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Animal Motifs / Real Life

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  • Toyotomi Hideyoshi's nickname was "Monkey" (Saru), allegedly given by Oda Nobunaga because of his facial resemblance to a monkey. This recognition directly contributed to the popular image of Toyotomi Hideyoshi being a monkey-styled person, both in appearance and mode of behaviour.
  • Most countries have an animal they use as a symbol for the nation as a whole:
    • The United States has the bald eagle. Each state tends to have its own state animal or, usually, several state animals, since state legislators' idea of fun is picking official state this and official state that.note  Every state has a state bird and at least one state mammal. A few highlights:
      • California famously has a big ol' bear on its flag, and unsurprisingly its official animal (well, official land mammal) is that bear. The bear is a California grizzly, an extinct subspecies. Since the California grizzly had a distinct golden cast to its fur, this is why the UC Berkeley athletic teams are called the Golden Bears.
      • Wisconsin has long been called the "Badger State," and it came as no surprise that the badger was officially chosen as a symbol of Wisconsin in 1957. The University of Wisconsin Badgers had had that nickname long before then.
      • Peculiarly, Michigan's two state animals are the American Robin (state bird) and White-tailed Deer (state mammal). However, it has long been known as the "Wolverine State." This is in large part because (1) "Wolverine" was an Appropriated Appellation, as during the "Toledo War" the Ohioans called the Michiganders "Wolverines" for their scrappy ferocity, and (2) the wolverine doesn't really live in Michigan: the state is near the southern limit of the boreal animal's range.
      • Kentucky's state horse is the Thoroughbred, which is no surprise; Kentucky is the home of American horse breeding, to the point that there are special prizes for horses not from Kentucky. The state bird is the Cardinal, and the University of Louisville has festooned themselves with pictures of the bird.
      • Florida has three major icons in the American Alligator (state reptile), Florida Manatee (state marine animal), and Florida Panther (State animal). While the Panther did become the state animal, the Alligator tends to be more commonly used in imagery on account of higher population, association with swamps, and use in Florida sports teams.
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    • Russia has the bear.
    • The United Kingdom:
      • The UK has either the scrappy but lovable bulldog or the more "official" regal lion. Sometimes the lion is associated with the UK while the bulldog is associated specifically with England, or the other way 'round, or the lion is associated with the monarchy and the bulldog with the people.
      • England also identifies strongly with the robin, as British robins were never hunted for food and consequently became the friendliest robins in the world. To this day, harming a robin is as repulsive to most Brits as a grievous felony, given their strong symbolism as representing the gentle English countryside. It just isn't done.
      • Scotland's national animal is more or less undisputed; it's the unicorn. The phrase "the Lion and the Unicorn" is a symbol of the union of England and Scotland, and also of the British monarchy.
      • Wales, not to be outdone in the fantastic-creature department, has the red dragon. This is a reference to Arthurian legend (King Arthur being a hero of ancient Wales) in which Merlin made a prophecy about a red dragon and a white dragon.
      • Middlesbrough has a horse and lion motif. Horses are used to represent the towns mining history however the lion has more common and prominent imagery with sports and heraldry.
      • Manchester has the worker bee. The bee is a hardworking and productive creature which is why Manchester adopted it as their motif. The HMS Manchester was nicknamed Busy Bee and there is countless bee imagery in Manchester. After the barbaric attack in Manchester, the bee was turned into a symbol against terrorism by using it in banners and graffiti. Tattoo artists participated in the Manchester Tattoo Appeal by offering to do bee tattoos in order to raise money for the victims of the attack.
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    • India has the tiger, primarily, but the national emblem features a lion (it's the "Lion Capital" of Asoka at Sarnath) and elephants (which appear on the frieze along the base of the "Lion Capital") are a common secondary symbol.
    • Thailand has the elephant, and specifically the white elephant, which is considered holy in Thai culture.
    • Modern Israel's national symbol is the Lion of Judah. Historically, or at least Biblically, each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had its own animal symbol, but due to the loss of the Ten Tribesnote , most modern Jews descend from the tribe of Judah. Hence the term "Judah-ism", or Judaism. Also, the hoopoe is modern Israel's national bird, as despite being called "detestable" and not kosher in the Bible, it is a very common bird in Israel.note 
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    • Italy inherited the wolf from Ancient Rome (Italy would actually have both wolf and eagle, but the heavy use of eagle symbolism by Fascism caused most Italian to 'forget' the eagle).
