An African safari is filled with exhilarating experiences. Especially if you’re planning a family safari in wildlife-rich Southern Africa. If you want to impress fellow travellers or your family on a game drive, now is the perfect opportunity to brush up on your knowledge of collective nouns for animals you are likely to encounter in the African bush.
Collective nouns describe the characteristics of a group of animals or people. Educating yourself on what the different collective nouns for animals are will increase your knowledge of wildlife, and help you identify different species in the bush.
While some collective nouns are quite general. There are many which are specific to a species. For example, a group of lions is called a “pride,” but did you know that a group of rhinos is called a “crash”?
There are many more lesser-known collective nouns for wildlife in the African bush, which we’ve highlighted below. Enjoy!
A coalition is a group of male cheetahs. A coalition consists of two to three male cheetahs who stay together and fight other males for territory. The fights usually don’t last very long, but are usually fatal. In some cases, a male may be a member of a coalition for the rest of his life.
A non-related male may join a coalition from time to time, but he often has to deal with aggression from the other members. Members of the same coalition spend a lot of time together.
Crocodiles are smart and social animals that use many different ways to communicate. A group of crocodiles in water are called a float and when they are on land, are called a bask. These ferocious aquatic reptiles are known for its powerful jaws and powerful and fatal ambush attacks.
This collective noun was coined in 1939, and it comes from the fact that hippopotamuses have big, bloated bellies. A male hippo weighs approximately 8,000 lbs and is covered in fatty tissue that helps them float. Their stomachs are generally full because they feed often.
Their main food source is grass, and they are able to store it for up to three weeks. A bloat would consist of one to two males among 10–20 females.
Large concentrations of wildebeest can be found in southern Africa. In fact, every year, approximately two million wildebeests migrate around the Serengeti, and into the Masai Mara. They are referred to as “confusion” because they often appear disorientated, chaotic, and noisy when travelling together.
Zebras are said to use their stripes as camouflage when they’re in a large group to mislead predators by making it difficult to distinguish individual zebras from one another. Zebras are sometimes referred to as a herd, but a more common collective noun for them is a dazzle of zebras.
The term, “cackle” of hyena perfectly captures the sound and spirit of these animals. They are often very noisy, especially when feeding. The hyena is one of the most common large carnivores in Africa. There are three types of hyenas: striped, spotted, and brown hyenas. Spotted hyenas are the largest of the three. They are also the only, of the two, that have spots on all over their bodies. Hyenas are large in size and have short torsos with low, sloping backs. They have great night vision and hearing.
Vultures are some of the most vulnerable large birds in Africa. The species ranges from endangered to critically endangered. Vultures are quite interesting since they have four different collective nouns which change based on their behavior.
A group of vultures that circle above, searching for carcasses, is called a “kettle.” A group of vultures that are sitting together in a tree is called a “committee,” a “venue,” or even a “volt.” Then, when the vultures come down to the ground to eat the remains of a dead animal, they’re called a wake.
It seems quite obvious why one of the collective nouns for a group of giraffes is a “tower of giraffes”. The name seems fitting for the tallest animal in the world. In fact, giraffes can reach heights of between four and six metres tall. Their necks alone can reach almost three metres. When standing still, the collective noun is a tower of giraffes, however, when moving, or running, the collective noun changes to a journey of giraffes.
Leopards can leap over 20 feet and jump up to 10 feet into the air. They are also known for their sheer strength and agility. Leopards do not leap together as a group, though. They’re big cats that live on their own. But their ability to leap helps them to catch prey, and hide their kill in trees.
A group of elephants is commonly called a herd or, less commonly, a parade. Herds are family groups and vary in size. However, they are multigenerational and matriarchal, and usually led by a female matriarch.
On average, a pride consists of two or three males and five to ten females. Some prides consist of nearly 40 lions. Normally, in an African pride, the females form the core of the group and tend to remain in the same pride from birth until death.
The African buffalo is known as the meanest and one of the most dangerous animal in the bush . It’s known for being able to charge and kill, with its protruding horns, at the drop of a hat. Maternal herds have up to 30 females and their offspring. Male herds have up to 10 members.