Amazing & Fun Facts About Animals For Kids
Reading up facts about animals increases our general knowledge about our four-legged friends. Let’s learn some amazing animal facts to protect them and preserve their right to live on this planet.
By Arun Sharma
The Panchatantra, the Jataka tales, the first three incarnations of Lord Vishnu (matsya, kurma and varaha), references to the tortoise, moth, elephant, cow and dog in the Bhagavad Gita, mention of lion, deer, horse, bear, birds and other animals in the Vedas — all emphasise the importance ancient Indian culture accorded to animals. Furthermore, the seals found in the Indus Valley excavation, coins issued by the Chera dynasty, and poems composed during the Sangam age also feature various animals.
Even a cursory study of ancient Indian literature would reveal a few important but critical things such as:
- Some amazing facts about animals (Mrigapakshi shastra by Hamsadeva)
- The close bond our ancestors shared with animals
- The virtual non-existence of human–animal conflict
- How well our ancestors understood the role animals played in human survival
To affirm the above-mentioned points, we bring you some interesting stories from around the world featuring humans and animals. All these stories recognise the right of animals to co-exist with humans and emphasise the fact that it’s our duty to protect and nurture animals. Reading these stories will also encourage you and your child to view animals in a more favourable light and learn a few amazing animal facts.
Almost every Indian knows about Jambavan or Jambavanta, the king of bears, mentioned in the Ramayana. Like the Indians, the Greeks and Romans also loved to weave stories featuring humans and animals. One such interesting story is that of the Great Bear and the Little Bear. The Greek god Zeus fell in love with a young woman named Callisto. They had a son called Arcas. One day, Hera, the wife of Zeus came to know about Callisto. This made her very angry and she turned Callisto into a bear. Scared that, as a bear she might harm her son, Callisto ran away and began living in a forest. Arcas grew up to become a hunter. During a hunting expedition, Arcas came face-to-face with a giant bear. However, he didn’t realise that the bear was, in fact, his mother Callisto. He threw his spear to kill the bear. However, Zeus, who was watching all this, stopped the spear midway and changed Arcus also into a bear. He then caught both bears by their tails and flung them into the sky, where the mother and son still shine as stars.
Do you know what these two bears are called today? Well, the Great Bear is called Ursa Major and the Little Bear is known as Ursa Minor. There are many variations of this story.
According to bear behaviouralist Else Poulsen—
- Bears smile just like we do. They pull each side of their mouth upwards.
- They smile for their reasons of self-contentment, just like we humans smile for our reasons of self-contentment. It's just that our reasons may not be the same.
Click here to read Interesting Facts About Bears For Kids
These lines from the rhyme ‘It’s the camel’ sum up a camel’s sterling qualities and highlight how much mankind depends on this ship of the desert.
But, when the world was new, neither was the camel so useful nor did he have a hump. So, how did the change come about? Reading this story by Rudyard Kipling would tell you what happened.
In the beginning, while all the other animals worked hard for Man, the lazy camel was idle. To avoid working, he began living in the Howling Desert. There, the camel would eat anything that was available like thorns, prickles, milkweed and sticks. First came the horse, then the dog and then the ox to tell the camel to mend his ways. But, the camel only said, “Humph.”
One day, the Man called the horse, the dog and the ox and told them that they should work more to make up for the camel. This made all the three animals very upset. They decided to hold a meeting at the edge of the desert to find a solution to their problem. While the meeting was going on, the ‘Djinn of all Deserts’ happened to pass by that way. He stopped and listened to the complaint of the animals. Promising to ‘Humph’ the camel, the Djinn went in search of him.
Upon finding the camel, the Djinn ordered him to complete the previous day’s work. But, as was his habit, the camel responded by saying, “Humph.” And, no sooner did he say it than a hump began growing on the camel’s back. Now the camel cried, “How can I work with this hump on my back?” To this the Djinn said, “With that hump, you will be able to work for three days without food or water. Now, go and join the other animals.” And, from that day, the camel began working for man and sporting a hump.
- The Arabian camels have one hump, but the Bactrian camels have two.
- However, baby camels are born without a hump. They begin growing the hump once they begin eating solid food.
Click here to read Interesting And Fun Facts About Camels For Kids
While these lines of the poem aptly describe the beauty of the animal, a cheetah running at full speed is poetry in motion.
Although the cheetah sports black spots all over its body, it has two black streaks running down the inside corners of its eyes to the outside edges of its mouth. An African legend tells us how the cheetah got these marks.
Long ago, there lived a lazy hunter. One hot day, while waiting for his game, the hunter began thinking, “How comfortable my life would be if there was somebody to hunt for me.” At that very moment, he saw an animal leap out of the grass and run with great speed. It was a mother cheetah. The cheetah ran towards a gazelle and brought it down. Afterwards, the cheetah dragged her prize towards a clearing where her cubs were waiting for food.
