other Eublepharids, which have eyelids, unlike other geckos, and have claws on their toes, meaning they can't climb surfaces.
- Geese: Like ducks; more arrogant and irritable, but also more graceful in flight. Also can be portrayed as silly ditzes that are easily distracted. A symbol of good luck, abundance, endurance, and the ability to find one's way home.
- Goats: In older European works, goats symbolize paganism, evil, and lust. Today they're mostly just portrayed as surefooted, constantly hungry, and a bit weird, due to their habit of eating things like tin cans. They're also humble and quite stubborn, a little like donkeys, and can be surprisingly aggressive for smallish herbivores.
- Gorilla: Intelligent like Monkeys, but much calmer and more serious, and immensely strong. They are also seen as possessing a melancholy dignity, as if the authors assume they know their species is dying out. Alternately, monstrous savage creatures which respond to everything with violence, though, like King Kong, sometimes capable of reason and as much victim as villain. Always Male if only one gorilla appears in a work of fiction — females only show up if there's a whole troop.
- Guineafowl and Turkeys: Dignified but snobbish, unpleasant and uptight. Usually bigger and a bit tougher than chickens, although not as aggressive as roosters. Not very bright, but not as amazingly stupid as real-world domestic turkeys can be either. Usually male.
- Gulls: Greedy and undignified but also brave in defying adversity and a symbol of freedom and travel. Gregarious, almost always seen in groups.
- Hare: Somewhat comical but also admired for their fast and cunning flights. Independent and a little mysterious, even magical, particularly in older folklore. See also Hare Trickster.
- Hedgehogs: Fearful cowards or Crazy-Prepared survivalists. May symbolize a person who is "prickly" and difficult to get close to.
- Hens: Incurable gossips and not very bright, something like a more high-strung version of cows. Highly protective of their chicks but prone to self-destructive mass panic in a crisis. Unable to defend themselves unaided.
- Herons: Graceful and calm. Patient, with split second reflexes. Tends to be a loner. Sometimes associated with martial arts, much like the mantis, due to the reflexes.
- Hippos: Contented and gluttonous giants of the river. Obese, lazy, and often rather stupid. Rarely as incredibly aggressive and dangerous in fiction as they are in Real Life. Will be depicted as Always Female in comic strips and cartoons.
- Horse: Elegant, noble, passionate and spirited. Sometimes proud and vain. More often male in fiction; authors usually portray the stallion as not only dominating but leading the herd (rather than the boss mare, as in real life.)
- Draught horses are always Gentle Giants slow in both movement and wit, sometimes depicted calm enough to sleep through an outright apocalypse. This is Truth in Television; draught horses are specifically bred for huge strength and calm temperament. Destriers used to be just as big but bred for battle, which made them so dangerous that they virtually disappeared as a breed as soon as they were not needed to carry an armored knight in combat.
- Humans: If they're counted as animals, you can expect a Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My! setting. Humans fit into Black and White Morality, and either Humans Are the Real Monsters/Humans Are Cthulhu or Humans Are Special (but more so the former).
- Hyenas: Basically The Hyena. Either a harmless jokester or the animal version of a horrific Monster Clown. Laughs like a maniac for no reason. If the writer is aware that hyenas are one of nature's few thoroughly matriarchal species, females may be bigger and stronger and dominate males, but don't count on it.
- Kangaroos: Extroverted, good-natured characters, athletic yet laid-back. Usually female (although joeys are more likely to be male), they're devoted mothers. Sometimes, they're always shown with a pouch, no matter what.
- Koalas: Cute and friendly but rather lazy, or else irritable, gruff and not too bright (a little closer to the truth).
- Leeches: Like maggots and worms with the addition of bloodsucking, associated with putrid waters and the basest of natural instincts. In some cultures, associated with medicine as they can be used to suck off tainted blood.
- Lemmings: Like the sheep (below), but with a greater emphasis on following obviously self-destructive "popular" practices; i.e., to the classic question "if everyone were jumping off a bridge, would you?", a lemming will enthusiastically reply "yes!"
- Note that real life lemmings committing suicide by jumping off cliffs is almost entirely an urban legend.
- Lions: Brave, proud, noble, majestic and powerful. Top of the food chain, "King of the Jungle". Can be lazy and vain; lionesses are a bit less likely to be portrayed this way, as most people are aware these days that it's the lionesses who do the hunting. Males appear more often in fiction, however.
- Llamas: Like camels, but weirder and a little more even-tempered, if equally prone to spitting.
- Maggots: Disgusting, filthy, repulsive, and mindless larvae of flies. Symbols of rot, decay and corruption.
- Magpies: Cunning thieves with a penchant for shiny objects. Sometimes gossipy chatterboxes. May be good or evil.
- Mantis: Bad Ass. Regardless of if they're good or evil, getting in close quarters with one is a major death wish. Interesting example since people tend to love them despite the fact we frequently use them as villains. Graceful killers in melee. Often associated with Martial Arts, thanks to the Chinese and Kung Fu Panda. When female, almost always a Femme Fatale.
- Mice: Cuter and far more sympathetic than rats. Mice are more likely to be prey, whereas rats are almost always tough survivors. Often meek, humble, gentle and inoffensive. They are sometimes portrayed as huge cowards with a tendency to jump at little things, but heroic and courageous mice are common as a subversion. Expect some puns to be made about a computer mouse.
- Moles: Bright, technically minded, and a bit nerdy, often with a special talent for digging or engineering in general. Usually short-sighted, though often in possession of Nerd Glasses that let them see after a fashion. What happened to the star nose? Sometimes they are in miner attire. Usually male.
- Mongoose: Vaguely resembles a weasel, but is a cute and fearlessly heroic defender of the innocent (Rikki-tikki-tavvi is probably the Trope Maker). Although they look harmless, they take on terrifying enemies and win through a combination of agility, wit and boldness; their fighting style resembles the swashbuckler rather than a burly brawler. If paired with a specific enemy, it will always be a snake, usually a cobra. Usually male.
- Monkeys: Hyperactive, mischievous, skilful and curious. They'll sometimes be referred to as closer to humanity (mostly in the worst ways) than the other animals. Known for throwing their own feces at people. Chimps are inevitably also thrown in the same group. Though they can also be dangerous Maniac Monkeys.
- Mosquitoes: Pesky, annoying, sometimes even dangerous bloodsucking flies. Often portrayed as bloodsucking even if they're male.
- Neanderthals: The archetypical Caveman. Often stupider, taller and stronger than modern humans; tough survivors in fur skins always holding spears; carnivorous. Cavewomen are usually depicted as mannish and intimidating but can be of any shade between the Nubile Savage and the Brawn Hilda.
- Octopi and Squids: Weird and otherworldly, probably the closest thing on Earth to alien life. May be either charmingly weird and likeable Cloudcuckoolanders or malevolent and terrifyingly alien, but octopi tend to lean toward the former more.
- Opossums: Often portrayed as "rednecks" or "hicks". Or just as having Southern accents. Or, alternately, as being somewhat raccoon-like in personality.
- Orangutans: The middle road between Gorillas and Monkeys: they possess the strength and determination of the first and the agility, goofiness and trickster nature of the second. More dangerous than they look.
- Orcas aka Killer Whales: Originally ravenous merciless mammalian predators, now like Wolves, respected master hunters of the sea whom even the great white sharks fear. Furthermore, they are friendly fellows like giant dolphins when well fed and in a good mood.
- Ostriches: Panicky and frightened and will always stick their heads in the sand, even though none of them do this in real life.
