For example, mice are stereotyped as mischievous critters who are capable of being cute and lovable. Rats, due to being bigger and significantly less cuddly-looking (even if in Real Life, cuddlier than mice), are rarely given as much leeway. Calling someone "mousey," though not exactly a compliment, lacks a harsh connotation, it just means they're quiet and easily startled; calling someone "ratty" or a "rat" implies they're dirty and disgusting. If the hero is a mouse, one of the villains or anti-heroes will be a rat. One way to insult a mouse is to "mistake" him for a rat. Even though there are many subspecies of rats, sewer rats are most often used as the representative of rat characters.
Keep in mind that there is no Truth in Television here and the only reason this trope came to be were the many different perspectives of uneducated people who have yet to study all of these animals.
However, a work does not need have a direct face-off to give off this vibe. Mistaking one animal for the other and having said animal correct you with distaste ("Oh heavens no, I'm not a toad, I'm a frog!") gives off the implication that one is somehow an inferior version of the other.
See I Am Not Weasel if being mistaken becomes a running gag (the mistake need not actually be considered offensive to the animal, just incredibly exasperating), Elves Versus Dwarves for a magical equivalent, Slobs Versus Snobs, which is often used to justify this Fantastic Racism, and Always Chaotic Evil if the animal's prejudices are justified. See also Nice Mice and You Dirty Rat!. This trope usually follows Animal Stereotypes.
The "pleasant" and "unpleasant" animals can either be related, similar, or both.
Common examples, aside from mice vs. rats, include dolphins vs. sharks, frogs vs. toads, eagles vs. vultures, bees vs. wasps, ants vs. termites, foxes vs. wolves, spiders vs. scorpions (though both species tend to overlap in how their morality is portrayed), theropod dinosaurs vs. every other type of dinosaur (or tyrannosaurs vs. dromaeosaurs and spinosaurs), elephants and hippos vs. rhinos, butterflies vs. moths and non-venomous snakes vs. venomous snakes (or lizards vs. snakes).
- Purposely invoked in Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire. The girl of the season, May, catches a Wurmple. Terrible Trio member Jessie also manages to catch a Wurmple. Now Wurmples can either evolve into a sweet looking little butterfly (Bug/Flying) or an obnoxiously colorful moth (Bug/Poison). Guess which girl gets which? This is a subversion though, as both Pokémon are actually quite bad, arguably the former being the worst. Dustox make messes when they eat, leaving trees barren whenever they swarm into an area and scatter noxious dust as a defense mechanism. Beautifly are actually quite savage despite their appearance, being very aggressive when provoked or disturbed and attacking by stabbing opponents with their proboscis to drain their "fluids". The anime does not, however, bring up Beautifly's more unpleasant traits, and largely plays this trope straight (although the extent of Dustox's villainy is its association with Team Rocket).
- The season 1 finale of Squid Girl introduces the octopus-like Kozue Tanabe, who is kind and gentle in contrast to the titular squid-like character.
- In Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, King Dedede would insult his snail associate Escargoon by calling him a slug.
- While all the good characters in The Great Mouse Detective are mice, the Big Bad, Professor Ratigan, is a rat. Just don't call him that to his face.
- The Lion King depicts lions as noble, majestic and mostly good guys and hyenas as dirty, stupid and cowardly bad guys. Deconstructed in The Lion Guard, where hyenas turn out to be mostly good.
- In the Shrek movies Donkey wants very much to be a horse.
- In Finding Nemo, sharks can't stand dolphins because, according to them, they're show-offs (and liked by humans).
- In Shark Tale, dolphins appear to be one of the few animals that sharks don't mess with (basically their equals), with one mob shark having a pair of orcas as bodyguards. When a "vegetarian" Shark decides to live amongst fish, he disguises himself as a dolphin (even though dolphins also eat fish).
- Antz depicts ants and termites as mortal enemies. The ants are highly anthropomorphic (as are a few other insects), while the termites are The Horde. Ultimately, this is played with in that the termites are implicitly Non Malicious Monsters, while the actual villain is an ant general who needlessly provokes them to kill the soldiers not loyal to him.
- Played with in The Secret of NIMH. The heroine is a mouse, and Auntie Shrew thinks rats are brutes, but the rats of NIMH turn out to be benevolent, with the exception of Big Bad Jenner, although Brutus is still pretty menacing.
- The Good Dinosaur has Arlo and Spot helping a family of benevolent Tyrannosaurus rex retrieve their longhorn herd from a pack of villainous Velociraptors.
- In The Princess and the Frog, Dr. Facilier is commonly associated with rattlesnakes. As a contrast, Mama Odie is accompanied by a friendly snake who appears to be a non-venomous constrictor.
- A Bug's Life pairs heroic, hard-working ants with evil, bullying grasshoppers that steal the ants' food. While it's common to characterise ants as industrious, the other side of the conflict is derived more from an extreme extrapolation from the "ant and the grasshopper" Beast Fable than from a general cultural stereotype.
