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Stock Animal Behavior

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Some animals (or certain groups of animals) have a tendency to be depicted in media always doing a certain activity. Cheetahs are always running, humpback whales are always breaching and roosters are always crowing at dawn. Can be justified when it's to highlight the most prominent characteristic of the animal, or if the animal really does spend a considerable portion of its time engaging in its stock behavior. Oftentimes, however, it leaves the impression that the species spends all of its time engaging in its stock activity and overshadows its other behaviors. See Artistic License – Biology if the animal doesn't actually engage in its stock behavior in Real Life, or only does so rarely.


Can be used as a Furry Reminder, especially for a Civilized Animal or a Funny Animal.

Subtropes include Rhino Rampage, Playful Otter, and Cock-a-Doodle Dawn. Killer Rabbit is often a subversion. Can overlap with Stock Animal Diet if feeding is an animal’s stock behavior.

Note: As this trope is based on its ubiquity, the only works that should be listed are aversions, subversions, lampshaded examples, in-universe examples, and other variants.

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General Examples:

  • Octopuses are always spraying ink or lurking in their caves.
  • Giant squid are always fighting sperm whales.
  • In most early books on ancient life, shelled mollusks (along with other primitive creatures) would always be depicted washed ashore, simply because nobody had a good idea of what they were like when they were alive. It took decades until artists attempted showing them in their normal habitat.
  • Land snails and slugs are always eating and moving slowly, leaving slime.



  • Spiders are always sitting around in the middle of their webs. Unless they're tarantulas, in which case they'll either be lurking in their dens or stalking some unfortunate small bird or mammal (in Real Life tarantulas mostly eat insects).
  • Scorpions will always be stinging something to death. Their natural habitat is an unattended shoe.


  • Crabs and lobsters are always pinching people, or just crawling on the seabed. Crabs might also be seen blowing bubbles from their mouth.
  • Barnacles are always sticking to whales or boats.
  • Shrimps and prawns are always either swimming or getting eaten.


  • Ants are always marching, while carrying absurdly large things. Leaf-cutter ants in particular are always carrying leaves. The exceptions to this are army ants and driver ants, which are always tearing prey to pieces. Ants are also often depicted raiding picnics.
  • Bees are always collecting pollen or swarming. Sometimes (similar to hornets), they might chase and/or sting people too. Sometimes, cartoon bees pop things with their stingers.
  • Yellowjackets and hornets are always stinging intruders or annoying people at picnics.
  • Dung beetles are always rolling balls of dung.
  • Antlion larvae are always waiting at the bottom of their pits. You never see the adult form.
  • Mosquitoes are always sucking blood. Somewhere, an Entomologist Is Crying if the mosquito depicted isn't a female.
  • Ichneumon wasps (a huge family, but the ones shown are always Giant ichneumons) are always boring into tree trunks for beetle grubs.
  • Locusts are always swarming. Swarming is actually the normal behavior of locusts in their gregarious phase, which is visibly different from the solitary phase—but, then, you don't see the solitary phase in media because there's nothing special about them then; they're just big grasshoppers.
  • Crickets and grasshoppers (unless they're locusts, see above) are always hopping in the grass or chirping.
  • Flies are always seen flying around poop, trash, and dead animals, landing in food, and getting eaten by frogs, spiders, and lizards.
  • Dragonflies are always flying around water.
  • Caterpillars are always seen eating leaves, turning into pupae, and turning into butterflies, which are always flying around aimlessly.
  • Moths always fly towards flames (fiction seems to ignore that they're not attracted to just fire, but light in general) or hang out in closets.


Jawless fish

  • Lampreys are always clinging onto their hosts.

Cartilaginous fish

  • Thresher sharks are always slapping prey with their tails. Or being cutely shy.
  • Hammerhead sharks are always attacking stingrays.
  • Every shark is always blood thirsty and tracks down their victims for miles if they want too, because apparently they're such monsters that all they want to do is swallow you in one big bite. All sharks will invariably be based on big great white sharks.
  • Basking sharks are always filter-feeding with their gigantic mouths gaping open. Or being dead and rotting, so as to be mistaken for a sea monster.
  • Whale sharks are always being swum around and grabbed by scuba divers to show how gentle they are.