- Otter: Fun Personified. Joyous, playful, expert swimmers and acrobats, very similar to dolphins. Laid-back and optimistic, they "go with the flow" rather than worrying how things will work out. Think Surfer Dude, except that otters are usually portrayed as rather clever, rarely The Ditz. Almost always likeable and heroic, never as aggressive in fiction as real otters can be. Usually male.
- Owls: Wise and mysterious. Smaller species of owl may be portrayed as Absent Minded Professors or even Ditzy Geniuses, perhaps reflecting owls' disorientation in daylight. Alternatively, scary harbingers of doom.
- Note that Real Life owls have terrible memories in relation to human training.
- In Italian, "civetta" has the literal meaning "screech-owl" and the figurative meaning "coquette."
- Can qualify as Creepy Awesome.
- Pandas: Gentle, peaceful and cuddly, usually a bit lazy and often fat. Usually male.
- Parrots: Will be portrayed as talkative to the point of being annoying. Can overhear important things and remember them to the disadvantage of those who want to keep it a secret. Will also be able to communicate in full sentences and fluent dialogues with humans, in sharp contrast with the low brain capacity and very monsyllabic nature of real parrots. Will be seen in Parrot Pet Position on somebody's shoulder, usually as Pirate Parrot.
- Peacocks: Vain, elegant, pompous. Often associated with nobility and if you have a couple of these wandering around your yard, chances are you have Impossibly Cool Wealth.
- Pelicans: Often portayed as a klutzy, comical, lovable goof. Usually male. Their throat pouches will be used as a Bag of Holding for about everything, even stuff that would definitely be unable to carry.
- Penguins: Inherently comical. Dignified, but clumsy except in the water. Rather cheery and optimistic, even in harsh climes. Usually male.
- Pigs: Greedy and slovenly in a comical way, but often intelligent and good-natured. More often male.
- Pigeons: They always fly in flocks, and are easily scared of anything, and are infamous for pooping alot. Will almost always live in urban areas even though most species (aside from the famous city pigeons) live in places like forests.
- Porcupines: Pragmatic and fearless, being well aware of how respected their defensive abilities are. May be either gentle and innocent, or prickly and irritable. Sometimes depicted as being able to actually shoot their quills, which they cannot do in Real Life.
- Pterosaurs: More commonly known by the colloquial name "Pterodactyl". Often depicted as large, dragonlike predators that swoop down and carry away animals and people to be eaten. Almost always depicted as resembling the famous Pteranodon.
- Rabbits: Sweet, innocent, and cuddly, but also trickster rabbits for the purposes of self-defense, like Bugs Bunny. Breed like crazy. Fast runners.
- Raccoons: Sneaky, clever, bold, and rather cute. Often thieves (due to their facial markings, which resemble a bandit's mask), but usually heroic or at least likeable ones. Usually male.
- Ram: Always ready for a fight. Tough, perhaps surprisingly so, but perhaps a bit dim. Something like a smaller version of the bull.
- Rats: Traditionally nasty, cowardly, indecent, aggressive, greedy, licentious and cunning. Often associated with filth and disease. Knows a lot about the criminal world, often a thief. Always a tough survivor type, whether good or evil, and virtually Always Male. Recently, more realistic representations have been presented in media, showing rats as being very clean (relative to their surroundingsnote , but both are significantly cleaner than there mouse counterparts), even tempered, and much friendlier than just about every other pet out there after dogs.
- Rhino: Powerful but somewhat dim. Incredibly dangerous when threatened, but prone to charging headlong without considering the consequences. Often have poor eyesight, which is Truth in Television. Somewhat similar to bulls, above.
- Roosters/Cocks: Proud and loud. Often singers, but not very good ones. Pompous and arrogant. Very prone to get in literal Cock Fights and highly possessive of the hens. Often the chief of the farm, or at least the barnyard fowl. Will often be shown crowing at dawn, even though roosters make noise all the time.
- Sauropods and Stegosaurs: Large and strong, yet slow and dim-witted. Gentle giants unless they are threatened.
- Scorpions: Vicious, venomous assassins who hide and stalk in darkness, and often sting for the sake of stinging. See The Farmer and the Viper (AKA Scorpion Dilemma). Sometimes portrayed as tanky, durable fighters due to their thick carapace. Can be either good or evil. When heroic, they tend to be Blood Knights or Proud Warrior Race Guys. Or both.
- A realistic portrayal would show them to have glasses or contacts (as Scorpions have bad eyesight), and can be very sociable, calm and even docile (considering most Scorpions tend not to attack straight away).
- Can qualify as Creepy Awesome.
- Seals and Sea Lions: Cute and playful. Adorably clumsy on the land, but breathtakingly graceful in the water. Associated with magic and the sea. Always hungry for fish.
- Sharks: Hunger and menace personified (except in the rare case of whale sharks, the most commonly used example of a shark that's no threat to humans). Cold and emotionless to the point of being sociopathic. Tend to go psycho once they get a whiff of blood. Will usually be portrayed as great white sharks, because other species are less impressive.
- Sheep: Passive and gentle, but rather dimwitted. Prone to suffering from "herd mentality" and blind, unquestioning obedience toward authority. Easily frightened and incapable of depending themselves, although rams may be more of a threat.
- Skunks: Gentle, innocent, and totally fearless, owing to their well-known natural defenses. Often depicted as producing a foul scent all the time, which they themselves are unaware of — or, somewhat more accurately, the stink may be portrayed as a form of Fartillery. May be somewhat crude and socially awkward, as the infamous stench associates them with the stereotype of the Gasshole.
- Sloths: Slow, sleepy and harmless. Tends to hang upside-down from tree branches. Not so much with prehistoric ground sloths.
- Snails and Slugs: Very slow and fearful but contented and usually good-nature. Slugs tend to be portrayed in a little less positive light than snails are.
- Snakes: Pure evil and talk with a lot of "S"-es. Almost always cunning, deceptive and manipulative. More often than not, snakes play the villainous role, and the odd protagonist snake is usually a Sociopathic Hero. More rarely, they are used to represent wisdom, rebirth, and/or immortality. Can also be charming, seductive and/or sexy.
- Another portrayal is they are excellent dancers (considering how flexible snakes are), and in more positive light are loyal to those who are more respectful to them example: Nagini from Harry Potter, Viper from Kung Fu Panda, Kaa from the Jungle Book.
- Can qualify as Creepy Awesome.
- Songbirds: A symbol of vitality, freedom and joy. Idioms such as "bird with broken wings" or "caged bird" are used to describe the figurative "death of the soul".
- Sparrows: Humble, cute and happy, agile and surprisingly brave.
- Spiders: Patient tricksters or venomous antagonists (similar to many other arachnids and insects). Just about Always Female. Often sexy and seductive in very dangerous ways, reflecting the fact that females of several species devour the males after mating. Some can be portrayed wearing glasses for a few species have worse eyesight than others.
- Sometimes portrayed as eccentric artists, locked away in their own room/web creating things.
- More positive portrayals can see them as, Amazing Stylists and Models, Accurate Weavers, and perhaps effective Doctors (like how most Spiders tend to eat their prey from the inside).
- Can qualify as Creepy Awesome.
- Spinosaurus: Giant and powerful predators, even more so than Tyrannosaurus rex. Basically a fin-backed land crocodile that walks on two legs. Rarely portrayed as a semi-aquatic piscivore/generalist hunter like it might have been in Real Life.
