Animal Similes

When Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the gospel, he told them, “I am sending you out like a sheep among wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Kind of a strange thing to say, isn’t it?

Jesus knew that his friends would be in danger sometimes. He wanted them to be smart but gentle. He wanted them to protect themselves but not hurt others.

When we use the words “like” or “as” to describe something, like Jesus did when he said “harmless as doves,” that’s called a simile (say it SIM-il-lee). In the English language—and in the Bible—there are lots of animal similes. Let’s take a look!

P.S. Can you say “animal similes” five times fast? Try it!

Eager Beaver!
“You’re an eager beaver!” If anyone says that to you, it’s a compliment. Beavers are very hard workers.
Here are some fun beaver facts:

  • One beaver can chew down more than 200 trees in a year.
  • One reason that beavers build dams is because they can’t stand the sound of trickling water. It’s true! If a beaver hears water running, he thinks his dam is leaking, so he starts to do whatever he can to fix it.
  • You can find the world’s largest beaver dam in Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada. The dam is about 2,800 feet (850 meters) long. Astronauts can see it from space!
  • In the 1800s, people liked to make tall top hats from beaver fur. The hats were so popular that beavers were in danger of becoming extinct. These days fashions have changed, and beavers are making a good comeback.

Want to see a beaver in action? Watch this video from Animal Planet.

Blind as a Bat
Someone who wears glasses might say, “Without my glasses I’m as blind as a bat!” Because of this simile, many people think bats are blind. But they’re not! All bats can see. Their vision is best when it’s just getting dark outside and worst in bright sunlight.

Even though bats don’t have the best vision in the world, they can catch and eat up to 1,000 insects in just one hour!

Bats are fascinating creatures, but many kinds of bats are in danger. A disease called White Nose Syndrome has killed millions of bats in North America. Some types of bats are even in danger of extinction.

Sick as a Dog
Dogs love to eat things. Some of those things are food, and some definitely are not. (If you have a dog, you know what I mean!) When dogs eat something that’s bad for them, they often throw up. That’s why people who get stomach flu might say they’re “sick as a dog.”

Do you know what foods are harmful for dogs? Test yourself!

Five of these foods are OK for dogs, and five are dangerous. Can you identify them? You’ll find the answers at the bottom of the page.
chocolate                  chewing gum
rice                           bread dough
grapes                       baked bread
onions                      oranges
watermelon              peanut butter

Answers: Dogs should never eat chocolate, grapes, onions, raw bread dough, or chewing gum. Those foods can make dogs very sick.

Busy as a Bee
Next time you’re in a garden, try watching a bee buzzing in and out of flowers. (Bees won’t sting you if you’re just looking at them. They only sting when they feel threatened.) “Busy” is the right word to describe a bee at work.

  • A honeybee can visit up to 2,000 flowers in one day.
  • The queen honeybee lays up to 1,500 eggs every day. Since queen bees can live up to four years, one queen could lay up to 2 million eggs in her lifetime.
  • Honeybees fly at a speed of about 15 miles (24 kilometers) per hour, and they often travel 3 miles (almost 5 km) from home on one trip.
  • Honeybees pollinate about 80 percent of all fruit, vegetable, and seed crops in North America.

Just reading about a busy honeybee is enough to make you feel tired!

Strong as an Ox
Since about 4000 B.C., people have used teams of oxen to help them with hard work. Some scientists think oxen helped pull the stones used to build the great pyramids of Egypt!

Oxen are good at pulling things because they are very strong. Horses are faster, but oxen are slow and steady and calm. They can work for a long time without getting tired.

Oxen usually work in pairs. They are connected by a wooden yoke that fits around their necks. The yoke helps the oxen work together well. In Matthew 11:20, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me. . . .” Jesus wants us to work with him like a team of oxen working together. Are you ready to work with Jesus?

Fill in the Similes
Here are some common animal similes! Fill in the blanks below. Stumped? See the answers at the bottom of the page.
1. __________ as a peacock
2. __________ as a mouse
3. __________ as a loon
4. __________ as an owl
5. __________ as an eel
6. __________ as a mule
7. __________ as a fox


Answers: 1. proud; 2. quiet; 3. crazy; 4. wise; 5. slippery; 6. stubborn; 7. Sly

About the Author

Sandy Swartzentruber serves as the resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries and is a member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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