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Episode 61: Animals, Baby Animals, and More, Part 3

Today's episode is the last in our 3-part series on animals, baby animals, and more (See Episodes 60 and 59)! Finally, today we get to the "more" - what are some of the collective nouns Spanish speakers use when referring to animals? While it's not nearly as complex as the list we have in English, there are still a good number to go over. So let's get started!


A Bit of Historical Context

Of course, you can always say "un grupo de algo" to refer to a generic group of something, like un grupo de gatos (a group of cats). But it's more proper (and you sound smarter!) to use the correct Spanish collective noun. Now, Spanish is nowhere near as complex as English, with our leap of leopards and convocation of eagles. You might well wonder, why does English have such a long list of collective nouns? Well, according to the BBC and the Macquaerie Dictionary, it all began in the 15th century when a prioress called Juliana Berners wrote The Book of St. Albans, also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting and Blasing of Arms in 1486. While a large part of the book seems to have been taken from other sources, the section on hunting appears to be original. And here enters Juliana's compiled list of 165 collective nouns, including a barren of mules, or the more humorous superfluity of nuns and state of princes. So there you have it! This tradition of creativity and sassiness has continued throughout the decades, giving us our modern lists of collective nouns. (One final note: Juliana is the first female author to write in English that we know of! Pretty exciting. :D)

Spanish Collective Nouns

So let's look at some of the basic collective nouns in Spanish. I have to admit, I thought I had heard most of the collective nouns regarding animals, but I was surprised by the diversity that I found in Spanish!

  • A herd of horses = una caballada. Interestingly, a herd of mares = una yeguada.

  • A herd of cows or livestock = una vacada.

  • A herd of bulls = una torada. Are you noticing a theme with the -ada ending?

  • For wild animals that we would usually use the word herd for in English, such as buffalo or dear, they would use una manada in Spanish. This also applies to non-cattle-like, but often mammalian, species, such as whales, dolphins, seals, poirposes, and even walruses (una manada de ballenas, delfines, focas, marsopas and morsas). Yes, I know - poiposes are NOT mammals. Yet they still use una manada for them.

  • A pack of dogs or wolves = una jauría de perros or lobos. While searching the internet for clarification, the general impression I got was that una jauría is for a pack of hunting dogs (hounds), but can also be used for wild dogs or wolves that hunt together. That being said, you can also say una manada de perros or de lobos.

  • But a litter of dogs = una camada de perros, or you could say una camada de gatitos or de cerdos. Note that this refers to young animals, such as babies or crías.

  • If you wanted to say a drove or drift of pigs = una piara.

  • A school or shoal of fish = un banco de peces or un cardumen. Honestly, I'm not sure if there is much of a difference between the two - please let me know if there is! - other than using un cardumen would prevent any confusion as to whether or not you meant a bank, a bench, or a school of fish. :D

  • A flock or herd of sheep = un rebaño. This also applies to a herd of goats. Un rebaño de cabras. In Latin America, you could also refer to a herd of sheep as una grey. (I feel like I should be able to use that in a game of Spanish Scrabble!)

  • But a flock of birds = una bandada or una parvada. In general, I have seen una bandada waaaay more than I've seen una parvada.

  • A group of pack animals, such as a mule train = una recua.

  • A swarm of bees = un enjambre.

  • A cloud of flying insects = una nube, like una nube de moscas, or a cloud of flies).

  • A colony of bats = una colonia. This term is used for any group of animal (or insect) that lives together in a limited area. So you could use this term not just for bats (los murciélagos), but also for penguins (los pingüinos), mussels (los mejillones), ants (las hormigas), herons (las garzas), and beavers (los castores).

Some Interesting English Ones

While Spanish may not have taken the more artistic side when it comes to their collective nouns, I thought I would share a few of the clever ones in English (along with the Spanish animal name):

  • Clowder of adult cats (los gatos). Clowder is related to the word clutter. Makes sense, right?

  • Bloat of hippopatamuses (los hipopótamos). This is pretty self-evident. :D

  • Kaleidoscope of butterflies (las mariposas).

  • Murder of crows (los cuervos). This is one of my favorite collective nouns in English.

  • Squabble of seagulls (las gaviotas). Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo has forever changed how I view seagulls, and this term is PERFECT!

  • Parliament of owls (los búhos). In myths and legends, owls are for some reason always considered wise, even though in reality they are pretty stupid. So I can see how this relates to politics. :D

  • Dazzle of zebras (las cebras).