- Squirrel: Agile and graceful, but hyperactive and perhaps a bit crazy. Short attention span. Brave considering their size, and often somewhat hot-tempered, but more likely to retaliate with verbal scolding than a physical attack.
- Storks: Frequently cast as a Delivery Stork, specialized in bringing newborn babies to their parents.
- Swans: Beautiful, graceful, and pure. Also a symbol of love, as swans mate for life. Sometimes vain, but rarely as large and aggressive as real swans are.
- Tanuki (or raccoon dogs): Sneaky, clever, bold, and rather cute. Often thieves (due to their facial markings, which resemble a bandit's mask), but usually heroic or at least likeable ones. Usually male. Also portrayed as highly sexual and having large testicles.
- Note that although they look similar to raccoons, and tanuki in Japanese works are often turned into raccoons in Western adaptations, tanuki are not very closely related to racoons — they're actually in the dog family.
- Tigers, Panthers, Jaguars, and Leopards: Charismatic, exotic predators with an air of grace and power about their every move. Awe-inspiring even as they crush you. Black panthers in particular tend to emphasize the big cats' skill at stealth. Equally likely to be on the side of good or evil.
- Their dignity and grace may be subverted by putting a big cat in a comic relief role.
- Toads: Ugly Cute and clumsy. Hidden beauty that reveals itself if you're being kind to it. Always Male.
- Turtles and tortoises: Slow but wise, except if they are snapping turtles, in which case they're bad-tempered. Often very long-lived. Also, shy and prone to hiding away in their shells whenever danger looms. Nerds of the animal kingdom.
- Triceratops: Basically a dinosaurian bull or rhinoceros, bad-tempered and prone to charging, but is often portrayed in a heroic role. Tyrannosaurus rex's greatest rival or archenemy; the two would usually fight to the death whenever they meet.
- Tyrannosaurus rex: Powerful, unstoppable, vicious hunters, like a land-based combination of shark and crocodile. Shown to be quite badass and top of the foodchain. See Stock Dinosaurs.
- Vultures: Birds of bad omen, especially the evil-looking turkey buzzard. Fond of Gallows Humor.
- In a more humorous portrayal can see Vultures as Sport Commentators watching the players bruise and batter each other as they joke about the chaos.
- Can qualify as Creepy Awesome.
- Walruses: Cute and contently fat, but comically dignified. Always Male, because of their Badass Moustache, usually benevolent. May or may not wear a monocle and/or top hat.
- Wasps and Yellowjackets: Aggressive, nervous, bitchy, and highly prone to mass fury. Often female. At constant war with bees.
- Weasels, Stoats, Martens and Polecats: Scheming, treacherous, cunning and malevolent villains, or else just plain out of their minds.
- Whales: Gentle, mysterious giants of the deep, slow-moving and very wise. In older works like Moby Dick, a furious force of nature able to destroy anything they choose, as powerful and inscrutable as the ocean itself. Today, in the post-whaling era, the latter role tends to be given to giant squid instead.
- Wolves: Evil, murderous and voraciously hungry or powerful, majestic and beautiful, depending on when and where the story was written. May be portrayed (especially in older works) as stoic, Bad Ass loners, or more realistically as being unshakably loyal to their pack. Sometimes harsh toward those they love, but god forbid any of them be threatened by an outside force or entity.
- The "lone wolf" in media is too cool or too tough for help, a badass who won't take nothin' from nobody. In reality, wolves are highly social and have difficulty functioning without a pack. Individuals found alone are usually young adults looking for a mate to start a new pack, and won't last long if they don't find one.
- In works where wolves are portrayed as social, the pack functions as a strict hierarchy, with an alpha male at the top and a bullied omega at the bottom; low-ranking wolves increase their status by defeating their superiors in one-on-one combat. Up until recently this was thought to be true of real wolves, but in fact it's not — it was based on studies of strange wolves thrown together in captivity, which tend to become neurotic and start acting out Prison Tropes. In the wild, a wolf pack is essentially a nuclear family; the alpha male and female are simply the parents of the lower-ranking wolves, who never rise up and challenge their parents for leadership — they just leave and start their own packs once they're a few years old.
- Wolverines: Territorial loners, utterly fearless even toward the largest and most intimidating foes, and able to back it up with sheer savage aggression.note Scary not because of their size or strength, but their utter ferocity. Almost Always Male.
- Worms: Disgusting, filthy, repulsive and mindless. Symbols of rot, decay and corruption.
- Zebras: When in presence of horses, they are often Soul Brothas or some kind of Black Best Friend. Otherwise, they are tougher versions of the antelopes, brave and fiercely independent, although not always very strong fighters. Almost Always Male. If there is more than one zebra you can expect You ALL Look Familiar and all the zebras will have similar personalities. And since they are preyed upon you can expect Designated Victim.
- If sports are involved, they will always be seen as referees.
NOTE: For more, many
more, of these, see the website Animal Spirits
, which provides a handy list of what nearly three-hundred different species are supposed to symbolize in popular shamanism. Including viruses, despite their dubious status regarding even being a form of life
Anime and Manga
- Monkey D. Luffy in One Piece. Also, "Cat Burglar Nami" - which is everyone who knows Nami comparing her to a cat that's ultimately kind when it suits her but mostly selfish. This is played up a lot at first and then dropped as the story goes on.
- Oda compares a lot of his characters to animals. Zoro is apparently a shark. Sanji most resembles a duck, Franky is a bull, Robin a crane, Brook a horse.
- Done with a lesser extent with the partner Digimon in the franchise of the same name.
- The Mews of Tokyo Mew Mew.
- The cursed Souma family in Fruits Basket - in this case each of the Soumas' personalities follow the character traits specific to their Zodiac sign, e.g. Yuki the Rat is an intelligent leader, Rin the Horse is fiercely independent, etc.
- InuYasha, from the series of the same name, is half dog-demon. So he exhibits some traits of a dog, like loyalty and, uh, doggedness. He even antagonizes foxes. Shippo, the fox demon is small but clever and brave. The wolf demon Kouga is direct, competitive and likes running. Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha's pure-blooded brother, shares Inuyasha's dog-like traits of being possessive, territorial and aggressive, and gradually exhibits the stereotypes of a good dog as well including loyalty and being extremely good with children.
- Kotaro Inugami of Mahou Sensei Negima! swears he's a lone wolf, cold and proud with no need for others (namely, girls), but his friend Negi more closely associates him with a Dog (it is his demon species after all...) And as wolves are very social pack hunters, a lone wolf is often hungry and also lonely. The "lone wolf" idiom is actually quite clever.
- Bakarasu, a Speech-Impaired Animal showed up in one Mazinger Z episode and was a semi-recurrent secondary character in Great Mazinger, "helped" the heroes every so often, and he fit quite well with the traits of the heroic corvid: he was cunning, mischievous and trickster, and he enjoyed tweaking the messages he was supposed to deliver and getting Boss in trouble.
- Pokémon takes it even further by not only having their animal-based Pokémon follow their appropriate stereotypes, but each species and their typing often follow their own stereotypes as well. However, this can vary by indidivual. The anime series has Ash's Squirtle (turtle-based) initially portrayed as a delinquent, Ash's Pikachu (a mouse) is at first defiant and strong willed (they both quickly become his loyal friends). Dawn's Piplup (penguin) has a tendency to be a self-absorbed drama queen.
- Mostly played straight in Princess Tutu. The main character is a duck disguised as a girl, and she's shown as being clumsy and loud with a hidden grace. Both the Magical Girl she turns into and the Prince she's trying to save are represented by swans, appropriate since both are graceful dancers who are greatly defined by their love for others. Crows and ravens are the main villains, and the Dark Magical Girl is both referred to as a crow and a black swan, referencing Swan Lake and referring to the fact that she herself is a loving person who's been twisted by evil. The trope carries over to most of the cast in some ways, with some exceptions.
- Love Hina had Mitsune "Kitsune" Konno, who not only acted like a fox, but also looked a little bit like one, at least in the facial features.
- The Petting Zoo People Familiars in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Of the two canine familiars, Arf is loyal to a fault to her master Fate like a faithful dog, while Zafira is the strong and silent type like a majestic wolf. Meanwhile, the Lieze Cat Girl sisters showed both cat aspects, being playful towards Chrono and Yuuno on one hand while absolutely breaking Hayate on the other.
- Bleach; several characters in the show practically reek of animal stereotypes. First up is Gin Ichimaru, aka Fox Face (just do a Google Image search on his name and you will see why). He is definitely tricky, confident and pragmatic; and we could probably throw in sexy. Next up is, Yoruichi Shihōin who is compared to a black cat; hell she can even turn into a black cat! Then we have Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez who is compared to a panther. He is definitely a sleek, powerful killing machine who a couple of episodes after he is introduced decides to play a game of soccer and uses Ichigo Kurosaki's body as the ball. To seal the deal though, Grimmjow's sword is named Pantera and when he changes into his superpowered demonic form his appearance becomes decidedly more feline. Hell, almost all of the Espada seem to follow this trope- Starrk is a wolf (his aspect of death is loneliness) and Starrk split himself in two due to his loneliness- hence his fraccion Lilinette is actually part of him , Ulquiorra is a bat (Despair), etc.
- Used frequently in Doraemon and its movies when there are animal costumes involved. If the species is not limited, Suneo is likely to be a fox, Gain will be a Gorilla, and Shizuka will be a bunny.
- The movie "Nobita and the Winged Braves" uses this trope when it comes to birds - the wise owl, the mob-orienting crows, the evil vulture, the powerful and heroic eagle, the stork assisting with delivery, etc.
- Naruto: Naruto is possessed by a what is essentially a kitsune and is played as a trickster early on and has fox like physical traits; subverted when we actually meet the fox himself... He'd sooner rip your face off than play pranks.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari is occasionally mentioned in reference to the Hedgehog's Dilemma: the closer we get, the more we hurt.
- The characters of Damekko Doubutsu are all animals who are considered "useless" because they don't live up to their stereotypes.
- Read through the ElfQuest Gatherum and and you'll find that the main characters (at least Cutter, Skywise, Leetah, and Rayek) were designed with animals in mind (bantam, fox, cat, and snake). The bantam is pretty unusual when people talk characters, especially for a protagonist, but in this case it relays Cutter as confident, frank and open, as well as being a ruler. Savah even refers to Cutter as a fighting cockerel at one point. And as Rayek has never been merely a villain, even the persona of a snake isn't wholly negative.
- Over the Hedge uses several of these (raccoon, tortoise, squirrel, bear, probably others) very straight.
- Plenty of X-Men, from Wolverine to Kitty, Toad, Sabretooth, Beak, Angel or The Cuckoos.
- In Blacksad all characters are anthropomorphic animals whose roles and personalities are mostly reflected on their animal traits (ex: nearly all the policemen are canid).
- Batman has a few. Besides the Bat himself, we have Catwoman, the Penguin, Killer Croc, and probably a few more.
- U.S. Acres has Orson the pig, Bo the sheep and Wade the duck.
- Arguable for Orson, while he's intelligent and likes bathing in mud, he is something of the Only Sane Man of the group, acting as a voice of morality and reason and being far more dedicated to work and order.
- In Tooth And Claw each species has traits that it upholds. For instance dog-people in-universe are supposed to be particularly loyal and tenacious.
- Maus had Jews as mice, Germans as cats and Americans as dogs, among many other examples. Not QUITE a straight example of the trope; there's some "dogs hate cats hate mice" cartoon logic there, but it falls down a bit when the Poles are drawn as pigs and the French are drawn as frogs who don't have any particularly well-defined stereotypical relationship to the other species.
- This actually posed a bit of a problem for Spiegelman at one point; he wanted to include his girlfriend Francoise in the "modern day" segments but wasn't sure what species to make her. On one page there are some sketches of her as a bunny, a poodle, a frog, what appears to be a moose, and a mouse, which is what he eventually went with, justifying it because she was a convert to Judaism despite being French by heritage and American by residence.
- In the old British serial comic, the Valiant, the mighty Royal Marine, Captain Hurricane, was frequently hindered by his inept batman, Private "Maggot" Malone. Malone was scrawny, weedy, sidled, connived, thieved, was physically deficient, and untrustworthy - hence the nickname "Maggot".
- Doctor Dolittle: During the song "Like Animals", Dolittle bristles at the animal stereotypes.
- In The Elm-Chanted Forest Buddy Bear is lazy and fun loving but fierce if he needs to be, Fifi Fox is very seductive, and J. Edgar Beaver is wise and hardworking.
- The Animagus and Patronus forms in Harry Potter. As well, Slytherin and Voldemort are both associated with snakes, and can speak Parseltongue, the language of snakes.
- All the houses have associated animals:
- Gryffindor, the house of the brave has the lion.
- Hufflepuff, the friendly loyal down to earth house has the badger.
- Slytherins, the house of cunning and slyness has the snake.
- Ravenclaw, house of the intelligent and wise has the eagle for some reason
- Also, the "noble, but vain braggart" stereotype is very much played straight with James Potter's Animagus form, a stag. Averted with Harry, however.
- Winnie-the-Pooh gives some of these the run-around. Owl, for instance, sounds like he's swallowed a dictionary, but doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. He also holds a similar high spirited and friendly demeanor most of the others have, a rarity for his species.
- He also doesn't really know how to spell. Even his own name is "Wol". Interestingly, some of the other characters have been found to be capable of spelling their own names.
- His ability to write comes and goes for the Disney version, Depending on the Writer, who is slightly more genuinely wisdomic, though similarly keeps with the idea of being rather brainless in reality for the most part.
- Played straight with the docile and cuddly Pooh Bear. Inverted with Tigger the bouncy funloving tiger.
- It might be mentioned that it seems the origin of Tigger's "bouncing" goes back to A.A. Milne's son not knowing the word "pouncing".
- Piglet subverts it for the most part, being a Neat Freak (although he Hates Baths, at least in the book) and extremely docile. Rabbit is pretentious and stuck up. Eeyore plays the donkey trope straight (though his Disney incarnation is far more recessive and mellow). Roo is a hyperactive joey (albeit partly due to Tigger's influence) however Kanga is calmer and closer to Earth (especially in the Disney adaptions).
- Maugrim and the wolves in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia are evil, whereas Aslan and all his woodland friends are good.
- The Daemons of His Dark Materials. The series starts out in a world where people's souls take the form of Talking Animals (called "dćmons", the dćmons of adults take the form of a specific animal that represents that person's personality in some symbolic way (although the symbolism can sometimes be very esoteric).
- Brian Jacques' Redwall series takes this trope and runs with it.
- Though he does avert it sometimes with the owls; Gerul is talkative and rather silly, and Nutwing has an extremely bad memory. Even the fairly intelligent Captain Snow isn't particularly wise. Truth in Television, supposedly, as owls are in fact (to quote DC Simpson) "no smarter than they need to be".
- The turtle stereotype is partially averted in Small Gods . as Om says, "Tortoises are cynics. They always think the worst is going to happen to them. Probably because it usually does."
- From the same book, the Ephebian goddess of wisdom is associated with penguins, thanks to a famous sculptor and the way Discworld religion works. (She was supposed to be carrying an owl, but the sculptor had never seen one and just used the first exotic bird that came to mind.)
- Another aversion would be Definitely Not Squeak, the talking mouse from Moving Pictures. Toughest mouse in the house, and proud of it, he is outraged by Victor's assertion that "Mighty Hunter" wouldn't be a good name for him.
- In Lords and Ladies, cats become an allegory for the Elves. The Elves use Glamour make Disc inhabitants think they're perfect and themselves worthless, much like how people love cats for their style even though they're nasty little buggers.
- Greebo (an actual cat) is definitely a "nasty bugger," though he's still one of the "good guys." When transmogrified into human form, he plays the "tom cat" stereotype extremely straight, though he does appear at least moderately fond of Nanny Ogg, and he's smart enough to know that while he may not actually like Esme Weatherwax all that much, pissing her off would be a Bad Idea.
- And then there's You, Granny's kitten. Put it this way: Greebo, who has canonically been known to take out a vampire and have sex with pretty much anything female regardless of species, regards You as She Who Must Not Be Messed With. Greebo. Which is part of why Granny, who has no particular love for cats generally, is rather taken with You.
- Maurice of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is somewhat of a reformed "nasty bugger" who even borders on the noble at times, though he seems to think it's unCatlike.
- The Houses of Study at the Assassins' Guild School, while not all named for animals, betray interesting associations. there is Viper House (boys); Scorpion House (presumably girls); Praying Mantis House (girls); Raven House (girls); Black Widow House (girls); and Tree Frog House (mixed, day pupils). All named after deadly poisonous animals, or a bird associated with War goddesses and death, or else an insect where the female bites the male'sd head off and eats it after sex.
- Somewhat averted in Watership Down. in which the rabbits are far from cute and cuddly, and generally act fairly realistically, although the do venerate a mythological Br'er Rabbit-like trickster figure.
- Firekeeper from the series of the same name. She was a Wild Child raised by wolves, so the fact that she identifies as a wolf who happened to be unfortunate enough to get born as a human makes sense.
- Many of the noble houses in A Song of Ice and Fire have animals as part of their heraldry and show a certain awareness of how they are supposed to act because of this. An extract from an upcoming novel has a member of House Lannister, whose sigil is a Lion, make a comment about his Lion like nature and the man in question (a foreigner) wonders at how strange those in Westeros are, that they put a dragon, lion or stag on a breastplate and immediately start calling themselves such and trying to fulfill what they think that means they should act like. House Frey's prominent members on the other hand are often described by others as looking and acting like weasels
- Neverwhere's Croup and Vandemar are human (or rather, humanoid - what they actually are isn't specified), but Richard finds they give him a very clear impression of "a fox and a wolf", respectively. Croup is short, redhaired, sneaky, and talkative, while Vandemar is hulking, greyhaired, menacing, ostentatiously carnivorous, and can produce a very wolf-like howl.
- Similarly, Hunter is frequently compared to a lioness (sleek, tawny, and deadly), and the Marquis de Carabas quite consciously chose Puss in Boots for his totem.
- Charlottes Web showcases how the deceptive female spider's archetype can use her guile for good: manipulating humans with "miraculous" spider webs to spare the life of Some Pig.
- The wild geese of The Wonderful Adventures of Nils are at first quite arrogant, proud of their ability to navigate and fly incredible routes. The domestic goose is quite a lucky guy and both he and Nils do return home safely.
- Animal Farm intentionally uses this trope, but with an interesting twist: the animal characters not only symbolize traits but political figures in the Soviet Union. Hilariously, Stalin is a pig—as are all the members of the Communist Party. The general scheme goes:
- Pigs: CPSU members.
- Horses: An interesting one.
- The working horses represent the working class, with the cart horse Boxer being good-natured, dim, loyal, and self-destructively hardworking (a reference to the Stakhanovites), while Clover just keeps her head down.
- Mollie, apparently Farmer Jones' old show horse, represents the nobility and runs off to another farm after the revolution.
- Donkeys: The one donkey, Benjamin, is smart and cynical, and represents the Russian intelligentsia that opposed Stalinism but did nothing but grumble.
- There is another theory he is meant to represent the Jews. He has had a long difficult life and things don't improve for him, just like the Jews were treated badly under the Tsar and Stalin.
- Goats: Muriel the goat is like Benjamin, but less cynical.
- Crows: Moses the crow is kinda creepy, and spends his time sweet-talking the animals by telling them about "Sugarcandy Mountain", i.e. Animal Heaven. A clear analog to the Russian Orthodox Church, he gets shooed after the Revolution only to be surreptitiously allowed to return (much like Stalin surreptitiously allowed the Church to come back).
- Sheep: the proletariat, bleating the approved slogans such as "Four legs good, two legs bad".
- C. J. Cherryh's Chanur Saga series uses a range of Animal Stereotype aliens. The Maheno'sat are obviously chimps, the Kif seem to combine elements of rat and snake, and the Hani are lions - but realistically portrayed: their social structure is built around co-operative groups of females who keep a few pampered males around purely as studs. Cheryh hammers the point home by naming the Hani ship The Pride of Chanur. To be fair, the books also include some mind-bendingly alien aliens, though mostly in the background.
- Both played straight and subverted in the Dragaera novels, where Dragaerans conform to some of the Animal Stereotypes of their respective Houses: Orca are aggressive and predatory, Yendi (snakes) are sneaky and treacherous, Teckla (mice) are timid and victimized, etc. Subverted with Daymar, from the House of the Hawk, who's a Cloudcuckoolander rather than regal.
- The Wind In the Willows. Somewhat subverted here, however; the badger and mole stereotypes hold fairly true, but Rat is definitely a good guy (with the caveat that he's actually a water vole, not a true rat).
- Dog Soldiers in Black Dogs are exceptionally loyal and trustworthy, while the anthropomorphic giant ground sloth is slow and patient and the weasel/ferret character is bloodthirsty and cunning.
- The Dresden Files gives us the Denarians, many of whom turn into some form of animal when they're in combat mode. The animal is often said to be a reflection of personality.
- The Princess and Curdie, a (quite possibly) little-known sequel to The Princess and the Goblin, shows the hero given the ability to feel "real hands." Sometimes they feel human, sometimes like the hoof of an ox, sometimes like the belly of a snake. "Real hands" are supposed to tell Curdie everything he needs to know about a person. (Or creature)
- While The Bible has a very famous evil snake in the serpent that seduced Eve into eating the fruit, in Christian theology the serpent may also be a symbol of salvation (Numbers 21:8-9).
- Tortall Universe
- In the Song of the Lioness, Alanna eventually starts to be called The Lioness. She is brave, powerful, and prideful - and the King chooses her as his Champion. Given the male lion/royalty association and the whole thing where lionesses do most of the hunting, it's an interesting bit of symbolism.
- This is invoked all over the place in Provost's Dog. The Provost's Guard are nicknamed "Dogs" as an insult, but take pride in the nickname for the positive aspects—loyal, fierce, able to sniff out crimes and hunt down prey for their master the King. The protagonist, Beka, is nicknamed Terrier, Bloodhound, and Mastiff over the course of her career.
- Rudyard Kipling confused a number of readers and interpreters of The Jungle Books by arbitrarily changing stereotypes between stories. For instance, Hathi the elephant in the Mowgli stories is an imposing, majestic, even terrifying character (as shown in "Letting In the Jungle"), and Kala Nag in "Toomai of the Elephants" is also quite impressive, but Two-Tails in "Servants of the Queen" is a judicious coward. The Bandar-log who abduct Mowgli are rather nasty, but the monkeys in "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat are playful and friendly. The cobras in "Rikki-tikki-tavi" are pure evil, but those in "The King's Ankus" are friendly to Mowgli, except for the white cobra that has literally gone crazy with old age. (It probably is not insignificant that Mowgli is Indian while Rikki-tikki-tavi's Teddy is English - in Kim Kipling described fear and loathing of snakes as a specifically white trait).
- Kaa the Rock Python in the Jungle Book is not the cowardly minor villain he is in the film (he helps Baloo and Bagheera save Mowgli from the Bandar-Log). He's fully capable of keeping pace with Bagheera at a run, he smashes down a wall using his head as a battering ram, and at the end, he does "the dance of the hunger of Kaa", which hypnotizes the Bandar-Log ... and Baloo and Bagheera as well, until Mowgli snaps them out of it. They both resolve to give Kaa a very wide berth indeed unless they're sure he's well-fed.
- The humans in Jennifer Fallon's Tide Lords series share their world with three slave races, whose dog, cat and lizard ancestors were the subjects of one of the Tide Lords demented genetic experiements and which have descended into human/animal hybrids.
- The moles in William Horwood's Duncton Wood trilogy. Seen here as a sentient underground species with a rich history, folklore, literature and competing religions, one of which launches a dark unholy crusade to subjugate all of molekind.
- The very anti-semitic Dutch book on "Reynard the Fox" has Rhinoceroses as Jews, their leader Jodocus even having a name showing this. They have come from the East, cause chaos throughout the kingdom with their ideas of democracy and interracial marriage, and become the Kingdom's tax collectors. It ends with the animals killing most of them, though some escape to the East. Of course severe Values Dissonance.
- Ironically enough an animated film was made of this under the Nazis but wasn't released as the Nazis didn't want facism to be portrayed by a fox.
Live Action TV
- Sylar from Heroes had an overwhelming cockroach theme around him, likely to signify his ambition to evolve, and, as revealed in season 1 finale, to survive, as seen by the very final shot of the first volume, which showed a trail of blood leading from where his corpse was last seen into the sewer, with a cockroach wriggling his antennae to the camera.
- The cockroach wasn't meant to represent Sylar, it was meant to symbolize evolution in general.
- Angela from The Office is fussy, small and prudent. So fittingly, she has a bunch of pet cats, and dresses up as one for Halloween.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer has witch turn herself into a rat and remain that way for four years. When she becomes a human again in season 7, she has a craving for cheese. In Season 8, which takes place a few years later, she still has a constant craving for cheese.
- Snakes on Merlin were always evil. An early villain had a shield with three magical snakes on it, and after Morgana's Face-Heel Turn she often wore a snake necklace, used a small snake for torturing purposes, and had a small hydra-like creature that she used in brainwashing spells. There was also Lamia, a snake-like Vamp.
- Many Wesens in Grimm are animals and act according with the stereotypes.
- Janeen Brady's Standin' Tall tapes about various virtues include Gratitude, in which they avert the Rabbit, who needs to learn to be grateful and depend on others and is, at the start, not at all friendly or cuddly. In fact, he's more like the Badger on this list.
- Tim Minchin's Lament of the Three Toed Sloth is a song about a sloth being unhappy with being so darn slow.
- The "disgusting rats and leeches" stereotype is very much averted in everything Emilie Autumn does, especially in The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, where leeches symbolize the "mad girl", while rats are the guardians of said mad girls. Emilie herself owns rats.
Myth And Legend
- Br'er Rabbit is a Trickster Rabbit of African origin. Going even further, his character originates in folkloric African stories told way before colonial time. Of course, he used to be a spider (viz. Anansi), not a bunny.
- Coyote and Raven are the Trickster spirits in the lore of some Native American nations.
- European fairy-tales and parables do the same with foxes and sometimes wolves.
- Almost all of the "Animal People" of Native American folklore were associated with a specific set of traits and abilities. Also, there were various types of "medicine" (or magic) associated with each species. Wolf and Bear were, naturally, the badasses of the bunch. Coyote, raven, fox, and rabbit were all tricksters in their respective ranges.
- The real life coyote's penchant for using trickery made him the natural choice for the definitive trickster for those tribes who lived in coyote country (before the wolves were killed off and the coyotes moved to all the other sates). Real coyotes utilize things like howling in such a way as to make the echos of their howls return from multiple directions, thus making the rabbit they're running down think that there is a whole pack of coyotes surrounding it, and possibly causing it run the wrong way. They also often team up with badgers to hunt prairie dogs. So, it's little wonder that in Native American folklore, Coyote has more tricks up his sleeves than The Joker.
- Older Than Dirt: To the Ancient Egyptians vultures, cows, and female hippos were seen as nurturing and motherly, hawks and lions as warlike, bulls and rams as symbols of male virility, and a whole slew of animals (antelope, donkeys, male hippos, pigs, tortoises) as evil. These symbolic meanings were part of the associations between gods and animals, and of depicting gods in animal or animal-headed forms.
- Ancient British and Medieval Welsh saw night birds like the owls as symbols of evil. The unfaithful Blodeuedd is transformed into an owl for arranging the murder of her husband, Lleu Llaw; the wronged Lleu turns into an eagle when stabbed and flies away. Songbirds meanwhile represent good and the Otherworld - a starling carries Branwen's cry for help to Wales, and later the enchanted Birds of Rhiannon sing to the surviving rescuers to help them forget that they failed.
- Although the raven, in all Celtic myth, is the personification of the Dark Goddess of war, death, insanity and nightmare. In Irish mythology, she is the Morrigan, triple goddess of death, war and dark dream. As a Raven, she perched over the stone pillar where the hero Cuchullain fought his last battle and died.
- Cuckoos were a bad omen, associated with grief and loss because their mournful "coo, coo" sounds like "Cw, cw?", Old Welsh for "Where, where?"
- In Greek Mythology, Athena, goddess of wisdom, was associated with owls, and owls show up on ancient Athenian currency (Athena being the patron goddess of Athens).
- Norse Mythology:
- Most of the Gods and Goddesses in Norse Mythology have a carriage that are drawn by specific animals. These animals have connections to the God/dess's personalities. Cats draw Freya's as a Goddess of War and Love; boars draw Freyr's as a God of Fertility. Goats draw Thor's as a God known for being aggressive and stubborn; he can eat them without killing them, too.
- Ravens are one of Odin's symbols as a God of Death.
- Done all over the place in Police Force:
- The main protagonists are a lion and a leopard (powerful and majestic).
- The backup policemen are a rhinoceros and two dogs (one incompetent cop and two loyal ones).
- The main villains are a rat, a shark, a weasel, and a crocodile (animals with various unsavory traits).
- The Big Bad is a Tyrannosaurus rex (badass top of the foodchain).
- One of the civilians is a fox vixen wearing a fur coat (sexy and confident).
- A model in a fashion store is a peacock (vain and pompous).
- The candidate in a political billboard is a bald eagle (patriotic).
