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Quotations about Animals


You can always tell about somebody by the way they put their hands on an animal. ~Betty White

The difference between friends and pets is that friends we allow into our company, pets we allow into our solitude. ~Robert Brault,

A house was not a home without animals. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

Animals are such agreeable friends — they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ~George Eliot

Nature reminds us that the dog will wag its tail, the cat will sing, and the horse will neigh as we approach if we are only kind to them. They do not forget kindness, and that is more than some of us can say. ~Charles F. Raymond, "A Desire," Just Be Glad, 1907

When I look at our green hill,
I think of all the wild
Small hearts that live inside it...
~Frances Frost, "Green Hill Neighbors," The Little Naturalist, 1959

I see life as a great banquet at which I'm the honored guest, along with my brothers the deer and the bear and the raccoon and the salamander and the eagle and the fly. ~Tom Brown, Jr.

Deer — the perfect poem of all animal nature... ~William Ellis, 1899

I am an animal person, which, I suppose, is one way of saying that, when I'm unable to find any redeeming traits in myself, I declare that I am kind to animals. Of course, human beings are also animals (we aren't exactly plants), but I am arrogant enough to mean "lower forms of animal life" when I refer to animals. Thus, when I say that I like animals, I do not necessarily include my own species, among whom are large numbers of individuals for whom I have no fondness at all, and some whom I hold in utter contempt. Indeed, I sometimes wonder why "You're an animal" is an insult; it seems to me that, if animals could talk, "You're a human" would be one of their favorite insults. ~Richard E. Turner (1937–2011), The Grammar Curmudgeon, a.k.a. "The Mudge," "Animal People," 2004

To insult someone we call him "bestial." For deliberate cruelty and malice, "human" might be the greater insult. ~Isaac Asimov

Man is rated the highest animal, at least among all animals who returned the questionnaire. ~Robert Brault,

No one can deceive the eyes of a wolf. They always know. They can strip away the shams of civilization. ~R. D. Lawrence, In Praise of Wolves, 1986

The long-suspected meanings
of rustlings, chirps, and growls!
Soliloquies of forests!
The epic hoots of owls!
Those crafty hedgehogs drafting
aphorisms after dark,
while we blindly believe
they're sleeping in the park!
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "I'm Working on the World," Calling Out to Yeti (1957), translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

Animals have a great advantage over human beings: they never hear the clock strike, however intelligent they may be: they die without having any notion of death: they have no theologians to instruct them on the Four Ends of animals: their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and often objectionable ceremonies: it costs them nothing to be buried: no one goes to law over their wills... ~Voltaire, letter, 1769, translated by S. G. Tallentyre (Evelyn Beatrice Hall), 1919

It is just like man's vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions. ~Mark Twain

Teacher tells us that human beings are the smartest animals in the world, but I think most all animals are more sensible than we are about making a living. ~Uncle Mike, Railway Carmen's Journal, 1925

Animals!... Ever considered what they must think of us? I mean, here we come back from the grocery store with the most amazing haul — chicken, pork, half a cow. We leave at nine and we're back at ten, evidently having caught an entire herd of beasts. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth! ~Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist, 1985

I had to have company — I was made for it, I think — so I made friends with the animals. They are just charming, and they have the kindest disposition and the politest ways; they never look sour, they never let you feel that you are intruding, they smile at you and wag their tail, if they've got one, and they are always ready for a romp or an excursion or anything you want to propose. I think they are perfect gentlemen. ~Mark Twain

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.
~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), "The Cow"

There is no mode of action, no form of emotion, that we do not share with the lower animals. ~Oscar Wilde

Uncle Hank says he doesn't reckon his dog has human feelings, but he sure lets you know when you hurt his instincts. ~Robert Brault,

The very dogs and cats incline to affection in their relation to man. It often happens that a man is more humanely related to a cat or dog than to any human being.... we grow to love one another. ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 1851 fact, cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young, when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quite creatures. ~Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859)

I subscribe to the theory that Mankind never domesticated any animal. They came in from the cold and looked cute until they were fed. ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), @Raqhun, tweet, 2010

Ah, yes, the human race — the species that lost Paradise and has spent all the years since trying to deny it to the rest of the animal kingdom. ~Robert Brault,

Everything native to Oklahoma was tough and warlike. Only the strong survived here. Our snakes came with venom and a warning signal. Our insects were armored against predators and dehydration. Our birds possessed talons, telescopic vision, and hollow bones. These animals were designed for hardship. All weakness and softness had been beaten out of their genetic lineage by the dust storms, the droughts, and the tornadoes. Disaster was as much a part of life in Oklahoma as the weather-worn sky. The crayfish were plated with complex carapaces. The coyotes were shy and clever, as elusive as dreams. The groundhogs dug deep burrows, safe from heat and wind. The turtles and frogs lived a halfway existence, dipping between tepid water and balmy air. The porcupines carried weaponry on their backs. The mule deer had lightning reflexes. The alligators were stupid but heavily armed. I was jealous of them all — their savage strength and vivid senses, their power and tenaciousness. The way they were born was the best way to be. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

