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Informed Species

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The Beagle Boys, and real beagles...
"And the only thing that makes him a cricket is because we call him one."
Animator Ward Kimball on the character design of Jiminy Cricket

Sometimes, whether due to a specific visual style or use of anthropomorphism, a character who belongs to a clearly-identified Real Life species ends up looking nothing like what said species actually does.

Some examples are understandable and forgivable, but for the most part Tropes Are Tools and so is making a character look less like their real world species counterpart due to The Law of Conservation of Detail, being able to tell a story easier (as Most Writers Are Human) and sometimes simply because it looks cool and/or fun. See also Viewer Species Confusion for a subtrope based on the audience's reaction to a creature, and I Am Not Weasel for in-universe reactions.

While this primarily applies to animal characters, it can also apply to anthropomorphic objects.

Related to the Cartoon Creature (whose actual species is entirely ambiguous) and Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit" (which is about the name of their species, and not the species itself).

NOTE: This trope is NOT "animal has qualities that differ from their real counterparts", note  this trope is "animal mainly does not look like their general species". As a rule of thumb, ask yourself if you could recognize the animal's correct species without being told (hence the name, Informed Species).note  If not, then this is the correct trope. Also, keep MST3K Mantra in mind and only point out details that are mostly obvious and that the general audience would notice, not minor, nitpicky ones only zoologists would care about. Also, this trope is specifically about animals, and not humans. If there is a character that is supposed to be human but doesn’t look human, don’t list them here. They belong at Ambiguously Human.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • The University of Minnesota's mascot, Goldy Gopher doesn't look much like a gopher. Upon consultation the conclusion was he looks more like a chipmunk.
  • Sea-Monkeys. The cartoons on the packages look nothing like the brine shrimp they are in real life. They are not monkeys either. This is probably an intentional attempt to fool gullible kids into buying them — a kingdom of merpeople in your aquarium sounds cooler than a bunch of brine shrimp.

  • William from Baby Shark's Big Show! is meant to be a pilot fish, but has an orange color scheme that more resembles a goldfish.
  • Blazing Teens: You really have to take the series' word for it when the Spirit of the Dashing Eagle yo-yo claims to be an eagle, as his yellow color makes him look more like a canary.
  • Max from Miniforce is said to be a beaver, but he looks more like a squirrel or chipmunk due to his tail not being flat.
  • The fireball aliens from the Motu Patlu episode "Fire Ball Aliens" are an interesting variation. While they do have enough features to make them recognizable as fireballs, literally the only indication that they're aliens at all is how they're referred to as such in the title and in the episode itself; they are never stated to come from another planet, don't own any spacecraft for travelling, or anything like that.
  • Pakdam Pakdai features a bulldog named Rox who looks less like a bulldog and more like a Great Dane.
  • Hungarian Folk Tales: The pelican looks like any generic fantasy bird with a normal-sized beak. This is justified though, as the episode in question follows the depictions of pelicans found in medieval bestiaries and religious imagery. People, especially from landlocked countries where pelicans were rare, used to believe these birds bled themselves dry to feed their young, making them symbols of Christ, while their real-life traits were ignored.
  • You wouldn't know the titular protagonists of Kit And Kate are meant to be cats unless you were told so. They look more like blue alien frog creatures. The other animals are more recognizable though.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The tanukis in Animal Land look less like real life tanukis and more like small humans in bear-like costumes.
  • One episode of Bumpety Boo involved a Killer Gorilla, which looked little like a gorilla and resembled a Bigfoot instead.
  • You would be hard-pressed to believe that the earless Doraemon is actually a cat. However, a flashback in the manga's volume 6 reveals that Doraemon used to have ears and was colored yellow, and does resemble a cartoon cat, before an accident turns him into what he looks like for the rest of the show. Compare Doraemon past. vs. present.
  • In NEEDLESS, Miu's "teddy bear" is actually a rabbit, except it looks like a teddy bear, not a rabbit. Even the characters are like "That's a RABBIT???" upon finding out.
  • The titular Pikaia in Pikaia, rendered as a Pokemon-esque Ridiculously Cute Critter rather than the worm-like creature it actually is. Which is ultimately pointed out by the show itself.
  • Plue from Rave Master is supposedly a dog. Despite not having any ears, having a drill as a nose, loves lollipop candies, can walk on two legs, deflating when exposed to hot water, and generally looking for all the world like a tiny snowman, Plue is a dog. Elie thought Plue is an insect instead.
  • The cats from "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1971)" don't really look like cats, they look more like little bears with whiskers that look like they might have been designed by Dr. Seuss.
  • Ringing Bell actually invokes this: when Chirin (a male sheep) is fully-grown, he looks very little like a normal ram. Not only is he lithe and lanky rather than stocky, but his horns point forward rather than curling back. He looks much more like some kind of goat or antelope than a sheep. Given that the point of the film is that Chirin isn't a sheep anymore after being twisted by hatred, this is pretty intentional.
  • Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew is supposed to have the DNA of an Iriomote Wildcat. Despite this, she looks and acts like a domestic cat. Her cat form also looks like a normal housecat.
  • Mughi, Yuri and Kei’s pet from Dirty Pair, is meant to be a giant genetically engineered cat, but in the anime adaptation he more closely resembles some kind of mixed breed of dog. Given the shape of his head and snout, the only cat-like things about him are his ears and claws. The fact that he acts like a dog doesn't help. Mughi does look like a cat in the original novels, but his design was a Shout-Out to the Coeurl from The Voyage of the Space Beagle, so it was changed to avoid copyright issues.
  • Tippy from Is the Order a Rabbit? is supposed to be an Angora rabbit, but her ears look more like a cat's ears than a rabbit's, being very short and pointy. It's especially noticeable since the other two rabbit mascots, Anko and Wild Geese, look much more like actual rabbits than Tippy does.
  • The title character's airplane in Porco Rosso qualifies as a mechanical example. It's identified as a Savoia S.21, but looks nothing like the real airplane by that name, apart from its distinctive top-mounted pusher prop engine, and that gets replaced with a standard propeller after the plane is shot down and rebuilt.
  • Yans and Gans of Meat Or Die are said to be dinosaurs, but come out looking like vaguely reptilian vinyl toys.
  • It's almost never brought up anywhere, but the eponymous main character of Ojarumaru is apparently a fairy; in Series 1 episode 1, King Enma calls him a "fairy brat", and NHK's official description of the same episode refers to him as a "fairy aristocratic child". However, Ojarumaru does not display any traits one would normally associate with fairies and he could easily pass for a normal human otherwise.

