Animals are divided into…

• those that belong to the Emperor,
• embalmed ones,
• those that are trained,
• suckling pigs,
• mermaids,
• fabulous ones,
• stray dogs,
• those included in the present classification,
• those that tremble as if they were mad,
• innumerable ones,
• those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
• others,
• those that have just broken a flower vase,
• those that from a long way off look like flies.
from the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge by Jorge Luis Borges

The Evolution Of Animals In Stories Over Time

1. Animals are magical. See folklore and fairy tales. They take over human identities with their magic.

2. Animals are amusing. Animals are no longer objects but characters in their own right. Now they are being used to show up human foibles. (Mrs Gatty, Charles Kingsley)

3. Guilt. Animals in stories are there to show us all our human weakness, and also how animals should properly be treated. (Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Sarah Trimmer’s religious stories (1782-1819). Other writers such as George Orwell use them as pawns in satire (Animal Farm). Other writers  allow animals to retaliate against humans who have treated them badly (Daphne Du Maurier’s The Birds, The Chronicles of Narnia).

Animal stories rose as religious stories declined in popularity.


Fables go way back, of course. But when it comes to published work, the advent of animals in literature, it all started happening from the mid 1700s. Black Beauty started a trend.

The first dog book was The History of Pompey the Little (1751)

Black Beauty is the first real animal novel (1877)

The Jungle Book (1893) is the first attempt to enter an animal world

The Story of Dr Dolittle (1922) is the first to consider animal rights

Mary Plain (1930) is the first animal (a bear) to share the human one