Ever notice in fictional works aimed at children, animals tend to have much more (or at least a little more) intelligence than they should? Well, in some cases, this can be done without having the creature speak when no humans are around. This is when an animal isn't any smarter than you would expect it to be, yet still is.
Nearly Normal Animals don't talk (though Largely Normal Animals can have some sort of Animal Talk) and are usually quadrupedal if they are that way in real life. They are very much animals, particularly when it comes to instincts, priorities and motivations and they very rarely, if ever, wear clothes. Like many Speech Impaired Animals and Talking Animals, Nearly Normal Animals lack hands and walk on all fours, negating the possibility of performing many human tasks and behaviors.
Nearly Normal Animals come in three types, largely normal, mostly normal, and almost normal.
Largely Normal Animals (LNAs) clearly have thought processes and often human-level intelligence but don't talk freely with humans. These animal characters may talk to each other, essentially having their own language, but humans won't understand them. That is, unless they can talk to animals or if the language is able to be learned. Their thought processes and personality is still very much like that of whatever animal they are. Many of them are able to make human-like arm and hand gestures and some can even grasp objects as if they have opposable thumbs. A few LNAs can sometimes act like the more anthropomorphic Civilized Animal or Funny Animal when required by a joke.
Mostly Normal Animals (MNAs) have clear thought processes as well as a few human and/or some or several doglike characteristics (greater frequency of uttering sounds, human-like expressions) that still don't detract from their animality. Unlike LNAs, they don't talk Animal Talk between species, only within their species. Their thought processes and personality is still very much like that of whatever animal they are. These animals usually don't go beyond being able to make human-like hand or arm gestures sometimes. They stay on all four legs if they are four-legged animals.
Almost Normal Animals (ANAs) have very few human and/or a few doglike characteristics (e.g., greater frequency of uttering sounds, human-like expressions) that don't detract from their animality, but they allow an audience not well versed in the way of animal behavior to understand what's going on in the animals' minds. Can be an honest mistake or completely intended. They don't make human-like arm or hand gestures and they stay on all four legs if they're four-legged animals.
Largely Normal Animal:
- Hot Dog of Archie Comics would act like this in his own title, where he was revealed to have a high-tech super-structure underneath his common dog house. The series didn't last long.
- Bom-Bom the tawal in The Great Power of Chninkel. Though he can't speak, he picks up language easily and by the end of the book he's able to communicate the story of J'on to his descendants through simple sounds and hand gestures.
- Snowy in Tintin. He's clever enough to trick human beings, hide when his master's attacked and either sneak in to free him or run off to fetch help as needed, and occasionally understand rather specific instructions. He also has a fondness for booze, and occasionally thinks to himself in intelligible sentences.
- The four-legged Garfield in the earlier comic strips. While in later comic strips, he's become more of a partially-civilised animal, doing things like walking on two legs, in early strips the only human things he did were think complicated thoughts and eat human foods.
- The four-legged Snoopy from the earlier Peanuts comic strips. While he's a Civilised Animal for most of the strips, in the early ones, he mainly seemed like a normal dog who was just smart like a human.
- The Bolt Chronicles: All of the animal characters fit this description, belonging to the "Largely Normal Animal" subtype. They can talk to each other (but not to humans) and can perform a few human-like actions, but for the most part they act like their species normally would.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- The dogs and other animals in 101 Dalmatians can communicate between species and are very strategic, and Sgt. Tibbs sometimes does human-like gestures but they're still very much their own species.
- Abu the monkey from Aladdin straddles the line between this trope and Speech-Impaired Animal. He's mainly a regular monkey, but his babbles sound very much like words at times and he clearly understands human speech.
- The flamingos and hedgehogs, the broom-headed dog, and the Tulgy Wood critters in Alice in Wonderland. The former two animals mainly act like animals, but they understand their purpose in the game they're playing, and the latter seems like a normal dog but is smart enough to know what to sweep up.
- The cats, dogs, horse, and geese in The Aristocats are this, though the geese and the cats (especially the cats in Scat Cat's gang) are Partially Civilized Animals and Roquefort the mouse falls squarely into the Civilized Animal trope. What makes the cats, dogs, horse, and geese qualify is that they are mostly normal animals, but they can talk to other animals, make plans, Duchess seems to have a sense of etiquette, and in one scene, they throw a party.
- The animals in Bambi live (and mainly act) like forest animals, but are capable of complex thought, can fall in love, and sometimes do things like point or dance.
