Animals are an inseparable part of human life since the beginning of humanity and an important link in our evolution.
Death is also an inseparable part of human existence, but also the existence of all living beings, which is why humans have since ancient times attributed death symbolism to certain animals.
Different animals have carried this symbolism in different cultures through the centuries.
In this article, we give you the Ultimate list of 25 animals which symbolize death.
Animals That Symbolize Death – Ultimate List
Flies are animals whose life and reproductive cycle is closely connected to death. They lay their eggs on rotten flesh and dead bodies.
The maggots that hatch from the eggs then use this rotting flesh to feed and eventually become a fly that will repeat endlessly the same cycle.
Flies were considered a symbol of death in many cultures throughout the world, especially in Native American tradition.
Besides being a symbol of death, they are also a symbol of new life and rebirth, as well as transformation, which are all inseparable parts of the existence of living beings.
They are a reminder of the endless cycle of life and death.
Maggots, or fly larvae, are larvae who feed on dead animals and human corpses.
Their presence in a corpse can be used to approximately determine the time of death for bodies that have been dead for longer periods.
The maggot, or larva, is the main feeding stage of flies. They grow by eating the decaying flesh, shredding it from the corpse.
The number of maggots on one corpse can be enormous, having in mind that one female fly can lay up to 300 eggs at one time, and quite a few flies lay eggs on one corpse.
Because of their role in decomposing dead bodies, maggots have been considered a symbol of death and transience since ancient times.
Francesco Redi, an Italian physician from the 17th century first discovered that maggots in decaying meat didn’t come from spontaneous generation, but from eggs laid by flies in the decaying meat.
Maggots are a strong reminder that all living beings will one day experience the inevitable death.
Rats have a strong association with death, mostly because of the deadly diseases they spread.
Rats are a symbol of death and disease throughout the world. Some cultures believe that seeing a rat leave some house it is a sign that someone will die in that home.
Rats were responsible for killing almost half of the population of Europe in the Middle ages, spreading the bubonic plague, so-called the Black death.
Rats have earned their bad reputation throughout the ages.
Even ancient Romans considered them a symbol of disease and death because they observed them coming out of their holes when sensing people in their vicinity ill or dying.
Vultures are birds of prey, but also scavengers who feed on the carrion of dead animals. They have a strong sense of smell that helps them discover fresh carcasses.
Because vultures don’t have a syrinx, a vocal organ in birds, they can only hiss and grunt, which gives them an even more frightening sight.
The vulture is considered an ominous animal, a messenger of death in many cultures around the world.
Especially the black vulture is considered a symbol of death and approaching demise.
In some cultures, there is a belief that vultures can sense death. Their presence and sight is a bad omen, signifying an upcoming death.
Vulture is also an omen of death when it appears in a dream.
Hyenas are considered a symbol of death and decomposition in many cultures around the world.
They are considered evil beings of the night, believed of stealing livestock and children and robbing graves.
In some cultures, they are considered an omen of approaching death.
Hyenas feed on carcasses, just like vultures. They prey on death and misfortune which is why they are a very important symbol of death in the animal kingdom.
Jackals are associated with death in some cultures.
They are wild animals native to Asia and Eurasia. They are scavengers and opportunistic omnivores.
In ancient Egypt, jackals were closely associated with death because they were eating the decomposing flesh of dead bodies freshly buried in cemeteries.
Anubis was the Egyptian deity with a black jackal head and was the patron deity of jackals.
One of the reasons for making this deity a patron of jackals the Egyptians believed that they would protect the dead bodies of their loved ones from being devoured by these animals.
- Black cats
Black cats were considered an ominous symbol mostly in European countries throughout history.
Black cats are a sign of bad luck in general. Because of their close ties to witchcraft, black magic, and the Devil, they are also considered a symbol of death.
Not many people enjoy encountering a black cat. They are seen as an evil omen, and especially if a black cat crosses one’s path, it is believed that they will experience some misfortune and even death.
