Most people usually know that a group of lions is called a pride, and a group of impalas is referred to as a herd. But what do you call out when you see more than one cheetah? Or even a group of giraffes? How about a group of rhinos?
Africa is home to a huge diversity of wildlife species, and equally diverse and fascinating are the terms (collective nouns) used for species or groups of animals.
Names for collective groups of animals are thought to originate from the Book of Saint Albans, published in 1486, in which many of the collective nouns for animals were chosen simply for the humorous images they conjure up, or for their alliteration.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, we love the wit behind these names of African animals, and we think you will too. Here are some of our favourite names for you to impress your fellow safari travellers with!
As with elephants – and almost any ungulate or herbivorous grazing animal – zebra too can be called a herd. But why go with such a common and rather boring term, when the alternative is far more fun. Zebra are one of the most strikingly beautiful animals in the African bush and it’s not difficult to see why a group of zebra is called a ‘dazzle’ of zebra.
Characteristically long necks and legs make the gangly giraffe an endearing animal to come across in the wild. They are a firm favourite among many wildlife enthusiasts and are mostly found together in groups. If they are standing stationary in a group, the collective noun for them is a ‘tower’. When a group is seen galloping out in the open, then they are referred to as a ‘journey’ of giraffe.
The buffalo’s temperament is a dead giveaway to what they are called when in a group. They are aptly referred to as an ‘obstinacy’ of buffalo. With those bulky bodies, hard helmet-looking horns (known as a boss) and the tendency to stay in large, protective herds, challenging their stubbornness is never a good idea, even if you are a lion.
Spending their days lazing in the water, and nights grazing on the river banks, a group of hippos can be called a ‘pod’. Considering dolphins are also referred to as a ‘pod’ and the two species are rather different to each other, we think a ‘bloat’ of hippos is a far more apt collective noun for them. While this may sound a little funny, coming across a bloat of hippos out of the water is no laughing matter as hippos are widely considered to be the most dangerous animal in Africa.
While more commonly known as a herd, the alternative name for a group of elephants is a ‘memory’. The saying ‘an elephant never forgets’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, but research seems to suggest that there is some truth in it. They form incredible social bonds within groups, display compassion and intelligence, and they use their memories to safeguard their family against threats.
A group of cheetah is called a ‘coalition’. Coalitions are typically groups of two to three males, and they are often formed between brothers and rarely include unrelated male cheetahs. Cheetahs form coalitions in order to defend their territory against the males of other coalitions. Female cheetahs, on the other hand, are solitary animals. They spend most of their lives roaming and hunting alone. The only time that females come into contact with other cheetahs is to mate.
A group of leopards is known as a ‘leap’ or a ‘prowl’. A leap of leopards usually consists of a mother and two or three cubs, which stay until they have matured to 18 to 24 months of age and have learned to successfully hunt on their own. Males typically accompany a female in estrus for just a week or so before parting. Leopards usually go out of their ways to avoid contact with each other, living in solitude on their home ranges.
The term for a group of wildebeest (also known as gnu) is a ‘confusion’ of wildebeest. This probably originates from the noise and confusion that happens in large migratory movements of wildebeest, like the Serengeti’s great migration, but we think it could also refer to the rather comical appearance of the animal.
Hyenas have two collective nouns. They are normally called a ‘clan’ but the alternative term, a ‘cackle’ perfectly captures the sound and spirit of these animals.
The collective noun for a group of rhinos is a ‘crash’. It’s a vivid description of a group of formidable mammals that are usually docile, but have enormous potential to cause carnage. It is particularly apt for black rhinos as at they generally come crashing through the bush towards you and then crashing right back away again as soon as they investigate what you are.
What is your favourite collective noun?
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At Origins Safaris we are passionate about wildlife, cultural heritage, adventure and exploration. We customize each and every safari to your personal requirements and expectations, ensuring an exclusive, unique and authentic experience every time.
Origins Safaris is a family business, founded in 1963 by Don and Margaret Turner. It is managed today by two subsequent generations of the family, and predominantly by Don’s son, Steve. We are so much more than just a travel broker – our years of experience, professionalism and reliability means that we go the all-important extra mile, to make sure your dream safari is safe, memorable, educational and most of all great fun. We are renowned for our meticulous safari planning from start to finish, and the highest standards of natural history interpretation.
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