Bony fish

  • Archerfish are always shooting down insects.
  • Salmon are always leaping up waterfalls or getting eaten by grizzly bears and bald eagles.
  • African lungfish are always aestivating.
  • Moray eels are always poking their heads out of crevices with their mouths open.
  • Anglerfish are always drawing in prey with their lures.
  • Siamese fighting fish are always, well, fighting.
  • Puffer fish are always shown inflating themselves.
  • Goldfish are always either eating or dying (and subsequently going belly-up, whereas in real life some dead goldfish sink).

  • Horned frogs are always swallowing something (usually mice or lizards). In Real Life they appear to always be sitting around half-buried in substrate.
  • Frogs in general are usually sitting around (often on lily pads), croaking, and eating bugs.

  • Hylonomus, the "first reptile", is always falling into or getting trapped in the hollow stump or trunk of an ancient, tree-like plant, because that's where most of its fossils were found.


  • Crocodiles are always lying lazily either on a river bank, or floating lazily with only their eyes and nostrils above the water (Sometimes the whole snout is above the water, for audience clarity).
  • When they fight, crocodillians always employ a death roll/barrel roll, and it's frequently mentioned they have a powerful tail.
  • Caimans are always fighting jaguars or anacondas.
  • Sarcosuchus is always attacking Suchomimus or Spinosaurusnote  (or, in educational works, Ouranosaurus) and dragging them to their doom.
    • Deinosuchus does the same thing with hadrosaurs or even tyrannosaurs.


  • Alligator snapping turtles are always luring fish with their tongues. In Real Life they tend to be lying motionless on the bottom of a pond.
  • Female sea turtles are always hauling themselves onto beaches to lay their eggs before returning to the sea. Baby sea turtles are always scrambling to reach the ocean before they get eaten by birds and crabs.

Snakes, lizards, and kin

  • Cobras are always reared up in a threat display. If they're spitting cobras, they'll be spitting too.
  • Basilisk lizards are always running on water.
  • Geckos are always licking their eyes or climbing on walls.
  • Frilled lizards are always running around with their frills wide open.
  • Chameleons are always changing color and catching insects with their long tongues.
  • Most rattlesnakes are always coiled up with their tails rattling, ready to strike.
  • Sidewinders are always moving across the desert by sidewinding.
  • Hog-nosed snakes are always either playing dead or swallowing toads.
  • Blue-tongued skinks are always sticking their tongues out.
  • Anacondas are always squeezing caimans or capybaras to death.
    • Constrictor snakes in general are always squeezing something to death.
    • Alternatively constrictor snakes will be lazily coiled around the hanging branch of a tree, becoming stock decoration of the Hungry Jungle setting. This is especially common with emerald tree boas and green tree pythons.
  • Eyelash pit vipers are always hiding in flowers to ambush hummingbirds.

Non-Avian Dinosaurs

  • Dinosaurs during the K-Pg extinction are always shown either in mass panic or staring at the asteroid as it hurtles toward Earth.
  • Pachycephalosaurs are always shown charging at and butting each other in the flank or head (depending on which hypothesis the artist wants to depict).
  • Hadrosaurs are always grazing and eating from trees until they get threatened by a theropod. In older works they would stand around in bodies of water, often fleeing into them to escape from predators.
    • Maiasaura is always shown taking care of its young.
    • Parasaurolophus and other crested hadrosaurs would often use their crests as snorkels. Nowadays, they are always using them for vocalization.
  • Oviraptor was always shown stealing eggs from Protoceratops. Now that Science has Marched On, it's always shown brooding its own nest.
    • Recently, Troodon seems to have taken its place as the main nest-raider. With the victim being Maiasaura.
  • Many a large predatory theropod has been shown either eating a dead specimen of its prey (usually a hadrosaur or a sauropod, depending on the time period), roaring in triumph after making a kill or just standing majestically over a carcass.
    • They also have a (recent) history of being shown running and roaring randomly across the landscape. Even when hunting.
  • Deinonychus is always shown bringing down Tenontosaurus in a deadly pack.
    • Played even straighter by Tenontosaurus, which is always being killed by Deinonychus. Always. Even in the extraordinarily rare event it isn't, expect a Lampshade Hanging.
  • Ceratopsids, ankylosaurs, and stegosaurs are always shown facing off against theropods.
    • When in a group, ceratopsids tend to do so by forming a protective ring around their young, despite that there's no solid evidence for this behavior.
  • Sauropods used to always be depicted standing around in swamps much like hadrosaurs. Far less prevalent now that science has marched on. Nowadays, they're usually seen eating leaves from trees and migrating in herds.
  • As a tribute to Charles Knight's "Leaping Laelaps" piece, Dryptosaurus is always portrayed fighting each other with one individual leaping into the air.
  • Protoceratops is always either defending its nest from Oviraptor (mostly in older works) or fighting Velociraptor.
  • Ornitholestes was always shown hunting flying animals, usually the early bird Archaeopteryx (even though the two aren't known to have been contemporaries), but sometimes also pterosaurs or flying insects. This meme appears to have largely died out though.
  • Mei long is always shown sleeping. Not helped by the fact that two specimens have actually been found preserved in sleeping position, and its name is in fact Chinese for "sleeping dragon."
  • Baryonyx is always fishing or eating fish. This behavior gets passed down to other spinosaurids such as Spinosaurus (when it's portrayed accurately, that is).
  • Eustreptospondylus is always swimming between islands.
  • Iguanodon pretty much does the same things as hadrosaurs do, though it's more likely to fight predators as opposed to fleeing. It was often shown squaring off with Megalosaurus in older works, which is no longer prevalent in recent times (probably because these two did not live at the same time).
  • Ornithomimids are always running or (especially in older works) raiding nests.
  • Coelophysis and Majungasaurus are always shown engaging in cannibalism.

