Lobsters for men, miniature pigs for women

March 01, 2015, 11:31 AM GMT+0

A new analysis of the nation's favourite animals reveals some surprising gender stereotypes

'What are little boys made of?' asks the famous nursery rhyme. 'Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails' is the traditional answer, but analysis of new YouGov data on the vast array of animals people like and dislike reveals that 'Lobsters, alligators and sticklebacks' might be a more accurate response.

Over 190,000 YouGov members have contributed ratings on the YouGov website of a vast array of animals, amounting to perhaps the largest dataset ever collected of people's passions and phobias in the animal world.

Overall, the nation's most popular animals are dogs, tigers and elephants. The least beloved are eels, millipedes and spiders.

But perhaps the most striking finding was the difference between the genders. The Victorian nursery rhyme has snails and puppy dogs as animals associated with boys - however, statistically speaking both dogs and snails are very slightly more popular among women than men.

In general, men are more likely to have sympathy for heroic, aggressive or creepy animals while women are more likely to prefer the cute, beautiful and exotic types.

The most particularly male animals are the lobster and the alligator. Women, in contrast, are most likely to prefer the miniature pig and cats. These correlations are highly significant: the most male animals have a z-score of over 4 (a statistical measure of the strength of correlations) and the most female animal scoring over 7.

This doesn't mean that lobsters are the most popular animal among men and miniature pigs among women, however. Instead what the data shows is that lobsters are unusually popular among men when you compare them to the preferences of the population as a whole.

Animals with violent defensive abilities – sharks, eagles and piranhas – are particularly favoured by men. The only mammal in the top 20 most uniquely male animals is the Narwhal, while every animal in the corresponding female list apart from the penguin and butterfly is mammal.

The full appendix of animals, with their popularity (where 0 is least and 10 is most popular) and gender score (with the highest positive scores being most male and most negative being most female) can be found here.

This article was amended on 03/02/2015. Previously it said there were no mammals in the top 20 most uniquely male animals, however the Narwhal is in fact a mammal.