No doubt you have heard of a ‘pack of wolves’ or a ‘flock of sheep’ – most people have – but there are some really weird ones out there that I stumbled on recently.

A ‘Murder’ of crows is verging on the unusual, one theory being that crows often will come together and ‘decide the capital fate of another crow.’ (That doesn’t sound very neighbourly!). Another possible origin comes from people who view the ‘appearance of crows as an omen of death.’

‘Herd’ is the commonly used name for a group of cattle, elephants or deer, but also horses. Other collective nouns for specific horse groups include rag/bachelor herd (colts), troop (military horses), stud (breeding horses), and a string (horses that belong to one person).

A ‘congregation’ of alligators or crocodiles – I suppose you could liken that to a group of people (congregation) raptly watching a preacher, but in this case the preacher might be you, the target!

A ‘pride’ of lions we have probably all heard of, perhaps because of their regal and stately quality, but I came across a ‘mob’ of emus, which also applies to kangaroos.

A lot of terms are really self-explanatory – ‘army’ of ants (marching in lines), a ‘tower’ of giraffes (well, they are tall!), a ’swarm’ of locusts, a ‘raft’ of otters – but another odd one is a ‘paddle’ of platypus, and apparently it’s unusual if you see a group of these as they are pretty solitary.

A group of bats is sometimes called a ‘cauldron’, and a ‘colony’ of bats is the collective name given to a group of female bats who are lactating and their offspring (well, you live and learn!), and ‘colony’ comes up again - this time with regard to beavers.

A ‘troop’ of monkeys is quite common, and a group of armadillos is called a ‘roll’ (probably as they tend to roll up when they are threatened). A nest of squirrels is called a ‘dray’ but is a ‘scurry’ for a group of unrelated males.

Owls are associated with wisdom so a group of owls is called a ‘parliament’ (hmm not so sure about that one!)

A group of foxes is called a ‘skulk’. The word skulk comes from a Scandinavian word and generally means to wait, lurk or move stealthily. Foxes have a bit of a reputation for being sneaky so this word seems to work quite well! A group of wild cats is called a ‘destruction’, probably with good reason.

Collective noun options for mongooses include 'business' and 'rush' - both referring to the frenetic pace at which they go about their daily search for food, relying mainly on their acute sense of smell.

A group of bears is called a ‘sleuth’ or ‘sloth’- but a group of sloths, for me, gets first prize for being the most descriptive - a ‘snuggle’ – a name the Sloth Conservation Society came up with!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan