Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Animal Sayings: Speciesist?

(Written by Barbara DeGrande) 

"A dog is the only thing on earth that will love you more than you love yourself." ~ Josh Billings

Below are several sayings you might hear at any given time.  Many of them are very negative and show great disrespect towards the living, feeling animals they represent.  Think about the meaning of your words; you might be surprised at how prejudiced we all are towards our fellow animal brethren!  One example is the patient, gentle donkey who has served mankind for thousands of years as a beast of burden, as a comfort to people and other animals, and as a joy to those who spend time with them.  Yet they are often the creatures used to denote something negative, like stubborness or a lack of intelligence.  How many of the following are in your lexicon?

  • act like an ass
  • sweat like a pig
  • dumb as an ox
  • sly as a fox
  • crocodile tears
  • kill two birds with one stone
  • a vulture looking over the spoils
  • batty
  • bird brain
  • dirty as a pig
  • don't let the turkeys get you down
  • filthy swine
  • dirty dog
  • catty woman
  • dog's life
  • he is a rat
  • evil as a snake
  • head in the sand (ostrich)
  • tiger by the tail
  • eats like a hog
  • used me like a guinea pig
  • hungry like a wolf
  • stupid cow
  • raining cats and dogs
  • sick as a parrot
  • curiosity killed the cat
  • gentle as a lamb
  • hungry as a horse
  • you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink
  • bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • a chicken in every pot
  • the early bird gets the worm
  • wild horses couldn't drag me away
  • sly as a snake
  • dog days of summer
  • an elephant never forgets
  • don't be a chicken
  • you are a horse's behind
  • stop monkeying around
  • eagle eye
  • stool pigeon
  • rooster does all the crowing but the hen lays the egg
  • horse of a different color
  • pig in a poke
  • bull in a china shop
  • running around like a headless chicken
  • don't close the barn door after the horse ran away
  • don't count your chickens before they hatch
  • which came first the chicken or the egg?
  • stubborn as a mule
  • you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear
  • eats like a bird
  • so hungry I could eat a horse
  • white elephant sale
  • faster than a jackrabbit
  • hotter than a cat on a tinroof
  • slower than a snail
  • lower than a snake
  • let sleeping dogs lay
  • horse feathers
  • when the cat is away the mice will play
  • a leopard cannot change its spots
  • blind as a bat
  • crafty as a fox
  • wise as an owl
  • a cat amoung the pigeons
  • a red herring
  • black sheep
  • dog and pony show
  • one-trick pony
  • elephant in the room
  • bookworm
  • a little bird told me
  • ants in your pants
  • mad as a March hare
  • a wolf (flirtatious male)
  • cat call
  • cat fight
  • puppy love
  • dust bunnies
  • cat walk
  • foxy lady
  • bitchy
  • snake in the grass
  • free as a bird
  • fight like cats and dogs
  • cat's whiskers
  • busy as a bee
  • smell something fishy
  • graceful as a gazelle
  • bee in my bonnet
  • cat got your tongue
  • sick as a dog
  • big as a whale
  • preen like a peacock
  • whale of a tale
  • wolf in sheep's clothing
  • straw that broke the camel's back
  • cat's away the mice will play
  • can't teach an old dog new tricks
  • plenty of fish in the sea
  • quick like a bunny
  • hold your horses
  • lower than a tadpole
  • never look a gift horse in the mouth
  • the worm has turned
  • cat that got the cream
  • sheepish
  • old goat
  • lion sleeps tonight
  • no room to swing a cat
  • holy cow
  • cow jumped over the moon
  • see you soon baboon
  • see you soon raccoon
  • see you later alligator
  • after while crocodile
  • hair of the dog
  • wolf down your food
  • monkey business
  • worm your way into someone's affections
  • if it quacks like a duck
  • birds of a feather flock together
  • what is good for the goose is good for the gander
  • horse sense
  • a cow without a tale should not try to chase away flies
  • lion, king of the jungle
  • the dog is the god of frolic (HWBeecher)
  • proud as a peacock
  • frog in my throat
  • bug in your ear
  • rat race
  • the cat's pajamas
  • the cat's meow
  • play cat and mouse
  • antsy
  • butterfly kisses
  • buzz off
  • fat as a tick
  • floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee (M. Ali)
  • hornet's nest
  • bee's knees
  • industrious as an ant
  • knee high to a grasshopper
  • mad as a hornet
  • moth to the flame
  • cock and bull story
  • bled like a stuck pig
  • big as a cow
  • bullheaded
  • silk purse out of a sow's ear
  • bull in china shop
  • chew our cud
  • clothes horse
  • crows like a rooster
  • dirty as a pig
  • don't beat a dead horse
  • don't change horses in midstream
  • don't get on your high horse
  • sleep tight don't let the bedbugs bite
  • social butterfly
  • fly on the wall
  • you bug me
  • happy as a pig in mud
  • hop to it
  • hog heaven
  • looks like a pig sty
  • pearls before swine
  • squeals like a stuck pig
  • strong as an ox
  • surefooted as a mountain goat
  • bunch of bull
  • curl your tail
  • got my goat
  • two shakes of a lamb's tail
  • what is your beef?
  • when pigs fly
  • fish out of water
  • slippery as an eel
  • another kettle of fish
  • whale of a decision
  • when fish fly
  • alligator skin
  • country mouse city mouse
  • drowned rat
  • dirty rat
  • mean as a snake
  • opening a can of worms
  • poor as a church mouse
  • worm your way in
  • a little bird told me ..
  • as the crow flies
  • bluebird of happiness
  • dog tired
  • dog eared
  • every dog has his day
  • fraidy cat
  • lay down with dogs, get up with fleas
  • look at what the cat drug in
  • cat that swallowed a canary
  • pants like a deer
  • puppy love
  • chicken scratch
  • coos like a dove
  • crazy as a loon
  • curses like chickens come home to roost
  • get your ducks in a row
  • happy as a lark
  • henpecked husband
  • lame duck
  • water off a duck's back
  • loose as a goose
  • mad as a wet hen
  • save a nest egg
  • a night owl
  • pigeon toed
  • poor as hen's teeth
  • protective as a mother lion
  • acting squirrely
  • bear hug
  • bear market
  • bull market
  • busy beaver
  • cross as a bear
  • monkey's uncle
  • sing like a bird
  • soar like an eagle
  • birds and the bees
  • that is ducky
  • your goose is cooked
  • playing possum
  • monkey business
  • weasel your way in
  • withdraw into your shell
  • 800 lb. gorilla
  • I have a bone to pick with you
  • more than one way to skin a cat
  • popinjay


