WW – Describing Mammals

Welcome to another (late) Wordy Wednesday. Thank you for joining me. haha

So, following my thought process from last week, we want to explore animals a bit more by breaking them down into the general categories. So today we’ll be focusing on mammals. Of course all mammals don’t look the same but they do often have similar characteristics, even across species. Most have four legs (four legged creature), most have hair of some kind (long haired, short haired, black hair, brown hair, etc.), all are warm-blooded, and all are some kind of herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore (plant eater, meat eater, and eater of both respectively).

Obviously, I won’t be able to go over all characteristics or even remember all of them in one sitting, but we can certainly start today. So let’s take a closer look at some of the more definite commonalities, shall we? Hair and fur. Like in humans, one type of mammal, other mammals on the totem pole have various colors and patterns we can attribute to them. Look at dogs and cats for instance.

  • Long-haired, short-haired, curly-haired
  • Black, brown, chocolate, blonde, yellow, golden, spotted, striped, brindle, calico, orange, tuxedo, tortoiseshell fur
    • Sub-descriptors here might include dull, shiny, matted, full, mangy, patchy, shaggy
  • Fluffy tail, wiry tail, bony tail, curved tail, bottlebrush tail, stubby tail
  • Miniature / toy, small, medium, large breed / size

Like other feline and canine creatures, they also have paws as opposed to hands and feet. These are largely carnivore traits (though not exclusively). Looking at our predators especially, they typically have a hunter’s grace, coiled muscles primed for tearing over short distances or leaping incredible lengths, and retractable claws in the case of our felines especially. If a human smiles with a lot of teeth and a certain expression on their face – typically aligned with having picked a ‘target’, we can often say they have a predatory grin.

Looking at more herbivorous mammals, they are likely to have a lot of similar characteristics with fur and legs and sizes, but they do have some notable differences. For starters, a lot of herbivorous creatures have hooves as opposed to paws as they are often better for outrunning their respective predators. Hoofed describes an animal with a single solid formation on the feet like for a horse, and cloven-hoofed applies to animals like the goat or cow.

If we look at the horse (one of my absolute favorites), we can see that they have two types of hair: a mane and tail and their body fur. Like a human, the mane and tail can be described as flowing, cropped, braided, plaited, tangled, unkempt, wild, wind-blown, etc. Like some of our cats and dogs, horses especially have unique color names for their hide.

For the majority of these short haired animals, if they are well taken care of, we can apply the descriptors of shiny, sleek, gleaming, glistening hide. Hide here being a term to describe the skin that covers the animal and we often use it interchangeably with fur, especially in short haired creatures.

The leopard had a spotted hide that was easy to see in the light of day.

The bull’s black hide sported the branding mark of the ranch from whence it came.

You might also hear it in reference to people: I’ll have your hide for this! / I’m trying to save your hide here. (It’s a semi-acceptable replacement for “skin” or “ass” in the case of the second one in particular: I’m trying to save your skin here. / I’m trying to save your ass here.)

Continuing on, some mammals have long ears, floppy ears, short ears, rotating or flexible ears. You could also describe them as having long or short faces, elongated snouts, tooth filled maws, etc. If you’re looking at eyes, yellow is often a common descriptor for a great many predators especially. Wolves, cats, dogs… but not exclusively. Some have gray or blue eyes and occasionally green as can be seen in some cats. Brown eyes are common in herbivores and every now and then you can see red eyes in albinos. And of course we have to consider the antlers and horns of some of quadrupeds especially, like in deer, moose, bulls, and rams. Antlers are typically the horns that branch out and have multiple points while horns are single structures. Rhinoceroses have horns just like the impala here, though you could describe the latter as having spiral curved horns. Now keep in mind these shouldn’t be confused with tusks as seen in elephants and walruses because those are extensions of their teeth.

Now let’s take a minute to look at a couple exceptions like whales, dolphins, seals, walruses, and bats. The latter here is a rare example of a flying mammal and because of their history of being carriers for rabies (and some horror movies), they are prone to having a bad reputation. But come on! How can you not feel happy when you see a sky puppy!

To be fair, they don’t all look like this but seriously! Doesn’t it resemble a little furry dragon here?! My bias is obviously showing… haha But look at it’s little leathery wings. T_T

Okay. That exception aside, we also have finned mammals like the whale and dolphin. The latter is often known for having a rounded nose or bottlenose (i,e. bottlenose dolphin) and flippers especially. The difference here is that the flippers are essentially their ‘hands’ while the fins are the appendages on their backs (dorsal fins) or their tail (tail fins). Fish almost exclusively have fins whereas our dolphins and whales have fins and flippers.

Now that we’ve got a pretty decent start here, let’s see if you want to give describing some new critters a try. I found a really cool artist on Deviant Art that has a lot of creative critters. Why not try your hand at doing them justice with descriptors? ^_^

Okay! I’ll go ahead and wrap it up for today, but you can certainly look forward to a bit more next week with Reptiles or Amphibians perhaps. 😉 I’m itching to write a bit more about serpentine and lizard-like creatures anyhow, considering I’ve been dabbling in dragons for a bit. haha Feel free to check out the Monstrous Monday series that currently features True Dragons and Wyverns if you’re interested. 😉

As always though, thank you for reading along and I hope you have a wonderful day!

**Header image pulled from: https://theconversation.com/were-all-mammals-so-why-do-we-look-so-different-37298

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