13+ Proverbs on Animals: Meaning and Origin

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proverbs on animals

Proverbs on animals: In English Grammar, Proverbs are brief statements which represent the knowledge and traditional norms based on common meaning or the practical experience of humankind. We can see them as great fun, particularly the ones which use animals in the same way to tell a bigger truth. Some of the commonly used proverbs on animals are: “Every dog has its day” suggests that everyone will have their moment of success. Likewise, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” means don’t plan for something that might not happen. 

These proverbs use animals to help us understand life lessons simply and memorably. In this blog, we will take you through similar proverbs with examples.

Also read: 100+ Common Proverbs with Meaning and Examples

11+ Proverbs on Animals

When it comes to animals, there are many proverbs which teach us lessons by using them as examples. Such as explained below:

The cat would eat fish, but would not wet her feetIt refers to a situation where someone wants something desirable, but they are unwilling to put in the effort or take the risks necessary to achieve it.
Every cock will crow upon its own dunghillIt means that people tend to be more confident and assertive in familiar surroundings.
It’s an ill bird that fouls its own nestIt means someone who harms or betrays the group they belong to, such as their family, community, or country. It’s a condemnation of such behaviour.
While the grass grows, the steed starvesIt means that focusing on long-term solutions can be dangerous if it neglects immediate needs. This proverb applies the situation to our goals and aspirations.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bushIt means that generally, it is better to be content with what you already have for sure, rather than taking a risk for something that might be better but is uncertain.
Never look a gift horse in the mouthThis refers to something that’s being offered without you having to pay or work for it. It could be a physical gift, a favour someone does for you, or even an opportunity.
Dog does not eat dogIt refers to a situation of ruthless competition where people will undermine or harm others to succeed.
A barking dog never bitesThis proverb means that someone who makes a lot of threats or seems very angry is unlikely to follow through with those threats. It’s like the dog who barks a lot but never actually bites anyone.
Eagles don’t catch fliesIt means that important or powerful people don’t waste their time on trivial matters or unimportant tasks. It’s like saying their focus is on bigger things.
Don’t count your chickens before they are hatchedIt means that you should not celebrate or take something for granted before you’ve achieved it. In other words, the proverb is a reminder to be patient and wait until you’ve achieved your goal before you start celebrating.
If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleasIt is a proverb that means if you spend time with bad company, you’re likely to be influenced by their negative traits or get into trouble yourself.
Fish and guests smell after three daysNo host can be hospitable enough to prevent a friend who has descended on him from becoming tiresome after three days.

Other Common Proverbs on Animals

As mentioned above proverbs are brief statements which represent wisdom and traditional norms. Here are some of the common proverbs that are utilised in day-to-day lives:

When one wants to get rid of their dog, any excuse is a good excuse

proverbs on animals
Meaning: It means that someone who has already decided they do not want their dog anymore will find any reason, no matter how trivial, to justify getting rid of it. People who are determined to discard something will readily lock onto any reason, even a weak one, to support their decision.

A fine cage won’t feed the bird

proverbs on animals
Meaning: It means that material comfort or external appearances are not enough to fulfil someone’s true needs or desires. It is a reminder that true happiness and fulfilment come from more than just material possessions. It’s about focusing on what truly nourishes us, whether it’s food for a bird or love and freedom for a living being.

Use your enemy’s hand to catch a snake

Meaning: This proverb originates from Persia (modern-day Iran). Culturally, it reflects a view of the world where deception and cunning can be necessary for survival. It emphasizes that you don’t have to confront your enemy directly. You can be clever and use your actions or fears to overcome them.

Hunger will lead a fox out of the forest

Meaning: It applies not just to physical needs like hunger, but also to emotional or financial needs. People might step outside their comfort zone or take a chance at something risky if they feel they have to achieve their goals. This proverb can be applied to business negotiations. If one party is desperate for a deal, they might be more willing to concede or make sacrifices.

If there were no elephants in the jungle, the buffalo would be a great animal

Meaning: This proverb suggests that the buffalo’s “greatness” is defined in comparison to the elephant. On its own, the buffalo might be a formidable creature. However, when compared to the elephant’s sheer size and strength, the buffalo seems less impressive.

Cats don’t catch mice to please God

Meaning: This proverb goes beyond the literal. It suggests that people (or creatures) generally act out of self-interest, not necessarily out of altruism or a desire to please a higher power. They are motivated by their own needs, desires, or instincts. The proverb is culturally specific and might not resonate with everyone.

When the mouse laughs at the cat there’s a hole nearby

Meaning: The proverb suggests that the underdog (the mouse) is only brave because it perceives a weakness in the opponent (the cat). This weakness could be the cat’s distance from the hole, its lack of awareness, or even the mouse’s own heightened senses near its haven. The proverb reminds us that perceived safety can embolden us, but true security comes from a combination of awareness, preparation, and acknowledging the potential for threats to return.
Source: ELT Buzz English
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