The lizard struck an attitude — sleek back a little arched, legs in odd, uncouth positions, tail set stiffly in a queer curve. They are brilliant little creatures. "Pretty little chap, isn't he?" said Jonathan. "Stylish," I said, "but foolish. They never do anything that I can see, except attitudinize." ~Elisabeth Woodbridge, "In the Rain," 1911  [a little altered —tg]

"Yes," hissed Lizard, running away so fast he almost floated over the ground. ~Harry Behn (1898–1973), The Painted Cave, 1957

A swift streak of color,
A silhouette in jade,
Ultra marine!
A flash of silver underneath
On all will be seen.
~Margaret Wheeler Ross (1867–1953), "Spring Styles on the Desert: The Lizard"

An iridescent, an indefinable blue, glitteringly metallic, was the little lizard I saw to-day, slender and swift, all alert on the limb of a fallen tree in the deep woods. It reminded me of a jewel, a living gem, wonderful in workmanship, such as, I imagine, the wood-spirits wear in their green hair or at their throats of mushroom whiteness. ~Madison J. Cawein, 1905

I realized that Yukon did not intend to kill, and this was something that astounded me at the time, for I was not then aware of the built-in, inhibitory factors that prevent animals of the same species from destroying each other, natural safeguards programmed into every species with the notable exception of our own. ~R. D. Lawrence (1921–2003), The North Runner, 1979

      My craving for companionship is so great that I spent half an hour yesterday discussing various matters of biological philosophy with a small shaggy-haired pony who stuck his head over a gate. He was taciturn but, I felt, thoroughly sound. He seemed to be as much in the mood for company as I was.
      Queer beast you are, I thought; my cousin many million times removed. Yet bone for bone except for a canine tooth or so, this long hammer-head of yours corresponds with mine. Your cranium has a brain, so like mine that if it were dissected out and put in a bottle of spirits with its nerves cut off many non-medical people would guess it was human. Your cranial nerves, your facial and pneumogastric and all the rest of them, spread to the very pattern of mine except for slight differences of scale and proportion because of this long jowl of yours. They behave, I am sure, in the same way. You flick your ears with a vigour I envy, and your bold outstanding eye has an inspeculative glow far beyond any of my recessed expressions. And you wear your hair all down your neck instead of on top like mine... Hairy you are, but you are free to call me bald-faced; and your cheek and neck were made for stroking. You are capable of all this frank mute friendliness, and had I an apple in my pocket for you our confidence and understanding would be complete. How far can you go in the way of my perplexities? 'Such is life,' you seem to say. 'Not bad in the air and sunshine.'
      ...I doubt if you think about yourself at all. You just see, hear, smell, and feel directly and then you react. You never think 'I am' and still less do you think 'I ought to be'. But I am one of these thinking beasts who have been afflicting the world and ourselves for the last few hundred thousand years or so. We have got a new thinking and co-operating apparatus called language and in some ways it has proved remarkably efficient. That is why you are in a paddock and rather bored instead of being out upon a prairie. That is why you have to stick your head over the top of this gate which you haven't the wit to open, in order to talk to me. You stay where you're put and go where we drive you. I am in the habit of assuming that we are able to do this to you by using our brains, but... at the back of my mind there is a curious doubt stirring, whether we do really use our brains or whether they use us. At times it seems as though they have usurped control of the simple apes we used to be. They are very much out of control. They are for ever nagging us to know what we are doing with ourselves and with the rest of you living creatures whose fates are in our hands. These brains of ours I can assure you won't leave us alone... Does the man use the brain then or the brain the man? ~H. G. Wells, Apropos of Dolores, 1938

I believe in animal rights, and high among them is the right to the gentle stroke of a human hand. ~Robert Brault,

Mother knew every chicken on the place — yes, by name; and they would eat from her hand, and would light on her shoulders, and would come to her buttery window for a crumb. And I am inclined to think that they came very near to learning to talk English. ~Edward Payson Powell (1833–1915), "An Old-Time Thanksgiving," 1904

If what are miscalled the lower animals were as silly as man is, they would all perish from the earth in a year. ~Mark Twain, 1898

I have been scientifically studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so-called,) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result profoundly humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals. ~Mark Twain, "The Lowest Animal"