    • Like Italy, Turkey has the wolf. It represents Asena, an old deity of the pre-Islamic Turkish tribes. At some point in the past, there were plans to put the wolf symbol in official heraldry like the coat of arms, but it never took off. These days, the wolf symbol is most commonly associated with nationalists who have a tendency to Sigil Spam it all over the place.
    • China has its whiskered dragon. The panda is an alternative symbol when one wishes to portray China as friendly or harmless.
    • Canada has the mighty beaver. A few other animals occasionally feature (moose, caribou, Canada geese, and bears—both polar and grizzly—being the most common other choices), but the beaver is most prominent.
    • Germany has had the eagle (Adler) in some form or other for centuries. Within Germany, Berlin is associated with bears on account of a pun (Bär, which is German for "bear", sounds like the "Ber" in "Berlin"), and as Hanover historically used the symbol of a white horse, modern Lower Saxony does the same.
    • Spain has the black bull. This is a rather recent development, from a set of countryside ads for sherry (!) - there's more information on the other wiki.
    • France is unofficially associated with the Gallic rooster.
    • Empires with great reach or which were viewed as secular and religious authorities often adopt the double-headed eagle: the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the old Russian Empire, the Imperium of Man, etc.
    • Australia's Coat of Arms features a Kangaroo and an Emu, two fearsome, Australia-only animals that can't walk/jump/run backwards. Seriously. That's why they picked them.
      • A lot of the original generation that were from England wanted to choose a more fearsome creature like the lion, but the majority won out with the Kangaroo and Emu because it symbolized a nation that will move forward and never backwards. Also, these animals are more dangerous than they look.
      • These two animals are popular barbecue options that can be purchased at supermarkets & butcher shops. Yes, friends. Australia may be the only country in the world that regularly devours BOTH its national symbols. note 
    • New Zealand has a wealth of distinctive native fauna that could be used to represent it (and sheep...), but by far the most popular (and most official) is the kiwi. It is popular enough that most New Zealanders will refer to themselves as Kiwis when talking about their nationality, and a term known as "Kiwiana" has appeared and refers to anything that New Zealand culturally associates with itself.
      • On an ironic note, the FLIGHTLESS kiwi is also the official symbol of their air force.
    • Chile has two animals, the mighty Andean Condor (The largest flying bird, even the most popular Chilean comic is starring an anthropomorphic condor) and the graceful Huemul (A type of deer).
      • At the end of the decade of the 90s, because of its remarkable economic growth, Chile was nicknamed "the jaguar of Latin America", comparing it with the "four tigers of Asia". After two economic crises and multiple cases of corruption, the nickname of "jaguars" is for many Chileans a kind of Old Shame (ironically the jaguar does not live in Chile, a more appropriate animal would have been the puma)
    • South Africa had the springbok (a kind of antelope or gazelle that jumped a lot); this was to some degree associated with The Apartheid Era and the use of the springbok to represent South Africa can be kind of contentious (although hardly anybody finds any fault in continuing to call the national rugby union teamnote  the Springboks unofficially).
    • The Netherlands have the lion. At any given international sports event, take a look and see how many of them have some sort of lion motif or decal on their clothing. Like so.
    • Denmark has the mute swan as well as the small tortoiseshell butterfly.
    • Sweden has the blackbird.
  • The city of Baltimore, Maryland is generally associated with the raven, on account of Edgar Allan Poe's relationship with the city. Oddly, although there is a species of bird called a Baltimore oriole, that's actually named after Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore (the man after whom the city is named, as its yellow-and-black coloration matched that of his coat of arms) and is considered more of a symbol of the state of Maryland (which Lord Baltimore founded and in which Baltimore City sits) as a whole than of the city specifically. (Incidentally, Baltimore's two major-league professional sports teams are named after these birds—the Baltimore Orioles of Major League Baseball, and the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.)
  • The four Asian Tigers (sometimes Dragons) (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) that saw very rapid economic growth from the 1970's through 1990's. Now followed by the Little Tigers who rose starting in the 90's (more varied, but usually includes Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines).
    • Singapore itself is derived from its Malay name Singapura, which means "Lion City". The Lion is featured in the State Crest and national symbol. Alternatively, the Merlion, which combines the lion with a fish like body, symbolizing the country's origins as a fishing village.
  • The late great Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy was ubiquitously dubbed the "Liberal Lion" of the Senate.
  • Vladimir Putin's recent news coverage has increasingly linked him with tigers. First he saved a camera crew from an angry tiger and then there was some talk about him getting one as a pet or something. Right-Hand Cat indeed.
  • Continental officer Francis Marion was known as the "Swamp Fox" in the American Revolution because he could disappear into the South Carolina swamps like an elusive fox.
  • Similarly there was Erwin Rommel, the "Desert Fox" of Germany in WW2.
  • One of Adolf Hitler's nicknames was the darkly appropriate "Wulf".
  • Some Goths have the raven motif.
  • Diogenes of Sinope frequently praised dogs and compared himself to them; his most famous statue shows him beside one in recognition of his close association with them. The school of thought he founded, Cynicism, is actually named for its association with dogs.
  • The Brazilian real has a local animal in every banknote: a hummingbird in the now-discontinued R$1, turtle in R$2, heron in $5, macaw in R$10, tamarin in R$20, jaguar in R$50, and grouper in R$100.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins have various animals representing them:
    • Envy is associated with dogs and snakes.
    • Gluttony is associated with pigs. Due to its close association with the demon Beelzebub, Gluttony is also occasionally associated with flying insects, due to Beelzebub being known as "lord of the flies".
    • Greed is associated with foxes and frogs.
    • Lust is associated with cows, bulls, goats and roosters (feel free to make the appropriate jokes about that one).
    • Pride is associated with horses and peacocks.
    • Sloth is associated with goats and donkeys. Ironically, it is not often associated with actual sloths (which fit the sin perfectly), as they're native to South America and Europeans didn't encounter them until long after the symbolism was well established (the animal was actually named for the sin because they fit so perfectly).
    • Wrath is associated with bulls and bears.
  • The Native Americans believe that everyone has a spirit animal to guide them through life.
  • The Maasai of central-to-southeastern Africa seem to be rather attached to lion imagery, down to their traditional hairstyles (dreadlocked mane for men, and shaved down for women).
  • The city of Charlotte, North Carolina seems to have a fondness for feline motifs, using cats to represent some of its most visible public institutions. The city's two most well-known athletic teams are the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League and the Charlotte Bobcats (now called the Charlotte Hornets) of the National Basketball Association, and its two most well-known public transportation systems are a bus system called "CATS" (Charlotte Area Transit System) and a light-rail system called "LYNX".
  • The 2016 US Presidential Election notably saw two animal symbols catching on with several supporters of two of its top contenders; many supporters of Bernie Sanders adopted the bird as their personal symbol, while many supporters of Donald Trump used the lion. The bird caught on after a robin perched on Sanders' podium while he was giving a speech, prompting an enthusiastic response from the crowd, and (eventually) the Sanders campaign selling official merchandise with the "Birdie Sanders" symbol. The lion caught on after Trump attracted attention for tweeting Benito Mussolini's quote "It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep", and it eventually inspired the formation of an unofficial pro-Trump paramilitary group that called itself "The Lion Guard".
  • Animal rights groups (such as PETA) use rabbits/hares as a logo for their products, presumably because of their perceived status as harmless and innocent. When displaying their message of fighting animals, an image of boxing hares is used.
  • Shy, introverted or anxious people often receive a turtle/tortoise motif due to their quiet and private lifestyles or preference of staying in their comfort zones. When they improve with their anxiety or become more social then they often receive comments about them "coming out of their shell". To a lesser extent, they are also compared to rabbits or deer due to the phrase "Like a deer/rabbit caught in the headlights"
  • People on the autistic spectrum sometimes develop a cat motif, due to their independent nature and juxtaposition to dogs, who can be compared to the neurotypical population. The logic being that most people are better at understanding and communicating with dogs than they are with cats, leading to some incorrectly believing cats to be cold and emotionless, even though cats can and will express their feelings, but in a different way. Similarly, some people might perceive that autistic people are similarly cold and emotionless because they don't show emotion in the ways most people are used to recognize.
  • People who are known for reliability and loyalty are frequently compared to dogs. Primarily due to the metaphor "(As) loyal as a dog", a more hostile comparison would be calling said person a "lapdog".
  • Richard I was associated with lions due to his nickname "Richard the Lionheart", which was a result of his skills as a warrior and leader.

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