THE GENDER OF ANIMALS IN SPANISH

In Spanish, nouns referring to animals, follow different patterns with regard to their gender.

ANIMAL NAMES WITH A MASCULINE AND A FEMININE FORM

Only for some animals do we use a masculine noun to refer to the male and a feminine noun to refer to the female.

It may be the same noun with a different ending:

conejo (male rabbit) – coneja (female rabbit)

tigre (male tiger) – tigresa (female tiger)]

Or a different word altogether:

caballo (stallion) – yegua (mare)

carnero (ram) – oveja (ewe)

We tend to use the masculine noun to refer to the animal without the sex distinction [e.g. conejo (rabbit), tigre (tiger), caballo (horse)], but we use the feminine form in some cases [e.g. oveja (sheep), cabra (goat)].

ANIMAL NAMES WITH ONLY ONE GENDER FORM

Most animal names have a fixed, arbitrary gender, and as with most nouns, these must simply be learned as such.

Some are masculine nouns:

cocodrilo (crocodile)

lince (lynx)

gorila (gorilla)

And some are feminine nouns:

jirafa (giraffe)

liebre (hare)

lombriz (earthworm)

When we want to distinguish the animal’s sex, we add the word macho (male) or hembra (female) to the noun:

jirafa macho (male giraffe) – jirafa hembra (female giraffe)

cocodrilo macho (male crocodile) – cocodrilo hembra (female crocodile)

Determiners and adjectives must agree with the noun’s gender and not with the animal’s sex:

La jirafa macho está cansada. (The male giraffe is tired);

Ese cocodrilo hembra es pequeño. (That female crocodile is small.)

However, in informal language usage, sometimes the article is used to express the animal’s sex [e.g. el cocodrilo (male crocodile), la cocodrilo (female crocodile)].

Neither macho nor hembra agrees in gender or number with the noun:

las jirafas macho (the male giraffes)

los cocodrilos hembra (the female crocodiles)

A SPECIAL CASE

Remember that feminine nouns (referring to animals or not) with a stressed, initial ‘a’ take on the masculine-singular articles el and un for reasons of pronunciation.

Águila (eagle) takes on the masculine article when singular, but any modifying adjective must continue to agree with the noun’s feminine inflection

El águila es rápida. (The eagle is fast.)

Un águila blanca voló sobre nostros. (A white eagle flew over us.)

Ant it takes on the feminine article when plural.

Las águilas son rápidas. (Eagles are fast.)

Unas águilas blancas volaron sobre nostros. (Several white eagles flew over us.)

LISTS

Below you will see two lists.

The first one contains animals with two different forms to refer to the male and the female. The noun used to refer to the animal without the sex distinction is in bold.

The second list contains animal names with only one gender form, either masculine or feminine. (For the English translation, I’ve included only the general noun, i.e., the word that describes the animal without the sex distinction.)

I’ve chosen just a few animals to list as examples here. Please leave me a comment if you miss seeing a particular animal or want to ask anything.

Have fun learning the names of animals in Spanish!

ANIMALS WITH TWO DIFFERENT FORMS

English Masculino Femenino
buffalo búfalo búfala
donkey burro burra
horse caballo yegua
goat cabrón cabra
camel camello camella
sheep carnero oveja
pig, sow cerdo cerda
deer ciervo cierva
rabbit conejo coneja
elephant elefante elefanta
hen gallo gallina
goose ganso gansa
cat gato gata
lion león leona
wolf lobo loba
parrot loro lora
monkey mono mona
mule mulo mula
bear oso osa
duck pato pata
turkey pavo pava
dog perro perra
tiger tigre tigresa
cow toro vaca
fox zorro zorra

ANIMALS WITH ONLY ONE FORM

English Spanish
bee abeja (f)
eagle águila (f)
lark alondra (f)
antelope antílope (m)
squirrel ardilla (f)
ostrich avestruz (m)
wasp avispa (f)
slug babosa (f)
whale ballena (f)
bison bisonte (m)
ox buey (m)
owl búho (m)
vulture buitre (m)
chameleon camaleón (m)
canary canario (m)
crab cangrejo (m)
kangaroo canguro (m)
snail caracol (m)
carp carpa (f)
beaver castor (m)
zebra cebra (f)
chimpanzee chimpancé (m)
bedbug chinche (m)
cicada cigarra (f)
stork cigüeña (f)
swan cisne (m)
crocodile cocodrilo (m)
coral coral (m)
cockroach cucaracha (f)
cuckoo cuco (m)
crow cuervo (m)
dolphin delfín (m)
hedgehog erizo (m)
beetle escarabajo (m)
sponge esponja (f)
starfish estrella de mar (f)
pheasant faisán (m)
flamingo flamenco (m)
seal foca (f)
tick garrapata (f)
heron garza (f)
sparrowhawk gavilán (m)
gull gaviota (f)
swallow golondrina (f)
gorilla gorila (m)
sparrow gorrión (m)
cricket grillo (m)
crane grulla (f)
hawk halcón (m)
hyena hiena (f)
hippopotamus hipopótamo (m)
ant hormiga
ibis ibis (m)
wild boar jabalí (m)
giraffe jirafa (f)
koala koala (m)
lizard lagarto (m)
sea lion león marino (m)
leopard leopardo (m)
dragonfly libélula (f)
hare liebre (f)
lynx lince (m)
seal lobo marino (m)
earthworm lombriz (f)
firefly luciérnaga (f)
butterfly mariposa (f)
ladybug mariquita (f)
jellyfish medusa (f)
kite milano (m)
blackbird mirlo (m)
fly mosca (f)
mosquito mosquito (m)
bat murciélago (m)
otter nutria (f)
orangutan orangután (m)
caterpillar oruga (f)
panda oso panda (m)
polar bear oso polar (m)
bird pájaro (m)
woodpecker pájaro carpintero (m)
pigeon paloma (f)
panther pantera (f)
peacock pavo real (m)
pelican pelícano (m)
parakeet periquito (m)
fish pez (m)
penguin pingüino (m)
louse piojo (m)
moth polilla (f)
flea pulga (f)
puma puma (m)
frog rana (f)
rat rata (f)
mouse ratón (m)
reindeer reno (m)
rhinoceros rinoceronte (m)
nightingale ruiseñor (m)
salamander salamandra (f)
grasshopper saltamontes (m)
leech sanguijuela (f)
toad sapo (m)
snake serpiente (f)
horsefly tábano (m)
badger tejón (m)
shark tiburón (m)
mole topo (m)
turtle tortuga (f)
viper víbora (f)

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