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 Pete Wolstencroft

Spanish Wildlife

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The Spanish are notoriously loose with their translations of the names of animals. (This is not criticism; it merely stands in contrast to the highly specific way in which we use our language.) In Latin America, any medium to large sized wild cat is called el tigre, despite the fact that there are no tigers anywhere near Latin America. piggieThe most difficult area is generic terms, such as owl, which is illustrated below. We tend to imagine that once we have found a word for owl, then we can specify the type of owl we mean by adding an appropriate adjective after the noun. So if you do think that the generic word for owl is buho, then little owl must be el buho pequeño, but no such animal exists.

The same thing happens with deer – the commonest word is ciervo, but this is usually reserved for the red deer. Venado is also used for this, but is also used to denote venison.

The fallow deer is el gamo

The roe deer is el corzo

No matter how many times you hear a Spanish person tell you that the Spanish word for lobster is langosta or some variant of it, you can rest assured that they are wrong. The problem is that the normal lobster with the big crushing claws is much less common as a food than is the spiny lobster, or crayfish, which lacks the crushing claws but is characterised by its very long antennae. The Wikipedia page on the word lobster gives a good explanation.

Sometimes the only way to get the right word is to find the Latin name for the animal or plant concerned and then to put that into the Spanish version of Google and into the English language version for the correct English name. It is particularly difficult with fish, because lots of restaurants are very sloppy with their translations. British people tend to eat fish from the North Sea and in Spain they eat fish from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Leopard – el leopardo

Lion – el león

Lobster – el bogavante

Lizard – el lagarto

Small lizard – la lagartija

Snake – la serpiente – Specifically non-poisonous snake – la culebra (there is a snake called the culebra bastarda, (the Montpellier snake in English) which breaks the rule by being poisonous.)

Viper – la víbora

Wolf – el lobo

Fox – el zorro

Moufflon – el muflón

Genet – la gineta

Mongoose – el meloncillo

Owl – there is not really a generic word for owl in Spanish, but if there is one it is probably buho.

Tawny owl – el cárabo

Little owl – el mochuelo

Barn owl – la lechuza

Eagle owl – el buho real

Red kite – el milano real

Black kite – el milano negro

Egyptian vulture – el alimoche

Harrier – el aguilucho

Montague’s harrier – el aguilucho cenizo

Kestrel – el cernícalo

Lesser kestrel – el cernícalo primilla

Sparrowhawk (not a bird I have seen in Spain) el gavilán

Goshawk – el azor

Peregrine falcon – el halcón peregrino

Osprey – el águila cazadora

Buzzard – el ratonero común

Partridge – la perdiz

Quail – la codorniz (codorniu in Catalan)

Heron – la garza

Purple heron – la garza real

Bittern – el avetoro – the bullbird, which is an old English name for it

Little bittern – el avetoro menor

Cattle egret – la garcilla bueyera

Little egret – la garceta común

Cuckoo – el cuco

Mallard – el pato real

Duck – el pato

Toad – el sapo

Leech – la sanguijuela

Stork – la cigüeña

Crane – la grulla

Hoopoe – la abubilla

Roller – la carraca

Azure-winged magpie – el rabilargo

Bee-eater – el abejaruco

Newt – el tritón

Salamander – la salamandra

Hare – la liebre

Wild boar – el jabalí

Spider – la araña

Scorpion – el alacrán – el escorpión

Hornet – el avispón

Shrike – el verduguillo (the little executioner, which fits in well with our old nickname for it – the butcher bird.)

Other words for pigs include: el puerco, el marrano, el guarro – all of which are sometimes used as insults.


About the author

Pete Wolstencroft: Author of “Tapas & Tinto”
Pete is in his early 50s and currently lives just outside Blackpool. He has lived in La Linea de La Concepcion, Sevilla, Merida, Aljucen and La Granja. He has a degree in Spanish studies and has taught English and Spanish for many years. He first went to Spain in 1966 and fell in love with the country straight away.
You can read our review of Pete’s book HERE

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One Response to Spanish Wildlife

  1. JUST Marketing October 9, 2013 at 9:19 am

    MMm, I am not sure I agree. The Spanish people I hang out with are notoriously specific about referencing just about anything, especially people from the Madrid and up. And the use of the language in South America and Spain differs a lot as well. Moreover, most Spanish are quite detailed in their wording when it comes to expressing opinions about history or gastronomy. Where I come from we don’t reach beyond an all too extensive vocabulary. It depends on context and what’s in the eye of the beholder I guess.

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