After almost a year of living within the solitude of a northern forest, I started to become aware that human speech, for all its marvels, is neither the only nor necessarily the best way for communication, that there is a wild, sensory kind of communion that is wholly trustworthy and completely honest... Humans can lie to each other most convincingly; in some cases maliciously, in others feeding so-called white lies to their interlocutors for a variety of valid or invalid reasons. But the wild ones never lie, and not having the gift of tongues, as we know it, they have become masters of observation and are additionally so finely tuned to their environment that they can at once note even the most tenuous sensory influences. ~R. D. Lawrence (1921–2003), The North Runner, 1979

The friendly cow all red and white,
      I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
      To eat with apple-tart...
And blown by all the winds that pass
      And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
      And eats the meadow flowers.
~Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Cow"

ZEBRA. An animal used principally to illustrate the letter Z. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

When a cow laughs, does milk come out her nose? ~Author unknown

Be it human or animal, touch is a life-giving thing. Has anyone ever had a stroke or a heart attack while cozied up with a pet? I doubt it. ~Robert Brault,

In the country sometimes I go about looking at horses and cattle. They eat grass, make love, work when they have to, bear their young. I am sick with envy of them. ~Sherwood Anderson

What a wonderful bird the frog are—
When he stand he sit almost;
When he hop, he fly almost.
He ain't got no sense hardly;
He ain't got no tail hardly either.
When he sit, he sit on what he ain't got almost.
~Anonymous, c.1910s

Concealed within the brushland were white-tailed deer, javelina, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, ocelots, weasels, opossums, badgers, gray foxes, ground squirrels, cottontail rabbits, jaguarundis, skunks, kangaroo mice, field rats, and shrews. And rattlesnakes, coral snakes, garter snakes, lizards, skinks, and frogs. Critters small and large, nocturnal, diurnal, crepuscular, walking and sliding, barking, howling, hissing — all of them beneath a raucous umbrella of calls and whistles from hundreds of birds that hopped from branches to pads and nested among protective thorns. ~Arturo Longoria, Adios to the Brushlands, 1997 [Texas –tg]

The Arctic moon hangs overhead;
      The wide white silence lies below.
A starveling pine stands lone and gaunt,
      Black-penciled on the snow.
Weird as the moan of sobbing winds,
      A lone long call floats up from the trail,
And the naked soul of the frozen North
      Trembles in that wail.
~Lew Sarett, "The Wolf Cry," Many Many Moons, 1920

Wolves, despite their bad press, are admirable beings. Their social life is orderly, practical, and extraordinarily free from strife. Their young are nurtured gently and are cared for by all members of the pack. They are highly intelligent, magnificently quick-witted, and inordinately responsive to their environment. And they are completely honest. ~R. D. Lawrence, Secret Go the Wolves, 1980

There is in all animals a sense of duty that man condescends to call instinct. ~Robert Brault,

"The Purple Cow"
Reflections on a Mythic Beast,
Who's quite Remarkable, at Least

      I never Saw a Purple Cow—
      I never Hope to See One;
      But I can tell you Anyhow
      I'd rather See than Be One.
~Gelett Burgess, May 1895

(Confession: and a Portrait, Too,
Upon a Background that I Rue!)
      Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
      I'm Sorry, now, I wrote it;
      But I can tell you Anyhow
      I'll Kill you if you Quote it!
~Gelett Burgess, April 1897  [Sorry, Sir, please send me no disdain for quoting your famous quatrain, but now that it's in the public domain your duly lawful loss is our glad gain. —tg]

But there is really no reason to fear skunks provided one is careful to move slowly and calmly and to speak softly when in proximity of one of these friendly animals. When one makes their acquaintance in these ways, one finds that skunks are pleasant, interesting, and gentle beings. And they play an important role in the wilderness by eating many insects and cleaning up carrion. ~R. D. Lawrence, "Matilda," A Shriek in the Forest Night: Wilderness Encounters, 1996

Rhinoceros — battle unicorn
Raccoon — trash panda
Porcupine — stab rabbit
Peacock — disco chicken
Skunk — fart squirrel
Zebra — tiger pony
Giraffe — spotted stretch camel
Bat — leather bird
Reindeer — Christmas llama
~Internet memes

It is a perversely human perception that animals in their native habitat are running wild. ~Robert Brault,

A bee flew down and ate an ant,
      A bug he ate the bee;
A hen then gobbled down the bug
      But failed the hawk to see.
The hawk had eaten up the hen
      Before he saw the cat
Which ate him up, but then a dog
      Ate pussy quick as scat!
A wolf now sprang upon the dog
      And ate him in a trice,
And then a lion ate the wolf
      And found him very nice.
But when the lion fell asleep
      He said, "I really can't
Imagine why that wolf should taste
      Exactly like an ant!"
~L. Frank Baum, Father Goose, His Book, 1899

There is something wholly likeable about most people who write about animals. ~Eric Duthie

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