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Learn the Names of Animals in Cantonese


What’s your favorite animal? Do you have any pets? 

Questions like these make great conversation starters. Animals are a topic of interest for many people, and we sure do love our pets! What better way to break the ice and get to know someone than by asking about their favorite furry, scaly, or feathery creatures?

A Couple Walking on the Beach with Their Dog

Fancy putting some Cantonese animal words in your pocket? In this article, you’ll learn many animal names in Cantonese for different categories: pets, farm animals, wild beasts, sea creatures, birds, and all sorts of tiny bugs. We’ll spice it up with some animal proverbs and the “Twelve Zodiac Animals” story. Read on!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. At Home (Pets)
  2. On the Farm (Farm Animals)
  3. In the Wild / Forest / Safari (Land Animals)
  4. In the Ocean (Aquatic / Marine Animals)
  5. Bugs and Insects
  6. Birds, Reptiles & Amphibians
  7. Animal Body Parts
  8. Animal Proverbs
  9. Bonus: The Twelve Zodiac Animals
  10. How Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. At Home (Pets)

Compared to the rest of the world, Hong Kong is home to very few pets. According to a global survey, 64% of Hongkongers do not own pets—this makes Hong Kong the country with the second-highest rate of non-pet owners among the 22 countries surveyed. Among those who do own pets, dogs and fish are the most common, with each one accounting for 14% of all pets in Hong Kong. And from my own (unscientific) observation, I spotted approximately ten dogs walking along the street while writing this article.

With this in mind, let me introduce you to the Cantonese words for “dog,” “goldfish,” and several other less popular pets.


#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
2金魚gam1 jyu2  goldfish
4倉鼠cong1 syu2hamster   
5兔仔tou3 zai2rabbit 
6鸚鵡jing1 mou5parrot
7天竺鼠tin1 zuk1 syu2guinea pig
8刺蝟ci3 wai6 hedgehog

2. On the Farm (Farm Animals)

As one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, farming in Hong Kong has long been considered a sunset industry. Most Hongkongers opt for the bustling city life and dedicate themselves to other industries like Business and Finance. At the same time, the amount of agricultural land has been dwindling. As a result, we rely heavily on imports.

Below, you’ll find the names of several animals in Cantonese that you might find on a farm.


#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
3火雞fo2 gai1turkey
4綿羊min4 joeng2sheep / lamb
5母牛mou5 ngau4cow
10山羊saan1 joeng4goat

3. In the Wild / Forest / Safari (Land Animals)

Hong Kong does not have many wild animals, nor does it have a forest—but it’s still worthwhile to learn some land animal names in Cantonese so that you can use them in conversations or understand them in documentaries!


#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1長頸鹿coeng4 geng2 luk2giraffe
4獅子si1 zi2lion
5老虎lou5 fu2tiger
6箭豬zin3 zyu1porcupine
8大灰熊daai6 fui1 hung4grizzly bear
9北極熊bak1 gik6 hung4polar bear
10樹熊syu6 hung4koala
11熊貓 hung4 maau1panda
13大鹿daai6 luk2   moose
14馴鹿 seon4 luk2reindeer
15松鼠cung4 syu2squirrel
16袋鼠doi6 syu2kangaroo
17臭鼬cau3 jau6skunk 
18花栗鼠 faa1 leot6 syu2chipmunk
19浣熊wun2 hung4raccoon
20馬騮maa5 nau1monkey 
21大猩猩  daai6 sing1 sing1gorilla 
22黑猩猩haak1 sing1 sing1chimpanzee 
23花豹faa1 paau3leopard
25獵豹lip6 paau3 cheetah
26捷豹zit6 paau3jaguar
27斑馬baan1 maa5zebra
28河馬ho4 maa5hippopotamus
29犀牛sai1 ngau4rhinoceros
30蝙蝠pin1 fuk1bat

4. In the Ocean (Aquatic / Marine Animals)

Did you know that Hong Kong is surrounded by sea? One of the most picturesque tourist spots in Hong Kong is Victoria Harbour! Hong Kong is also famous for its abundance of seafood (and thus, seafood restaurants).


#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
3龍蝦lung4 haa1lobster
4海狗hoi2 gau2seal
5水母seoi2 mou5jellyfish
6海豚hoi2 tyun4dolphin
7鯨魚king4 jyu4whale
8魷魚jau4 jyu2squid
9鯊魚saa1 jyu2shark
10八爪魚baat3 zaau2 jyu4octopus
11海獅hoi2 si1sealion  
12海象hoi2 zoeng6walrus
13海獺hoi2 caat3sea otter
14海膽hoi2 daam2sea urchin
15河豚ho4 tyun4puffer fish

5. Bugs and Insects

The smothering humidity in Hong Kong is beloved by bugs and insects—especially mosquitoes. Check out the table below for the Cantonese names of common bugs and insects in Hong Kong.


