Knowing some animal vocabulary in German is infinitely useful for talking about nature, the world at large and even for all sorts of interactions in day-to-day life.
While you might have reviewed a basic list of animal names that include “cat” and “dog” and a few others in German by now, you haven’t seen a list like this one!
Get ready to learn over 60 animals in German and over 20 verbs, animal parts and phrases!
- Bauernhoftiere (Farm Animals)
- Common Animals and Haustiere (Pets)
- Wassertiere / Meerestiere (Aquatic Animals)
- Exotische Tiere (Exotic Animals)
- Tierbabys (Baby Animals)
- Animal Body Parts
- Common Verbs and Phrases Related to Animals in German
- How to Practice Animal Vocabulary in German
Bauernhoftiere (Farm Animals)
Have you heard of Old MacDonald and his farm?
If you answered yes to that question (and I bet you did!), you probably recalled a memory of yourself singing it in preschool—or at least thought of your preschool-aged self!
That’s because farm animals are some of the first animal names that children learn in school.
No, I won’t make you sing them, but they’re the first ones we’re going to learn in German! These animals live on der Bauernhof (the farm) and are cared for by der Bauer (the farmer).
Let’s check out some common farm animals:
- Das Pferd (the horse)
- Die Kuh (the cow)
- Das Schwein (the pig)
- Der Hahn (the rooster)
- Die Henne (the hen)
- Das Schaf (the sheep)
- Die Ziege (the goat)
- Der Esel (the donkey)
- Der Truthahn (the turkey)
Here are some sentences using your newly-learned farm animal vocabulary:
Ich sehe ein Pferd, einen Hahn und einen Esel auf dem Bauernhof. (I see a horse, a chicken and a donkey on the farm.)
Keep in mind that the German words Hahn and Esel are in the accusative because they’re direct objects, in this case, so ein has become einen.
Der Bauer hat eine Kuh, ein Schwein und ein Schaf. (The farmer has a cow, a pig and a sheep.)
Common Animals and Haustiere (Pets)
While farm animals are the first ones usually learned as children, unless you live on a farm, you’re much more likely to see the following group of animals in your everyday life. You might even have one of these animals as a Haustier (pet).
In fact, 45% of all German households had at least one pet in 2018! There were over 34.4 million dogs and over 14.8 million cats recorded in Germany in that same year. With such high numbers, imagine the lengthy conversations in German that you could have with native speakers about their beloved furry (or scaly) companions!
Common pets and other local animals include:
- Der Hund (the dog)
- Die Gans (the goose)
- Die Katze (the cat)
- Die Ente (the duck)
- Das Kaninchen / Der Hase (the rabbit)
- Der Goldfisch (the goldfish)
- Das Meerschweinchen (the guinea pig)
- Der Hamster (the hamster)
- Die Schlange (the snake)
- Der Vogel (the bird)
- Der Fisch (the fish)
- Die Eidechse (the lizard)
- Der Frosch (the frog)
- Der Fuchs (the fox)
- Der Hirsch (the deer)
- Der Bär (the bear)
- Der Waschbär (the raccoon)
- Die Eule (the owl)
If only we lived in a world where only cats, dogs and other cute animals populated our homes. But we don’t! Sometimes we get an unwanted housemate, known as der Schädling (pest).
Common insects and household pests include:
- Die Maus (the mouse)
- Die Ratte (the rat)
- Die Spinne (the spider)
- Das Insekt (the insect)
- Die Fliege (the fly)
- Die Mücke / Die Stechmücke / Die Moskito (the mosquito)
- Die Biene (the bee)
- Der Schmetterling (the butterfly)
- Das Stinktier (the skunk)
To use some of these words, perhaps you’d say:
Der Junge hat einen Hund und einen Goldfisch. (The boy has a dog and a goldfish.)
Das Mädchen hat einen Hamster und eine Eidechse. (The girl has a hamster and a lizard.)
In meinem Haus gibt es eine Ratte und ein Stinktier! (In my house, there is a rat and a skunk!)
Ich hasse Spinnen, Mücken und Bienen! (I hate spiders, mosquitoes and bees!)
Wassertiere / Meerestiere (Aquatic Animals)
Germany is a land full of lakes and rivers. In the north, it borders the Nordsee (North Sea) and the Ostsee (East Sea). Germany is also home to many Flüsse (rivers), most notably the Rhine, Danube and Elbe rivers that run through many German cities and towns. These impressive rivers also host many popular river cruises.
As such, Germany is home to many aquatic animals, both in its local waterways and in its Aquariums (aquariums) and Tierpark (zoos).
Some common aquatic animals include:
- Der Otter (the otter)
- Der Oktopus (the octopus)
- Der Delphin (the dolphin)
- Der Wal (the whale)
- Der Hai (the shark)
- Die Krabbe (the crab)
- Der Seelöwe (the sealion)
- Der Seehund (the seal)
- Die Qualle (the jellyfish)
- Der Aal (the eel)
- Der Pinguin (the penguin)
- Der Seestern (the starfish)
Upon a visit to a German river, you might say:
Wir sehen einen Otter im Fluss. (We see an otter in the river.)
Or, perhaps at an aquarium, you might point out to your friends one of the following:
Guck mal, ein Aal! (Look, an eel!)
Ich liebe diesen Pinguin. (I love that penguin.)
In a textbook, you might read:
Der blaue Wal ist sehr groß. (The blue whale is very big.)
Der Seestern sieht wie ein Stern aus. (The starfish looks like a star.)
Exotische Tiere (Exotic Animals)
Despite many animals in Germany being similar to those in North America, a visit to a Tierpark (zoo) will expose you to animals from all over the world. Germans love going to the zoo, and there are zoos in many of Germany’s big cities such as Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt.
Some common exotic animals include:
- Der Papagei (the parrot)
- Der Löwe (the lion)
- Der Tiger (the tiger)
- Der Affe (the monkey)
- Der Menschenaffe (the ape)
- Der Elefant (the elephant)
- Die Giraffe (the giraffe)
- Das Nilpferd (the hippopotamus)
- Das Nashorn (the rhino)
- Der Strauß (the ostrich)
- Die Schildkröte (the turtle)
- Der Pfau (the peacock)
Upon your trip to the zoo, you might hear the following exchange between a child and mother:
Mama, werden wir einen Löwe sehen? (Mom, will we see a lion?)
In response, the child’s mother might say:
Ja! Wir werden ihn sehen nachdem wir die Giraffe, den Strauß und den Pfau besuchen. (Yes! We will see him after we visit the giraffe, the ostrich and the peacock.)
Tierbabys (Baby Animals)
Animals, while cute, are always cuter when they’re babies! As in English, German has specific words for animals when they’re young.
Some vocabulary related to baby animals or young animals include:
- Das Ei (the egg)
- Der Welpe (the puppy)
- Das Kätzchen (the kitten)
- Das Entchen (the duckling)
- Das Lamm (the lamb)
- Das Kalb (the calf)
- Das Küken (the chick)
Note that the ending -chen can be added to many nouns to make them diminutive (referring to the smaller version of something). As in the cases of die Katze (the cat) and die Ente (the duck), we get the words das Kätzchen (the kitten) and die Entchen (the duckling).
This can also be added to other nouns such as das Hündchen (the little dog) and das Mäuschen (the little mouse) to describe the younger or smaller version of the animal.
Keep in mind, however, that by adding the ending -chen to animals, they automatically become neuter in gender despite what their previous grammatical gender was. This means that these nouns will take the definite article das (the) in the nominative case.
Remember that trip to the farm? When recalling the experience to a friend or family member, you might say:
Ich habe ein Kalb und ein Lamm gesehen. Sie waren sehr süß! (I saw a calf and a lamb. They were so cute!)
You might also say:
Das Küken kommt von einem Ei. (The chick comes out of an egg.)
Animal Body Parts
Animals—regardless of what language is being used to talk about them—have different body parts than us.
The parts of animals are named the following in German:
- Die Schnauze (the snout)
- Der Schwanz (the tail)
- Die Pfote (the paw)
- Der Pelz (the fur)
- Die Feder (the feather)
- Das Horn (the horn)
You might describe a dog the following way:
Er hat eine kleine Schnauze und einen langen Schwanz. Er hat vier Pfoten, und sein Pelz ist weiß. (He has a small snout and a long tail. He has four paws, and his fur is white.)
Common Verbs and Phrases Related to Animals in German
Finally, animals also have different needs than humans, and these require special verbs that describe the caring for and interacting with animals. Some of these verbs can be extended to humans, but some are specifically for animals and will be pointed out as such in the list.
These verbs include:
- Sich um etwas kümmern (to take care of something)
- Füttern (to feed)
- Streicheln (to stroke)
- Spazieren gehen / Gassi gehen / Rausgehen (to go for a walk)
- Spielen (to play)
- Sich putzen (to groom oneself)
- Striegeln (to groom an animal)
Fressen (to Eat) vs. Essen (to Eat)
In addition to having different body parts than humans, animals also eat differently in German than they do in English.
While we use the verb essen (to eat) in German to talk about the act of humans eating, the verb fressen (to eat) must be used to talk about an animal eating.
While fressen is commonly used to describe the act of an animal eating, it can also be used to mean “to gobble” or “to gorge” when a human is eating.
Despite being a different verb, fressen conjugates similarly to the verb essen. Check out the verb conjugation pattern here. Pay particular attention to the er, sie, es (he, she, it) conjugation of the verb:
- Ich fresse (I eat)
- Du frisst (you eat)
- Er, Sie, Es frisst (he, she, it eats)
- Wir fressen (we eat)
- Ihr fresst (you all eat)
- Sie fressen (they eat)
How to Practice Animal Vocabulary in German
Now that you’ve learned all these words and phrases to talk about animals in German, you’re going to need a way for it all to sink in! Luckily, there are many places online where you can practice them all.
ToLearnFree offers a few quizzes for practicing.
The first allows you to practice farm animals, and the second is specifically for practicing baby animals. The third quiz will help you practice aquatic animals.
If you want to see how native speakers use animal words, you can do that on FluentU. The program focuses on immersion, so you’ll find authentic videos here. Each video includes interactive subtitles, flashcards, vocabulary lists and practice questions. Content is organized by level and topic for easy browsing, and you can search for any word to find videos that use it.
Sporcle has a quiz for practicing the spelling of a variety of German animals. German spelling can be tricky, so this resource will prove to be very beneficial for learners who are looking to improve their writing skills for academic purposes or for passing one of the many official German-language proficiency exams.
Digital Dialects offers a challenging, interactive online game for learning German animal vocabulary. Who doesn’t love a game that’s fun and educational, after all?
Now that you’ve learned nearly 100 words and phrases related to animals in German, you’re on your way to the lion’s share of German fluency!