8 Animals With Misleading Names


Throughout history, animal species have been given names that just don’t seem to make any sense. Animals are named after places they aren’t even from, mammals named for foods they don’t even eat, or for vicious behavior they don’t even have. Yep, there are plenty of animals out there with strangely misleading names. Click through to check out some of them.

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1. Cape May Warbler.

You might think the Cape May Warbler is from Cape May, New Jersey, but you’d be wrong. The bird’s actual habitat is southeastern Canada, and parts of the midwest and Northeast of the United States, migrating to the West Indies in the winter. So what’s with the name? In 1831, father of Americanornithology Alexander Wilson first spotted the species in Cape May, and wrongly assumed it was a native of the area. It took another century for a Cape May Warbler to actually be spotted in Cape May!

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Image Credit: William H. Majoros via Wikimedia Commons.


2. Ladybird.

Known in the United States as Ladybugs, the ladybird is not, of course, a bird at all — and only half of them are ladies! The name has its roots in England, where it has been known historically as, “Our Lady’s Bird,” and was closely associated with the Virgin Mary.

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3. Anteater.

If their name actually reflected the diet of anteaters, they’d have to be called ant-and-termite-eaters. Some species of anteaters, in fact, would be called, I-guess-I’ll-eat-ants-if-I-really-have-to. Not nearly as catchy of a name! There are four species of anteaters on the planet, all in Central and South America.

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4. Australian Shepherd.

It may be called the Australian Shepard, but this dog breed has its origins in the United States by way of Europe, not the Outback. The most likely explanation for the “Australian” moniker? The dogs, bred as sheep herders in the Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain, first emigrated to Australia with their Basque shepherds before making their way to the ranches of the Western United States. Quite the cosmopolitan pooches!

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5. Killer Whale.

They may be big, they may be mighty, and they may be tough, but, for the most part killer whales are not dangerous to humans… as long as they are not kept in captivity. There has never once been a documented case of a wild killer whale killing a human, and the few attacks that have occurred are incredibly rare. Even the “whale” moniker is a bit off: killer whales are actually more closely related to dolphins, not what most of us are referring to when we mean whales.

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6. Guinea Pigs.

Of course, guinea pigs are not pigs at all — but they’re not from Guinea, either! This rodent is from South America, not Africa. So what’s with the confusing name? Experts aren’t sure, but there are several theories, largely having to do with the way the animal was marketed to 17th century British consumers. Here are a few possibilities: in English, the term “Guinea” has meant an exotic, far-off locale, so it could have just been a way to market a then-unknown pet. Or, it could be that the guinea pig was shipped to Europe through the African country of Guinea, losing its origin place along the way. The most common possibility, that the guinea pig is so named because the animal was once sold for a guinea coin, can’t be true, because the guinea pig’s arrival in Europe predates the guinea coin by a decade.

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7. American Robin.

The “American Robin” has been described as such since colonial times, taking its name from the European Robin, a species it resembles, but is not closely related to. One of the most abundant birds in North America, the American Robin is actually a member of the Thrush family; the European Robin is in the Flycatcher family.

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8. American Buffalo.

American buffalo may be from the Americas, but they sure aren’t buffalo. So what are they, then? They’re bison! There are only two true species of buffalo on the entire planet: the African Buffalo and the Asian Water Buffalo. And, these buffalo are are not all that related to the American buffalo. More closely related, however, is the European Bison.

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Loesje vB
Loesje Najoan3 years ago

Thank you for sharing Katie. Interesting!

Carrie-Anne Brown

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold4 years ago

Interesting information. Thanx.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

love this type of post. thank you!

Jennah F.
Jennah F4 years ago

The two species of Choloepus, or Two-Toed Sloth, actually have three toes and two fingers. The four species of Bradypus, or Three-Toed Sloths, also have three toes, but they have three fingers. To learn more about sloths please visit aiunau.org , where information about AIUNAU and its slothful projects can be read in English or Spanish. ¡Viva perezosos! Long live sloths!

Sloths, Anteaters and Armadillos make up the mammalian Order Xenarthra.

Kathy G.
Kathy G4 years ago

Let's add Painted Dog (African Wild Dog) which are actually in the wolf family. Learn more of this highly social pack animal at www.painteddog.org

Joy T.
Joy T4 years ago

Interesting. Thanks.

Donna Ferguson
Donna F4 years ago

interesting. ty

Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobets4 years ago


Angela J.
Angela B4 years ago

Thanks :)