10 Wildly Wrong Animal Stereotypes


Dogs Are Loyal

Yes, Fido loves you -- but he also loved the robot who offered him food. Janie Airey/Digital Vision/Thinkstock
Yes, Fido loves you -- but he also loved the robot who offered him food. Janie Airey/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Before you accuse us of being completely heartless, we admit that "wildly wrong" may be a stretch for this particular animal stereotype. We've seen the videos of dogs refusing to leave their owner's final resting places, greeting their owners as they return from war and even running into traffic to pull a canine companion to safety. It's possible that some of these videos even made us cry a little. But are all dogs equally deserving of the man's best friend moniker?

In his book "The Truth About Dogs", author Stephen Budiansky suggests, mostly tongue in cheek, that dogs have us hoodwinked, feigning loyalty and devotion in return for prime real estate in front of a cozy fireplace, space in our beds, food from our plates and license to get away with pretty much any quirky or disruptive behavior they can come up with.

In 2013, a group of Hungarian researchers found that dogs responded to robots in the same manner that they responded toward people. In fact, given the choice between a robot that spoke the dog's name in a programmed voice, extended a gloved hand for the dog to sniff and directed the dogs toward hidden food, or a human that offered none of those rewards, the dogs indicated a preference for the robot, spending more time at the robot's side and gazing at the robot's head [source: Lakatos et al.].

Author's Note: 10 Wildly Wrong Animal Stereotypes

I've always been a huge fan of bats and spiders, so I loved finding information that might help others come to appreciate them, too. (Anything that will eat a mosquito is a friend of mine.) And while I wasn't too surprised to learn that these animal stereotypes were false, it was interesting to think about how some of the myths came about in the first place and to see the differences and similarities in the way different cultures perceive the same animal.

