A-z - Animals

12 Christmas animals from around the world

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key point

  • Christmas animals gain status for different reasons: the seasons we associate them with, royal influence or religious traditions.
  • They also serve different purposes: some herald the season, others serve as mascots for the winter holidays, while others play a starring role at the festive table.
  • Animals often represent important cultural references, and Christmas is no exception, an especially popular holiday around the globe.

The arrival of winter is celebrated around the world, and Christmas has many meanings to different cultures. But beneath the differences, there is a universal need to share and acknowledge the best things we have: family, faith, children and love.

We have a variety of Christmas animals as symbols of the most wonderful time of the year. Come winter holidays, these creatures are on TV, under trees, in movies, on holiday cards, decorations and in pictures.

We fell in love with a dozen feathered or furry friends during that joyful December holiday.

#12. penguin

12 Christmas animals from around the world 1
When we dream of a snowy Christmas, we're reminded of the colder climates in which penguins live .


Penguins are all over the holidays. In fact, we only associate this adorable flightless bird with Christmas because they live in colder climates. Some species, such as gentoo, chinstrap and emperor penguins, actually live in warmer climates.

Here's the irony: We associate penguins with Christmas because of the North Pole. Penguins actually inhabit the icy environments of Antarctica, neighboring continents, and the South Pole (not the North Pole!).

Although we almost always see them on land, penguins spend most of their lives in the water and hunt a lot below the surface.

#11. Robin

The saying that robins deliver letters every year and festivals came about because the postman discovered this bird with a bright chest.

©Vishnevskiy Vasily/Shutterstock.com

Robins are treasures throughout the British winter. Once upon a time, Victorian postmen were nicknamed "robins" and were known for their bright red jackets. The sight sparked a series of images of red-breasted birds delivering mail for the holidays.

The American robin is also a familiar sight. They often pull earthworms. This bird is known for its cheerful song and brightly colored chest.

Robins first appear towards the end of winter. They are known for being the first to start the day with singing and the last to stop at the end of the day.

#10. camel

Perhaps the original Christmas animal, the camel, reminds us of the three kings of Bethlehem.

©Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock.com

Yes, they are in the desert, but there is no more famous Christmas symbol than the three kings who rode these beasts to Bethlehem. The image is synonymous with the Christmas holiday.

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Interestingly, the Bible does not mention camels. The book talks about the wise magi bringing gifts to baby Jesus, but doesn't say how they made the trip.

Camels are strong animals with two rows of eyelashes and three pairs of eyelids. This setting keeps sand from getting in their eyes. Their lips allow them to forage on thorny plants that other creatures cannot eat. Thick skin pads keep them comfortable in extremely hot sand.

Camels can travel great distances without water. But when they found it, they were able to drain 40 gallons.

Angry llamas are well behaved, but they will spit at you if they feel threatened.

#9. turkey

Henry VIII made turkey a staple of Christmas dinner.

©Tory Kallman/Shutterstock.com

Until the 16th century, the golden bird for Christmas dinner was actually a goose.

Today, American culture associates turkey with Thanksgiving and Christmas through the settlers and natives who dined together. But the Christmas turkey dates back to Henry VIII, who himself made the bird a staple. Queen Victoria's reopening of trade with the United States and the import of turkeys is rumored to have influenced the traditional festive dinner.

The British monarch was by no means the only historical figure to be enamored with the giant clucking bird.
A popular myth about Benjamin Franklin holds that he thought turkeys were brave birds (albeit a bit vain and stupid). Pennsylvania's first president was also convinced that the bird was actually capable of taking on enemy troops who broke into his farm!

Turkeys are classified in the order Galliformes. This family includes a group of ground-feeding heavy birds such as pheasants, chickens, and grouse.

Millions of turkeys live in every state except Alaska. Most turkeys are wild and feed on insects, seeds, lizards and frogs.

#8. polar bear

Snowy polar bears are associated with Christmas as they adapt to the winter weather.

©Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock.com

Polar bears, like penguins, are symbols of winter holidays only because of their proximity to snow and cold. But like penguins, polar bears are not found in the Arctic. They live in the Arctic and Canada.

The polar bear's white coat is a gift from Mother Nature. It allows animals to hide in environments where they are often mistaken for snowdrifts.

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#7. partridge

In fact, partridges are not to be found among pear trees.

There are no partridges in the pear tree. They are ground birds. But thanks to that repetitive line in "The 12 Days of Christmas," these animals are among the most beloved creatures of Christmas.

The partridge is a close relative of the pheasant and a traditional game in England. It is believed that the lovely partridge mentioned in A Christmas Carol is the gray or English partridge.

Partridges have light-colored plumage. Their bodies are like chickens, but more plump, with small heads. Partridges weigh less than a pound and are about a foot long.

