Language lesson from South Africa’s wildlife

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When it comes to animals and collective nouns we’ve all herd of a troop of this, a herd of that and a school of something else; it was drilled into our young brains in school by our language teachers.

A herd of antelopes. A troop of baboons. A school of fish.

Yes teacher. Okay teacher. Thank you teacher. 

But clearly the curriculum had no sense of humour and did not see spreading joy as appropriate because why would you teach a kid that it is a ‘herd of elephants’ when you can also say a ‘memory of elephants’? Does it not make you smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside talking about a memory of elephants? An an elephant never forgets.

A few years ago I went on a game drive and we started discussing different collective nouns and over time I’ve added more to my  (uhm… what is the collective noun for a group of collective nouns)  crowd of collective nouns. 

Here are a few favourites.

Collective nouns of South Africa’s wildlife and marine life

I have to add – before someone demands of me to say “Yes teacher. Okay teacher. Thank you teacher” again – that these collective nouns might not be the collective noun the Oxford Dictionary (or a school curriculum) chooses as a favourite. A lot of these terms have formed over time; to authenticate it can be difficult and it will also remove any element of fun as well as that warm and fuzzy feeling. Do note that some collective nouns refer to habitat/situations and not to the whole group.

A memory of ELEPHANTS

Also known as a herd or a parade or a crash of elephants.

Elephant 1: “Don’t forget to wash behind your ears.”
Elephant 2: “Dude, I’m an elephant, I never forget. Dude do you remember that time you stepped in my poo?”
Elephant 1: “Dude! How could I forget?”

An obstinacy of BUFFALO

Also known as a herd, troop or gang of buffalo.

They give new meaning to the word, “hardegat”.

Samara Private Game Reserve Buffalo

A journey of GIRAFFES

Also known as a troop, herd, tower and kaleidoscope of giraffes.

Ahhhh journey… the movement of a giraffe seems even more graceful now, right?

 A dazzle of ZEBRAS

Also known as a zeal or a herd of zebras.

Have you ever been dazzled by a zebra?

South African National Parks

A congregation of CROCODILES

Also known as a a nest, bask or float of crocodiles. 

Congregation? Like a church? Not sure how I feel about religious crocodiles.  What are they religious about, the crushing of bones?

A confusion of GUINEA FOWL

Also known as a rasp of guinea fowl.

Well, can’t blame the guinea fowl for being confused. I would also be confused if I had a horn on my head and a flappy thing under my chin.


Also known as cute.

It’s a mob. Capisce?

A leap of LEOPARDS

Also known as a spot of leopards (not sure about this one though).

Leopards are not very buddy-buddy-together but okay, a leap it is!

Big Five, Kruger National Park, Going Somewhere Slowly, Kruger, South Africa, leopard

A cackle of HYENAS

Also known as a clan of hyenas.

Ever heard a hyena cackle? Snap, cackle, pop!

A congress of BABOONS

Also known as a troop of baboons.

Meeting adjourned!

A forkle of KUDU

Also known as a herd of kudu.

What the forkl is a forkl?

A study of OWLS

Also known as a parliament of owls and a stare of wisdom as owls.

Eyes. Study. Wisdom. Yes, yes, yes. It all makes sense.

A harem of SEALS

Also known as a herd, a trip, a pod or a rookery of seals (a harem refers to female seals collected by a male seal for breeding purposes while a rookery refers to the place where the seal gives birth).

Heyyyyy sexy lady… oppa seaside style!

Seals Gansbaai

A creep of TORTOISES

Also known as a crawl of tortoises.

“What you looking at you creep?”

A waddle of PENGUINS

Also known as a rookery or  colony or raft of penguins (raft refers to penguins in water whereas waddle refers to penguins on land).

“I wiggle and I waddle and I giggle and I gaggle…”

penguin adoption SAMREC


And here are a few more fun collective nouns from South Africa’s wildlife and marine life:

  • A prickle of porcupines
  • A shiver of sharks
  • A slither of snakes
  • A family of sardines
  • A cloud of tadpoles
  • A coalition of cheetahs
  • A fever of stingrays
  • A business of mongooses

And lastly, just in case things got too warm and fuzzy for you…

  • An intrusion of cockroaches.

So what did I leave out? Dazzle me like a zebra and share your favourites!

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