8 min read

21 Animals With Names That Will Quite Possibly Confuse You

Someone might have been confused when it came to deciding these poor guys' names. Here are a pack of animals whose monikers might leave you scratching your head.

1. Mountain Goat (Flickr/markbyzewski)

If it looks like a goat, bleats like a goat and smells like a goat, then it's ... well, actually, it's an antelope.

2. Red Panda(Flickr/ogwen)

Is it a raccoon? A fox? A panda? Two out of three isn't bad: the adorable animal is actually related to both pandas and raccoons.

3. Sea Lion(Flickr/SaraYeomans)

It's the Simba of the sea - sort of. Sea lions are what are known as pinnipeds, which means they're marine mammals that walk on their flippers. But many sea lions have a thick mane running along their necks like, well, lions.

4. Aardwolf(Wikimedia Commons/Greg Hume)

It's not a wolf or even an aardvark: It's a hyena. The aardwolf gets its name from the Afrikaans word meaning "earth-wolf."

5. Killer Whale(Flickr/NOAA's National Ocean Service)

These dolphins (yes, dolphins) are some of the ocean's largest predators and they like to hunt in packs of up to 40 to take down prey - hence, the "killer" in their moniker. As for the "whale" part? They resemble whales more than dolphins.

6. White Rhino(Flickr/imaginextra)

These rhinos are grayish-brown, not white, and it's actually their lip shape that makes them different from other rhinos, not their color.

7. Australian Shepherd(Flickr/snowlepard)

The Austrailian Shepherd is bred in Europe, not Down Under - where they're not even recognized as a breed. They are, however, closely related to Basque shepherds which did originate in Australia, and that's how they got their name.

8. Sperm Whale(Wikimedia Commons/Gabriel Barathieu)

Sperm whales got their name because their heads are covered in spermaceti (a substance that hardens when cold) and not sperm, as a bunch of seamen once believed.

9. Flying Lemur(Flickr/Lip Kee)

Not only are they not lemurs, nor even primates, but also don't have wings and can't fly. They are the most closely related species to primates, however, and are also known as colugos. They got the moniker "lemur" thanks to their resemblance and nocturnal lifestyles.

10. Mountain Chicken(Wikimedia Commons/Yinan Chen)

That chicken looks an awful lot like a frog. It's one of the world's most threatened frogs - and it got its name because its meat is said to taste like chicken.

11. Sea Cucumber(Flickr/robanhk)

Sure, it resembles a cucumber - but that's not a veggie. The sea cucumber is actually an echinoderm and they come in a lot of different shapes.

12. Firefly(Flickr/art farmer)

These guys got their names because they look like little balls of fire in the night sky. They do light up, but not because they have fire (or lightning) in their butts. (Obviously.) What's not so obvious? They aren't flies - they're actually beetles.

13. Komodo Dragon(Flickr/wwarby)

Okay, so it's pretty clear that he's not really a dragon - he's just a really big lizard. The Komodo dragon is named for Indonesia's Komodo Island, but its forked tongue was thought to resemble that of mythical dragons.

14. The Elephant Shrew(Flickr/TheGirlsNY)

The tiny African mammal resembles a shrew, sporting an elephant's signature snout. But the elephant shrew is neither an elephant nor a shrew: it's a sengi.

15. Seahorse(Flickr/prilfish)

Striking resemblance, but can you imagine trying to get a saddle on that thing? Seahorses are actually just awesome-looking fish, but poor swimmers (and awful runners).

16. Ladybug(Flickr/Gilles San Martin)

Technically, they're not bugs and only half of them are even ladies. At least Americans have one-up on the Brits, though, who named them after birds. During the Middle Ages, insects were eating crops and spoiling harvests, so farmers prayed for relief. When the ladybugs began showing up to eat the insects, farmers called them the "Bug of Our Lady" or "Our Lady's Bug" in reference to the Virgin Mary. Hence, ladybugs.

17. Hedgehog(Flickr/Denis Defreyne)

Though not actually hogs - just spiny foraging mammals- they do grunt like pigs when hunting for food, which is what inspired the moniker.

18. Cuttlefish(Flickr/Peter Hellberg)

These aren't fish, they're cephalopods that have been around for 500 million years. They actually have an internal structure called a cuttlebone that gives them buoyancy along with their name.

19. Polecat(Flickr/Peter G Trimming)

They're related to weasels, not cats. The name polecat likely comes from a combination of the French words poule, for poultry, and chat, after their habit of preying on chickens.

20. Koala Bear(Flickr/NCVO)

Koala's are actually marsupials, making them something closer to cuddly kangaroos than bears. The fact that they look like teddy bears if often cited as the reason for their names.

21. Geoduck(Flickr/papertygre)

Not only is the name misleading, but it's impossibly to pronounce! (It's goo-ee-duck). The geoduck is actually a clam that resides deep in the sand in the Pacific Northwest. The name comes from the Nisqually Indian word qweduc, meaning "dig deep."

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