Other reptiles

  • Pterosaurs of all kinds are always shown soaring around catching fish. We now know their lifestyles were probably far more varied than that.
    • The actual fish eating pterosaurs Pteranodon and Rhamphorynchus will often be seen either snatching fish from the water's surface (Pteranodon) or skimming across the water with their beaks (Rhamphorynchus). Neither of these ideas are correctnote . Azhdarchid pterosaurs were often depicted as scavengers, usually circling over herds of migrating dinosaurs waiting for one of them to keel over from exhaustion so they can eat the remains. Thanks to recent research and art done by pterosaur researcher Mark Witton, however, azhdarchid pterosaurs these days are always shown stalking on the ground eating baby sauropods. Though rare today, occasionally you might even see one exhibit bat-like behavior such as hanging upside down in a tree or cliff.
  • Small-to-medium sized ichthyosaurs, if not just casually swimming, are always jumping out of the water dolphin-style. While not quite a "behavior" per se, they'll also be depicted giving birth rather frequently, mainly due to exquisitely preserved fossils of ichthyosaurs doing exactly that.
  • Plesiosaurs and mosasaurs are often depicted snatching pterosaurs (usually Pteranodon) out of the air. While this is theoretically possible, we have no direct evidence for it—there's actually more evidence that pterosaurs were preyed on by marine crocodiles, dinosaurs, and big fish such as sharks.
  • There was a very common early paleoart trope, which is nowadays rarely seen, that any picture of a long-necked plesiosaur and a pliosaur, ichthyosaur or mosasaur must show one of the latter three biting through the neck of the former.
  • Tanystropheus is always hunting for fish on the beach.

  • Peregrine falcons are always shown diving through the air at top speed.
  • Hummingbirds are always hovering around in the air and sipping nectar. Justified in that they do spend most of their time feeding due to their high metabolism.
  • Most owls are always sitting around in trees and tree hollows staring at stuff, at least when they're not swooping down on some prey item, usually mice.
  • Woodpeckers are always pecking holes in trees (or pecking things in general).
  • Birds of prey in general are always flying around with their talons outstretched to catch something.
  • Eagles are always soaring high in the air or rising triumphantly from the surface of the water with a large fish in their talons and screeching like hawks.
  • Robins are always pulling earthworms from the ground. And they're always American Robins.
  • Woodpecker finches, if they're shown at all, will always using cactus spines to spear insects in bark.
  • Penguins on land are always sliding around on their bellies or rearing young. (And they're always emperor penguins.)
  • Wild geese are always migrating. Geese are also often seen chasing people.
  • Wild galliforms of all kinds are usually either in courtship display (especially if they are peacocks), or else they're "food".
  • In less realistic works, ostriches will always be burying their heads in the sand. They also (more realistically) eat everything they can swallow. More realistic works tend to show them running.
  • Great blue herons are always standing around in the water, usually in marshes.
  • Egyptian vultures are always throwing stones at ostrich eggs. Other types of vultures tend to always be gathering around carcasses or flying around in circles over a potential meal.
  • Chickens are always walking around pecking at food. Hens in particular are always sitting on their eggs. Roosters will be standing on top of a fence and only crow when the rising sun appears behind them.
  • Flamingos are always standing on one leg.
  • Potoos are always sitting on tree branches with their heads pointing upwards to the sky. More recently, they're often shown looking bug-eyed.
  • Gastornis is always chasing and eating small horse-like ungulates, usually Hyracotherium and Eohippus. Science Marches On, since Gastornis now turned out to be a herbivore.
  • Swans are always either being mean or swimming majestically.
  • Parrots are always copying people, sometimes proceeded by a squawk. Mynah birds are heard speaking too. Cockatoos are always screaming at the top of their lungs.
  • Wild songbirds are seen feeding their babies, making nests, or singing.
  • Pigeons, seagulls, and magpies are seen stealing things, in the case of magpies it's always shiny and/or valuable things.
  • All flying birds, but especially pigeons and seagulls, poop on people or things.
  • Canaries are always singing.
  • Nightingales are always singing or saying, "Jug jug jug".
  • Cuckoos are always either in clocks, saying, "Cuckoo! Cuckoo!", or laying their eggs in other people's houses.
  • Ducks are always swimming (especially in the rain), quacking, nesting, and dipping under the water.
  • Turkeys are always either being eaten (especially on Thanksgiving) or saying, "Gobble gobble".

