30 Ways to Describe Animals

For the next few months, weekly writing tips will include word choice suggestions. That includes:animal-16692_960_720

  • colorful and original descriptions
  • pithy words and phrases
  • picture nouns and action verbs
  • writing that draws a reader in and addicts them to your voice

I keep a  collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. This one’s on how to describe animals.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).


  1. the hippos playing in the water, heaved their great bodies out of the water and opened their gaping mouths wide, snorting and grunting before they sank back beneath the surface with a head resting humbly on the mud
  2. revealing a large, open gash on his hind
  3. tremendous splash that sent waves rolling to the shore
  4. two bulls fighting, but only half in earnest
  5. hippos—a quake and rumbling from beneath the surface, then a roar and wash as the huge bodies surge, and way is made for two pink-eyed gladiators the fearful cacophony of groans, blarts, roars, and grumbling, interspersed with deep watery gurgles
  6. a shiny hippo rose and walked away among low trees in a sedate manner
  7. only the tips of their noses poking above the surface of the water
  8. The night before, hyena and lion howled and roared; hippo resounded from their pools deep in the forest.
  9. the air was filled with engaging dung smells
  10. hippos exiting the watersweat dripping from their steaming bodies
  11. urban fauna (cockroaches)
  12. looking as outraged as squirrels get
  13. squinting toward the dim shadows at the wood’s edge
  14. wart hogs, tails whisking and manes shivering as they snouted and rooted in the baked earth
  15. delicate tall stalk of a giraffe
  16. a family of bush pigs setting out on the evening forage
  17. Large groups of elephant and buffalo were moving peacefully toward the shining water.
  18. silver mane, but the sow and young shoats were rufous red with clean white manes
  19. poking and snuffling as they went
  20. the foot-dragged prints of a waterbuck, the ancient handprints and serpentine tail furrow made by crocodile
  21. A herd of impala picked its way around the pool, their harsh tearing snorts would warn a procession of almost every type of animal one after the other, picking its way with unhurried grace to the water’s edge.
  22. bounding along a barrier of silver deadwood at the edge of the wood
  23. It was now mid-afternoon and large groups of elephants moved peacefully toward the shimmering water.
  24. overhead so it falls with a fine splat upon his back
  25. the matriarch stands guard, trunk high
  26. the bull begins to flap its ears and paw the ground
  27. picks up a trunkful and hurls it
  28. a young bull standing in the grass of the river margin
  29. testing the air with lifted trunk, he steps down onto the river bed; the cow’s trunk stiffened as she got our wind, the trunk rose in an awkward question mark dig a hole under the bank. When the water wells up, he sprays himself behind his ears and under his belly
  30. semiferal cats

Click for the complete list of 69 writer’s themed descriptions.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her non-fiction books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for May, 2017. Click to follow its progress.


47 thoughts on “30 Ways to Describe Animals

  1. Hi Jacqui – I’d go back to my childhood and those stories … Kipling’s The Just So Stories and the Flanders and Swann songs about wildlife … so true once I’d been to Africa, I need to see India … but the Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud by Flanders and Swann is so indicative of Hippos …. I’ve written a post on it… wonderful, wonderful lyrics – they were an amazing pair of entertainers … love them! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love these descriptions, Jacqui, especially those that give a sense of the animal’s personality. Wart hogs, elephants, and hippos – if I didn’t already know these critters, I would after reading these blurbs. And as for the “urban fauna” – I’d love to know what writer has such a hilarious sense of humor!

    Liked by 2 people

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