This is an information and reference page

to give you words, facts and perhaps ideas.






Proverbs & sayings

Æsop's Fables

Ancient Egypt


You know that the adjective for something to with horses is equine. Something relating to cats is feline. Here are a few others which you can include in everyday chatter.

aardvark, anteater, sloth, armadillo




higher apes


platypus, echidna




rat, mouse


cow, cattle














toad, frog


kangaroo, wallaby








moose, deer


intestinal worm (yuk!)







We talk about a flock of sheep, a swarm of bees, a herd of elephants. These are collective nouns used to describe groups. Here are a few more you can drop into conversation.

A murder of crows.

A paddling of ducks.

A charm of finches.

A trip of goats

A harras of horses.

A troop of kangaroos.

A kindle of kittens.

An exaltation of larks.

A parliament of owls.

An ostentation of peacocks.

A colony of penguins.

A crash of rhinoceroses.

A pod of seals.

A knot of toads


If you resent being called a kid because a kid is a young goat, a smelly beast, think again. A kid is also a young antelope, a graceful creature. Here are some other youngsters:

eagle, eaglet (not egret, which is a type of heron)

eel, elver

goose, gosling

hare, leveret

kangaroo, joey

pigeon, squabe

rat, pup

sheep, lamb, lambkin, cosset

swan, cygnet

A calf is the young of a buffalo, camel, cow, elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, whale, among others.


A zoologist is a specialist in the biology of animals. Here are some other specialised areas of animal science:

Entomology, the branch of zoology which studies insects.

Ethology, the branch of zoology which studies animals in their natural habitats.

Ichthyology, the study of fishes.

Malacology, the study of molluscs.

Myrmecology, the study of ants.

Oology, the study of eggs, especially birds’ eggs.

Ornithology, the study of birds.

Pisciculture, the breeding and rearing of fish.

Zoogeography, the study of the geographical distribution of animals.


The great William Shakespeare mentioned many animals in his plays and poems. Here is a list of some of them, and the approximate number of times the words appear. From this list and the numbers, you can get a fair idea of which animals were important to them and what they believed.

horse 320

dog  200

lion 100

cat 50

wolf  50

ape  35

tiger 25

dragon  17

monkey  13

whale  10

camel  8

leopard, pard  8

elephant   7

moon-calf  4

basilisk  3

griffin  2

leviathan  2

rhinoceros  1


Proverbs and sayings

There are many proverbs, sayings and phrases which refer to animals. Here are a few of them, with the meanings. If you want to find more, have a look at Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, which should be in you school library and in your home.


A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

(To have something is better than hoping to get it.)

A little bird told me.

(Someone whom you probably know told me a secret. Adapted from a verse in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 10:20.)

Birds of a feather flock together.

(People with similar ideas of of similar character associate with each other.)

To kill two birds with one stone.

(To do two things in one action. To work with extra efficiency.)

The early bird catches the worm.

(Someone who acts quickly achieves their aim. Another way of expressing it is, 'First come, first served'.)


Curiosity killed the cat.

(Used when telling someone off for asking too many questions about things that probably do not concern them.)

To grin like a Cheshire cat.

(This is a simile borrowed from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.)

To let the cat out of the bag.

(To reveal a secret. It might come from a devious practice, centuries ago, when someone would buy a pig at the market. It was given to them in a sack. When they arrived home, they found they had been cheated: the sack held a cat.)

To put the cat among the pigeons

(To stir up trouble.)


Barking dogs seldom bite.

(People who make a lot of fuss seldom actually take action. Another proverb is, 'His bark is worse than his bite', meaning you don't have to be frightened of him.)

Let sleeping dogs lie.

(Leave things as they are. Don't stir up trouble.)

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

(Older people are set in their ways.)


A fly in the ointment.

(Something small which spoils everything else. This is borrowed from a phrase in the Bible: Ecclesiastes 10:1.)

A fly on the wall.