This is by no means a complete list, but is comprehensive enough to highlight how frequently we refer to our animal brethren.  Recently, a little boy overhead his grandmother use the saying, "I could kill two birds with one stone," to which the child replied, "Oh grandma, you would NEVER kill a bird, would you?"  Our words have impact and may not mean what we intended.  Being disrespectful towards other forms of life, other animal species, helps develop the callous attitude that causes so much suffering.  Please be mindful!

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People say so many things automatically, without thinking. I am always mindful, if and when I have to say something negative about a person, that I talk about that person only and not about another living being, or a culture even. This one is not about animals, but it is my personnal pet peeve. When someone swears and then they say: "Excuse my French". I always call them up on that. I am French, and I don't like our whole culture to be perceived like a bunch of ignorant swearing people.

Animal idioms can be a nightmare.

Taken from a comment by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's (somewhere on ARZone): "…….. kill two birds with one stone and didn't realize what I was saying. When people say that now in front of me, I smile and say "you mean cut two carrots with one knife"?"

 Here's an a-z list


I love Colleen's work! That show in particular hit home, because I would use that horrible two birds one stone thing. I even got my mother to stop saying that. She likes the two carrots with one knife thing too. My mum is a vegetarian, and was horrified when she stopped to think about killing birds. 

Mo Orr said:

Animal idioms can be a nightmare.

Taken from a comment by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's (somewhere on ARZone): "…….. kill two birds with one stone and didn't realize what I was saying. When people say that now in front of me, I smile and say "you mean cut two carrots with one knife"?"

 Here's an a-z list


Isn't it amazing how often we use animals in similes or metaphors, such as those listed above? But in reading through the list, I see that many of the sayings are neutral, some are merely descriptive with no negative connotations, and some are very positive, for instance "sing like a bird", "busy beaver", "wise as an owl", "gentle as a lamb", etc. Those positive ones actually show our admiration for animals, rather than the opposite.

The very worst one on this list, and that always makes me cringe to hear, is the horrible, horrible "there's more than one way to skin a cat". In view of the monstrous practices happening in some countries, this saying takes on new, absolutely revolting meaning.

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