Marvelled at the speed and hunting ability of the cheetah, the hunter thought, “If I can have a cheetah hunt for me, I can enjoy my life to the fullest. But, that would only be possible if I steal one of the cubs and train it to hunt.”
So, he devised a plan to steal a cub when the mother cheetah went to the waterhole. But, when the time came to steal the cubs, instead of taking one, the hunter took all the three with him.
Not finding her cubs upon returning, the mother cheetah began weeping. She cried and cried, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her wails were heard by a wise old man who knew the language of animals. He understood her misfortune and became very angry. The old man came to the village, took the cubs from the hunter and returned them to the mother cheetah.
Being united with her cubs made the cheetah happy and she stopped crying. But, the black marks made by the flowing tears remain to this day.
- However, these marks have turned into a blessing. During the daytime, they act like sunglasses, reflecting the glare of the sun away from the cheetah’s eyes. This helps the cheetah immensely when hunting under the blazing African sun.
Click here to read Interesting Facts About Cheetah For Kids
In many cultures of the world, the deer occupies a special place. The Celts believed that divine spirits and deities took the form of a deer, while the Jataka tales mention that Buddha incarnated as a deer. Called mriga in Sanskrit, the deer is considered a symbol of desire and beauty in the Indian culture, and finds mention in many stories. In India, girls are given the name Mriganayani (eyes as beautiful as that of a deer) and there is also a Mrigashira (deer head) nakshatra (constellation).
Yet, deer are being hunted for their skin and antlers. But, do you know how the deer got its antlers? Reading this Mongolian folktale would tell you.
Long ago, the camel, the horse and the deer lived in the same forest. At that time, the camel did not have a hump but had antlers and a long bushy tail. And, he used to look very beautiful. One day, when the camel went to the river to drink water, the horse appeared out of the forest and said, “I’ve been invited to a party tonight and I want to appear beautiful before all the animals. So, would you lend me your tail for a night? I’ll return it tomorrow.” The camel being kind, parted with his tail.
A deer was watching all this. After the horse left, the deer came to the camel and said, “My friend, I have to go to a party tonight. But, how can I go there with a bald head. Can you give me your antlers for a night? I promise to return them tomorrow.” Since the camel did not want to disappoint the deer, he gave away his antlers.
However, the next day, neither the horse nor the deer returned what they had taken from the camel. So, this way the deer got his antlers.
- Only a male deer (buck) grows antlers.
- The antlers begin growing in early spring and are fully grown by late summer.
- The antlers are the fastest growing animal tissues — they can grow around half to one inch per day.
- Every set of antlers is unique and shows how healthy the animal is.
Click here to read Interesting Facts About Deer For Kids
The elephant occupies a special place in Indian mythology. It is considered an embodiment of Lord Ganesha. The white elephant Airavat is the king of elephants and the mount of Lord Indra. In the Indian culture, the elephant also personifies strength, wisdom, reliability, patience, loyalty and royalty. In the Chinese culture, an elephant with a raised trunk indicates good luck. There is a folklore which tells why the elephant has such a long trunk.
When the world came into being, the elephant had a small trunk. Although, it did bother him during mealtimes, the elephant wasn’t worried about the size of his trunk.
A river used to flow through the forest where the elephant lived. All the animals of the forest drank the water from the river to quench their thirst.
In the river lived a big crocodile. One day, when the elephant was drinking water, the crocodile caught hold of the elephant’s trunk and began pulling him into the river. Being a strong animal, the elephant started pulling back with all his strength. The elephant finally won and pulled his trunk free from the crocodile’s jaw. However, in this tug of war, the elephant’s trunk got stretched and never shrunk back to its original size. So, that’s how the elephant got its long trunk.
The elephant’s trunk is a versatile organ. Apart from being used for breathing, the trunk is also used as:
- A hose to suck in and spray water
- A hand to lift objects of almost every size from small to big
- A trumpet to communicate with others in the herd.
It is said that the elephant’s sense of smell is so developed that it can sniff water from several miles away.
I know a giraffe with a neck that’s real high
She stretches and stretches till it reaches the sky.
— I Know A Giraffe, Author Unknown
These lines from the poem tell us why the giraffe became so famous, but this short African fable tells us how the giraffe got its long neck.
God created this world, and all the animals and plants. All animals were happy because they had plenty to eat and nothing to do. But, one day God returned to tell the animals about their goal in life.
From his seat in heaven, God commanded all the animals to gather in a big field, and then he began speaking. But, because of the huge gathering, there was also a lot of noise. This made hearing God’s words difficult.
But, the sincere giraffe wanted to hear God’s words clearly. So, he began stretching his neck upwards to get closer to God. Pleased with the giraffe’s sincerity and efforts, God blessed him with a long neck.
- However, a unique fact is that, although a giraffe’s neck is between 2 to 2.4 m (6 to 8 feet) long, it’s not long enough to reach the ground. To reach down to drink water, the giraffe has to spread its front legs or kneel down.
