I was recently in Habarana, Sri Lanka looking for a group of wild elephants.
Our guide parked the jeep and we waited.
Pretty soon we had 20+ elephants surrounding us. Pulling grass out of the ground with their trunks and flicking the dirt and bugs off before they shoved in their mouths.
Out guide referred to the elephants as a “parade” of elephants.
That was the first time I heard this.
Many collective nouns for animals are strange and have a long history in the English language.
Also see my guide to seeing cats in the wild.
Strange collective nouns for animals
Collective nouns for animals are often based on the appearance, behavior, or characteristics of the animals they refer to.
Which is something I keep in mind as I draw animals.
One example of these strange collective noun for animals is “a murder of crows.” This collective noun refers to a group of crows and is believed to have originated in the 14th century.
It is thought to be based on the aggressive and sometimes intimidating behavior of crows, which were often seen as pests by farmers and other rural people.
Other strange and playful collective nouns for animals include “a herd of elephants,” “a pride of lions,” “a swarm of bees,” and “a pack of wolves.”
These collective nouns are often used in a playful or tongue-in-cheek manner and are not always meant to be taken literally.
Popular collective nouns for animals can vary depending on the region or culture in which they are used.
Some other interesting collective nouns for animals that are used in different parts of the world include “a gaggle of geese,” “a school of fish,” “a pod of dolphins,” and “a colony of bats.”
Common collective nouns for animals
Cattle: a herd
Chickens: a flock
Fish: a school
Lions: a pride
Wolves: a pack
Bees: a swarm
Geese: a gaggle
Ants: a colony
Goats: a tribe
Puppies: a litter
Unusual or creative collective nouns for animals
Flamingos: A flamboyance of flamingos
Hedgehogs: A prickle of hedgehogs
Kangaroos: A mob of kangaroos
Otters: A raft of otters
Crows: A murder of crows
Lemurs: A conspiracy of lemurs
Ferrets: A business of ferrets
Names for Groups of Mammals
As a mammal myself, I thought it would be fun to explore some of the common terms used to describe groups of my fellow mammals. From elephants to dolphins, there are so many different types of mammals out there, and it's interesting to see how we're all grouped together.
Bears: sloth (or sleuth)
Buffalo: gang, herd
Cats (wild): destruction
Deer: brace (two), leash (three)
Dolphins: herd, pod, school
Donkeys: herd, pace
Elephants: parade, herd
Foxes: earth; leash (three), skulk
Fur seals: harem (belonging to one male)
Giraffes: tower, herd
Hares: down, huske, leash (three)
Horses: harras, span (a team of two), string
Hyenas: cackle, clan
Kangaroos: flock, mob, troop
Mice: mischief, nest
Otters: raft, romp, bevy
Porpoises: herd, pod, school
Prairie dogs: coterie
Rooks: building, parliament
Seals: plump, spring, colony, harem
Sheep: flock, fold, mob, wing
Squirrels: scurry, dray (a nest)
Tigers: streak, ambush
Whales: gam, herd, plump, pod
Wolves: pack, rout
Names for Groups of Birds
In this section, we'll take a look at some of the collective nouns for animals such as birds. From flocks of geese to murder of crows, there are so many interesting and unique ways to describe different types of birds.
Choughs: a clattering
Coots: a covert
Crows: a murder
Doves: a dole (or dule)
Ducks: a paddling (on water); a raft (on water)
Dunlins: a fling (in flight)
Eagles: a convocation, an aerie
Emus: a mob
Falcons: a cast (a pair released after game)
Finches: a charm, a chirm
Flamingos: a flamboyance
Fowl: a plump, a skein (in flight), a trip
Geese: a gaggle, a skein (in flight), a wedge (in V formation in flight)
Goldfinches: a charm
Grouse: a brace (two), a covey, a pack
Hawks: a cast (a pair released after game), a kettle (riding a thermal), a leash (three)
Herons: a siege (or sedge, or sege)
Lapwings: a desert
Larks: a bevy, an exaltation, an exalting
Mallards: a sord, a sute
Nightingales: a watch
Owls: a parliament
Parrots: a pandemonium
Partridges: a covey
Peacocks: a muster, an ostentation
Pheasants: a bevy, a bouquet (when flushed), a nye
Pigeons: a kit
Plovers: a congregations, a wing
Quails: a bevy
Ravens: an unkindness
Ruffs: a hill
Sheldrake: a dropping
Snipe: a walk, a wisp
Sparrows: a host
Starlings: a murmuration
Swans: a wedge (in V formation in flight)
Teal: a spring, a string
Turkeys: a rafter
Waterfowl: a bunch, a knob (less than 30), a raft (on water)
Woodcocks: a fall
Woodpeckers: a descension
Names for Groups of Amphibians and Reptiles
Amphibians and reptiles are two groups of animals that are characterized by their ability to live on land and in water. Amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders, typically have moist, smooth skin and undergo a metamorphosis from a larval stage to an adult stage. Reptiles, such as snakes and lizards, have dry, scaly skin and do not undergo metamorphosis.