Related Articles


  • Australian Koala Foundation. "Living With Koalas: How Can You Help to Protect Them?" (Nov. 6, 2014) https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/living-koalas-how-can-you-help-protect-them
  • Australian Koala Foundation. "Physical Characteristics of the Koala." (Nov. 6, 2014) https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/physical-characteristics-koala
  • Balcombe, Jonathan. "It's Time (magazine) to Respect Cows." Psychology Today. Aug. 18, 2010. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-inner-lives-animals/201008/it-s-time-magazine-respect-cows
  • Bat World Sanctuary. "Myths and Facts." (Nov. 6, 2014) http://batworld.org/myths_facts_page/
  • Breyer, Melissa. "10 Things You Didn't Know About Koalas." Mother Nature Network. Sept. 12, 2013. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-koalas
  • Briggs, Helen. "Sloth's lazy image a myth." BBC News. May 13, 2008. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7396356.stm
  • Budiansky, Stephen. "Excerpt from 'The Truth about Dogs.'" The New York Times. Oct. 29, 2000. (Nov. 10, 2014) https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/b/budiansky-truth.html
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Owls." (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/owlp/olws2
  • Crawford, Rod. "Myths, Misconceptions, and Superstitions about Spiders." The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.burkemuseum.org/spidermyth/
  • Fears, Darryl. "Ten reasons why bats are a lot cooler than you think." The Washington Post. Oct. 28, 2014. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2014/10/28/ten-reasons-why-bats-are-a-lot-cooler-than-you-think/
  • Foster, Peter. "A wise owl or a foolish oolu?" The Telegraph. Aug. 9, 2007. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peterfoster/3628081/A_wise_owl_or_a_foolish_oolu/
  • Hagen, Kristen and Donald M. Broom. "Emotional Reactions to Learning in Cattle." Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Volume 85, Issues 3-4, Pages 203–213. March 25, 2004. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.appliedanimalbehaviour.com/article/S0168-1591(03)00294-6/fulltext
  • The Humane Society. "Kind News Feature: The Real Deal About Pigs." Dec. 19, 2012. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/kind_news/2012/12-01/real-deal-about-pigs.html
  • Johnson-Bennett, Pam. "Myth: Cats Are Aloof and Independent." (Nov. 10, 2014) http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/cat-myth-cats-are-aloof-and-independent/
  • Lakatos, Gabriella, Mariusz Janiak, Lukasz Malek, Robert Muszynski, Veronika Konok, Krzysztof Tchon, Á. Miklósi. "Sensing sociality in dogs: what may make an interactive robot social?" Animal Cognition. March 2014. (Nov. 10, 2014) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10071-013-0670-7
  • Lewis, Deane. "Owls in Mythology and Culture." The Owl Pages. May 13, 2005. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.owlpages.com/articles.php?section=owl+mythology&title=myth+and+culture
  • Main, Douglas. "The Surprising Cause of Most 'Spider Bites.'" LiveScience. July 5, 2013. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.livescience.com/37974-he-surprising-cause-of-most-spider-bites.html
  • Marino, Lori. "Dolphins are not healers." Aeon. June 18, 2013. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://aeon.co/magazine/science/lori-marino-dolphins-are-not-healers/
  • Mascoli, Gene. "Wise As An Owl." Science IQ. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.scienceiq.com/facts/wiseasanowl.cfm
  • Miller, Elizabeth. "Bats, Vampires, and Dracula." Newsletter of the Florida Bat Conservation Centre. Fall 1998. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/bats_vamp_drac.html
  • Mulvaney, Kieran. "Of Vampires and Bats. And Vampire Bats." Discovery News. Oct. 29, 2009. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://news.discovery.com/earth/of-vampires-and-bats-and-vampire-bats.htm
  • National Geographic. "Bottlenose Dolphin." (Nov. 6, 2014) http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/bottlenose-dolphin/
  • Nicholls, Henry. "The Truth about Sloths." BBC.com. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20140916-the-truth-about-sloths
  • Orkin. "Hobo Spiders." (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.orkin.com/other/spiders/hobo-spiders/
  • Palermo, Elizabeth. "5 Spooky Spider Myths Busted." LiveScience. Oct. 28, 2014. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.livescience.com/48479-spider-myths-busted.html
  • Palmer, Mark. "Interview with Ric O'Barry on CBC." The Dolphin Project. June 10, 2012. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://dolphinproject.org/blog/post/interview-with-ric-obarry-on-cbc
  • PBS Nature. "The Joy of Pigs." (Nov. 6, 2014) http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/the-joy-of-pigs/smart-clean-and-lean/2126/
  • PETA. "The Hidden Lives of Cows." (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/cows/hidden-lives-cows/
  • PETA. "Top 10 Reasons Not to Eat Pigs." (Nov. 6, 2014) http://www.peta.org/living/food/top-10-reasons-eat-pigs/
  • Saito, Atzuko and Kazutaka Shinozuka. "Vocal recognition of owners by domestic cats (Felis catus)." Animal Cognition. July 2013. (Nov. 10, 2014) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10071-013-0620-4
  • Santillano, Vicki. "Is an owl really wise? Four Animal Myths Debunked." Divine Caroline. Jan. 25, 2011. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/culture-causes/owl-really-wise-four-animal-myths-debunked
  • Sophasarun, Nida. "Experts Debunk Bats' Bad Rap." National Geographic Magazine. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0204/feature7/online_extra.html
  • Suprenant, Leon J. "The Sin of Sloth." Catholic Answers Magazine. January 2008. (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/the-sin-of-sloth
  • Szokan, Nancy. "The truth behind the dolphin's smile." The Washington Post. March 24, 2014. (Nov. 6, 2014) http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-truth-behind-the-dolphins-smile/2014/03/24/f2ced3d4-af79-11e3-9627-c65021d6d572_story.html
  • World Animal Foundation. "Sloth Fact Sheet." (Nov. 7, 2014) http://www.worldanimalfoundation.net/f/Sloth.pdf


3-D Printing Is Revolutionizing Veterinary Medicine

3-D Printing Is Revolutionizing Veterinary Medicine

3-D printing is helping animals recover from injuries that might once have meant euthanasia. HowStuffWorks looks at how it's being used.