Collective nouns for animals - a conspirancy of lemurs
A conspirancy of lemurs (image sourced: Pixabay)

Collective nouns for animals – Safari talk

A crash of rhinos, anyone? Or a prickle of porcupines? How about a parliament of owls?

If you have no idea what I am talking about, you are not alone. The names given to the groups of different animals are often unexpectedly bizarre. 

Earlier this year, I found myself watching a very active bird feeder on a Brazilian farm in the Pantanal, when I heard my friend remark: “Such a colourful pandemonium of parrots”. In answer to our blank stares, he explained that the collective noun used for a group of parrots was a pandemonium. No doubt, he’s been waiting for a chance to drop it in a conversation since the beginning of our trip.

That conversation piqued my curiosity and I decided to look up the names for groups of other animals. If you would like to impress your friends on your next safari, pick a couple of terms from the list below and use them at the first chance you get.

Collective Nouns for Animals

Collective nouns for animals - a tower of giraffes
A tower of giraffes in South Africa (image source: Pixabay)

Mammals

  • Apes – shrewdness
  • Badgers – cete
  • Bats – colony
  • Bears – sloth (or sleuth)
  • Buffalo – gang; herd
  • Cats (wild) – destruction
  • Cheetahs – Coalition
  • Deer – brace (two); leash (three)
  • Dolphins – herd; pod; school
  • Donkeys – herd; pace
  • Elephants – parade, herd
  • Elk – gang
  • Ferrets – business
  • Foxes – earth; leash (three); skulk
  • Fur seals – harem (belonging to one male)
  • Giraffes – tower, herd
  • Gorillas – band
  • Hares – down; huske; leash (three)
  • Hedgehogs – array
  • Hippopotamuses – bloat
  • Horses – harras; span (a team of two); string
  • Hyenas – cackle, clan
  • Jaguars – shadow
  • Kangaroos – flock; mob; troop
  • Kittens – kindle
  • Lemur – conspiracy
  • Leopards – leap
  • Lions – pride
  • Martens – richesse
  • Mice – mischief, nest
  • Moles – labour
  • Monkeys – troop
  • Otters – romp, bevy
  • Porcupines – prickle
  • Porpoises – herd; pod; school
  • Prairie dogs – coterie
  • Rabbits – berry
  • Rhinoceroses – crash
  • Roes – bevy
  • Rooks – building; parliament
  • Seals – plump; spring
  • Sheep – flock; fold; mob; wing
  • Squirrels – scurry, dray (a nest)
  •  Tigers – streak, ambush
  • Whales – gam; herd; plump; pod
  • Wolves – pack; rout
  • Wombats – wisdom
  • Zebras – zeal
Collective nouns for animals - pandemonium of parrots
A pandemonium of parrots in Brazil

Birds

  • Choughs – clattering
  • Coots – covert
  • Crows – murder
  • Doves – dole (or dule)
  • Ducks – paddling (on water); raft (on water)
  • Dunlins – fling (in flight)
  • Eagles – convocation, aerie
  • Emus – mob
  • Falcons – cast (a pair released after game)
  • Finches – charm; chirm
  • Flamingos – flamboyance 
  • Fowl – plump; skein (in flight); trip
  • Geese – gaggle; skein (in flight); wedge (in V formation in flight)
  • Goldfinches – charm
  • Grouse – brace (two); covey; pack
  • Hawks – cast (a pair released after game); kettle (riding a thermal); leash (three)
  • Herons – siege (or sedge, or sege)
  • Lapwings – desert
  • Larks – bevy; exaltation; exalting
  • Magpies – tidings
  • Mallards – sord; sute
  • Nightingales – watch
  • Owls – parliament
  • Parrots – pandemonium
  • Partridges – covey
  • Peacocks – muster; ostentation
  • Pheasants – bevy; bouquet (when flushed); nye
  • Pigeons – kit
  • Plovers – congregations; wing
  • Quails – bevy
  • Ravens – unkindness
  • Ruffs – hill
  • Sheldrake – dropping
  • Snipe – walk; wisp
  • Sparrows – host
  • Starlings – murmuration
  • Swans – wedge (in V formation in flight)
  • Teal – spring; string
  • Turkeys – rafter
  • Waterfowl – bunch; knob (less than 30); raft (on water)
  • Woodcocks – fall
  • Woodpeckers – descension

Amphibians and Reptiles

  • Frogs – knot
  • Toads – knot
  • Vipers – nest
  • Cobras – quiver
  • Lizards – lounge
A shiver of sharks
A shiver of sharks (Image source: Pixabay)

Fish

  • Fish – run (moving upstream for spawning); school; shoal trout – hover
  • Sharks – shiver, school
Collective nouns for animals - a smack of jellyfish
A smack of jellyfish (Image source: Pixabay)

Invertebrates

  • Bees – bike; drift; hive; swarm
  • Butterflies – flight; wing
  • Cockroaches – intrusion
  • Jellyfish – smack, brood
  • Mosquitoes – scourge
  • Snails – escargatoire, rout, walk
Collective nouns for animals - an intrigue of kittens
An intrigue of kittens (image source: Pixabay)

And if you are not heading on a safari any time soon, here are some collective nous for domestic animals

  • Cats – clowder, pounce or glaring; for kittens – a kindle, litter or intrigue
  • Dogs – litter (puppies) or cowardice (curs)
  • Donkeys – pace
  • Goats – tribe or trip
  • Mules – pack, span or barren
  • Pigs – drift, drove, sounder, team or passel
  • Ducks – brace, team, flock (in flight), raft (on water), paddling or badling
  • Geese – flock, gaggle (on the ground) or skein (in flight)
  • Turkeys – rafter or gang

Origins of Collective Nouns for Animals

You may rightfully wonder about the origin of these unexpected terms. Who and how came up with names like a parliament of owls? 
 
A brief search on google reveals an interesting picture. Most of these terms originate from the Book of Saint Albans written in 1486 to introduce the terms of venery, which is an old French word for hunting. For centuries, English nobility spoke French rather than English.
 
So when English kings reverted to speaking English, the Book of Saint Albans was published to provide English terms used in hunting – a practice reserved for nobility alone. The book is also known by a more accurate title of “The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms
 
And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense the terms like a gaggle of geese or a nest of mice, reflect animal behaviour, since they were created for the hunting purposes.
 
Other terms, like a crush of rhinos, are more recent additions, probably created to match the arcane names.

Learn some Collective nouns for animals and impress your friends on your next safari

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