  • The Carta Marina, a decorative sea map famous for the immense variety of sea monsters it depicts, includes a number of creatures that are meant to be representations of real animals, but don't really read as such to modern eyes. In addition to the stylized, dragon-like "whales", there is also a "sea-hog" that was probably based on a description of a walrus, and a "marine unicorn" most likely inspired by accounts of a narwhal.
  • Because only the ivory made its way to Europe for a long time, walruses were initially depicted as elephants, and later as pig-fish hybrids.
  • Given that seeing a lion in 18th-century Brazil was difficult, the ones made by local sculptor Aleijadinho looked like monkeys — most notably in his statue of Daniel in a series with The Bible's prophets. (This includes another example, the whale carved on Jonah's statue.)

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Lampshaded in Bloom County that eventually Opus looked more like a puffin than a penguin.
  • Dilbert: Dogbert barely looks like a dog. There are a few small, white, and fluffy breeds he could be, but his general shape resembles a Cephalothorax, and it's easy to forget his nose isn't actually his mouth.
  • Foxtrot: Quincy is supposed to be an iguana, but he looks more like a frog with a long tail. He also has a row of circular plates along his back, rather than spines like a real iguana.
  • Garfield: Jim Davis declared Odie to be a beagle, but is even less similar to it than Snoopy (in the live-action movies he's a dachshund; in this strip, Garfield declares he's a "purebred clown").
  • Krazy Kat is not readily identifiable as a cat. (S)he looks somewhat like Yakko, Wakko, and Dot from Animaniacs, but with a flesh-colored face and pink nose.
  • Mooch the cat from Mutts is not readily identifiable as a cat and looks rather like Yakko Warner from Animaniacs, except with smaller, more pointed ears, a bigger nose, and without the cheek tufts and tan colored pants. The resemblance would be even more noticeable if Mooch were drawn in the same style Yakko is drawn, or vice versa.
  • Peanuts
    • More of an informed breed, but Snoopy and his brothers (and sister) look nothing like real beagles. Notably Snoopy wasn't originally intended to be a beagle, and even denied being one in an early strip. In fact, the character was roughly based off of Charles Schulz's childhood dog, a Pointer named Spike who was "a mixed breed of some kind"—by Schulz's admission, Snoopy was only a beagle in the strip because it was a funny word. Snoopy's black and white coloring seems to be more of that of a Pointer's or a Dalmatian's, although there are black and white beagles as well. Regardless of whether or not he resembles a real beagle, Snoopy is a perfect portrayal of the standard breed: smart, playful, affectionate, hard-headed at times with a stubborn and independent streak that real beagles are famously known for having.
    • Woodstock doesn’t even seem to resemble a bird, with his beak looking more like a big human nose due to the simplistic art style. A Running Gag is that he doesn't know his own species, and Snoopy's attempts to narrow it down only reveal that he's (probably) not a crow, an American bittern, a Caroline wren, a rufous-sided towhee, a yellow-billed cuckoo, a Canada goose, a warbler, or a duck. One story treated bird species in terms of rank, with Woodstock going to "Eagle Camp" to learn how to be an eagle (and flunking out due to a tendency to get "beak bleeds" at high altitudes).
  • Winslow from Prickly City is supposed to be a coyote pup, but he looks more like a cross between a bobcat and a Cairn Terrier.
  • Pogo from Pogo looks nothing like a possum; he looks more like a monkey.
  • In Mother Goose and Grimm, while Grimm is clearly a dog, he doesn't really share much of resemblance with Bull Terriers, which he's stated to be, so he just looks like a generic yellow dog. Combined with Art Evolution, in the earlier strips he actually did look a lot like the particular breed.