In this section I'll show you some of the collective nouns for animals, specifically reptiles.
Crocodiles: a bask
Frogs: a knot
Toads: a knot
Vipers: a nest
Cobras: a quiver
Lizards: a lounge
Names for Groups of Fish
Fish are aquatic animals that are characterized by the presence of gills, fins, and a streamlined body shape. From the whales and dolphins of the open ocean to the colorful tropical fish that inhabit coral reefs, fish come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
Here are some of the common terms used to refer to groups of various fish.
Fish (general term): school
Names for Groups of Invertebrates
Invertebrates are animals that do not have a backbone or spinal column. This group includes a wide range of animals, from insects and spiders to snails and worms. In this section, we will explore some of the common terms used to refer to groups of various invertebrates.
Ants: colony, swarm
Bees: swarm, hive
Beetles: colony, swarm
Grasshoppers: cloud, plague
Names for Groups of Domestic Animals
Domestic animals are those that have been domesticated, or tamed, by humans and are kept as pets or used for practical purposes such as transportation, farming, and protection. These animals include beloved pets like dogs and cats, as well as more utilitarian animals like horses and cows.
In this section, we will explore some of the common terms used to refer to groups of various domestic animals.
Cats: clowder, glaring, pounce
Dogs: pack, kennel
Chickens: brood, peep
Ducks: team, paddling
Geese: gaggle, skein
Goats: tribe, trip
Sheep: flock, herd
Pigs: drove, sounder
Cows: herd, drove
Horses: string, team
Examples of collective nouns from different languages and cultures
In Spanish, a group of chickens is called a “corral” and a group of dogs is called a “manada.”
In French, a group of cats is called a “chatterie” and a group of rabbits is called a “nid.”
In Italian, a group of horses is called a “branco” and a group of sheep is called a “greggio.”
In Japanese, a group of cows is called a “群れ (mure)” and a group of deer is called a “群 (gun).”
In Hindi, a group of peacocks is called a “समुद्रम (samudram)” and a group of ducks is called a “समुद्रम (samudram).”
As you can see, collective nouns for animals can vary widely across different languages and cultures.
Some of these collective nouns are based on the appearance or behavior of the animals they refer to, while others are based on the sounds that the animals make or the habitats in which they live.
It is interesting to note that many collective nouns for animals have been adopted and adapted from other languages and cultures.
For example, the collective noun “a pride of lions” is believed to have originated in the Middle East, while “a school of fish” is thought to have originated in ancient Greece.
Why are there collective nouns for animals?
The practice of using specific collective nouns, also known as “terms of venery” or “nouns of assembly,” to refer to certain types of animals has its roots in an English hunting tradition from the Late Middle Ages. This custom of using a specialized vocabulary for hunting was imported to England from France.
What are the 11 common groups of animals?
Animals can be classified into major groups based on their physical characteristics and behaviors, such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods, vertebrates, and invertebrates. Additionally, animals can be classified as either having live births or laying eggs.
What is a group of animals?
“Terms of venery” is a Middle Ages term for words describing animal groups. Nowadays, these terms are a fun way to discuss different animals and their gatherings. For instance, a group of deer is a “herd,” geese form a “gaggle,” and crows gather in a “murder.” These terms, known as “nouns of assembly,” showcased education and knowledge of Latin, highlighting familiarity with animal characteristics.