- The animals of the The Lion King live under a monarchy ruled by lions that has organized events and laws and animals are shown to be capable of interacting with each other on a sapient level. But nevertheless, most animals more or less act as the real life counterparts would such as meerkats living in underground tunnels, lions and hyenas hunting other animals, and ungulates grazing on grass. Although the movie does tend to put a more anthropomorphic spin on otherwise natural behaviors such as the trio of hyenas cracking jokes about how they're going to eat Simba, Nala, and Zazu.
- Rufus the cat from The Rescuers can talk to everyone, even humans, and is sapient but has a cat's worldview and the only reason he gives for not killing the mice is he's "too old".
- Diablo the raven from Sleeping Beauty qualifies. He understands Maleficent's orders and carries them out with great efficiency. While unable to speak, he seems to be able to communicate with Maleficent and the goons in some fashion, as he somehow managed to order the otherwise terribly incompetent mooks into carrying out several organized attacks that would have given Prince Phillip a lot of trouble had the fairies not been there.
- The animals in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs mainly act like normal forest animals, but they seem to be able to understand English, such as when a bird blushes at Snow White's emotional song. They're also able to clean a house and to alert the dwarfs to danger.
- Pascal the chameleon and Maximus the horse from Tangled. Both are capable of understanding English and they make human-like expressions and gestures.
- The animals in The Jungle Book (1967), though Louie the orangutan and the monkeys are Partially Civilized Animals. They're capable of thinking strategically and throwing parties, but predators still eat other animals, and Shere Kahn has an irrational fear of fire.
- The dogs and most of the other animals in Lady and the Tramp except the songbirds and pigeons, which are completely normal animals.
- Sebastian, Flounder, Flotsam, Jetsam, and many of the other marine animals from The Little Mermaid. They're sapient and can do things like shake their heads, dance, and play music.
- The fish and all other animals in Finding Nemo except the anglerfish. They're sapient and emote like humans, but they live very much like fish and they (with the exception of Dory) are illiterate.
- The animals in all of the Ice Age films are mostly sapient but with animal instincts.
- The non-anthropomorphic animals in Open Season. They can make plans (albeit plans that don't often work), fall in love, and emote like humans, yet they live in the woods and do animal things.
- The rats in Ratatouille can speak to each other, and seem to be cleaner than most rats. Remy has also learnt to cook. On the other hand, Remy still bites instinctively when he's hungry, and most of them have the palates of generic rats.
- The birds and other animals in Rio can talk, but only to each other, and they snark at each other the way a human would and can dance.
- Spike is usually a completely realistic animal, but in Rugrats Go Wild!, he falls in this level and is shown to speak Animal Talk.
- Azrael in Smurfs: The Lost Village, who is also clearly smarter than his owner Gargamel.
- The dogs in Up. They mainly behave like dogs but are trained to do pretty sophisticated things like cook, and are once seen playing cards. In addition, their thoughts, which are conveyed through their collars, are pretty sophisticated with the exception of the Running Gag of them randomly thinking, "Squirrel!".
- In The Golden Hamster Saga, mammals can talk to each other and understand human speech. Freddy also knows how to read and type, but he is the only animal who can do so.
- Sam the Cat: Detective: Sam and the other cats are LNAs. They understand everything humans say and refer to humans as their roommates and/or employers. A cat who lives in a police station introduces himself as Officer Gomez, and Sam's friend Butch considers chasing mice at the supermarket to be a job. Some cats hire other cats to do jobs for food. Cats are capable of making phone calls to each other, reading, and typing emails. Shortly before The Big Catnap Sandy and Rosie have a church wedding, with another cat acting as the minister. In The Maltese Kitten, Butch talks about joining the Republican Party.
- In the Preschool Popstars music video for "I Didn't Mean to Burp", a cat is seen sitting on its haunches, but with its front legs in the air and holding a slice of pizza.
- Mabari war hounds of the Dragon Age series are said to be smart enough to talk, wise enough not to. They're certainly able to understand what people say and Hawke's mabari was able to learn to play cards. Dwarven enchanter Sandal even seems to have figured out how to speak "mabari speak."
- The Duck Hunt Dog in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U / 3DS. He seems to be smart enough to use the same items as the rest of the cast can and stands up in his hind legs to use them, but aside from some attacks and taunts, he spends most of the fight in four legs and only does dog sounds, and when not in use, he carries the items in his mouth. It's not clear to what degree he can communicate with his duck partner, but they seem to work in good synchrony.
