Amazing Nature

National Animals

Aug 2020
Author: Green Power
Singapore has been named the Lion City
Singapore has been named the Lion City for several centuries.
Photo from Pixabay

National flags and anthems eulogize the histories, traditions and values of the peoples in the nations. Animals are sometimes chosen as representatives of countries and even portrayed on the national emblems. What does it take for an animal to become the "national animal"?.

Symbol of Authority

The lion may be the most popular national symbol. It appears on the emblem of many countries in the world, including Kenya, Finland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Singapore, India, England and Myanmar. The modern name of Singapore is actually derived from the native language literally meaning the Lion City.

Two golden lions are depicted in Kenya's emblem
Two golden lions are depicted in Kenya's emblem.
© Xavi Garcia / CC BY-SA@ Wikipedia

Lion, often depicted as powerful, fearless and mighty and regarded as the king of the animal kingdom, is no surprise as the outstanding "national animal" for so many countries!

Apart from lion on the land, raptors are also time-honoured symbols of nations. Soaring high in the sky, keeping an eye over the expansive land, plus their incredible hunting skills, the raptors are celebrated as the ideal symbols for many nations.

Bald eagle symbolizes the United States
Bald eagle symbolizes the United States.
© U.S. Government @ Wikipedia

The bald eagle of America, golden eagle of Egypt, the fabled white eagle of Poland, the black eagle of Germany, the golden black eagle of Iraq, and the legendary "Garuda" of Indonesia are all examples of "national birds". If it is hard to pick from the lion and the raptor, you may put the two together in the emblem, as did the Philippines and the Czech Republic!

Both a lion and the bald Eagle are depicted in The Philippines' emblem
The Philippines' emblem depicts both a lion and the bald Eagle
© Office of Presidential Assistant for Historical Affairs (2001–2009) @ Wikipedia

White elephant flag of Thailand
Flag of white elephant has once represented Thailand.
© Tangmo & Sodacan @ Wikipedia

Ties with the Nations

In choosing the "national animal", some countries would consider the special relationship between the animal and the nation, instead of the omnipotent image. For example, in Thailand, the elephants have enjoyed supreme reverence since ancient time. The rare white elephant was even esteemed as the symbol of the royal family. In the past, Thailand relied on the timber industry as its primary economy, which in turn employed elephants in hauling the wood. The elephants, with their sheer size and strength, were even trained and sent to the frontlines for battles. The elephant was naturally selected as the "national animal" of Thailand.

Two mythical horses are portrayed on the Kazakhstan emblem
Two mythical horses are portrayed on the Kazakhstan emblem.
© Government of Kazakhstan @ Wikipedia

Kazakhstan, with its long nomadic tradition, is closely associated with the horses. Horsemanship is part of the heritage of its people, no matter whether men or women, who are often named "people on the horseback". Horses are the most important assets in Kazakhstan which provide milk and meat for the people, and are essential carriers of trade on the grasslands. The horse is without doubt the "national animal" of Kazakhstan.

Embodiment of Values and Spirit

When we talk about Australia, we often think of kangaroos. On Australia's emblem, there is yet another animal standing beside the kangaroo—emu, the large "ostrich" of Australia". Apart from being endemic to Australia, emu stands for the forward-looking and courageous spirit of Australian people, because of its unique body structure that allows it to only go forward and not backwards.

Kangaroo and emu on the Australian emblem
Kangaroo and emu on the Australian emblem.
© Sodacan @ Wikipedia

Kiwi, a wingless, nocturnal and odd-looking bird, is the prominent icon of New Zealand. For a long time, Kiwi has been used to refer to New Zealanders themselves.

A Kiwi Apteryx species
National bird of New Zealand—the Kiwi.
© Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust @ Wikipedia

There is a legend about the kiwi among the native Maori people. The story goes like this: once upon in a time, the forest was threatened by pest invasion, and the tribe nominated a few bird species to help clear the pest. In the end, only the kiwi was willing to take up the task. The bird even sacrificed its wings to stay on ground in order to save the trees. All future kiwis hence became flightless, without the wings! The story is indeed manifestation of the virtues of New Zealanders who dedicate their lives to protect the homeland.