  • Tower of giraffes (las jirafas). Another self-evident term. :)

  • Skulk of foxes (los zorros). Did you ever see the movie, The Mask of Zorro? Who knew it was really the Spanish word for fox!

  • Cackle of hyenas (las hienas). The sound a hyena makes is like an evil cackle.

  • Troubling of goldfish (un pez dorado). Of all the things that trouble me, goldfish has never made the list, so this is a weird one!

  • Pride of lions (los leones). Have you seen Disney's The Lion King? Need I say more?

  • Murmuration of starlings (los estorninos). I love this word, murmuration.

And that concludes our 3-part series on animal names! I hope that you've enjoyed it, or at least learned some interesting things. :) At the very least, you can now impress your friends in Spanish or English with your vast array of knowledge. ;)

Remember, learning a language is a lifelong journey.

¡Aprovéchalo, Disfrútalo y Compártelo!


Cultural Tip: Peru

Unique Traditions

Peru has a lot of cool and unique traditions, but I managed to pick just three to share with you today!

1. El Festival de Marinera (Marinera Festival)

In the northern, coastal city of Trujillo, they are known as the official national capital of the Peruvian dance, la marinera. This cool dance involves awesome traditional dress and mimics a couple's courtship, with both the male and female starting the dance far apart until, as the dance progresses and the male continues to woo his lady, the couple dance together. Both dancers also hold handkerchiefs throughout, making it look very similar - to my untrained eye - to the Chilean cueca (see Episode 58: Second 2021 Special - Chile's Fiestas Patrias! ). There appears to be another version of the dance that is similar to a line dance, with people in rows holding their handkerchiefs and doing the same footwork/body movements. You can see examples of both dances below!

Both involve flash mobs, and while I admit I wasn't sure how I felt about the two kids dancing a courtship dance (about the middle of the first clip), I was pretty blown away by their skill! It's incredible!

The dance has a long history, stemming from a much older dance called the zamacueca. They renamed it in the 19th century in honor of the Peruvian Navy, la marina. In Trujillo, every year they host an impressive marinera competition, el concurso nacional de marinera. In fact, the festival itself lasts a month! They also have parades and show the Peruvian Paso, a specific type of horse important to Trujillo. If you'd like to try to learn this dance, check out the playlist on YouTube created by DelNorteSoy, Tutorial de Marinera Norteña, or if you want just the basic steps, you can check out this video by the Ministerio de Educación del Perú as part of the #AprendoEnCasa.

2. Fiesta de la Candelaria (Candelaria Holiday)

This two-week long celebration fuses indigenous and Catholic traditions as they commemorate the Virgin of Candelaria, who is the patron saint of Puno, a town located on Lake Titicaca by the Bolivian border, and who is also associated with "mother earth" or "pachamama". This is a HUGE celebration, with lots of music, dancing, and parades. It begins February 2nd, although preparations for the big event may begin as early as December. In fact, UNESCO declared it an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity back in 2014.

According to Peru Hop, this festival is the 3rd biggest event in all of South America. Throughout the festival, there are celebrations, music, parades, and numerous dance competitions, with participants richly dressed in colorful and traditional outfits and masks. Masses are held on February 2nd, with the procession known as La Procesión Virgen de la Candelaria in the afternoon. Masses of Albas are held early on February 9th, with the Visperas de la fiesta octava later that evening. Just to give you a glimpse of the more religious side to the festival. :) In 2020, there were also fireworks!

For a glimpse of the festivities, check out the video below!

3. La Festividad del Señor del los Temblores del Cusco (Cusco's Lord of the Earthquakes Festival)

Cusco's patron saint is El Señor de los Temblores, and this week-long celebration is in honor of him. Legend has it that in 1650, during an earthquake, someone held up a canvas image of Jesus Christ while praying, and the earthquake stopped.

How do they commemorate the event? There's a giant statue of Jesus Christ on the cross, which they take from the cathedral in Cusco and parade through the city every Easter Monday at 7 pm. Supposedly, the statue was commissioned by Emperor Charles V, made intentionally to look like the local population. It is said that the statue has been blackened over the years from so much candle smoke.

To see this solemn event, check out the video below!



Intro and Closing Music by Master_Service from Fiverr

Cultural Tip Transition Music edited from song by JuliusH from Pixabay

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