5 Surprisingly Misnamed Animals

By Linda Lombardi

Animal names . . . you just can't trust them.

Sure, the yellow-bellied sapsucker has a yellow tummy and eats sap. But not all monikers in the critter kingdom are so obvious - and some are complete misnomers.

Here are five examples of animals whose names have rather unexpected explanations.

Thinkstock1. Hermit Crab

The hermit crab isn't a loner like its name implies. They actually live in large colonies in the wild and possess some remarkably sophisticated social behavior. The crabs will line up in front of an empty shell, and when a crab arrives who's a perfect fit for the brand-new home, it goes to the head of the line to move in. The next biggest crustacean takes that crab's vacated shell, and then everyone else exchanges shells in order.

Related: Learn More About Hermit Crabs


2. White Rhino

There are two types of African Rhinoceros - white and black - but you won't be able to tell them apart by color, seeing as both species are a dark brownish-gray. The white rhino's name is commonly said to derive from the Dutch word "wijd," which means wide. And the white rhino's square muzzle is indeed wider than that of the black rhino's more pointed one. But since no written record of the term's true origins exists, we'll probably never know for sure.

3. Guinea Pig

It's not a pig, and it doesn't come from the African country of Guinea. In fact, this small critter originates in the Andes of South America, and some say that "Guinea" could be a corruption of Guyana, which is part of South America. Incidentally, they're also unrelated to pigs, although some South Americans appreciate them in a similar way - guinea pigs are apparently rather tasty.

Related: Learn More About Guinea Pigs


Thinkstock4. Baltimore Oriole

While the Baltimore Oriole is indeed the state bird of Maryland, the name isn't based on geography - it actually came from the fact that their black and orange coloring resembles that of the coat of arms of the Lord Baltimore family.



Tara Gregg, Animal Photography5. Australian Shepherd

The ancestors of this breed were indeed sheepdogs - but they didn't come from Down Under. Australian Shepherds were developed in the mid-19th century in the United States. (See Also: 11 Truly American Dog Breeds) It's not really known how the breed got its name, although one guess is that some of the sheep that the dogs herded came from Australia.

Related: Learn More About Australian Shepherds


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