Bats are also perceived as a bad omen. These animals have been associated with death especially because of their nocturnal lifestyle and terrifying appearance.
Some cultures believe that when a bat enters someone’s household it is an omen of death befalling this household soon.
Some cultures consider bats as creatures of the underworld.
The Common vampire bat (Desmondus Rotundus) is a species of bat which feeds on the blood of its victims.
They approach their prey at night when they are sleeping. They use their sharp teeth to cut the skin and lap their blood with their tongue.
This bat is dangerous and considered a pest because it is a carrier of rabies and feeds on livestock.
The feeding habits of this bat species certainly contributed to their association with death.
Blackbirds are also associated with death, mostly because of the dark color of their feathers.
They are considered a messenger of death and seeing one is perceived as a bad omen, indicating bad news and death.
In some cases, the blackbird is considered a sign of symbolic death of bad circumstances the person is struggling with.
For the ancient Egyptians, the blackbird was the symbol of life and death, and the circle of life.
One theory about their connection with death stems from the belief that they symbolize mourning at funerals because they don’t sign during the day.
Ravens are also birds that are symbolically connected with death. Their scary black appearance is the main reason for their bad reputation.
Ravens have an especially bad connotation in western folklore, symbolizing death and war.
Ravens gained their evil reputation because they were seen on battlefields devouring the flesh of the fresh corpses scattered on the ground. This is what ultimately led to their association with death.
Like vultures, hyenas, and other corpse-feeding animals, ravens are only contributing to the unfolding cycle of life, cleaning the remains of death.
Crows are considered a symbol and omen of death since antiquity in many cultures throughout the world.
The main reason for this is most likely their ominous black appearance and the shrieking sound they emit.
Seeing and hearing a crow usually sends shivers down the spine in many people. Their appearance is an omen of something bad happening, and often it is feared that it announces an upcoming death.
Crows can symbolically represent the death of some cycle or circumstances and something new.
Owls are an animal strongly attached to the symbolism of death.
They are closely associated with witches, black magic, Devil, and death. The hooting they emit is considered an ominous omen of death and evil.
Many cultures throughout the world consider owls a very bad omen, especially the Egyptian, Native American, and Norse.
Owls are believed to steal children and lead them to death.
Dreams about owls are often considered a bad omen, announcing the death of the person dreaming or their loved one.
Spiders are often considered a symbol of death. They do carry death within them, because of the venom they produce and use to kill their prey.
Also, their appearance is a bit scary and ominous, and many people have a phobia of seeing them.
Spiders are considered a symbol of creation but also destruction. They have a predatory nature.
In some Native American cultures, there was a belief that killing a spider near your home would cause the death of someone in your family soon.
Similarly to spiders, scorpions use their venom to kill their prey. They can kill prey that is much bigger than they are, and this is one of the main reasons why their symbolism is so strongly attached to death.
Scorpions are also considered a symbol of death when dreamed about.
Especially for the African cultures where scorpions are an ever-present danger, they are considered a symbol of major evil and danger, as well as death.
Like other animals, the scorpion has been considered an animal symbolizing the cycle of life and death as well as transformation.
Snakes are venomous and deadly animals. They are an important symbol of death and dying in many cultures, especially because of their lethal nature.
Some snake species have venom that is so potent that can kill a human adult in minutes.
Snakes are symbols of danger and death and bring feelings of fear at the mere thought of them. Fear of death is strongly associated with the image of a snake.
Snakebites are the cause of many deaths, which is why this animal is one of the most important symbols of death in the animal kingdom.
Butterflies are often attached to the symbolism of death, even though this might seem unlikely due to their beauty.
They are often seen as a bad omen and linked to death, especially black butterflies.
Butterflies and their life cycle symbolically represent the death of the body and setting the soul free after death, just as the fully formed butterfly emerges from the cocoon.
Yellow butterfly is also a bad sign, especially an omen of illness, and sometimes death.
Moths are type butterflies which are used as a symbol of death and darkness since ancient times.
The Celts used moths to depict death and decay. They perceived the presence of a moth inside the house as a sign of upcoming death in the household.