- In Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket takes offense to Lampwick calling him a grasshopper.
- In Missing Link, the sasquatch Mr. Link is a kind-hearted Gentle Giant, whilst the yetis are aggressive, arrogant and isolationist.
- In the first Stuart Little movie, a bully of George's gets punched in the face when he states "You're right, he's [Stuart] not a stupid mouse, he's a stupid RAT."
- In Inglourious Basterds, Hans Landa muses on the differences and similarities between rats and squirrels.
- Planet of the Apes:
- Gorillas are ruthless Xenophobic Herbivores while chimpanzees are sympathetic (which is ironic considering that in real life, gorillas are relatively calm, peaceful herbivores if not triggered, whereas chimpanzees are bad-tempered, often violent omnivores).
- In the Planet of the Apes (2001) one gorilla was very offended when Mark Wahlberg's character called him a monkey.
- Jurassic Park:
- The franchise started the trend of raptors being "evil" dinosaurs, while former dinosaur Big Bad Tyrannosaurus began to be put in a heroic light. Deconstructed in Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World where raptors are portrayed more sympathetically albeit still dangerous, and in the latter film, the last surviving member of the pack Blue teams up with T. rex Rexy in bringing down the Indominus rex.
- Jurassic Park III is responsible for portraying Spinosaurus in a villainous light, in contrast to the more noble portrayed Tyrannosaurus.
- Jurassic World Dominion puts Rexy once more in a sympathetic light, while the main "villainous" dinosaur is a Giganotosaurus.
- In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, white tigers can be seen in the White Witch's army, contrasting with the good lions. Subverted in Prince Caspian where orange tigers are good.
- In The Bible goats are sometimes used represent evil people and sinners, in contrast with sheep representing good people and the faithful. On the other hand, in other places God's people are compared to sheep in a less flattering context, in reference to their tendency to go off in the wrong direction and need rescuing.
- In the Redwall series, mice are good whilst rats are evil, and otters and badgers are good while stoats, ferrets, weasels, martens and wolverines are evil.
- In Kim Newman's The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Professor Moriarty breeds wasps, this apparently being the evil equivalent of Sherlock Holmes becoming a beekeeper.
- In Garry Kilworth's House of Tribes, the protagonists are all mice, while one of the antagonists is a mean dirty old murderous rat.
- In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, baleen whales vs cachalots (called sperm whales in modern times). Nemo is adamant against killing baleen whales for sport, but has no problem with killing cachalots — described as "cruel, mischievous creatures".
- In Discworld:
- Calling the orangutan Librarian a "monkey" is an invitation to a painful lesson in Taxonomic Term Confusion, administered by red-furred arms strong enough to hold someone upside-down by the ankles and bounce their noggin on the floor.
- In Lords and Ladies, Mr Brooks the beekeeper believes wasps might look pretty and bees might have some pretty horrible behaviours, "but if you were for bees, you had to be against wasps". This philosophy even manages to make him immune to Glamour, since he regards The Fair Folk as wasps attacking the beehive of Lancre Castle.
- Small Gods subverts the Biblical metaphor of sheep and goats, suggesting the real difference is "sheep are stupid and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent and need to be led". Similarly, while A Hat Full of Sky portrays Tiffany the shepherd-witch in a battle of wills against a goat, it's not presented as any more malevolent than a sheep, just smart enough to do something about it.
- The Jungle Book:
- Wolves are noble, while jackals and dholes are both cruel and cowardly.
The jackal may follow the tiger, but, cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the wolf is a hunter. Go forth and get food of thy own.
- The sinister snakes in the stories are cobras and a krait, in stark contrast to the heroic python Kaa. Additionally, Kaa is said to despise venomous snakes as cowards, as part of his description that he is a non-venomous constrictor snake.
- Wolves are noble, while jackals and dholes are both cruel and cowardly.
- In Babar, the elephants are gentle and civilized, and live in a kingdom ruled by The Good King, whereas the rhinos are boisterous and violent, and led by a selfish dictator. The conflict between the two species is particularly played up in the Animated Adaptation by Nelvana.
- While there are unpleasant mice and occasionally even nice rats in the Deptford Mice books, rats have a Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad culture that skews them towards being Card Carrying Villains, while mouse society is "normal".
- When Kermit the Frog is called a toad on The Muppet Show, he explains that "frogs are handsome, debonair and charming, while toads are ugly and give you warts."
- New Girl: Jess and Schmidt compare their different ways of dealing with obstructive city bureaucracy to dolphins (Jess prefers the polite way) and sharks (Schmidt wants to play hardball).
Schmidt: Be a shark, Jess. Not a dolphin.
Jess: Right. So I shouldn't be the smartest and friendliest creature in the ocean? That makes sense, bro.
Schmidt: Sharks eat whatever they want. Dolphins... they jump through hoops, so, yeah, I think it does make sense.
