The 15 Most Popular (But Untrue) Animal Myths

You probably thought you had a pretty good handle on everything that goes on in the animal kingdom, but you may have thought wrong. There are many pieces of common wisdom about the coolest animals out there, our furry and fuzzy friends, some of which are fun to play with, that are just complete nonsense.

People will tell you all sorts of things they claim are true stories, and many times they are very convincing. However, many of the most commonly held beliefs about animals are totally wrong. From orcas to hippos, this list covers the most popular but untrue, myths about animals and the animal kingdom.

  • A Snake Bite Is a Death Sentence

    A Snake Bite Is a Death Sentence
    Photo: Soli / Flickr

    Snakes seem to awake some deep primordial fear within humans and are often associated with the devil. Perhaps this is unsurprising, considering that many snakes are vicious predators and can be extremely venomous. Additionally, they are about as opposite to humans as an animal could possibly be. And while fearing these mysterious, slithering creatures is understandable, it turns out that our serious fears of them may not be necessarily valid.

    While there are certainly many snakes with extremely venomous bites, the realistic level of danger for most humans is extremely low. Unless you live in a remote area far from a hospital with anti-venom, then you have little to fear. With advances in medicine, people nearly always recover, and some bites may actually be “dry” (not containing venom). In the United States, it's much more likely for a person to die from getting struck by lightning than it is to die from a snake bite, according to the University of Florida.

  • Shark Attacks Are a Serious Threat

    Shark Attacks Are a Serious Threat
    Photo: Paolo Macorig / Flickr

    Sharks are some of the scariest-looking animals on the planet. Several rows of teeth, unhinging jaws, beady eyes: It's no one wonder Jaws pretty much scared the pants off of everyone who saw it.  

    We’ve all heard the occasional media hysteria about shark attacks whenever there isn’t anything else to report, but actual attacks on humans are extremely rare. A group of experts keeps a comprehensive file of all shark attacks on humans called the ISAF (International Shark File) and has found that unprovoked attacks by sharks on humans usually averaged a little over 50 per year worldwide. According to a story in the New York Times, roughly 2,800 people choke to death every year. This means you should be way more afraid of choking to death on your dinner than dying from a shark attack.   

  • The Hippopotamus Is a Docile Creature That Presents No Serious Danger

    The Hippopotamus Is a Docile Creature That Presents No Serious Danger
    Photo: Paula Funnell / Flickr

    Many have probably heard the song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” It’s a cute little ditty featuring an adorable, vegetarian hippo that would make a great pet.

    See, it turns out that while hippos are herbivores, they are also incredibly aggressive and dangerous creatures. Animal Planet tells us hippos are the number one injurer of humans when it comes to wild animals in Africa and are one of the biggest tanks in the animal kingdom. Hippos are very territorial, easy to upset, and are known to capsize boats if they get mad. These creatures are all the more scary because they don’t eat meat. They don’t want you for your flesh; they just want to get revenge on you for provoking their anger and nothing will get in their monstrous way. 

    Also, have you seen the teeth on those things? You definitely don't want to get impaled by one of those.

  • Dogs See in Black and White

    Dogs See in Black and White
    Photo: uploaded by Gregory Myers

    One of the most enduring animal myths is the idea that dogs can only see in black and white. The funny thing about this myth is that it has more to do with people's misconception of what color blindness is than anything else. See, many people are under the impression that color blindness means you can only see in black and white, but that's not really how it works. 

    Our eyes perceive color partly based on the cones that we have. Humans have more than dogs, so we can see more of the color spectrum. However, dogs can certainly make out more colors then just black and white. In a study at the University of California, Santa Barbara, professor Jay Neitz discovered that dogs see things in shades of yellow, blue, and gray. 
  • Camels Store Water in Their Humps

    Camels Store Water in Their Humps
    Photo: uploaded by Gregory Myers

    Camels are well known for their ability to survive in the desert, and so the popular belief is that the enormous humps on the camel are for storing water. This allows the camel to keep going where other creatures would long have dropped dead from dehydration. Except, of course, that most of that isn't true. Camels are quite good at surviving in the desert, but they don't store water reserves. According to National Geographic, those humps on their back actually store reserves of fat, which keep them alive when they are wandering through the desert and struggling to find something to eat.

    Camels are good at conserving their bodily fluids too though, and that is most likely where the myth began. But just like any other animal, they need water to survive, and camels are able drink a ton of it in a short amount of time. 
  • Giraffes Do Not Make Any Noises

    Giraffes Do Not Make Any Noises
    Photo: uploaded by Gregory Myers

    If you search Google, you will find tons of results from people who think that giraffes cannot make any vocalizations whatsoever. The theories state that the giraffe has no vocal chords or “voice box,” and if they make any sounds, they do so using some sort of vibrations. As it turns out, giraffes can vocalize just fine if they want to. Apparently, giraffes are pretty quiet animals, at least as far as we can tell. Giraffes make all kinds of different grunts and other related animal-like noises, they just don’t really say much.

    According to the San Diego Zoo, scientists think the giraffe may often be vocalizing to other members of its species using sound frequencies that are not in the range of human hearing.