    Fan Works 
  • The picture of Undertow, the Pristichampsus in Nathanoraptor's Ice Age 5 fanfic, on the author's deviantART page, reveals he looks more like a featherless Velociraptor than a Pristichampsus, or even anything vaguely crocodilian.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The large prehistoric feline from Alpha is supposed to be a cave lion, but it is depicted with saber teeth, making it resemble a Machairodus.
  • Benny from Benny Loves You is a living toy that his owner, Jack, refers to as a "bear" - he looks (and sounds) more like a floppy-eared Elmo expy, complete with bright red fur.
  • Cool Cat Saves the Kids: Cool Cat's features don't quite come across as feline. In fact, he vaguely resembles a fox. His excitable personality isn't very catlike either.
  • Zilla, a.k.a., the American Godzilla, is an interesting variation. He's supposed to be a mutated marine iguana, but his physical structure is more akin to that of a theropod dinosaur. Since he is mutated, this might be justified.
    • Ironically Godzilla himself , who was in fact supposed to be a mutated theropod of some variety, doesn't really look like any real dinosaur so much. Part of this is Science Marches On, since back in the '50s when Godzilla was created, the classic 'tripod' pose for theropods was still in vogue, but even taking that into account, his head is way too small to be a theropod. Granted, this may be justified on account of his mutation, as his original form, the Godzillasaurus, has a bigger head in proportion to its body. Some fans also interpret other incarnations of him as a synapsid.
      • May be the reason why in the 2014 reboot he is portrayed as a type of Permian reptile instead of a dinosaur. However, suplementary material in the special features of the home release of this movie states that yes, the Monsterverse Godzilla is a dinosaur as well, but given he originates from the Permian era, it means his species were either the very first dinosaurs or extremely derived dinosauriforms. There's also the fact that he has gills, which means that MV!Godzilla technically wouldn't even be a reptile, but some kind of non-amniote amphibian.
    • Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again, despite the claims of the contrary, doesn't really look much like an ankylosaur. He is more like some kind of Styracosaurus/crocodile/armadillo hybrid.
    • Likewise, Rodan doesn't really look like a Pteranodon. He's got a small head reminiscent of a bird of prey and lacks pycnofibres, but at least he possesses membranous wings like real pterosaurs. His Heisei version has a more Pteranodon-like head as well as a slimmer body build closer to real pterosaurs, but he unfortunately has bat-like wings which other versions of the character lack. In the Monsterverse Rodan is now an ancient organism from a time before pterosaurs emerged, making his inaccuracies more justifiable, as that version of him isn't a pterosaur at all.
    • The MUTOs featured in the MonsterVerse continuity are described by the MPC visual effects supervisor in Godzilla: The Art of Destruction as probably being mammals based on the fact they possess skin, bones and muscle, but he also admitted that they do look more insectoid than mammalian. To say nothing of the MUTOs' reproductive cycle, which in light of this information makes the platypus look like nothing to gawk about.
  • The large carnivorous dinosaur from the 2008 Journey to the Center of the Earth film is supposed to be a Giganotosaurus, but it looks more like a three-fingered Tyrannosaurus.
  • The Jurassic Park franchise is NOTORIOUS for this:
    • Jurassic Park:
      • The Velociraptor are an infamous case of this, resembling the larger Deinonychus. This is because the novel the film was based on described Deinonychus as being synonymous with Velociraptor, a now-discredited hypothesis proposed by Gregory S. Paul, and also because Michael Crichton though Velociraptor sounded much cooler than Deinonychus. And let's not get to the fact raptors should have feathers (granted, it was only discovered in 1997, shortly after The Lost World, but later films don't have Science Marches On as an excuse).
      • The Dilophosaurus not only possess non-existent neck-frills (which wasn't even present in the novel) and venomous spit but also a more broad skull, and are also too small (about on par with the Velociraptor in real life, funnily).
    • The Lost World: Jurassic Park:
      • The Mamenchisaurus look more like Diplodocus or Barosaurus in that they don't have a hump or a tail club. Most glaringly, they don't have the extra-long neck this dinosaur is famous for, meaning that they mostly just look like generic sauropods. This may be because the animal was going to be changed to Seismosaurus (nowadays a synonym of Diplodocus hallorum) during mid-production, but the initial identification as Mamechisaurus has stuck.
    • Jurassic Park III: The Pteranodon have teeth, especially ludicrous considering its name literally means "toothless wing" and there were many other species of pterosaurs that did possess teeth.
    • Jurassic World:
      • The Gallimimus have broader skulls and beaks full of small teeth, which is jarring since the ones that appeared prior looked somewhat more like real Gallimimus. They also should have feathers.
      • The Dimorphodon have heads shaped more like a typical carnivorous theropod than the real animal. Perhaps this could be the reason why they are ferocious carnivores rather than inoffensive insectivores. They do have pycnofibres unlike the Pteranodon; the problem is that they don't have enough.
      • There's a Hand Wave by Dr. Wu that all the dinosaurs were purposely modified to look "cooler" rather than biologically accurate, as their purpose was to serve as theme park entertainment. This is true even in the books; it is explicitly explained that none of them are perfect replicas because of all the modifications and substitutions that had to be made. The use of Frog and modern reptile DNA rather than Bird DNA to fill the gaps in the sequences is a major reason for this.
    • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom:
      • The Baryonyx is a major offender. It has a considerably shorter and smaller skull than the real animal as well as atrophied forelimbs, lacking the prominent thumb claw that is literally Baryonyx's most distinguishing and namesake feature, both of which make it look more like a generic theropod than a spinosaurid. Especially jarring seeing as promotional art for the website of the previous film featured a Baryonyx design much closer to its Real Life counterpart (as this one was drawn by a renowned paleo artist).
      • According to the script, the ceratopsian skull that the Indoraptor is impaled on is that of an Agujaceratops, not a Triceratops, as viewers commonly assume. The thing is, the skull's frill is clearly solid, a feature only Triceratops had. The producers, on the other hand, claim the skull wasn't meant to be any specific type of ceratopsian. Interestingly, the junior novelization identifies it as a Triceratops horridus.
      • Likewise, the movie's Sinoceratops have holes in their frills. While real Sinoceratops—and most other ceratopsians—did have these holes, in life they would have been covered by skin, not exposed like they are in the movie. The Sinoceratops also have a horn that is also much broader than the real animal's, and they also have small spikes on the center of the frill like a Pachyrhinosaurus. Though the latter may be because they were originally going to be Pachyrhinosaurus, which would have played this trope even straighter since Pachyrhinosaurus is famous for not having horns.
    • Jurassic World Dominion:
      • The Giganotosaurus is shown with a prominent dorsal hump and Spikes of Villainy, making it look more like an Acrocanthosaurus or an oversized Concavenator.
      • The Atrociraptor are basically slightly larger recolors of the JP Velociraptor, ignoring that the real Atrociraptor was even smaller than Velociraptor. The only indication that they're Atrociraptor is that they have the distinctive square-shaped snout of the genus.
      • Likewise, the Pyroraptor looks more like a reasonably-accurate Deinonychus, when the real animal was also smaller than Velociraptor.
      • The Dreadnoughtus look more like a modified version of the Brachiosaurus.
  • The turkey from ThanksKilling looks more like a vulture.
  • The giant ground sloth from Unknown Island barely resembles the real animal, instead looking more like a bizarre hybrid between a bear and an ape. And then there's the fact that it's carnivorous.
  • In a similar case to Fantasia, the epononymous Allosaurus from The Valley of Gwangi looks more like a T. rex with three fingers.
  • The titular werewolf of The Wolf Man doesn't really look like a wolf and instead looks more like a cross between a bear and a gorilla. This is because of Technology Marches On, since at that time special effects and make-up were not sophisticated enough to go beyond adding just hair and fangs or having a dog (or hyena) play the role of a werewolf. The 2010 remake, while sticking to the classic design, adds in more wolf-like features such as pointy ears and a muzzle, although the redesign still resembles more of a bear than a wolf. Especially due to possessing sharp claws, which wolves don't possess but bears do.
  • Utam, The Mighty Peking Man, is supposedly a giant orangutan (hence his name). But he's got black fur like a gorilla (fitting, as he's a King Kong Copy) and his features are much closer to an early hominin than any living ape species. He's also supposed to be a Yeti, but he's WAY bigger than yetis are usually described as.
  • The title monsters in The Monster That Challenged the World are supposed to be snails, but other than the fact that they have shells, they really look like insect larvae such as grubs or caterpillars. The scene where a scientist shows footage of real snails and talks about their "remarkable similarity" to the giant monster only makes it hard to ignore the fact that they don't look alike at all.

  • Many animals in the various Dr. Seuss books.
  • The eponymous Arthur of the picture books and later animated TV series is billed as an aardvark. In the earliest books there is some trace of a resemblance, and the elongated nose is actually relevant to the plot (though it resembles that of an anteater's more than an aardvark's.) Later in the series, you wouldn't know unless you were told.
  • Lowly from Richard Scarry's works is supposed to be a worm, but he looks more like a snake.
  • The illustrations of Roo in the original Winnie the Pooh books look more like a cat than a joey. Averted with Disney's Roo.
  • This is a major plot point in A Dog's Way Home. Bella is a nondescript mutt but is repeatedly referred to as most likely being a mastiff or Rottweiler mix. A man at the local shelter, however, believes her to be a pit bull. Though various characters (including his co-workers) try to argue against this, it still causes trouble for Bella because her county has strict BSL laws. Bella is almost euthanized several times because she's erroneously dubbed a pit bull. As a result, Bella's owner sends her into foster care out of town until he can move out. Bella doesn't understand this and believes Lucas abandoned her. The day before he's set to come back for Bella, she runs away trying to get to him herself.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Dooly the Little Dinosaur:
    • Many sources claim Dooly is a Ceratosaurus. While he is vaguely a bipedal dinosaur with horn on his nose, his resemblance to a ceratosaur is zilch.
    • Ddochi is supposed to be an ostrich, but she looks more like some kind of white humanoid with bird-feet and a feather tail.
    • One episode of the 2008 series had an orangutan which looked more like a gorilla with an orange mane.