  • Mesozoic mammals are always shown crawling out of dinosaur skulls just after the K-Pg extinction.
  • Any mammal with a prehensile tail will always be hanging around in trees.


  • Koalas are always in the eucalyptus trees feasting on leaves. This is pretty much Truth in Television — when they're not eating, they're mostly sleeping.
  • Kangaroos always carry joeys and hop around everywhere. They're always boxing as well.
  • Opossums are always hanging upside down (and are always Virginia opossums). This one is actually not true in Real Life: while opossums, especially young ones, can support their weight using only their tails for a short amount of time, they can't do this for the extended periods of time they're often shown in (and certainly don't sleep in this position). They also are shown playing dead a lot, which is true.

Hoofed mammals

  • Musk ox herds are always forming a circle to fend off wolves.
  • Similar to pachycephalosaurs, rams and bighorn sheep engage in butting heads as well. Sheep in general are often seen being conformists or running away.
  • Hippos are always yawning and lounging about in the water. You'll never see the part about how they come onto land to graze at night.
  • Deer and antelope are always grazing peacefully before a predator bursts out and makes them scatter. They also freeze up when light is shone on them.
  • Wildebeest are always doing river crossings and getting attacked by lions and crocodiles.
  • Gazelles are always pronking.
  • Cattle are always stampeding, grazing, or chewing cud.
  • Wild (actually feral) horses are always galloping across the landscape. Horses are also often seen bucking, eating, raring up, racing, and being ridden.
  • Rhinos are always charging at things, often cars.
  • Pigs are always lazing around, eating, digging with their snouts (known as "rootling"), or playing in the mud.

Whales, Dolphins, etc

  • Humpback whales are always either singing or breaching.
  • Sperm whales are always fighting giant squid. In older works, sperm whales are always being hunted by whalers.
  • Dolphins are always playfully leaping out of the water.
    • Orcas are always beaching themselves to catch pinnipeds.
  • Whales and dolphins are always spouting.


  • Cheetahs are always shown chasing down prey.
  • Meerkats are always standing up on lookout while the rest of their colony does... whatever it is they do.
  • Indian gray mongooses are always fighting cobras.
  • Brown bears are always waiting for salmon on the waterfall.
  • River otters are always playing (often by sliding down mud slides), while sea otters are always floating on their backs using a rock to crack shellfish.
  • Spotted skunks are always doing handstands.
    • Skunks in general are always spraying predators or innocent bystanders, or just stinking even if they don't mean to.
    • The other thing you generally see a skunk doing in media is lying dead on a road. And stinking.
  • Wolves are always howling at the moon or hunting some large herbivore in packs.
  • "Seals" (actually sea lions most of the time) are always balancing balls on their nose, barking, and clapping their flippers. Unless they're leopard seals, in which case they'll always be chasing after penguins. They're also often lazing around, as are sea lions and walruses.
  • Leopards (and sometimes other big cats) are always lounging about in trees. They'll often pounce on prey that passes by from underneath.
  • Polar bears are always waiting for seals at their breathing holes.
  • Bull elephant seals are always fighting.
  • Lone dogs are peeing on fire hydrants or trees (and they always pee by lifting a leg whereas in real life generally only the males do that). They're also seen chewing things, drinking from toilets, looking out car windows with their tongues out, licking people, eating, digging, doing tricks, and chasing things/people/animals (usually mailmen, cats, vehicles, squirrels, sticks, or tennis balls). Poodles are always show dogs. Huskies pull sleighs. Saint Bernards rescue people with brandy. Guard dogs growl, chase, and bite.
  • Raccoons are always foraging or washing their food at bodies of water, or raiding garbage cans and campsites.
  • Lions, tigers, and other big cats are always either roaring, silently stalking their prey before pouncing, or lying around in the sun.
  • Saber-toothed cats are often depicted attacking mammoths, giant ground sloths, or early humans.
  • In educational works, jaguars are always attacking caimans or tapirs.
  • Domestic cats are always sleeping curled up in strange places, coughing up hairballs, licking themselves, chasing laser pointers, nursing kittens, using litter boxes and scratching posts, purring, pouncing, hissing, meowing, "singing" at night, chasing mice, and arching their backs.
  • Foxes are always stalking or raising their young.


