There is a tendency, especially in animated works involving animal characters on the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism from Nearly Normal Animal to Funny Animal, to cast characters of some species as more commonly male and characters of some species as more commonly female. This is about an animal species that has both biological sexes in Real Life, but has one gender overrepresented in fiction due to stereotyping.
Usually the more ugly, masculine-looking, or androgynous-looking animals (like pigs, gorillas, Creepy Crows, Frogs and toads, rhinos, donkeys, turkeys, and walruses) are more commonly male, while the more beautiful, graceful, or feminine-looking ones (like cats, ladybugs, swans, giraffes, deer, gazelles, and ironically peacocks and male-plumaged ostriches) are more commonly female. If butterflies are shown as adult butterflies they're all female, but when an "ugly" catepillar is shown it'll be male, and one of the few male butterflies. Some species can be either/or gender wise (like dogs, mice, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, tigers, horses, kangaroos, and snakes).
There are exceptions to the "graceful animals are female, big imposing animals are male" part of the trope. Hippos, for example, are quite often female in fiction and if so will be cast in the Fat Girl role. The Women Are Delicate aspect is often subverted with large animals who will then just act delicately for comedy, like cows, elephants and the aforementioned hippos.
Apex hunters such as wolves, bears, and lions tend to be portrayed as male (while unfortunately also being portrayed as "evil" in an anthropomorphic society). Generally, villains, especially in youth-oriented works, are more likely to be male, especially when non-human. However, more mature and realistic works know that in many cases, it is the female who tends to be more dangerous in almost all predatory species, even in ones where she is smaller (and in a lot of cases, the female dwarfs the male in that aspect as well). Mosquitoes are the most notable and obvious example of this as not only are the females dangerous, the males are totally harmless. As an exception to the "predator" category, big cats other than lions (tigers, leopards, pumas, etc) are equally likely to be female, reflecting their grace and agility.
In animals which engage in complex courtship rituals, such as most birds, the males tend to be larger and more vibrantly coloured. But because these are more "pretty", they tend to be portrayed as female, especially if the bird in question is a peafowl.
The opposite is true with insects, where females tend to be bigger and stronger and more likely to have distinguishing marks while males are tiny and nondescript. Because of this insects like mosquitoes, mantises, ants, and bees are usually portrayed as male. Spiders seem to come out all right, though. It's become common knowledge that the female attempts to eat the male during/after coitus, so spiders tend to be portrayed as vamps, especially the Black Widow, probably thanks to her very indicative name.
Anytime a large population of a given species is present, there will often be a more realistic balance of males and females to accurately reflect the human population. Thus in films like A Bug's Life (ants), Bee Movie (bees), Antz (ants), Happy Feet (penguins), and Disney's adaptation of Tarzan (gorillas), males and females are seen together. Even then, the male animal characters in the group are usually the ones with the most prominent roles storywise. It's still not totally realistic, especially not in the case with eusocial insects (like A Bug's Life, Bee Movie, and Antz), as the different genders tend to have widely different roles and appearances and all worker ants, bees, and wasps are female.
This trope can also be combined with Animal Motifs and Transformation Conventions. Subtrope to Species-Coded for Your Convenience. See also Animal Stereotypes, Animal Gender-Bender, Peacock Girl, Insect Gender-Bender, Female Feline, Male Mutt, and Gender Equals Breed. Related to and usually a subtrope to Women Are Delicate. Related to Pale Females, Dark Males and Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves.
Common "Stock" Animal Gender Stereotypes Used Can Include:
- Alligators and Crocodiles: Most likely male.
- Ants: More likely male except for the queen, despite being made up mostly of females in Real Life.
- Baboons: Usually male
- Badgers: More likely to be male
- Bears: More likely male, despite being the inspiration for the Mama Bear trope.
- Bees: More likely male except for the queen, despite being made up mostly of females in Real Life.
- Boars: Usually Male; wild sows rarely exist in fiction, but when they do, they usually have several striped piglets following them.
- Butterflies: More likely to be female. Caterpillars are more likely to be male though; when they turn into butterflies, they are the few male butterflies in fiction. Another exception to this rule, when butterflies are portrayed as male, is if they are specifically monarch butterflies, perhaps because of the association of the word "monarch" with kings.
- Cats: More likely to be female if the cat in question has all-white fur or is paired with an almost always male dog. Also usually seen as feminine in typical Japanese mythology. The "alley cat" tends to be portrayed as male though, so cartoons depicting cats hanging out by trash cans will likely depict them as male. The Cool Cat and orange cat are also more likely to be male. They are equally likely to be male or female otherwise. Any wild species except lions has a similar either male or female gender coding that domestic and feral cats have.