    Music Videos 
  • René la Taupe (René the Mole) is a virtual character from France singing some songs for children. Except its design evokes much more a marmot or gopher than a mole.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Baby Bop from Barney & Friends has been identified as a Triceratops, but other than having a head frill she barely resembles one at all, as she has no horns, mammalian ears and a face like a hippopotamus.
  • Dinosaurs:
    • Earl Sinclair is said to be a Megalosaurus, but looks nothing like the actual dinosaur.
    • Likewise, his wife Fran is supposed to be an Allosaurus. Allosaurus never had that Dilophosaurus-like crest on its head.
    • Their youngest child Baby was called a Megalosaurus by Earl in "Germ Warfare", but he doesn't resemble the dinosaur any more than his father does. When we see him as an adult during Fran's nightmare in "Out of the Frying Pan", he is clearly a Ceratosaurus complete with a nose horn.
    • B. P. Richfield is meant to be a Triceratops, but has the spiky frill of a Styracosaurus.
    • Spike is presumably a Polacanthus, but he looks more a stegosaur (he even has a spiked tail, which Polacanthus lacked) with the head of a Pachycephalosaurus.
  • It's a Big Big World: Snook is supposed to be a modern-day tree sloth, but he looks more like a prehistoric ground sloth instead.
  • The Muppets:
    • Pepe — if he didn't tell you he was a king prawn would you have any idea what he was? He's clearly some kind of crustacean, so...they got us to "within a subphylum", anyway.
    • Beauregard, who was based on Wendell Porcupine from Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas , by the time he appears in the movies and the TV series, doesn't look too much like a porcupine, with the rats convincing him that he was an honorary rat in the TV show (even though he doesn't resemble one).
    • Sam the Eagle, while clearly a bird, doesn't really look much like an American Bald Eagle as he has none of the standard markings and is blue.
    • Gonzo, whose species has been the subject of much guesswork due to his hooked nose/beak, started out evolving from Snarl Frackle in "The Great Santa Claus Caper". Kermit once mused that "he looked a little like a turkey, but not much" in The Muppet Movie. In The Great Muppet Caper, he's put in a crate with "whatever" marked on the side. In Muppets from Space, he is revealed to be an alien from a far away planet, and his alien relatives come to invite him back to his homeworld, and when he sees how he would be missing the other Muppets whom he considers his close friends and family, the aliens respect his choice to stay on Earth.
    • Kermit himself isn't particularly froglike in appearance. His snout is pointed and while his hands and feet could be called flippers, there's no webbing, so overall he looks more like a tailless lizard than anything else. Jim Henson had, in fact, been using the character design for years before identifying it as a frog. Funnily, he's an excellent match to the Diane's bare-hearted glass frog, which, like Kermit, has bright green skin, minimal webbing on its toes, and large white eyes with wide black horizontal pupils... and it was discovered in 2015.
  • Sesame Street:
    • An animated music video about animal families featured featured a chickadee as one of the featured animals, but the chickadee looked more like an Baltimore oriole (a bright orange bird) than an actual chickadee (actual chickadees have gray bodies, black heads, and white cheeks).
    • Rosita was meant to be a fruit bat but she looks more like a blue Elmo or a mutated flying squirrel than a bat. After 13 years they removed her wing flaps and retconned her into being a Monster. The in-series reason for this is that she 'lost' her wings while flying through a cave. (The wings later returned, but she's still officially a Monster, just a winged one.)
    • Although Big Bird's exact species is debatable depending on the source, he doesn't resemble many of the species he has been identified as. For example, some sources have identified him as a canary. To say nothing of his size, he doesn't really look like a canary at all apart from being bright yellow. Some sources have even identified him as a condor, which he also looks nothing like. He looks more like a giant yellow silkie chicken than anything else (which he ironically has never been identified as).
  • While none of the animal characters in Peter Jackson's raunchy Muppets parody Meet the Feebles look particularly close to their real species, most of them are at least recognizable to a point. The same cannot be said of drug lord Mr. Big. Word of God says he's a whale, but if so, he's a pretty weird-looking one, with skin that looks scaly and reptilian and huge sharp teeth.
  • In the British children's series In the Night Garden..., one of the main characters, Igglepiggle, is stated on the show's official website to be a teddy bear. He barely looks like one, though — apparently, blue humanoid things with bean-shaped heads are considered "teddy bears" in this show's universe.
  • The titular character in H.R. Pufnstuf is ostensibly a dragon but looks more like a prototype McDonald's mascot, especially with his round yellow oversized head that resembles a wide-mouthed saggy-eyed human Muppet rather than a dragon. However, Pufnstuf has the torso, limbs, and tail of a stereotypical dragon mascot.
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared has Duck. He is green, which matches up with a male mallard's green head, but the green covers his entire body rather than just the head, and it's such a dark green that in many shots (particularly in the first short) it looks more like black. He also has a narrow pointy beak that doesn't much resemble a duck bill (though it is yellow), and has no sign of webbing on his feet. Since his official "name" wasn't revealed for a long time, a lot of people were outright confused as to what kind of bird he was supposed to be. One of the openings of the TV series jokingly nods to this, having him call himself "a talking crow-like thing."