  • Prairie dogs are always standing up on lookout while the rest of their colony does... whatever it is they do.
  • Beavers on land are always chewing on trees.
  • Gophers are always tunneling.
  • Rats and mice are always eating, pooping, peeing, and chewing inappropriately. Mice are also often seen running from cats and owls.
  • Hamsters, guinea pigs, and gerbils are always either dying or running in their wheels or balls.
  • Lemmings are always throwing themselves off cliffs (not true in real life).


  • Aye-ayes are always searching for insects in tree bark.
  • Sifakas are always hopping around.
  • Gibbons are always brachiating (unless they are siamangs).
  • Howler monkeys and siamangs are always vocalizing.
  • Spider monkeys are scratching their armpits or heads with their long arms. Generic cartoon monkeys will do the same, even though spider monkeys are the only species with arms flexible enough to reach their own armpit.
  • Gorillas are always beating on their chests.
  • Chimpanzees are always grooming each other's backs or using sticks to catch termites.
  • Japanese macaques are always sitting in hot springs.

Other mammals

  • Armadillos, hedgehogs, and pangolins are always curling into balls.
  • Anteaters and aardvarks are always feeding on ants or termites.
  • Sloths are always hanging upside-down from branches. This is, of course, Truth in Television.
    • In the case of ground sloths, they are usually eating from trees or confronting saber-toothed cats.
  • Repenomamus is always eating baby Psittacosaurus.
  • Moles are always bursting out of the ground with only their head and forelimbs showing, or tunneling underground.
  • Vampire bats are always drinking blood or hanging in caves.
    • Bats in general are always hanging upside-down somewhere, or hunting insects at night.
  • Rabbits are always hopping, breeding, eating, or thumping the ground with their hind feet.
  • Elephants are always trumpeting, sucking up water and squirting with their trunks, or marching across the landscape while holding the tails of their fellow herd members.
  • Mammoths and mastodons pretty much do the same things as elephants, only they get stuck in tarpits and get threatened by saber-toothed cats.


Exceptions, Subversions, Aversions, and Notable Examples in Media:

  • In-universe example: in Peanuts Snoopy was prone to doing these in his imitations.
    • Vulture: lurking on a tree branch
    • Lion: stalking & pouncing
    • Kangaroo: hopping
    • Boa Constrictor: squeezing


  • All Yesterdays sets out specifically to avert this (among other paleoart memes).

Video Games

  • The Mega Man X series gives the animal Mavericks attacks based off these stock behaviors, despite the Mavericks in question being robots. For example, Chill Penguin's slides around the floor, Armored Armadillo curls into a ball, Storm Owl swoops down to grab the player, etc. Apparently they were manufactured to have behaviors like these in.

Web Original

  • Greatly averted here.
  • Several aversions with lampshades hanging here, most of which are entirely speculative and somewhat tongue in cheek. These illustrations were later used in All Yesterdays.

Western Animation

  • The plot of the 1943 Pluto cartoon Pluto and the Armadillo is driven by the titular armadillo's ability to turn herself into a ball. Pluto has a rubber ball, and it just so happens to look the same as the armadillo does when she's in ball form, and as a result Pluto is greatly confused. Near the end of the short, the armadillo turns into a ball and begins to bounce around Pluto, who promptly turns into a ball himself. After the two bounce around as balls for a while (and bump into each other several times, though whether or not they're intentionally bumping into each other is unclear), they unfurl and continue to dance, and then Mickey arrives and drags Pluto and the armadillo, who's in her ball form, onto the plane. Once the plane takes off, the "ball" in Mickey's hand turns back into an armadillo.

Alternative Title(s): Stock Animal Behaviors