- Lampshaded in the Wildlands domain from the Ravenloft setting for Dungeons & Dragons. It's Africa populated with Talking Animals, and the description notes that the different animals' personalities match the human stereotypes associated with them.
- Magical Native Americans come with their "Guardian Spirits" in Deadlands (and its daughter games). The personalities of these spirits are described in terms of actual Native American/First Nations Animal Stereotypes, and if the canon shamans are any indication, the spirits are drawn to humans who have personalities similar to their own, making for easy Animal Motifs in Player Characters.
- As the characters in Ironclaw are anthropomorphic animals there is a long list of stereotypes for each species. Some of which are unique to that universe such as gray foxes being inbred aristocrats.
- Drizzt Do'Urden has Guenwyvar, his magic panther. Both are stealthy, graceful, and noble but deadly. They're also both black.
- Each of the Purr-Tenders disguised themselves as an animal that somehow matched their personality. Hop-purr, for instance, was generically cute and cuddly, but smart enough to come up with the whole deception in the first place. Romp-purr was a playful, sport-loving Tomboy, and pretended to be a dog, while Shrinking Violet Scamp-purr chose to be a mouse. Perhaps the oddest of the lot was Flop-purr, whose disguise and personality seemed to be based on Daffy Duck.
- Most of the cast of Bloody Roar.
- Character designer Tetsuya Nomura has a bad habit of associating his characters with animals by draping them in jewelery displaying a stylized animal, which tends to have a special name. The most famous is definitely Squall Leonhart's lion-charm Griever, but let's not forget Cloud Strife's Cloudy Wolf and Sion's Dog Street.
- Metal Gear Solid is more subtle, but deserves note for using snakes as a symbol of rebirth (think ouroboros) rather than evil.
- The other animal nicknames do reflect their owners, though some (like Ocelot and Mantis) aren't as obvious as others.
- Star Fox, as Furries IN SPACE!, naturally has many characters fitting these stereotypes. Fox McCloud is cunning, Andross (a monkey) is the Big Bad (several of his henchmen are monkeys as well), Wolf is the evil rival, and so on.
- Assault onwards however broke Wolf from the mold and is now an honorable rival who won't hesitate to help you. Panther also makes his appearance, who follows the feline trope.
- Also, all members of the Cornerian Fleet are dogs.
- In Warcraft III the Night Elf druids, who could switch between Elf and animal form, showed the stereotypes of their animal form even as elves. The Druids of the Claw, who could turn into bears, seemed slow paced, fond of long naps, but very dangerous when angered. The Druids of the Talon, who could turn into crows, were mysterious, slick and silent. The snake worshipping Druids of the Fang are of course pure evil. Whitewolf's rpg claims there are good druids of the fang and the ones encountered ingame are a freak incident but in World of Warcraft they didn't start calling themselves druids of the fang until after they turned evil.
- Fur Fighters has a lot of this. Seeing that every character is an animal its not hard to see why. Plays most of the trope straight but there are a couple of subversions.
- Touhou games, with their abundance of Youkai, hit a few.
- Shou in UFO is a tiger youkai, and a perfect Tiger archetype: very proud, a natural leader, and very powerful.
- Shou's subordinate Nazrin is a mouse youkai, and fits the more gentle rodent type: a tiny, tiny, clever commander, cute, trustworthy, and good at finding treasure.
- Utsuho, the Final Boss of Subterranean Animism, is a raven, but while menacing and dangerous thanks to her new powers, she's not particularly clever.
- Rin, a cat youkai (kasha), doesn't really fit the cat archetype. She follows the player through three stages, but she's not malicious so much as she is just doing her job (thereby avoiding the lazy and self-centered archetypes).
- Yamame is a spider youkai (tsuchigumo)... and is pretty much the opposite of the spider archetype. She's a generous, fun-loving socialite who refuses to use her plague-inducing powers on others.
- The goddess Kanako, the Final Boss of Mountain of Faith, uses snakes as her symbol, but again, she's not so much malicious as she is Chaotic Neutral and secretive about her activities. She uses the wisdom and rebirth associations of the snake as much as she does the predatory aspect.
- The crow tengu Aya (Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Shoot the Bullet, Mountain of Faith, and Double Spoiler) and her rival Hatate (Double Spoiler) are often portrayed to be clever, but not particularly menacing (unless it involves blackmail).
- The wolf tengu Momiji (Mountain of Faith, Double Spoiler) was originally portrayed by fandom as a puppy-dog archetype, but her appearances in Double Spoiler paint her more as a lone wolf.
- Reisen in Imperishable Night is a Moon Rabbit, but probably fits the hare archetype best: her escape from the moon war (flight), her alliance with the exiled Lunarians at Eientei (cleverness), and her insanity-inducing gaze (mystery).
- Tei, a normal rabbit youkai, is cute, lucky, and a Bugs Bunny-esque trickster, perfectly fitting a more normal rabbit archetype.
- Mystia, a sparrow youkai, is cute, upbeat, prone to bragging about skills she doesn't have, and clever, matching the sparrow stereotype.
- Ran in Perfect Cherry Blossom isn't canonly shown to fulfill any of the fox stereotypes, though this can be explained by her servitude to Yukari. Fanonly, she has a streaking habit, which can be sexy and a sign of confidence.
- Chen is a curious, cute Cat Girl.
- Fanonly, Sakuya Izayoi from Embodiment of Scarlet Devil is associated with dogs due to her loyalty and ferocity. Unusual here in that Sakuya is a human.
- Kana Anaberal from the PC-98 exclusive Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream is a Cute Ghost Girl with a faint bird motif, and is tragic, fitting the "bird with broken wings" aspect.
- Genji the turtle, Reimu's trusty steed in the PC-98 games, is old, wise, and a tad snarky. He's also flight-capable.
- Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins, she is a shapeshifter and her default form is a spider. And this suits her haughty, snarky, bitter and undeniably dangerous personality very well. Partially subverted when she shows her Tsundere personality.
- Solatorobo has the Caninu and Felineko races. Caninu are described as loyal, friendly, good at physical labor, and like eating hard foods. Felineko are described as fiercely independent, quite aggressive, moody, calculating, and agile. One stereotype that only applies in-universe is the Caninu's proficiency for technology contrasted by the Felineko's proficiency for magic.
- Averted in Sonic the Hedgehog, where very few characters are anything like their species might suggest.
- Hatoful Boyfriend:
- The three white fantails, a fancy breed, in the game are all stuck-up and narcissistic to varying degrees - Sakuya is a racist aristocrat, Yuuya is an overconfident Tuxedo and Martini spy and Oko San acts like a slightly spoiled pet bird who hits you if he doesn't like what you're saying.
- The feral pigeon, Ryouta, has to take what he can get in terms of jobs, is sickly and comes from a rough background, but does okay due to his opportunistic and go-getting nature.
- The mourning dove, Nageki, is depressed, lonely and a ghost.
- Anghel the Luzon bleeding-heart, a bird appearing to have a huge wound on its chest surrounded by legends of being marked by Jesus's blood, is a melodramatic Large Ham with a massive love of religious Faux Symbolism.
- The Chukar Partridge, Shuu, is a creepy doctor, since the bird has red-rimmed eyes that look like glasses and a call that (after the 'chu-KAR' which gave it its name) sounds like a creepy 'ho ho ho' chuckle.
- In Punjabi legend, the Chukar is a symbol of eternal, unrequited love due to belief that it constantly gazes at the Moon. Shuu's motivation in the BBL route is his unrequited love for the rock dove, Ryuuji, which leads him to planning to make humans extinct.