(A hidden observer or a secret watcher. When people would like to know what happened in, for example, a secret meeting, they say, 'I'd like to have been a fly on the wall'.)

There are no flies on him/her.

(He is not a fool. You won't catch him out.)


A Trojan horse.

(A concealed danger. Something which looks OK but is not. That is why some computer viruses are called Trojans.)

Straight from the horse's mouth.

(Direct from a reliable source of information. This is from the fact that the best way of checking the age of a horse is to open its mouth and inspect its teeth.)

To lock the stable door after the horse has bolted.

(To take precautions against damage after the damage has been done.)

To look a gift horse in the mouth.

(To question the value of something you are given. To appear to be ungrateful.)

You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

(You can't get a stubborn person to do something they don't want to do.)

Æsop's Fables

Fables are allegories or short stories, usually about animals, which have a message or a moral. The most well-known were written about 2,500 by an ancient Greek named Aesop. They look like children's stories, but they are much more than that. They have withstood the test of time and still have a message for us in the 21st century. Here are summaries of some of them.

The Fox and the Grapes

A hungry fox tried different ways of reaching some luscious grapes on a vine. She could not reach them. 'Oh well,' she said, 'it doesn't matter. They're probably sour anyway.'

The Goose who laid Golden Eggs

A poor man and his wife possessed a goose which laid a golden egg every day. They wanted more eggs and they wanted them quickly. They killed the goose and opened it up, hoping to find all the golden eggs. They found nothing. Greedy people want everything and lose everything.

The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

A wolf wanted to catch a sheep to eat. He disguised himself in a sheepskin and went among the sheep. Even the shepherd didn't see through his disguise. In the evening, the shepherd locked the wolf up with the other sheep. When the shepherd felt hungry, he went to choose a sheep to eat. He picked the wolf, and ate him.

The Mice in Council

The Mice were tied of being persecuted by the Cat. The formed a council and met to work out a plan. They decided that one of them would tied a bell round the Cat's neck, so that they would hear it coming. However, not one of the Mice was brave enough to do the task. It is one thing to plan; it is another to put the plan into action.

The Hare and the Tortoise

A Hare laughed at a slow Tortoise, and challenged him to a race. The Tortoise agreed, and set off at his usual slow pace. The Fox rushed far ahead and then stopped for a rest. He fell asleep. The Tortoise continued, slowly and carefully, and won the race. Slow and steady wins the race. Or: More haste, less speed.

The Boy who cried Wolf

A shepherd boy looking after his flock thought it was funny to call out, 'Wolf!' and watch everyone rush to find the wolf. One day, a real wolf actually appeared. The boy cried, 'Wolf!' but the village people had grown tired of his joke. They didn't come. The wolf ate the sheep. Liars are not believed, even when they tell the truth.

Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians had beliefs which were strongly influenced by the effect of the great river Nile and the animals and birds which lived in and around the Nile. Their gods changed names and forms over many centuries. Here are some of them:

Ammut, with the head of a crocodile, ate those who had not led pure lives.

Anubis, the jackal god, conducted souls to their judgement.

Aphophis, the serpent, was the enemy of Re, the sun god.

Apis, the sacred bull, represented the great god Ptah.

Ba, the soul, was shown as a bird with a human head.

Baster, Bastet, shown as a cat, was the goddess of health and wellbeing.

Hasthor, the sacred cow, represented Hathor, the goddess of maternity.

Horus, god of the sun, son of Isis and Osiris, had a falcon’s head.

Khepri, Khepera, the rising sun, was depicted as a scarab beetle.

Khnum, the ram-headed god, looked the annual flooding of the Nile.

Re, the sun god previously called Atum, was shown with the head of a falcon.

Sebek, the crocodile god, denoted strength in battle.

Serket, the scorpion god, guarded the vital organs of the dead.

Tauert, the goddess of childbirth, was shown as a hippopotamus.

Thoth, the ibis-headed god, recorded the results of the judgement after death.

Thoth was also shown as a baboon.

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