- Cattle: Can be either male (bull or steer/ox) or female (cow) depending on the needs of the story. Bulls are used when the story focuses on bullfighting, oxen are used for plowing scenes, and cows are used for milking scenes and scenes that dont call for a specific gender of cattle.
- Chickens: Can be either male (rooster) or female (hen) depending on the needs of the story. Roosters are used for cock fighting and standing on a fence, crowing and dawn scenes. Chicken coop scenes generally depict hens with one rooster guarding the coop. Most chickens referred to simply as chickens are hens.
- Chimpanzees: Usually male
- Crows: Most likely male
- Dogs: More likely male, especially when paired with an often female cat. Poodles, Salukis, and other "fancy" breeds are usually female though.
- Donkeys and Mules: Usually male
- Deer and Antelopes: Mostly female
- Elephants: Asian Elephants are usually male, as are elephants in works that don't tell an Asian elephant and an African Elephant apart. African Elephants can be either male or female, though there can be a slight male bias. Also, the leader of an elephant herd will almost always be male, despite that in real life male elephants are solitary and females lead the herd.
- Flamingos: More commonly female due to their pink coloring and "graceful" mannerisms.
- Foxes: Often female in Japanese works, but often male as a protagonist in Western works. Japanese folk tale fox tricksters are usually female. Equally likely to be male or female otherwise.
- Frogs: More likely to be male
- Giraffes: Often female, but can be male sometimes
- Goats: Most likely to be male
- Gorillas: Usually male, especially if only one shows up in a work of fiction. Females are usually only shown if a whole troop is shown. The main exception is if the story is based on the Real Life Koko the gorilla, who was female.
- Hares: More likely male. Japanese hare tricksters are usually male.
- Hippos: Often female and playing as either a Big Beautiful Woman or a Fat Girl.
- Horse: Most likely to be male, because stallions are considered badass; however, particularly cute/pretty ones are often female. Anything referred to as a "pony", whether it technically is one or notnote , is likely female (see the whole My Little Pony franchise).
- Humans: Can be either equally likely to be male or female or more likely to be male depending on the needs of the story.
- Hyenas: More likely to be male
- Kangaroos: More likely to be female. Joeys are more likely to be male though. If the kangaroo is male, it is also normally depicted with a pouch, which only females have.
- Ladybugs: Usually female. Males seem to exist in fiction only as a punchline.
- Lions: Usually male, thanks to the King of Beasts trope. Lionesses are usually only shown if a whole pride is shown.
- Mantises: Most likely to be male; if you see a female mantis, expect her to be a Black Widow.
- Mice: Can be either male or female.
- Monkeys: More likely to be male.
- Mongooses: Most likely to be male.
- Mosquitoes: More likely male, despite the fact that in Real Life, only females suck blood.
- Moths: Can be either male or female
- Ostriches: Usually female, even if they are depicted with the male's black and white plumage.
- Otters: More likely to be male
- Owls: Eared owls are more likely to be male, while barn owls are more likely to be female.
- Peafowl: Usually female, despite being usually depicted with the peacock's blue and green feathers and train as well.
- Penguins: Usually male, especially when only one is shown.
- Pigs: More likely to be male.
- Rabbits: Can be either male or female.
- Raccoons: Almost exclusively depicted as male, likely because the raccoon tropes of thievery and sneakiness are considered male-only tropes, unless the character is a tomboy. Most situations where female raccoons are depicted are if they are a female relative to a male protagonist. This despite the fact that in real life, female raccoons are just as common as male ones, and may be more commonly seen around in urban areas, since a female raccoon is more likely to be raiding the garbage, in order to get food for her kits. Similarly, on the rare occasion there's a raccoon attack, it's usually caused by someone angering a pregnant female raccoon (dogs are similarly aggressive when pregnant).
- Ravens: Usually male, even though "Raven" as a name is more commonly a female name.
- Rhinos: Usually male
- Seals: Can be either male or female
- Sheep: Can be either male or female. Often depicted as female if they are supposed to be lambs.
- Skunks: Can be either male or female or slightly more likely to be female.
- Snakes: Can be either male or female
- Spiders: Often female, but can be male sometimes
- Squirrels: Either male or female.
- Toads: Usually male.
- Turkeys: Usually male.
- Turtles/Tortoises: Usually male.
- Walruses: Usually male because its whiskers resemble a moustache.
