What does it mean when an Indian calls you with an animal name?

An Indian just called you jackal and you have been feeling good about being called clever ever since? Well you have got to read this whole article before boasting about it among your other Indian friends.

Calling someone with animal or bird names happens everywhere, sometimes in approving way and sometimes in disapproving way. Let’s find out how various animal and bird names stand when they refer to humans.
(Again it should be reminded that India is big country with several cultures and in some parts of India people have different opinions.)

1. Buffalo

Domestic buffaloes are the most common source of milk in India (and they are not cow!). Buffalo milk is delicious and nutritious; but when someone calls you buffalo then they probably think you are quite over-weight.

2. Bull

Bulls are strong. When someone calls you bull then that may be good sometimes and also bad sometimes. They could mean you are strong; and they also could mean you are strongly built pervert always looking for cows; well, women in this context.

Bulls are always looking forward to display their excess of manliness.. err bullishness.

3. Cow

Cows are sacred in Hinduism and beef is getting banned in India. However, practically cows rarely get worshipped but they are respected animal. You call someone cow if you think they are nice and sweet. (Hey there you’re such a cow! In the Indian way, you know.)

4. Cat

Cats has taken over the internet; but their superpowers seem to fail in India. You would see very few pet cats in Indian households. Cats hold a reputation of sneaky bad things that would steal milk and stuffs. If you have got skills of walking stealthily, then you would get the title of being a cat, which is not approving or disapproving in particular.
If you got eye colour other than black/dark-brown, then got eyes like a cat.

5. Crow

Falling crow population has made people concerned in India. Crows have been mentioned in ancient scriptures as well as literature often. In the old days crows were regarded as creatures that would not give up. However, today they are more known for the unpleasant sound of their caw. So, if someone calls you crow then it is highly likely that they find your voice annoying.

6. Dog

Dogs are by far the most common pet in India. They are well liked for their loyalty, but when someone calls you dog then it’s not good. Calling someone dog is one of the most common insults you can throw on someone. Even the loyalty part is used in bad way. For example if you are faithful to someone, you might be their idiot dog.

7. Donkey

Poor donkeys.. hard working animals yet not respected. Calling someone donkey denotes calling them stupid. In the context of students, donkey (gadhaa) stands for being very bad at studies.

Donkeys are not very good at behaving well in the animal society.

8. Elephant

Calling some elephant is calling someone very large, usually in the sense of overweightness. Such majestic animals the elephants are; but it is not very nice to call your friend an elephant.
Elephants are often the symbol of power and strength as well.

9. Goat and Sheep

Someone who would follow others brainlessly.

10. Horse

Upset Indian mothers can be found saying, “You have grown to become a horse and yet do nothing but wasting time and food!”. When you are grown up, you are horse– large and galloping around.

11. Jackal

Jackals have the image of clever animals in some parts of the world; and of a bad and untrustworthy person in some other parts. But in India, they are symbol of cowardliness; a very common symbol of cowardliness.
Threatening someone without actually having enough strength is also a habit of the jackal like people.

12. Lion

As it is common in the most parts of the world, lions are the symbol of courage and fierceness in India, too. Jackals and lions are opposite of each other.

13. Monkey

Monkeys are the idiot cousins of humans. Symbol of quickness and jumpiness. But they also denote ‘bad’ or ‘funny’ looking face. Calling someone monkey faced can be funny sometimes and sometimes bad. It is important to note that calling someone monkey is not connected to racism within India.

Monkeys can be charming when they want to.

14. Mosquito/Fly

Symbols of insignificance.

15. Mouse

These poor things carry the image of being insignificant, weak, and coward.

16. Mule

Mule are laden with the same burden of insultingness as donkeys, or maybe slightly worse.

17. Ox/Bullock

When someone calls you ox or bullock in India, then they are trying to imply you have strength; err.. but also you are an idiot and easily manipulatable. You wouldn’t feel good about being called an ox/bullock.

18. Parrot

Parrots are known for their habit of repeating things. Calling someone parrot would indicate you think someone repeats the little stuff they know; or just repeat what others say.

19. Pig

Calling someone pig is among the three most insulting animal names in India (other two being dog and donkey), and probably the most insulting one. You may call someone pig because their face is like a pig or maybe they are dirty like pigs.

20. Snake

In Hinduism, snakes have special position and they even have a dedicated day on which they are (kind of) worshipped. But calling someone snakes is very disapproving. People like a snake are untrustworthy and dangerous. Feed them and raise alright, but that won’t stop them biting you someday and killing with their venom. They are silent but deadly.

Snakes always try to assure you that they are pretty safe and friendly.

21. Turtle/Tortoise

Like everywhere else, turtles and tortoises are known for their speed, or lack of speed to be exact.

22. Vulture

You have your eyes fixed on that lucrative position in the office which would be vacant next year when old Richard retires? You have your vulture eyes set on it according your Indian colleague Kumar. You are probably already trying to influence the Boss to get promoted to that position in a way that is breaking the rules of faith among colleagues? You are such a vulture.


    1. The term ‘Ghadiyali aansu’ or ‘Alligator tears’ is popular, which means doing something harmful and the grieve about it. This reference comes from a belief that alligators eat their own babies and eggs.

      1. ‘Magarmachh ke aansu’ or ‘Crocodile tears’ are insincere tears or emotions. Comes from a children’s story, not because of a belief that alligators eat their own babies.

        PS – This is a very well made list!

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