#6. turtledove

Turtledoves are associated with Christmas thanks to the infamous song "The 12 Days of Christmas".

© petritzaa/Shutterstock.com

Two turtledoves make a perfect image, as these birds form a strong bond. They are known for their lifelong love, devotion and friendship.

Turtle doves are energetic animals that make mesmerizing calls. In the UK, birds mainly forage in cultivated and mixed cropland. Their diet is crops and wildflower seeds left on the ground. They roost and nest near feeding points, usually on open woodland edges, bushes and hedgerows.

#5. sheep

Sheep are widely known for their role in Christmas due to their association with the Christian faith.

©Paul Steven/Shutterstock.com

You won't find a nativity scene without sheep somewhere around here. Sheep play a vital role in the Christian faith. So, it's no surprise they're in the manger. Mostly docile and defenseless, these creatures are known for their gentleness.

Sheep belong to the same family as cattle, antelope, goats and musk oxen, which are all artiodactyl mammals. Many sheep have curly horns and all have a shaggy exterior.

IMHO sheep are man's best friend and were one of the first animals to be domesticated. Feral sheep are found worldwide, especially in Central Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.

Disturbing fact: If a sheep ends up on its back, it may die. They are not good at getting back on their feet without help. This often happens to pregnant ewes and wooly sheep.

#4. reindeer

The reindeer is an iconic Christmas animal, derived from the poem "The Night Before Christmas."


There's no animal that better represents Christmas than the trusty reindeer.

The image of Santa's sleigh and his reindeer comes from "The Night Before Christmas". It is generally believed that the first symbol of the flying reindeer helping St. Nick appears here. However, others have joked that reindeer are associated with flying due to their propensity to eat hallucinogenic mushrooms.

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North America is the only region of the world where reindeer have a different name, and that is the caribou. In most deer species, only the males have antlers. With reindeer, both sexes have antlers. Reindeer are nomadic people and rarely stay in one place for long. They have layered coats to keep them cozy in the coldest temperatures.

#3. donkey

Donkeys are associated with Christmas because of its connection to the Christian faith.

© Angyalosi Beata/Shutterstock.com

There is no mention of how Mary made the 80-mile trek to Bethlehem, but it was likely on the back of a donkey. The frequent presence of donkeys in the manger scenes reinforces this idea. These mules are the usual means of transport for the poor. Camels are for the elite. Horses were war animals or used by the rich.

Donkeys are ubiquitous, and family members include zebras and horses. Donkey ears are soft and long, and most likely sturdier. You have feral, wild and domesticated donkeys.

#2. kangaroo

Australians believe that Santa's sleigh is pulled by kangaroos, not reindeer.

In Australia, legend has it that kangaroos, not reindeer, pull Santa's sleigh. On the ground, marsupials can reach speeds of up to 35 mph. They also have the ability to jump 25 feet in the air. So, it would be impressive if they could fly.

These animals travel in groups we call mobs. Size fluctuates according to season and availability of water and food. Of course, kangaroos have their famous pouches. Considering how fast these animals move (20 feet at a time; up to 50 miles at a time; 9 feet tall), it's safe to assume a passenger is in for a bumpy ride.

Their leaps aren't always just right. The kangaroos were caught trying to jump over the fence, but they didn't jump straight across.

#1. puppy

From Santa Paws to puppies in The Grinch , dogs are an integral part of the Christmas movie lineup.

© Rita_Kochmarjova/Shutterstock.com

Dogs are easily the most popular animals in the world, and if they have a social temperament, puppies will thrive in the festivities and chaos of Christmas.

The connection between dogs and Christmas doesn't seem to have a real origin story, but there's no doubt we love the idea of cute dogs and Christmas. There are more dog-centric Christmas movies than you can wag your dog's tail. Families love to dress their dogs up in festive costumes and include them in festive photos. One of the most popular gifts during the winter holidays is a puppy.

This is also a dangerous season. Many of the foods we enjoy can be a threat to your dog's health. While your beloved pets can eat turkey and cheese, keep them away from chocolate, nuts, onions, raisins and Christmas pudding.

Your dog is a great friend and companion, and much of his happiness comes from his owner. They feed off your feelings, which is probably why dogs love spending Christmas with you!


number animal nation
1 puppy worldwide
2 kangaroo Australia
3 donkey worldwide
4 reindeer America, Europe
5 sheep worldwide
6 turtledove Europe
7 partridge Europe
8 polar bear Canada
9 turkey America, Europe
10 camel worldwide
11 Robin America, Europe
12 penguin worldwide


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  • Reindeer in the Arctic: How Do They Survive?: Discover what allows this species of deer to thrive where few other creatures can.