- Wolves: Usually seen as masculine in typical Japanese mythology. Wolves are also the originators of the Papa Wolf trope.
- Weasels: More likely to be male but more commonly female if they are minks.
Notable Examples, Subversions, and Exceptions:
- Madagascar has Alex the male lion, Marty the male zebra, and Gloria the female hippo. However, Melman is a male giraffe.
- Kung Fu Panda is a near-perfect example, with a male panda bear, a female tiger, female snake, male monkey, and male mantis.
- The sequel has Lord Shen, a male peacock.
- The sequel subverts this with the Soothsayer, a female goat.
- A Bug's Life has ants of both genders (although, naturally, the protagonist is male), as well as a female spider, male caterpillar, male mantis, and female butterfly. However, it also has a subversion in the form of Francis the male ladybug, who is constantly being mistaken for a girl.
- Tarzan shows gorillas in a troop. Unlike in most works with large groups of animals of a given species, the two most prominent members of the troop storywise, Terk and Kala, are female.
- The titular protagonist in Chicken Little is a young rooster who is simply referred to as a chicken.
- Interestingly played with in Zootopia. There's a few examples (e.g. the male lion and his assistant, the female sheep), a few exceptions (e.g. a married couple of otters with the female having a more prominent role).
- A non-animal example of this is Sausage Party in which all sausages are male, and all hot dog buns are female.
- Subverted with Frances The Badger, who is female as badgers are more likely to be male in fiction.
- Pushed to the extreme in the blue-covered French textbooks of the series Il était ... une petite grenouille ("There Once Was... a Little Frog") that tell stories that feature anthropormorphic animals that identify with the grammatical gender of their default species name. There are male lions, male crocodiles, male fish, male birds, male hippos, female mice, female giraffes, female goats, etc. Subverted with the very titular narrator, the Little Frog, who seems to be a dude if you consider his voice when he sings even though his default species name is feminine, but a woman if you consider her voice when she talks. Even Animate Inanimate Object have literal genders too: a male couch, a male bed, a male piano, a female fork, a female radio cassette, etc. All of this may actually be the point, to teach French-as-a-second-language students grammatical gender more easily.
- James and the Giant Peach features a male centipede, a male earthworm, and a male grasshopper who are respectively referred to as "the Centipede", "the Earthworm", and "the Old-Green-Grasshopper". It also features a female ladybug who is referred to as "the Ladybug" and a female spider who is referred to as "Miss Spider".
- Played straight in Meet the Feebles. On the male side, we have a walrus, a bulldog, a rat, a frog, a hedgehog, a worm, a warthog, a gray dog, some crabs, a fly, a human, an elephant, a fox, a whale, an aardvark, a hare, a weta, and a duck. On the female side, we have a hippo, two cats, two rabbits, a sheep, a chicken, a poodle, and a cow. There's also a Giant Spider, but it's unknown what gender it is.
- Subverted with Rhonda, the female walrus in one episode of The Penguins of Madagascar.
- Also subverted with two female badgers in one episode, two female baboons in another episode, and a female chimp in yet another episode.
- Also subverted with Marlene the female otter.
- Subverted with Jenny the female donkey in the Donald Duck cartoons, "Don Donald" and "The Village Smithy" because most cartoon donkeys and mules are male.
- Also subverted with Clementine, Peck's mule/donkey in Sheriff Callie's Wild West.
- Played straight with Magic, Eva's two henchdogs, and the dog palace guards being male and Princess Ava, her sister, Eva, and the cat palace guards being female, but subverted with the female crow in Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville.
- Besides a male cat as the main character, Cats Don't Dance is a near perfect example, with a male elephant, penguin, goat, and turtle, and a female hippo, cat, and fish.
- Inverted in an episode of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers has a female gorilla named Kookoo. She's an Expy of the Real Life female gorilla Koko, who was trained to use human sign language.
- A similar to the above inversion shows up in "Kiki's Kitten," a Rita and Runt segment episode, with the titular female gorilla antagonist.
- Chicken Boo is a giant rooster who is simply referred to as a chicken.
- Chicken of Cow and Chicken is a rooster who is literally just called chicken.
- Earthworm Jim features the male villain Evil the Cat and, in one episode of the TV series, his girlfriend and Distaff Counterpart, Malice the Dog.
- Kaeloo the frog is female.
- The Backyardigans plays this trope straight with Pablo the male penguin, Tyrone the male moose, and Tasha the female hippo, but subverts it with Austin the male kangaroo. The episodes "Eureka" and "Horsing Around" also both feature female donkeys, while "Elephant on the Run" features a female elephant.