- BlazBlue has Hazama, a villain who uses snake motifs while fighting. There's also Kokonoe, Jubei and the Kaka clan, who are cat people. Most of the Kaka clan seem to work on kitten stereotypes, though the older ones are more like the cat stereotype. Jubei and Kokonoe do not fit the cat stereotype, likely because they are bakeneko. Rachel is also called rabbit by some characters and somewhat fits the trickster rabbit.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Kat draws cats on a few of her machines. Antimony carries a wolf doll at almost all times. Reynardine is a fox demon who seems to be undergoing a Heel-Face Turn since possessing said wolf doll. Ysengrin, on the other hand, fits the evil wolf stereotype, with the twist that he's less a wolf than he used to be. Coyote is Coyote.
- Later on Ysegrin has been shown to be sagely and wise. He just doesn't like humans at all. He's simply pretending to be a dumb brute.
- Kat also has enough of a connection to pigeons that during one chapter Zimmy sees one on her head spouting out all her thoughts.
- Outside Interference has a rabbit named Hollie, who's apparently quite hung up on... what rabbits are famous for.
- The Dawn Chapel features a short story, The Apex Predator, wherein a proud lion is presented with a series of affronts to his dignity, none of which are handled gracefully.
- Homestuck features twelve characters, the trolls, all of which have a theme animal. When the troll is a match for their theme animal, it's usually played straight, as with the eternally angry Karkat, who's theme animal is a crab, but on the other hand, Tavros is a general subversion of his bull, being shy, slow-tempered, and generally harmless, as opposed to bold, easily-angered, and intimidating.
- Fridge Brilliance: Prior to the story, Tavros was injured in an "accident" which left him completely paralyzed from the waist down— including, presumably, the family goods . He's not a bull, he's a steer.
- There is a spell some magic users in Roommates know, that animates the target's shadow in the shape of an animal that fits his/her darker nature. The main cast got: owl (the Monster Roommate, Jareth), wolf (Inspector Javert), panther (the Trap Master Mad Artist, Erik) and eagle (the Token Good Teammate, James). The most interesting and to date unexplained is Jareth's father who has human for some reason.
- In Whateley Universe, one of the superhero classifications is 'Avatar', meaning someone who can absorb a spirit and keep it alive, gaining its powers in exchange. These spirits are often (but not always) animal totems/kami of some kind or another, and animal Avatars tend to take on the behavior characteristics of their spirit(s), sometimes physically as well. Aquerna (Middle English for 'squirrel') has the power of the SQUIRREL! She's curious, persistent, family-oriented, and sees herself as insignificant. At Super Hero School Whateley Academy, she's thought of as one of the school losers. She's still better off than the unnamed girl who has the spirit of the hamster, and has grown fur and cheek pouches too. Mongoose has the spirit of the mongoose, and as a result is playful, adventurous, and always looking for new things. There are lots more examples.
- Aside from the Sentient Apes that populate the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, there are also a category of characters called "Moreaus" (after the titular Mad Scientist from "The Island of Doctor Moreau"), scientifically altered animals that can now speak and think.
- The Zoo is a heroic team of Moreaus that have banded together for self-protection and to show humanity that they aren't monsters. They've unimaginably named themselves after their original species (Bloodhound, Buffalo, Fox, and Giraffe), and fight crime in Los Angeles.
- Beast Wars: It's both averted and utilized, depending on the character. Some, like Rattrap, Cheetor, Silverbolt (wolf/eagle hybrid), Inferno, Tarantulas and Blackarachnia fit their animal's stereotypes exactly. Others, like Tigatron, Rhinox and Optimus (a gorilla) don't have the kind of personalities their animal implies. For instance, Tigatron (a tiger) is a pacifist, Rhinox (a rhino) is the smartest and calmest member of the Maximals and Optimus (a gorilla) is the most serious member.
- Looney Tunes both uses and inverts the trope for irony's sake. Bugs Bunny is the ultimate in "tricky" rabbits (the most famous Karmic Trickster), while Porky Pig is an uptight neat freak and Sylvester is an uncommonly stupid and ungraceful cat.
- Each of the martial artists in Kung Fu Panda, being animals who each practice a style specifically designed after their species. But no one associates a cute and cuddly species like a Giant Panda with aggression, and yet lead character Po learns to be exactly that.
- Codename: Kids Next Door featured an episode where all the kids were turned into animals. Japanese Numbuh 3 turns into a crane, fat Numbuh Two into a hippopotamus, and Australian Numbuh Four into a koala. The highlight, however, is the bossy and belligerent Numbuh Eighty-Six turning into an Irish Setter. A female Irish Setter.
- Skunk Fu! subverts Rabbit, Tiger, and Mantis, while Skunk, Fox, the Monkeys, and Turtle are played straight.
- Donald Duck of Disney is clumsy, dim but strong willed. Gladstone Gander is a chronically lucky arrogant dandy.
- On the topic of Disney, the stereotypes follow the main characters very well. Mickey Mouse has been portrayed as humble and inoffensive, however recently he's been shown to be going back to being mischievous, like he was in his earlier cartoons. Goofy is a very loyal friend, but he's known for not being the brightest. Pete, Mickey's rival, is a cat, and is shown to be arrogant, lazy, and manipulative.
- Madagascar subverts several of these tropes. Alex the Lion is hardly brave or powerful (proud on the other hand...) Marty, the Zebra is the farthest thing from elegant, noble, and hard-working (although he is really stereotypically black). Gloria is far from a lazy, slobby hippo. The Penguins are the farthest thing you'll ever get from clumsy. And they don't even like cold weather. In the TV show, the elephant comes across as rather dense, the gorillas are somewhat thuggish, and Phil and Mason (chimps) are rather reserved and dignified.
- As well as being the source of a Punny Name, the use of dogs in Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds reinforces the Musketeers' virtue of loyalty. The villain Milady, a cat, exhibits feline cunning.
- Almost everyone in Kaeloo. Mr. Cat is Smileyland's resident jerk, Stumpy the squirrel is hyperactive and a bit dim and Kaeloo the frog seems to be in constant bliss and is smotheringly "friendly". Subverted with Quack-Quack and Bad Kaeloo as Quack-Quack is a diaper-wearing genius incapable of speech and Bad Kaeloo is a monstrous she-toad with little obvious intelligence and a horrific mean streak.
- In ThunderCats (2011) this is frequently Played With with Third Earth's many varieties of Petting Zoo People, with accompanying Intelligent Gerbil characterization. Cats can be mean, magic or superior, Lions are the King of Beasts, Lizards are abhorrent and so on. Elephants, while very wise, notably subvert the classic "an elephant never forgets" by collectively having incredibly poor memories, for which they are apparently infamous.
- Get Muggsy! plays raccoon, opossum and beaver straight, but averts most of the spider stereotypes.
- The episode of Darkwing Duck that has Bushroot creating and wanting to marry the vampire potato also has a weasel trucker pick up the heroes and give them some intelligent advice. He LOOKS evil, but was very amiable.
- Polish animation series Hip-Hip and Hurra has plenty of jokes based upon stereotypes of various animals. Some are however averted.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Tiger Claw and Bradford discuss how Xever thought the two of them wouldn't get along, just because Tiger Claw is a cat and Bradford is a dog. Both of them agree that it's ridiculous to hate each other for such a silly reason. Tiger Claw then admits that he wants to eat Xever because he's a fish. Bradford wants to eat Xever too, but only to shut him up.