Q: What do you call a group of sharks?
A: A shiver of sharks.
Of course, because seeing Sharks make you shiver.
Shiver is an example of a collective noun; the name for a group of things. As I’ve often used animal stories to help illustrate specific points, reinforce behaviors, or to provide colorful rallying cries, I’m intrigued by animal collective nouns – especially ones with alliteration.
Here are five of my favorite alliterative animal collectives:
- Clowder of cats (source)
Apparently, clowder comes from Old English and is related to the word clutter. As cats often mingle about in a disorderly fashion, clutter seems descriptive for their behavior. You can also use the term a glaring of cats; as a dog person, I think that alternative name for the collective is very appropriate.
- Horde of hamsters (source)
Horde? Hamsters seem harmless; they mostly eat and sleep. In fact, it’s the stuff of a bad sci-fi movie to imagine a horde of hamsters invading my home.
- Murder of magpies (source)
Magpies are birds known to eat other animals and even attack humans, which might have led to this name for their collective. But they are likely misunderstood. It’s also a murder of crows but that’s not an alliteration.
- Prickle of porcupines (source)
One definition of the word prickle is a “sharp projection from the skin of an animal.” I could practically use that definition to describe a porcupine to someone who had never seen one before so prickle of porcupine is perfect.
- Rhumba of rattlesnakes (source)
Snakes are rarely found in groups but, during the winter, will sometimes huddle together in a den or under rocks to conserve their energy. This is probably why a group of snakes is called a den. For some reason, rattlesnakes are the exception and called a rhumba – though they don’t dance. Anyone know why?
It’s not an alliteration but a group of ferrets is called a business. Ferrets spend up to 18 hours a day asleep and are most active at dawn and dusk. Most ferrets enjoy social groups but are territorial. I hope that doesn’t describe your business…
Fun, huh? You might even say it’s a barrel of monkeys. That’s another animal collective.
If you’re interested in learning more collective nouns for group of animals, here’s one useful collection.