A dog, a cat, a horse… – these are probably some of the very first words that some of pupils learn at school in their English language class (foreign language class, of course). Seems easy enough.
Then, you learn there’s a lion but a lioness, a mare and a stallion, and so on – still not too difficult, especially because you’ll simply talk about a lion or a horse.
There are irregular nouns too: one mouse, two mice, one louse, two lice and the list goes on. Still, nothing really difficult as mice and lice are not the animals you often mention in casual conversations.

I remember the very first and the only one time in life when I actually used plural of ox in a conversation and that was when I was showing my pictures from holidays in Myanmar and I came across the one below:

Obraz 159

That was 2008 and I don’t think I’ve ever said oxen after that.

Problems while travelling.

The more I travel I more ‘animal’ problems I have – I see animals in some foreign coutries and I might know the name only in English or only in Polish.
I went on a safari in Tanzania and when I saw the animal our guide said it was a hyrax. But then, I had no idea how to call hyrax in my native language and only after four days (when I had my wi-fi back) I was able to check.

Hyrax czyli góralek

Hyrax czyli góralek

Collective nouns for animals.

And this is exactly why I call English strange!
Why can’t there just be a herd or a group – isn’t it enough? Why did the English invent such bizzare names for groups of animals?

Just for the fun of it, I went through my photos to see which strange groups I’ve seen on my holidays, and here it is!
(I know that sometimes I should put a photo of more than a pair, but I simply could find andy suitable photos in my albums).

The animals I saw in twenty photos:

A school of fish:
(also called a catch/ haul/ run/ shoal of fish)

A stand of flamingoes:


A a scourge of mosquitoes:
(I know you cannot really see any mosquitoes in the photo below, but believe me: there were thousands of them and I was bitten all over!)


A bloat of hippotamuses
(You’re lucky to see them just in the photo – the smelliest animals I’ve met!)

A caravan of camels:

A herd of llamas
(well, no strange name for this group, but I put the photo anyway – isn’t it cute?)

An implausibility of gnu:

A confusion of guinea fowl:
(also called a rasp of guinea fowl)
A pride of lions:

A venue of vultures:
(also called: a kettle/ wake/ committe of vultures)DSC06280

A zeal of zebras:
(also called a dazzle of zebras)


A tower of girrafes:

A troop of baboons:
(also called a tribe/ a congress of baboons) 

A flock of ostriches:

A memory of elephants:
(also called: a herd/ parade of elephants)


A barren of mules: 
(also called: a pack/rake/span of mules)


A cackle of hyenas:
(also called a clan of hyenas)


A coalition of cheetahs:

An unkindness of ravens:
(I know you can’t see any ravens now, but this is the Tower of London, so I guess you can imagine them, right?) 

Obraz 1535

A flutter of butterflies:


Weird, isn’t it?

I do regret I have no photos of cockroaches or crows.
I saw them in groups but it didn’t cross my mind to snap a picture. The cockroaches were so disgusting that I quickly turned my head away, and crows seemed to common to take any interest in them.
Now I regret I didn’t take the photos – it would be so good to finish the story showing the pictures of groups that I find the funniest: an intrusion of cockroaches and a murder of crows! 



  • I actually love collective nouns, so thank you to introducing me to several that I did not know previously! A murder of crows is pretty great, but I think my new favourite is an implausibility of gnus (I actually looked it up because I kind of thought you were joking).

  • Haha, how true!! I didn’t know some of these. English is definitely a tough language and I’m so glad I never had to learn it as an adult!

  • I definetely agree with you – sometimes english is really weird :)

  • Strange, it’s true. I have to show it to my doughter. She’s pretty good in English, but I think she doesn’t konw most of that.