Also, moths were seen as the souls of the deceased family and friends of the household.
Moths were also perceived as a sign and symbol of death in ancient Egypt.
Also, moths are a sign of death for Native Americans.
Even though it seems strange, swans are considered a symbol of death in some cultures.
The main reason for this association is in the myth that this bird is able to foretell its death. This so-called “swan song” is fiction and isn’t based in reality.
This phrase in fact refers to the final performance of someone famous, an actor, or a musician before they retire or die.
The idea originates from the myth that the European mute swan, which is not very vocal throughout its life, sings before it dies.
In ancient Rome, the swan was considered an omen of death, but an honorable death of the person.
The phoenix bird is also considered a symbol of death in some cultures. It is not a real animal, but a mythical creature from Greek mythology.
This bird undergoes endless cycles of death and rebirth. It is associated with the sun and is born again rising from the dust of its predecessor.
According to some legends, the phoenix dies and decomposes before it is born again.
According to other myths, it burns in flames and is born again from the flame.
The origins of this mythical bird are in ancient Egypt, but it symbolism was used throughout the centuries, especially among religious authorities.
Even though this bird is not real, it is used as an important symbol of death and resurrection.
Bulls are considered a symbol of death in some cultures. The idea stems from the use of bull’s blood in religious sacrifices in ancient cultures, especially ancient Rome.
Bulls have been associated with death in ancient Egypt, but also in India and Indonesia.
Bulls are important creatures in Greek folklore.
The Greek hero Theseus killed the legendary Minotaur, a half-bull, and half-human creature, which lived in the Labyrinth and devoured people who were unfortunate to find themselves on its path.
Bulls are also associated with death because of the practice of bullfighting. The matador, or the person who fights with the bull, is believed to be symbolically reborn after slaying the bull.
Horses can also be considered a symbol of death. The idea stems from the Biblical story of the four horses of the apocalypse. The story is that the four horses will appear at the end of times.
The horse is also a symbol of death when depicted with an empty saddle, symbolically representing that its rider is dead.
It seems odd, but roosters are sometimes considered an omen of death. This is especially true for the Mexican culture where this bird is considered a symbol of death.
Roosters also symbolize death in western culture. Especially when it crows during the night before dawn, this is considered a bad omen, foretelling death for the household.
Also, when roosters don’t crow in the morning that is considered a very bad omen foretelling that something bad will happen.
Cardinal birds are considered a sign of our departed loved ones. Seeing a cardinal is perceived as we are visited by someone from the other world.
The symbolism of this bird to death and the deceased is not very clear. There is an idea that their red color is somehow symbolically tied to the blood of Christ shed on the Cross.
The red color of the bird is considered a sign that the deceased person is in heaven alongside Christ.
Although the bird is connected to the symbolism of death, it still is a symbol of peace and consolation, knowing that our loved ones are always somewhere in our vicinity even though not physically present but in spirit.
Rams are often related to the Devil’s symbolism and black magic.
Rams were often sacrificed in ancient religions as a way to appease the Gods.
Their sacrifice is often depicted in the Bible, but also in other religious texts.
The ram is often depicted as the devil and a very bad omen, and as such represents a symbol of death and annihilation.
Dragonflies are considered a sign of our departed loved ones.
The dragonfly is believed to be a messenger from the other side.
In many cultures, it is believed that when a dragonfly appears it is a physical sign of the presence of our deceased who want to show us their love and reassure us that they are fine.
The dragonfly is considered an intermediary between us and the world of the dead.
Seeing a dragonfly soon after someone dear has departed is considered to be their message to us of their presence in our life even after their death.
Since the beginning of the human race, humans have interacted with animals, benefited from them and observed their behaviors, habits, and life cycles.
The ever-present threat of death caused people to look for the symbolism of death in all that surrounded them, and animals were an important part of their surroundings.
This is what lead people from different cultures around the world to attribute associations with death to different animals, which deservedly and undeservedly made them a symbol of death which lasts until the present days.