- Koromaru from Persona 3. He usually acts like a normal dog, but he's a playable character with the ability to summon a Persona and fights by holding a knife in his mouth. It's clear that he understands a lot of what the humans are saying, and Aigis often "translates" his barking.
- Buttons the dog. He's mostly normal, and unlike Runt he can't talk, but he has an understanding of when Mindy is in danger and how to save her.
- The dragons in Dragons: Riders of Berk, they act mostly as normal animals and can't talk at all, but their body language and facial expressions clearly show their thoughts and emotions, and they also understand their human masters (actually you can argue that in the case of Barf and Belch they're smarter than their masters the twins, but that's not saying much).
- Marc Anthony the dog from Looney Tunes. Also, The Roadrunner, who runs like a normal roadrunner and says nothing but "Beep beep" but is sometimes seen Talking with Signs or doing other human-like things.
- The Loud House: Most of the animals qualify— they're capable of using logic, and Walt falls in love in one episode. They also sometimes appear holding objects or wearing clothes, but only for the sake of a joke. Their understanding of English is inconsistent— in "No Guts, No Glori" they appear to only understand commands like "sit", yet in the "So Long, Sucker" short, they go into Oh, Crap! mode when Lynn Sr. says he will be getting five more of the vacuum cleaners they hate.
- The animals in Martha Speaks except Martha, who is a Talking Animal. Namely, they behave like regular animals mostly, but can understand English, conspire together, and sometimes try to do human things like cook (albeit very badly).
- Opalescence the white Persian cat and the other animals and pets from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Opal, for instance, is a mainly normal cat but the timing of her meows suggests Cats Are Snarkers. Owlowicious is mainly a regular owl but he can sort books at the library and works as Twilight's nighttime assistant.
Mostly Normal Animal:
- Disney Animated Canon:
- The tiger from Aladdin. He's mostly normal, but he's seen looking offended when Jasmine doesn't count him as a friend and confused when the Sultan says, "Allah forbid you should have any daughters!".
- Dinah the kitten from Alice in Wonderland is between this and a LNA. Namely, she behaves like a normal cat, but shakes her head no at one point.
- Sven from Frozen behaves somewhat like a dog and can understand English, but never really does anything human-like.
- Brutus and Nero the crocodiles from The Rescuers can understand commands and act somewhat doglike.
- Fluffy Louise Lopart, Mr. Lopart's cat, and a few of the other animals from Handy Manny.
- While most of the animals in the Ice Age sequels are Partially Civilized Animals, the dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles that appear are basically this trope. At least this was true until the fifth movie, which introduced talking dinosaurs.
- The equine cast in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron have some slightly doglike behavior and expressions. They have human eyebrows and visible, white sclera. The narrator is a horse, and the horses have a sense of humour, can plan ahead, and are implied to have their own language. At least some individuals also have romantic love, although Spirit's home herd seems to follow the normal stallion/harem order.
- The cockroach from WALLE is generally normal, but sometimes expresses affection like a dog might.
- The penguins in Mr. Popper's Penguins are mostly normal, but Captain lives up to her name in that she often leads the penguins and conspires with them. Also, they teach themselves how to use the toilet.
- Azreal in The Smurfs. He bangs his head on a table (in a way that only a human could) in one scene, and aside from that looks like a normal cat (to the point where he looks like motion capture of a real cat in the CGI scenes).
- In A Dog's Life, the dogs are not depicted as talking, however it's implied that dogs can talk to each other. Squirrel acts like a dog and doesn't completely understand how humans think.
- A Dog's Purpose: Dogs cannot talk to each other beyond normal dog body language and barking. The protagonist can understand humans to a degree. He understands the words they say but not the meaning of most words, and thus his brain drowns out anything he doesn't get and tries to pick up what he wants to hear (such as his name or the word "biscuit"). The protagonist acts, and is treated like, a completely like a normal dog. He's also shown to be more scent-oriented than visually-oriented.
- A Dog's Way Home is a Spiritual Successor to A Dog's Purpose and is written by the same author. It follows the same conventions, with dogs being unable to hear each other's thoughts or communicate beyond body language (which creates some confusion between Bella and others) and the protagonist Bella largely being a normal dog with a very inhuman way of thinking.
- The dogs in Men at Arms can talk to each other and have even formed their own guild, with their leader being a small, mad poodle who preaches that all dogs should behave like wolves and rebel against their masters. They can't communicate with the humans (to the exception of Gaspode, whose ability to speak human is seen as a superpower), and mostly behave like normal dogs otherwise.
