Popular Mammals

Mammal bodies are not usually very distinctive -- just four legs and a tail. There are maybe a dozen or so characteristic body shapes that we can illustrate -- bats, giraffes, dolphins -- before we start getting to the more common body types that are shared by hundreds of species apiece, such as the skittering varmint, the galloping ungulate, the prowling carnivore. Once we've exhausted those options, it becomes easier to show individual mammals by drawing faces. After that, we'll have to start translating scientific names.

In designing names for animals, it's probably best to start with the ones we talk about every day -- like cats -- rather than the more obscure animals -- like naked mole rats (three words I never wanted to hear in the same sentence) -- so I went to Yahoo and tallied the world's most popular mammals:

Dog 3332
Cat 818 Cats have a rather distinctive profile, but it's probably easier to imply a cat with pointy ears and whiskers.
Horse 374
Whale 265 Whales are commonly indicated by a diving tail.
Bear 93 We'll use the profile of a generically lumpy quadruped to illustrate a bear. This reflects both European heraldic and Native American conventions.
Dolphin 85 Dolphins are traditionally shown leaping.
Seal 82
Rabbit 80
Ferret 70
Antelope 66
Bat 63
Elephant 57 As long as you show the ears, trunk and tusks, you don't really need to show the body.
Wolf 54 Pointy snout, pointy ears and shaggy mane are the characteristics of a wolf. If you don't believe me, you take a look at what is added to a human face to make a werewolf.
Rat 40 See mouse, below, at 21.
Hamster 39 It looks like almost every word for hamster just means "hamster" It's called a hamster in English, German and French, (but probably not from the German word hamstern, "to hoard"). The scientific name, Cricetus, means ...?
Tiger 38
Guinea Pig 37
Deer 37
Pig 36 The round benostrilled snout, little piggy eyes and tiny ears are customary in drawing a pig.
Goat 31
Cougar 29
Killer Whale 26
Chimpanzee 26
Gorilla 23
Mouse 21 Without being a trained nature illustrator, it's darn near impossible to draw a mouse that doesn't look just like a rat [40 above]. We might as well use the same glyph, with the difference being that a rat faces right and a mouse faces left. This should be easy to remember because it's an accurate reflection of politics as well.
Squirrel 20
Orangutan 20
Mole 20
Hedehog 20
Black bear 18
Gerbil 17
A gerbil looks too much like a mouse to draw by itself. The English/French name is a diminuative of jerboa (which isn't a gerbil) from the Arabic yerbo, meaning "big thighs". Its scientific name, Meriones, comes from a Cretan warrior in the Illiad who apparently had teeth on his helmet. The Germans, however, use a name we can translate -- Rennmaus -- "runmouse"
Polar Bear 16
Fox 16
Kangaroo 15
Otter 15 The main thing that differentiates [otter] from [rat] is the long neck.
Marmot 15
Lemur 15
Donkey 15 The traditional way of caricaturing a donkey is with long ears, a long face and a bulbous snout. Without those, it's just an ugly horse.
Bison 15
Sugar Glider 14
Reindeer 14
Grizzly Bear 14
Chinchilla 14
Rhinoceros 13
Mongoose 13
Hippopotamus 13
Giant Panda 16
Humpback Whale 15
The Latin name, Megaptera , means Big Wing
Gazelle 15
Cow 15
Right Whale 15
Wombat 15
Sperm Whale 15
I'm not going to be the one to change the most embarassing animal name in the English language to something with no character whatsoever.
Sheep 15 Basically, a cotton ball on four legs.
Manatee 15
Cheetah 15
Bobcat 15
Beluga Whale 15

See also Mammal names in European languages.

Less Popular Mammals

Zodiac Runes
ram - bull - lion - auroch - horse - moose

Easily illustrated

badger - raccoon - giraffe - lion

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Last updated January 2004

Copyright © 2004 Matthew White