Some Spanish Proverbs About Animals and Their English Translations

You may know that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush or that you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, but what do Spanish sayings about animals have to teach us? The animal kingdom provides the Spanish language with some of its most colorful proverbs, which will be fun to sprinkle into everyday conversations, whether you’re a student, teacher or just a language connoisseur.

En boca cerrada no entran moscas. / Flies do not enter a closed mouth. Spanish proverb

Although it doesn’t create the most pleasant of images, it’s hard to argue with this saying’s advice about knowing when to stay silent.

Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda. / Although the monkey dresses in silk, a monkey it remains. Spanish proverb

The English equivalent to this Spanish saying about animals is, "You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear." A pretty exterior won’t hide what’s truly inside.

Más vale ser cabeza de ratón que cola de león. / It’s better to be a rat’s head than a lion’s tail. Spanish proverb

If you had a chance at a job with a big-name company, it would sound pretty appealing. However, what if you’re stuck in the mail room when you used to be a manager at your smaller firm? Bigger and better things aren’t always all they’re made out to be.

El que anda con lobos, a aullar se enseña. / He who walks with wolves, is taught to howl. Spanish proverb

You’re known by the company you keep, and it’s difficult to avoid being influenced by friends. Make sure that your own personal "wolves" aren’t teaching you bad habits.

Una golondrina no hace el verano. / One swallow doesn’t make it summer. Spanish proverb

This Spanish saying about animals warns us not to be too hasty. Although it’s always important to have hope, we should temper it with a bit of realism.

Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente. / The shrimp that sleeps is carried away by the current. Spanish proverb

It’s amazing what can happen while we’re not paying attention. Who knows how many opportunities you can miss with a complacent attitude? Stay "awake" if you don’t want to find yourself drifting far from your intended path.

As for those birds in a bush? Más vale pájaro en mano, que ciento volando (A bird in the hand is worth more than a hundred flying). And the gift horse? A caballo regalado no se le mira el colmillo (Don’t look at the eyetooth of a gift horse). It seems some ideas are universal.