- Played for laugh in the P. G. Wodehouse novel Money for Nothing. John's dog Emily has an internal monologue just like the human characters, exchanges stories with other dogs and "talks" to the humans with a rather elaborate vocabulary, but when the narrative follows the point of view of the human character she behaves like a normal dog and her "speech" is only heard as barking.
- The horse from Miitopia understands whats going on around it, follows orders, and may nod its head when asked a question, but otherwise acts like a normal horse.
- Buster, Darby's pet dog, and the squirrels from My Friends Tigger & Pooh. In Buster's case, he's pretty much a normal dog, but occasionally sounds as though he's asking a question or seems like he understands English.
Almost Normal Animal:
- Hashie the blue shoebill from Classicaloid is a realistic representation of the species, save for his unlikely colour. His stoic behaviour combined with his naturally bizarre appearance and the absurd situations he gets in makes for a rather amusing sight. The only times when he exhibits human-like reactions is for occasional throwaway gags.
- Erika's dog Zach from Ginga e Kickoff!! is a mean soccer player.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- The otherwise completely normal moth that Gargamel saw in The Smurfs is able to carry out his order to send a swarm of moths. His order backfires and the moth sent a swarm of flies instead, but still.
- Charlotte's Web: The animals mainly behave as their species, but they're capable of cracking jokes and understanding humans. Also, Charlotte the spider is fully literate and Templeton the rat can at least read.
- Semi and Miranda in Dr. Franklin's Island are unusual examples, since they started off human and became a fish and a bird, respectively. But The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body, and they have animal-selves which are intelligent but disinterested in human things, and which threaten to take over.
- In the book Indian Paint, the horses were almost normal, and completely unable to talk. This is particularly interesting because part of the book was told from the point of view of one of them.
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon includes an unnamed crow that only makes birdcalls, but that Luna can understand like speech. That particular crow had a magical origin and there is no evidence of it speaking with other crows.
- In Our Miss Brooks Mrs. Davis' cat Minerva and Mr. Boynton's frog McDougall were much smarter than your average cat or frog.
- Another Sight has Hodge, a rare playable version of this. Various characters remark he 'knows his way around' the strange game world, and he is incredibly helpful to Kit, but he doesn't ever demonstrate anything beyond being a remarkably intelligent cat. Even travelling the dream realm while separated from Kit and jumping through a portal to save her doesn't quite put him as anything beyond this, as that realm is almost certainly a side effect of the Node. Then again, he's implied (and confirmed in the prequel game) to use the portals regularly in order to get around... although whether he makes them or just knows where they are is up in the air.
- Feed the Cat: The cats mainly behave like real-life cats, but they sit with their back legs out in front of them and their front legs at their sides. They also like having money catapulted into their mouths for reasons unknown.
- Most of the non-anthro animals in Arthur including Pal and Nemo. They can scheme and speak animal talk, but they never do human-like gestures, mainly think like animals if brainy ones, and don't even understand English.
- Appa and Momo in Avatar: The Last Airbender albeit fantasy animals, they act like animals. Of them both Appa is more intelligent than Momo as he does understand human language whilst Momo can't understand the meaning of the word water.
- On Little Princess, Little Princess's cat looks like a cat, pretty much behaves like a cat and can't talk or anything. However, he sometimes reacts as if he understands stuff that the humans are saying or doing, and sometimes puts on accessories, stands on two legs (but not generally for very long), or holds things in his paws.
- Infinity Train has lots of talking or Civilized Animals, but then there's the deer whom our season two protagonists dub "Alan Dracula." In terms of behavior his only odd trait seems to be how friendly and unafraid he is of other creatures, willingly following MT and Jesse on their journey; however, he also has a random and ever-growing set of superpowers. Given his limited intelligence, however, this makes him as much a hindrance as a help with the Train's various tasks.
- Greg's Frog in Over the Garden Wall act like a normal frog but seem to be capable of understand him and understand to some extend what's going on. Of course until The Reveal that he's the narrator.
- The sandpipers and hermit crabs from Piper look, sound and behave mostly like their Real Life counterparts, although their face is slightly more expressive and are apparently capable of between-species communication.
- Laddie from The Simpsons episode "The Canine Mutiny". Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II are usually just normal animals, but rise to this level occasionally as the Rule of Funny dictates.
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, Gary is revealed to be this in "Sleepy Time". After the episode SpongeBob always interprets Gary's noises as effeminate babbles.