16 Animals Whose Names Are Complete Lies


1. Guinea pig.

© Jackie Bale

Not a pig and not even from Guinea. Guinea pigs are, of course, rodents. They were brought to Europe from South America as early as the 16th Century and bred as pets.

2. Prairie dog.

Discovery Channel / headlikeanorange.tumblr.com

They do live on prairies and open grasslands in North America, but they’re definitely rodents, not dogs. They get that name from their call that apparently sounds a bit like a bark (you can judge for yourself whether it actually does).

3. Electric eel.

Weirdly not an eel, but a knifefish.

4. Flying fox.

Paul Whitehead

For starters this is a bat and not a fox. But they’re not really like the small bats we have in Europe or North America. They have excellent eyesight and smell, but no echolocation. And they have a wingspan that can reach 5 feet wide. Foxes do not have wings.

5. Mantis shrimp.

Video Courtesy Roy L Caldwell

Not a mantis or a shrimp. They do look a bit like both, though. And they could punch you at a speed of 80 kilometers per hour, so watch out.

6. Lionfish.


Ok, so it is a fish but its definitely not a lion. Their stripes serve both as a close-up warning to predators that the fish is poisonous, and as camouflage that breaks up its the outline from far away. Just saying but maybe tigerfish would have been a better name. (It doesn’t even have a mane).

7. Mountain goat.


Not a goat, also not a mountain. They are pretty close relatives to goats, but are more accurately called goat-antelopes. Mountain goats live in alpine environments where they can show off their impressive climbing abilities.

Bonus: they can easily clear up to 12 feet in a single jump. Could a true goat do that?

8. Honey badger.


More anatomically similar to weasels, honey badgers are native to Africa and parts of Asia and are pretty ferocious. They got their name because they were assigned to a subfamily of badgers in 1860, before anyone realised they’re not actually very badger-like at all.

9. Seahorse.


Obviously not a horse, but I guess they kind of look a bit equine? Sadly their upright pose means they are not actually very good swimmers and can easily die of exhaustion in rough seas. Maybe a real horse would cope better.

10. Koala bear.

Famously not a bear, but a marsupial. Female koalas carry their young in a pouch for sixth months. When the baby finally emerges it spends its first year clinging to its mother.

11. Horny toad.

Flickr: texasfeel / Creative Commons

Not a toad or a frog. Though thanks to their rounded body and short snout they do look a bit like both, which is how these lizards got their common name.

Nat Geo / youtube.com


12. Spider monkey.

Michael Schamis / en.wikipedia.org

Definitely not a spider as it clearly has only four legs. Their disproportionately long limbs and prehensile tails are probably what led to their common name.

13. Jellyfish.

Not made of jelly and, more importantly, not actually a fish.

14. Ladybird.

Despite their impressive wings, not actually birds.

15. Mongoose.


As you can clearly see, not a goose. Mongooses are mammals and mostly live in Africa. While some are partially aquatic, most make their homes on dry land. Unlike actual geese.

16. Butterfly.

Quite clearly not made of butter.

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Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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