    Tabletop Games 
  • In its initial incarnation, the owlbear of Dungeons & Dragons, despite supposedly being a hybrid of bear and owl, was pretty hard to identify as such: it has bearlike arms and a thickset furry body, but the only owl-like trait it has is a beak, which certainly doesn't look like an owl beak (it looks more like a parrot's, if anything), and feathers on its head, which are so sparsely drawn that they look like scales or armor instead. Add in the gizzard neck, the hunchback, the oddly reduced fur on its limbs (to the point that its paws and feet seem to be hairless), and the T-rex stance with a long thick tail dragging behind it, and one could be forgiven for thinking it's some kind of fantasy dinosaur or possibly an obscure kaiju, rather than the Mix-and-Match Critter that it is. This owed to its original design being based less on owls or bears and more on a knockoff dinosaur toy Gary Gygax had used as a miniature in his home games. Later redesigns have tried to make it more like its inspirational critters, usually by shortening the tail considerably to give it a bearlike silhouette and giving it a rather obvious owl head.

  • BIONICLE mostly featured fantasy beasts that were sometimes designated as real animals despite resembling none, but the Hapaka is an odd example. Officially labeled a hound-like creature, it's actually a miniature elephant, with an obvious trunk, tusks and large ears. It was even called an elephant in LEGO's website URL. It's unclear why the toyline's fiction changed it to a dog, unless "hound-like" was only meant to describe its behavior.
  • "Chinasaurs", generic toy dinosaurs named for the only identifiable mark on them being the "Made in China" stamp, can form an entire spectrum of this ranging from "not entirely accurate but recognizable as the intended species" to "it's labeled as a Dilophosaurus but it looks more like a Carnotaurus" to "this looks like it belongs in a collection of alien toys not dinosaur toys". Some of the more baffling cases found a new life as Dungeons & Dragons monsters (due to Gygax using them as miniatures), including the owlbear, bulette, and rust monster.
  • My Little Pony:
    • G2 bombed in most places, bar a few European countries, because of this. The toys no longer resembled ponies, they looked like ordinary horses. While there is a lot of overlap between the two due to being the same species, ponies are overall shorter and stockier than other horses.
    • G1 had "Dream Beauties" which were essentially a predecessor to G2. They didn't look like ponies, with the official consensus seeming to be that they were "teenage ponies". That didn't make much sense though, since most previous ponies were adults and ponies don't suddenly become long-legged during adolescence.
    • G3.5 ponies just look off. They don't really resemble anything, besides maybe some sort of dog-horse mix. Their proportions are completely wrong even for Super-Deformed ponies.
    • Just like the cartoon, G4 ponies less resemble horses and more resemble deer with manes or weird looking dogs or cats without paws, due to their short muzzles. Celestia and Luna resemble horses, though they're supposed to be tall ponies.
  • Squishmallows: Elda is an ostrich, but doesn't look the part due to her shaggy rainbow feathers and beak that looks like the snout used for horse and cow Squishmallows.
  • Many animals in Transformers are informed species. Birds in general often fall victim to this, as do most cats. The toys of feline characters tend to fall into a very similar (but not actually resembling any actual cat) build. Often, this owes to the fact that they have to turn into a humanoid robot, but even then, there are some weird standouts.
    • Laserbeak and Buzzsaw are probably the first major examples: they're supposed to be condors, and Laserbeak's Japanese name is even Condor. But even allowing for the artistic license of being a robot that turns into a tape, their heads have what looks like a crest rather than rounding off, their wings are short and stubby rather than massive and square, their faces are streamlined rather than droopy, and their personalities are very aggressive rather than relatively docile scavengers, all of which suggest a small bird of prey, likely a falcon. It doesn't help that Laserbeak and Buzzsaw are consistently shown as relatively small Transformers, easily fitting on the resident Decepticon leader's arm or shoulder—condors are some of the largest flying birds and wouldn't easily pull off that kind of pose with a human.
    • Ravage is meant to be a jaguar, but is so stylized that it was half-jokingly debated for years in the fandom whether he was a dog instead. His face is rather long and thin, and his tail is short and stubby, neither of which are jaguar traits. This varies Depending on the Artist, though; later artists tend to make him more obviously feline.
