Common animal names in local African languages

Ever wanted to find out how to say “zebra” in Swahili, or even “leopard” in Zulu?

With the following table, you’ll be able to identify the most common animals of the African bush in local languages.

Translations include Afrikaans, Nama/Damara, Ndebele, Shona, Siswati, Swahili, Tswana, Venda and Zulu.

While the table is far from complete, it gives a good overview of common African animal names.

Download your FREE table below:

(Right-click and “Save Link As…” to save it to your computer)

Enjoy! 😉

NB: Some of the names come from Clive Walker’s book “Signs of the Wild.”

This compact field guide to the identification of Southern African mammals based on their spoor, droppings and skulls has been accepted as the standard work on the subject.

This edition offers up-to-date information on identification through signs.

Highly recommended! 🙂

Until next time, have a “fantabulous” day.

Michael (aka Africa Freak)

14 thoughts on “Common animal names in local African languages”

  1. I have been given the privilege of naming 2 baby cubs in the Kgalagadi. Do you have any knowledge of appropriate names for the area & the word must start with M. Quite a task as I don’t see many M words in Khoisan or Twana language.

    1. That’s a tough question, Linda! 🙂

      What kind of cubs are you referring to (lions?)?

      Here’s 100 Khoisan words to get you started:

      Some of them which you may find useful include magadza (“long” in Sandawe), mtana (“good” in Hadza), manjano (“yellow” in Sandawe), or even malundi (“cloud” in Hadza).

      There’s also words like mana (“meat” in Hadza), maxa (“man” in Sandawe), ma (“to give” in Khoekhoe), mu (“to see” in Khoekhoe), and manaa (“to know” in Sandawe).

      I hope this helps! 😉

  2. I’d be very grateful if you could tell me the Zulu words for the following creatures, please?

    Grey Duiker
    Woodland Dormouse
    Rock Hyrax
    Side-Striped Jackal
    Slender Mongoose
    Water Mongoose
    Red Hartebeest

    1. Hi Martin,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Not sure about “woodland dormouse” (perhaps someone else can help out?), but here’s the rest of your list in Zulu:

      Common duiker = Mpunzi
      Rock hyrax (dassie) = Mbili
      Side-striped jackal = Mpungutshe
      Slender mongoose = Chakide
      Water mongoose = Mvuzi
      Red hartebeest = Nduluzele
      Nyala = Inyala

      Hope this helps, take care! 😉


    1. Hey guys! 🙂

      Thanks a million for the kind words, it’s always nice to hear that your work is appreciated! 🙂

      I must admit some of the animal names are “impossible” to pronounce…and I had to read them a couple of times before I could spell them correctly… 😉

      Btw, if anyone can fill in some of the blanks…please be my guest! 🙂

      Oh, and yeah, just thought I’d add a couple more translations just for the fun of it. Here it goes:

      Some of my Antelope favs! 🙂


      Afrikaans: Bosbok.
      Sotho: Tshoso.
      Ndebele, Zulu, Swazi, Xhosa: Imbabala.
      Shona: Dsoma.
      Shangaan: Mbvala.
      Venda: Mbavhala, Tshishosho.
      Lozi: Mbabala.
      Tswana: Serolobotlhoko.
      Yei: Ungulungu.
      Nama/Damara: !Garapiris.


      Afrikaans: Njala.
      Shona: Nyara.
      Siswati: Litagayezi.
      Ndebele, Zulu, Shangaan, Venda: Inyala.


      Afrikaans: Koedoe.
      Zulu: Mgankla.
      Xhosa: Qudu.
      Shangaan: Hlongo.
      Siswati: Shongololo.
      Sotho, Venda, Tswana: Tholo.
      Shona: Nhoro.
      Ndebele: Ibhalabhala.
      Lozi: Tolo.
      Yei: Unzwa.
      Nama/Damara: Xaib.


      Afrikaans: Springbok.
      Herero: Menyeh.
      Tswana: Tshephe, Maponye.
      Sotho: Tshephe.
      Nama/Damara: || Gûb.

      Source: Signs of the Wild, by Clive Walker.

      Cheerios! 🙂 😉

  3. Great post! I frequently get travelers interested in learning some Swahili or at least interested in the language before taking their trip to Africa. This PDF is a great way to familiarize yourself and your family with the animals of Africa and the culture of Africa before leaving for your trip!

    It’s also exciting and highly rewarding to learn a new language–even if it is just a few words!

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