A collection of proverbs and quotes in which at least one mammal is mentioned.

"Oh, you will see plenty of Africa," Kentice assures me when we convene at the bar for a round of medicinal hydration. "We're going to show you lots of exotic things. Have you ever eaten camel?"

Bill Bryson's African Diary
Bill Bryson

A big black bug bit a black dog on his big black nose.

Tongue twister

A cornered cat becomes as fierce as a lion.

A cough will stick longer by a horse than a peck of oats.

A cow that has no tail should not try to chase away flies.


A dog in a kennel barks at his fleas; a hunting dog does not feel them.


A dog’s fleas are its jewels.


A flea can trouble a lion more than the lion can harm a flea.


A flea-bitten horse never tires.

A fly can drive away horses.


A fly may conquer a lion.

A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still.

Samuel Johnson

A horse that will not carry a saddle must have no oats.

A leopard cannot change its spots.

A bad or unpleasant person can never become good or pleasant.

A monkey in silk is a monkey no less.

No matter how someone dresses, it’s still the same person.

A pig used to dirt turns its nose up at rice.

A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas.

H. L. Mencken

A reasonable amount of fleas is good for a dog. They keep him from broodin’ on being a dog.

A strawberry doesn’t ripen according to the wishes of a monkey.

All cats are grey in the dark.

An ant can do more than an ox that is lying down.

An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.


An ass does not know the importance of saffron.

A stupid person does not know the importance of quality.

An elephant does not feel a flea bite.


An elephant may be big, but it falls on its face more often than an ant.

As different as an elephant and a mosquito.

As stupid as a pig’s behind.

Asses carry the oats and horses eat them.

Be thine enemy an ant, see in him an elephant.


Behold, you are fair, my love; behold, you are fair; you have doves’ eyes within your locks: your hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

Song of Solomon

Better a handful of dry dates and content therewith than to own the Gate of Peacocks and be kicked in the eye by a broody camel.

Better an ant’s head than a lion’s tail.


Better be the head of a dog then the tail of a lion.

It is better to be leader of a small group than a follower in a bigger group.

Better lose the saddle than the horse.

Better to be an ant’s head than a lion’s tail.


Better to drink the milk than to eat the cow.

Take care that you don’t lose your income. 

Black cows give white milk.

Crime leaves a trail like a water beetle; like a snail, it leaves its silver track; like a horse-mango, it leaves its smell.


Death is the black camel that kneels before every door.

Turkish proverb

Do not compare a fly with an elephant.


Do not make an elephant out of a fly.


Dogs don't make mistakes.

Sherlock Holmes
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle

Dogs don’t like bananas, but can’t bear to think chickens eat them.

Dogs have fleas in order to keep them from thinking about being dogs.

Dogs of the same street bark alike.

People from the same background behave in a similar way.

Domesticated chickens and cattle may well be an evolutionary success story, but they are also among the most miserable creatures that ever lived. The domestication of animals was founded on a series of brutal practices that only became crueller with the passing of the centuries.

A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari

Don’t strike a flea on a tiger’s head.


Drive the horse with oats, not with curses and oaths.

Dust does not rise because a dog-flea hops.


Even a lion must defend himself against the flies.

Even an ant can hurt an elephant.

Even good dogs have fleas.


Even the lion has to defend himself against flies.


Every ass likes to hear himself bray.

People like to listen to themselves talking.

Flies flock to the lean horse.


Flies go to lean horses.


Flies hunt lean horses.

Flies will tickle lions being dead.


For our sins God has created three enemies for us: mice in the house, the fox in the mountains, and a priest in our village.

South American proverb

He can see a louse as far away as China but is not aware of an elephant on his nose.


He can swallow a camel but chokes on a mosquito.


He has fallen from the donkey, but has found a date.

He is the black sheep of the family.

(He is a disreputable member of the family.)

He who cannot pick up an ant, and wants to pick up an elephant will some day see his folly.


Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.

The Hobbit – Chapter 1 – An Unexpected Party
J.R.R. Tolkien

I don’t go for the nouvelle approach-serving a rabbit rump with coffee extract sauce and a slice of kiwi fruit.

Jeff Smith

I have tied my goat to a jujube tree.

I’m full as a tick on a fat dog.

Expression used in the US south after a full meal of chicken, fried steak, BBQ or whatever.

If a camel gets his nose in a tent, his body will follow.

Stop problems early before they get bigger.

If a flea had money, it would buy its own dog.


If two ride a horse, one must ride behind.

When two people work together, one will be the leader and the other will be the follower.

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.

Don’t try to do two things at the same time, because you may succeed in doing either of them properly.

If you cure a monkey of its tooth ache its your maize farm that suffers.

If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.

If you love, love the moon; if you steal, steal a camel.

Egyptian proverb

If your dog is fat, you're not getting enough exercise.


In a battle between elephants, the ants get squashed.

In every enemy that is an ant, behold an elephant.