#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1甲蟲gaap3 cung4ladybug
2蜻蜓cing1 ting4dragonfly 
3蝴蝶wu4 dip2butterfly
4蜜蜂mat6 fung1bee
5螞蟻maa5 ngai5ant
6蜘蛛zi1 zyu1spider
7烏蠅wu1 ying1fly
9黃蜂wong4 fung1wasp
10毛蟲mou4 cung4caterpillar

6. Birds, Reptiles & Amphibians

According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong, the most common birds in Hong Kong’s urban areas are: 

  • Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  • Oriental Magpie Robin
  • Eurasian Magpie
  • Black-crowned Night Heron
  • Red-whiskered Bulbul

In wetlands, you’ll commonly find the White-throated Kingfisher and Little Egret.


Here, we’ve listed the more common vocabulary words for birds, reptiles, amphibians, and similar animals to get you started:

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
2烏鴉wu1 aa1crow / raven
3白鴿bat6 gap2dove
4麻雀maa4 zoek2sparrow
6貓頭鷹maau1 tau4 jing1owl
7鸚鵡jing1 mou5parrot 
8海鷗hoi2 au1seagull
9企鵝kei5 ngo2penguin
10蝸牛wo1 ngau4snail
11青蛙cing1 waa1frog
13鱷魚ngok6 jyu4crocodile / alligator
14烏龜           wu1 gwai1turtle

7. Animal Body Parts

Now that you know the names of several animals in Cantonese, you’ll benefit from learning what to call their most defining body parts. Here, we’ve listed ten common Cantonese words for you.

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1觸角zuk1 gok3antenna
3zaau2 claw / paw
4羽毛jyu5 mou4feather
8尾巴mei5 baa1tail 
9觸鬚zuk1 sou1tentacle
10翅膀ci3 pong4wing

8. Animal Proverbs

There are so many Cantonese animal proverbs! Below are our top five picks:

1 – 豬乸會上樹

Romanization: zyu1 naa2 wui5 soeng5 syu6
Literal Translation: “A sow (a female pig) can climb trees”

More about the proverb – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent Proverb: “When pigs fly”
  • Example Scenario: When Martin is really bad at math, but he claims that he will get full marks on the upcoming calculus exam, you might reply with this phrase.

A Cute Pig

2 – 掛羊頭賣狗肉

Romanization: gwaa3 joeng4 tau4 maai6 gau2 juk6
Literal Translation: “Hang up a sheep’s head and sell dog meat”

More about the proverb – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent Proverb: “Palm off”
  • Example Scenario: When Lucy claims that the designer bags she is selling are real (but they are indeed fake), you may say this phrase.
  • Additional notes: Hong Kong prohibits the slaughter of dogs or cats for the use of food. You won’t actually find shops selling dog meat!

3 – 大石砸死蟹

Romanization: daai6 sek6 zaak6 sei2 haai5
Literal Translation: “A big rock weighs down on a crab”

More about the proverb – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent Proverb: Overpowered by an overwhelming force
  • Example Scenario: Imagine your boss asks you to perform a task that’s totally out of your job description, and you have to do it because of his dominating power in the workplace. You may express your frustration with this phrase.

4 – 牛唔飲水唔撳得牛頭低

Romanization: ngau4 m4 jam2 seoi2 m4 gam6 dak1 ngau4 tau4 dai1
Literal Translation: “If a cow doesn’t want to drink, you can’t force its head down.”

More about the proverb – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent Proverb: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” It implies that one should take full responsibility for his or her own actions.
  • Example Scenario: Imagine that Christy enters a relationship with a guy whom she knows is in love with someone else, and then she claims to be the victim when she gets hurt. In this situation, you could say this phrase. 

5 – 老貓燒鬚

Romanization: lou5 maau1 siu1 sou1
Literal Translation: “An old cat burns its whiskers.”

More about the proverb – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent Proverb: We use this expression in reference to an expert who makes a careless mistake in their area of expertise.
  • Example Scenario: Let’s say that Rick makes a silly grammatical mistake when he is giving an English lesson. If you catch the mistake, you might say this phrase in response. 

9. Bonus: The Twelve Zodiac Animals

Unlike the Western zodiac, which takes twelve months to cycle through the constellation signs, the Chinese zodiac cycle is twelve years long and assigns an animal to each year. 

According to legend, the Jade Emperor held a race for the animals. He declared that the calendar years would be named for each animal in the order they arrived at the goal.

Chinese Zodiac

This race involved a river crossing, and the ox almost won since it was the strongest swimmer. However, it came in second because the rat, who had secretly jumped onto the ox’s back to be carried across the river, leaped out ahead of him. Next came the tiger, the rabbit, and the dragon. The horse should have come next, but the snake hidden in its hoof jumped out and scared him after they had crossed the river, so the snake managed to finish before the horse. The goat, monkey, and rooster made their way across by working together and finished at the same time. The dog could have finished earlier, but stopped to frolic and bathe in the water. The pig had stopped to rest halfway through, and thus came in last.

With that, our 12-year cycle is as follows:

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
2ngau4ox / cow

10. How Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

What’s your favorite animal? Do you remember its name in Cantonese? 

At this stage in your learning journey, you should focus on continuing to build your vocabulary and starting to familiarize yourself with key grammar points. 

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Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native!

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