    • The G1 Decepticon Headmasters all have animals as their alternate modes. Weirdwolf, Skullcruncher, and Mindwipe all manage to look like the species their alt-modes are supposed to be (a wolf, a crocodile, and a bat, respectively), and even Apeface, who is considerably more stylized, is relatively easy to peg as a gorilla. Others are not so lucky. Horri-Bull is, as his name suggests, supposed to be a bull. He has bull-like horns but his head has a broad snout full of sharp teeth, his feet have claws instead of hooves, and his tail is broad and forked (as it's his robot mode gun). Overall, he looks more like Zuul than any sort of actual bull. His wavemates Squeezeplay and Fangry are so far beyond this that they're well into Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit" territory: Squeezeplay's "crab" mode is more like an alien monster with crab claws, while Fangry's wolf mode has a wolf head on a bipedal body with bat wings.
    • In the Beast Wars toyline, Snarl (and his Japanese mold-mate Tasmania Kid) are stated to be Tasmanian devils. They really aren't; for one thing, Tasmanian devils are black with a white stripe down their fronts, but Snarl is light brown with a black stripe down his back. Snarl is also a lot chunkier and has a bushier tail than a Tasmanian devil. He's not a bad match for a dunnart or quoll, which are close relatives of the Tasmanian devil, though.
    • The Beast Wars version of Iguanus is very clearly a frilled-neck lizard. The name is, admittedly, a reuse from a G1 character, who was kinda-sorta an iguana monster.
    • Cheetor's first toy is a lot stockier than an actual cheetah, which are known for being lithe and lightweight, making him look more like a leopard with cheetah spots. It's often theorized that it was intended as a generic big cat and the decision to make it a cheetah happened fairly late, a theory that is borne out by the fact that it got a recolor into Tigatron, a tiger, and looks a lot more natural that way. The cartoon redesigned it significantly to look more like a cheetah.
    • Dinobot's toy has a lot to be excused about it, being a Velociraptor toy in the post-Jurassic Park mid-90s (featherless, hands are wrong, way too big). What can't be easily excused is that he's incredibly chunky, with tiny arms, legs barely long enough to lift his belly off the ground, and gigantic hips, when Velociraptors were even then depicted as slim and slight with lanky limbs. He was redesigned somewhat in the cartoon, but even then, he's still a lot thicker than a real Velociraptor. If not for the sickle claw (which is small enough to be mistaken for a big toe), you'd probably think T-rex or Allosaurus first. His Universe and Kingdom toys managed to fix this a fair bit by slimming out his proportions, though his design is still outdated.
    • Tarantulas's first toy is meant to be... well, a tarantula, but appears to be more of a generic spider. This is most obvious in the legs, which are very spindly, when tarantulas are known for their thick, bulky legs, the complete lack of any kind of fur, the weird clawed mouthparts that more invoke a solifugid, and the fact that he has nine eyes. Once again, the cartoon redesigned him to look more like a real tarantula, if you forgive the fact that he's bright purple and still has nine eyes. Blackarachnia, his repaint, is at least identifiable as a black widow spider, even though her legs are inexplicably orange. His Legacy toy bucked the trend by redesigning him to look more like an actual spider, and though he's still purple, thanks to his big forward-facing eyes, small downward-pointing fangs, and arching cephalothorax, he is indeed easy to identify... as a wolf spider note .
    • Based on his name, B'Boom seems to be intended as a baboon, when he's rather clearly a mandrill, down to having a mandrill's signature bright-colored snout.
    • Proving Mix-and-Match Critters can get this, too, Torca, and his repaint, Elephorpha, are meant to be half-orca, half-elephant. The orca part is definitely there; the elephant part, not so much. He does have tusks and leathery skin, but his posture is more like a big cat, his mouth looks more like a wolf, and his feet are three-toed claws rather than elephant feet. Even his ears are way off from elephant ears, and his skin is either metallic gold or bright blue. He looks more like some kind of fantasy monster, or possibly a case of Speculative Biology. Concept art has surfaced suggesting that his design may have originated from a different project.
    • Despite his name, the Beast Machines character Night Viper is very clearly a cobra.
    • In the Power Core Combiners line, Grimstone is called a Triceratops, but the spiky frill and very small brow horns make him look more like a Styracosaurus, or the later-discovered Regaliceratops. And that's not getting into one of his drones being labeled a Spinosaurus on the box, when it's very, very clearly a Dimetrodon.
    • The Arms Micron portion of Transformers: Prime could get pretty abstract, owing to how simple the toys are. Gabu, apparently a horseshoe crab, looks more like a pile of robot parts with a tail. Noji's meant to be a boar, but is mostly a gun barrel with arms and legs. And Bogu, a mole, would probably be more accurately be described as a spiky orange blob.