Click here to read Fun Facts About Giraffe For Kids
The king of the jungle has a long association with Indian culture. The fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is Narasimha, a man with the head and claws of a lion. The lion is also the mount of Goddess Durga. In some images and in the idol at Jatiya Shaktipeeth, Kolkata, Bharat Mata (Mother India) is also shown riding a lion. Our national emblem also features four lions.
In most cultures across the world, the lion symbolises strength, courage, independence, royalty and loyalty. The story of Androcles and the lion best illustrates the qualities of the king of the jungle.
In ancient Rome, there was a slave named Androcles. He wasn’t happy being a slave; so, one day, Androcles escaped and fled to the jungle. Tired and hungry, Androcles lay down to rest under a tree. While he was resting, Androcles heard a lion moan. And, when he looked in that direction, he saw a lion limping and coming towards him. Androcles could see that a big thorn was stuck in the right paw of the lion.
Picking up courage, Androcles walked towards the lion. He caught hold of the injured paw and pulled out the thorn. The lion felt the pain subside. To show his gratitude, the lion rubbed his body against that of Androcles and disappeared into the forest.
After a few days of wandering in the forest, Androcles was caught and imprisoned. He was condemned to death. In those days, prisoners given death penalty were made to fight wild animals in the arena in front of the king.
On the appointed day, Androcles was led to the arena. As the emperor of Rome assumed his seat, a lion was brought to the arena and released. But, instead of attacking, the lion walked towards him and rubbed his body against that of Androcles and sat down.
Everyone was surprised. The emperor ordered Androcles to be brought before him to know why the lion acted so. And, when the king heard the story, he pardoned Androcles and set him free.
- The lion’s paw is adapted not only to walking silently but also to hide a very potent weapon — its claws. Without the paws, a lion would find it very difficult to survive.
Click here to read Interesting Fun Facts About Lions For Kids
Occupying a special place in Tibetan and Chinese mythology, the panda is one of the cutest animals in our planet. While humans do all they can to remove black patches around their eyes, in the case of the pandas, the black patches add to their cuteness quotient. But, as this story illustrates, pandas did not have black patches around their eyes or on their body in the beginning. This Chinese/Tibetan folklore tells us how they got the black patches.
Long ago, there lived a kind and beautiful shepherdess. Every day, she used to take her flock of sheep to graze in the mountains, where a panda cub also joined them.
One day, a leopard attacked the panda cub. To save the cub, the shepherdess attacked the leopard. But, the leopard killed her.
All the pandas began mourning the shepherdess’ death. They sobbed and cried, and came to her funeral. There they rubbed her ashes on their arms and wailed. As a mark of respect, they did not wash off the ashes, and so their white fur remains stained to this day.
- Although the panda’s fur appears soft, it is thick and wiry.
- Where the fur is black, the skin underneath is also black, and where the fur is white, the skin underneath is pink.
Click here to read Interesting Facts About Giant Pandas For Kids
As a child, most of us were terrified of the wicked Sherkhan, the antagonist in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Sherkhan is a Royal Bengal Tiger. This Vietnamese folktale tells us how the tiger earned its stripes.
There lived a farmer who used to plough his fields with the help of his buffalo. One day, while taking a break from work, the farmer fell asleep. A tiger who was watching the farmer thought it was a good opportunity to talk to the buffalo. The tiger wanted to know how a puny human could control an animal as big as a buffalo.
The tiger crept up to the buffalo and asked him, “Can you tell me how the human is able to control you?” To this the buffalo replied, “My master says he has a talisman called wisdom using which he controls everything.”
Listening to the buffalo, the tiger decided to ask the farmer for wisdom. He woke up the farmer and said, “O farmer, give me wisdom for I wish to have power over everyone.”
Although alarmed by the tiger’s presence and his request, the farmer kept his wits and said, “I keep my wisdom at home. I can go home and bring it for you if you can wait here.” The tiger consented. But, after taking a few steps, the farmer came back and said, “On second thoughts, I feel that I should tie you up before going. This way, even if you want to, you won’t be able to kill and eat my buffalo.” The tiger agreed to the farmer’s condition and allowed himself to be tied with ropes to a tree.
The clever farmer went home and brought bundles of hay with him. He laid them around the tiger and set them on fire. As the flames leapt high, the tiger began roaring in pain and pleading with the farmer to set him free. But, the farmer wouldn’t listen. Finally, the flames burnt the ropes, allowing the tiger to leap out of the fiery circle and escape. However, it took many days for the tiger’s wounds to heal. And the areas where the burning rope had seared through the skin developed into black stripes.
- The stripes on a tiger’s body are like the fingerprints of humans. Every tiger has a unique pattern of stripes, which is not identical to any other tiger’s.
- The stripes also help a tiger hide itself in the grass or shrubs in the jungle.
Click here to read Amazing Tiger Facts And Information For Kids.
Only by respecting and protecting animals can we create an inclusive universe. Our ancestors always considered animals and other creatures to be their friends and benefactors, and protected them. Today, let us also tread on the footsteps of our ancestors.
About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 1 December 2019
The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.
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