- ‘’Dungeons & Dragons’’
- Two classic magic items are the Rod of the Python and the Rod of the Viper. Each has powers themed after their respective snake, but the Rod of the Python can only be wielded by a good-aligned character, and the Rod of the Viper requires an evil wielder.
- Giant eagles are intelligent and good aligned. In Fifth Edition they are given an evil counterpart in giant vultures. Predating the vultures is a rare neutral counterpart, the giant owls.
- Done all the time in the Pokémon games. Examples include: Caterpie vs Weedle, Pidgey vs Spearow, Pikachu vs Rattata, Ledyba vs Spinarak, Skitty vs Glameow, Buizel vs Stunky.
- Inverted in Jurassic Park: The Game. Troodon are even worse than the Velociraptor, to the point the latter flee when they sense the former's presence.
- Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!: The enemy Breezebuilders in Zephyr are falcons and parrots, while the friendly Breezebuilders in Breeze Harbor are pelicans.
- Inverted in Kingdom Rush: Vengeance, the fourth game in the series where you play as Vez'nan's Dark Army to fight the forces of good. The Pleasant Animal Counterparts to the Wulves and Worgs are Watchdogs, and the counterparts to the Winter Wulves are Glacial Wolves (which are actually ice elementals).
- In the Plants vs. Zombies series, both the Plants and Zombies have spellcasters with Forced Transformation spells. The Wizard Zombie turns the good Plants into sheep, while Rose turns the evil Zombies into goats.
- In Ecco the Dolphin, dolphins are sapient and friendly good guys while sharks are animalistic and vicious bad guys.
- In Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, the heroes are based on chickens while the villains are crows.
- Red Alert 3: The Allies use Attack Dogs as spy detectors and infantry stunners and killers. The same role on the Soviet side is played by the War Bears.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: Fleas are heroic and sympathetic while ticks are evil and one is the Big Bad and Corrupt Corporate Executive in "Flea for Your Life."
- Inverted in Ovide and the Gang. Cy Sly the python is the main villain, while his Egyptian cobra cousin is a good guy. Played straight with Polo vs. Cy; the lizard being one of the heroes in contrast with the snake.
- The Lion Guard:
- In "The Imaginary Okapi", Makucha the leopard is the villain of the episode, in stark contrast to heroic cheetah Fuli as well as the noble lions of the Pride Lands. Subverted later in "The Trouble with Galagos" where we meet the good leopard Badili (although the episode's antagonist is also a leopard).
- "Too Many Termites" is about the Guard mistaking some harmless aardwolves for the bad hyenas.
- "Ono's Idol" introduces good eagle Hadithi, a contrast to the evil vulture Mzingo. The opposition between the two raptors gets played up in "Fire from the Sky". Subverted when the vultures pull a Heel–Face Turn in the Season 3 opener.
- Pythons are good, while cobras are morally ambiguous or outright evil to the point of being The Corrupter.
- Geckos, chameleons, and agamas are good, while villainous lizards have been skinks and monitor lizards.
- Foxes are portrayed as harmless, in contrast to the jackals.
- "Long Live the Queen" has good tigers as a contrast to the evil leopard and snow leopard.
- Downplayed with baboons. While they are prone to be more antagonistic than other monkeys, they are mostly good.
- However, there has been instances where the show averts this. Particularly, rhinoceroses are just as good guys as the elephants and hippopotamuses, and gorillas are just as friendly than the chimpanzees and monkeys. Although this may be because the show seems to avoid making herbivores antagonists.
- The titular character of Kenny the Shark claims to have a dislike for dolphins due to them, according to him, being snobbish for their intelligence. The episode "Whalin' on Kenny" has him getting menaced by a ruthless orca.
- Inverted in Unikitty!, where Eagleator is the Evil Counterpart to Hawkodile. Normally, you'd expect a hawk and a crocodile to be the unpleasant counterparts to an eagle and an alligator.
- Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: The chosen snake villain is a cobra, in contrast to the heroic Viper (vipers are venomous like cobras, but look less "evil").
- The Regular Show episode "A Bunch of Full-Grown Geese" has a battle between heroic ducks and evil geese.
- The Arthur episode "Pets or Pests" has a sort of reversal of roles: a mouse serves as a pest for the Read household (albeit still non-antagonistic), while Ladonna's pet rat is very helpful and takes offense when mistaken for said mouse.
- In Amphibia, toads are more likely than frogs to be villains, their larger size seemingly inspiring a lot of racial supremacist sentiment.
- In Visionaries, the animal forms of some of the Darkling Lords were obvious counterparts to their opposite number in the Spectral Knights, most obviously Galadria and Virulina, the token women of each group, who turn into a dolphin and a shark respectively to combine Designated Girl Fight with This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman.
- In Extreme Dinosaurs, a Tyrannosaurus rex is The Leader of the titular heroes, while the Big Bad is a Velociraptor.