How To Tell Confusing Animal Pairs Apart

Illustration: Benjamin Currie

The world is filled with animals of all shapes and sizes, and far too many of these critters are difficult to distinguish from their relatives. If you’re watching a documentary, looking out your window, or taking a hike, you may be confused about what specific creature you’ve just spotted.

Consider this your quick and dirty guide to correctly identifying similar animal pairs. Whether you’re headed outdoors or doing animal-themed colouring pages with your kids, your knowledge is sure to impress.

Rabbits vs. hares

Rabbits hide from predators. Hares have longer ears and will try to outrun their predators.

Alligators vs. crocodiles

Alligator snouts are shaped like the letter U. Crocodile snouts are long and V-shaped.

Bonus: If it’s in a body of fresh water, it’s an alligator. If it’s in salt water, it’s a crocodile.

Left: alligator. Right: crocodile. (Photo: Getty Images)

Moths vs. butterflies

Butterflies have slender antennae with a slightly larger, rounded end. Moths have feathery or tapered antennae.

Left: moth. Right: butterfly. (Photo: Shutterstock, Getty Images)

Dolphins vs. porpoises

Dolphins have pointed faces and curved dorsal (top) fins. Porpoises have rounded faces and triangular dorsal fins.

Cheetahs vs. leopards vs. jaguars

Cheetahs have slender bodies, long tails, evenly spread spots and black lines running from their nose down to their mouth. Leopards are bigger and stockier than cheetahs and have spots that are clustered instead of evenly spread. Jaguars have a broad head, and their spot clusters have dots inside them.

Bonus: Leopards and jaguars can be black instead of spotted, so remember their body shape hints.

l-r: Cheetah, leopard, jaguar (Photo: Shutterstock)

Pumas vs. mountain lions

That one’s a trap! It’s two names for the same cat. They are a solid brown or reddish-brown colour, with a white belly.

Photo: Shutterstock

Bonus: “Panther” is a general term for cats with coats that are one colour (not spotted).

Llamas vs. alpacas

Llamas can weigh up to 180kg and have long, curved ears. Alpacas weigh up to 80kg and have short ears. If you don’t have a scale handy, stick to the ear indicators.

Left: llamas. Right: alpacas. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Seals vs. sea lions

Sea lions have visible ear flaps and hang out in a crowd. Seals don’t have protruding ears and just want to be alone.

Left: seal. Right: sea lion. (Photo: Getty Images)

Turtles vs. tortoises

Turtles hang out in the water. They have webbed feet or flippers. Tortoises hang out on land and have short, sturdy legs.

Left: turtle. Right: tortoise. (Photo: Getty Images)

Mules vs. donkeys

Mules have ears are that are longer than a horse’s. They are tall like a horse. Donkey ears are even longer than mule ears and are dark at the edges. Their tails only have long hair on the end.

Bonus Fun fact: Mules are actually half horse, half donkey.

Left: mule. Right: donkey. (Photo: Getty Images)

Bees vs. wasps

Bees are fuzzy and have a chonky body. Wasps have an hourglass figure, are smooth, and can get away from me.

Left: bee. Right: wasp. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Frogs vs. toads

Frogs have smooth skin and huge eyes. Toads have bumpy skin and shorter legs.

Right: frog. Left: toad. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ravens vs. crows

Crows hang out in crowds and have fan-shaped tails. Ravens have wedge-shaped tails and are seriously huge. They travel in pairs. That’s sweet.

Bonus: Crows have smooth feathers on their throats, while ravens have textured ones that look ruffled.


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