    Web Animation 
  • The Grim: The pilot episode, "Fox", has Gertrude Byrnes meet an animal that's supposed to be a fox. The thing is, said fox's appearance could make one think that it's a lemur at first glance.
  • Dreamscape: In the flashback in "A Curse or a Blessing", Melinda's curse's second form is supposed to be a dog, but it looks like a pink serpentine creature with two canine-like heads with huge teeth.
    Dylan: Oh come on! That's a dog in the loosest definition of the word!
  • DSBT InsaniT: Frog barely looks anything like a frog. He looks more like a gumdrop with webbed limbs.
  • Parodied in ASDF Movie, where some kind of sauropod calls itself a Stegosaurus.
  • Sherlock from Homestar Runner is said to be a mix between a cow and a helicopter, but he looks more like a jellyfish type thing.
  • The wolfiin of Wings are meant to be wolves, yet they look more like dogs or cats depending on the shot.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • The deliberately over-the-top cutesy artstyle means that a lot of characters end up defaulting to a kind of "brightly-colored bucktoothed teddy bear with a big round head and Fingerless Hands" look, with the most common way to distinguish species being their tail. This leads to some characters that are supposed to be more generic mammals, such as Giggles (chipmunk), Russell (otter), or Cro-Marmot (guess) being hard to pick out as such.
    • The Mole is nigh-impossible to identify as a mole by appearance, given that the show's artstyle means he lacks the most distinguishing traits of one (clawed forelimbs, black or gold fur, a long snout). The only thing marking him out as a mole is his blindness, a trait associated with some moles, but even that could easily be a disability (especially since he also appears to be deaf and mute). Other than that, he looks more like a bear with unusually small ears.

    Web Comics 
  • Laverne from Cursed Princess Club is said to be a llama. Between her short neck and wooly-looking fur, however, she could have been labeled a sheep and no one would question it.
  • Carson the Muskrat in Dork Tower. He looks more like Snoopy than like an actual muskrat. This is lampshaded in one strip where he goes as himself to a costume event and gets told "Worst muskrat costume ever!"
  • In Narbonic, none of Helen's gerbils look anything like real gerbils. Whether they look like in-universe gerbils that are not the creations of a Mad Scientist varies between strips.
  • Layla Flaaffy from Sonichu looks absolutely nothing like the Pokémon Flaaffy except possibly for her curly hair, instead just being a sort of generic furry. Word of God (well, word of troll) says that she was created by one of the author's internet girlfriends and it was his idea to make her a Flaaffy despite not changing her design at all.
  • Chiro in The Fuzzy Princess is a bat, but she looks more like a flying cat.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Adrian Raven initially doubts Grace is part-squirrel because her part-squirrel form has a very humanoid face with non-squirrel-like teeth. He is convinced when he sees her full-squirrel form though.

    Real Life 
  • In a real-life example, it's a known issue that many dogs in animal shelters are mislabeled. They don't give them DNA checks, so the people just check if they have enough characteristics of a certain type of dog and categorize them as such. Due to how dogs work, mixed breeds can look a variety of ways despite their heritage. This means that just about any dog could be called a "Lab mix" or "Pit Bull/Staffie mix" even if they contain very little or none of those breeds in them, and often times they don't truly resemble the breeds much either.
  • This is common with paleontologists, as they often have very little fossil evidence of what certain creatures looked like in life. As a result, many reconstructions of animals look very different from what the animal is later discovered to have actually looked like thanks to Science Marches On. One of the biggest examples in history is Iguanodon. The earliest reconstructions of Iguanodon looked more like a giant iguana or a synapsid reptile with a nose horn (which was actually a thumb spike) than what the dinosaur is actually known to have looked like now. In the early 19th century, dinosaurs were often depicted as more closely resembling giant lizards or crocodiles.