River Horse, Jacuzzi Pigeon, Sea Lizard – 12 literal translations of animal names that will amaze you

Can you guess what animal a Jacuzzi pigeon is? Or a Sea Lizard? If you haven’t got a clue, join the club.

Research gathered by dog food company tails.com reveals 39 animal names, with hilarious literal meanings when translated from languages around the world. 

By now you know I am crazy about dogs and will write about them at every opportunity, but I’m equally fascinated with the animal kingdom so I was truly entertained and enlightened by this research.

With these literal translations of animals across Asia, Europe and Africa, which would challenge even Sir David Attenborough, I guarantee you’ll never look at all the world’s creatures the same way again.


From languages such as Korean, Sindhi and Vietnamese, Tails.com have reimagined what it would be like if these animals fit their translations.

The literal Vietnamese translation for a Shark is ‘Fat Fish’ and you can see why:

Hop over to Africa and the literal translations from languages like Swahili, Zulu and Afrikaans are no less fascinating.

For example, the translation from the Nigerian language Hausa, refers to Donkeys as ambassadors. Don’t you just love the idea of ‘ambassador’ Donkeys roaming the streets?

And in Somalian, a sea lion translates to sea lizard; hard to imagine what one would look like…


You may think that European languages, with all their familiarity, may not present such hilarious translations but think again!

How about the River Horse? Or The Observer? Any guesses?

And The Guard most definitely wins the day – the fastest mammal in the world reimagined as a security guard by the French.

There’s more though. Tails.com team have gone one step further, combining the Instagram hashtags of animals and their foreign translations, and found the top 10 most instagrammable animals from around the world.

Sorry Grumpy Cat; sorry Taylor Swift: not cats.

And drumroll…

The most instagrammed animal in the study turned out to be a Butterfly, with a total of over 13 million hashtags from the combined posts of both the English word and the Swahili word. 

Across the hashtags all of the English animal words turned out to be the most popular on instagram, rather than its foreign counterpart.

Check out the rest of the top ten below:

RankAnimalEnglish hashtagLanguage Translation
4Shark4365307Vietnamesecá mập
6Lobster4140191ArabicSurtan Albahr
8Guinea Pig3386540GermanMeerschweinchen
9Seagull2340407Arabicنورس طائر مائي
10Bumble bee2257323Japaneseバンブルビー

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