In watching for the ant, you let the elephant pass unnoticed

Proverb used in India

It is a poor horse that is not worth his oats.

It is a stupid dog that barks at an elephant.

It is a stupid goose that listens to the fox preach.

It is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats.

It is raining cats and dogs.

It is raining extremely hard.

It’s a very proud horse that will not carry his oats.

It’s not the fleas of the dog that make the cat meow.


It’s not the monkey on top that make a tree fall but it’s the work and effort of numerous small insects and ants.

Life on a farm is a school of patience; you can’t hurry the crops or make an ox in two days.

Henri Alain

Make a friend of the wolf, but keep your axe ready.

Make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Man's heart is never satisfied; the snake would swallow the elephant.

Chinese proverb

Many ants kill a camel.


Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.

If the penalty is going to be the same, you might as well commit the greater offence.

Neither give cherries to pigs nor advice to fools.

Off Bilbo had to go, before he could explain that he could not hoot even once like any kind of owl any more than fly like a bat.

The Hobbit – Chapter 2 – Roast Mutton
J.R.R. Tolkien

People seek out big shots as flies seek out the elephant’s tail.


Riding an elephant to catch grasshoppers.

Using a sledge hammer to crack a nut

Scarce as rocking-horse manure.


Sit atop the mountain and watch the tigers fight.

Chinese proverb

Temple dogs are always looking for a place with no fleas, not realising they are carrying them with them as they go.

That the dog should die was after the beautiful, faithful nature of dogs.

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle

The ambitious one makes friends with the elephant, then tramples upon the ant.


The brains of a fox will be of little service if you play with the paw of a lion.

The brave flea dares to eat his breakfast on the lip of a lion.

The camel carries the load, but it is the tick that complains.


The cow drinks water and it turns to milk; the snake drinks water and it turns to poison.

Japanese proverb

The death throes of an elephant are not so annoying as a living flea.


The dog in the doghouse barks at his fleas, the dog that hunts does not feel them.

The fatter the flea, the leaner the dog.


The fly on the back of a water buffalo thinks that it’s taller than the buffalo.


The fly that stands on the carabao’s (water buffalo) back thinks that it is taller than the carabao.


The hare and the snail have New Year on the same day.

Chinese proverb

The lean dog is all fleas.

The lord of the eagles of the Misty Mountains had eyes that could look at the sun unblinking, and could see a rabbit moving on the ground a mile below even in the moonlight.

The Hobbit – Chapter 6 – Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
J.R.R. Tolkien
About the eagles.

The loudest bark rids not a dog of his fleas.

The more hair a dog has, the more fleas he will have.

Netherlands Antillean

The mosquito is more dangerous than the tiger.

The mouse that has but one hole is quickly taken.

You need to have alternative plans if you don’t want to fail.

The nice apples are always eaten by nasty pigs.

The old monkey gets the apple.

The skinnier the dog, the more fleas he has.


The tiny ant dares to enter the lion’s ear.


The wild pear has blossomed: the kid goat no longer suffers.

The world flatters the elephant and tramples on the ant.


There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

George Carlin

There is a black sheep in every flock.

In each group there is always someone who doesn’t behave like the others.

Those who sleep with dogs gets up with fleas.


Those who sleep with dogs will rise with fleas.


Though your enemy is the size of an ant, look upon him as an elephant.


To be afraid of wolves, to be without mushrooms.

Russian proverb

To be as small as a vinegar fly and want to shit like an elephant.

Too big for your boots

To dangle a carrot in front of a donkey.

To tempt someone

To put saffron in cooking sheep’s paunch.

Wasting resources or talent.

Trust not a horse’s heel nor a dog’s tooth.

What is sport to the cat is death to the mouse.

German proverb

When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him he calls it ferocity.

George Bernard Shaw

When a monkey doesn’t get a banana, he eats chillies.

When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.


When spider webs unite they can tie up a lion.


When spiders’ webs unite, they can tie up a lion.


When the ass begins to bray, surely rain will come that day.

When the cat is away the mice will play.

When the cat’s away, the mice play.

Without supervision, people misbehave.

When the fox cannot reach the grapes he says they are not ripe.

When the monkey can’t reach the ripe banana with his hand, he says it is not sweet.

When the monkey can’t reach the ripe banana, he says it is not sweet.

When they started to shoe the Sultan’s horse, the beetle stretched out its leg.


Whenever I hear of the capture of rare beetles, I feel like an old war-horse at the sound of a trumpet.

Charles Darwin

Where there are dogs there are fleas.

Where there is smoke there is fire

Who makes himself a sheep will be eaten by the wolves.

With money, a dragon, without it, a worm.


You are like a tick in a dog’s ear.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

You can offer someone an opportunity to do something but you can’t force them to do it.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

It’s difficult to teach new things to an older person who is used to do something in his own way.

You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari

Your teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

Song of Solomon

Your two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

Song of Solomon