A lot of animals have a tail. Short, long, or curled. But what is the function of the animal tails? There are actually many reasons why animals have tails. Let’s take a look.
Why do animals have tails?
- To keep their balance
- To attract the opposite sex
- To show emotion
- To survive an attack
- To attack enemies
- To move
- To keep flies away
Here are the most common uses for tails in the animal kingdom.
Let’s take a better look at why animals have tails and how they use them. There are a lot of very interesting and fascinating facts to look at!
Let’s start by exploring the different use cases for tails and see why animals have developed tails.
8 Reasons Why Animals Have Tails
There are actually many good reasons why animals have tails. They use them for a lot of different purposes.
Let’s take a look at some of these uses.
To keep the balance
Many animals have a tail in order to keep balance. It’s kinda like a line dancer with a long stick.
This is the primary reason cats have tails as we will look further at another section below which we dedicated to our furry friends.
It’s also one of the reasons birds have tails.
Many bird species have tails they use to steer during flight and to keep the balance when sitting and flying.
Birds can do almost impossible maneuvers in the air thanks to their tails. When they utilize their tails together with their wings they can navigate and turn faster than any airplane. The feathery tails of birds are also called rectrices.
Scientists have also found that some birds use their tails as brakes. This enables them to stop faster and do very fast maneuvers when they are about to land.
To attract the opposite sex
Other birds have very decorative and beautiful tails with lots of colorful feathers.
A good example here is the Peacocks.
They will puff their feathers and show off in front of the opposite sex as part of their mating rituals.
Peacocks have the same behavior.
They will use their gigantic tails to attract the females when they are ready to mate. The females are attracted to the size and beautiful patterns on the tails.
They also see this as a sign of good health.
When the female animal sees the many colors and the dance moves from the mail they notice the beautiful tails and judge them to be strong and good partners.
Animals will often use their tales as part of dance during the mating seasons.
To show emotions
This is true for dogs.
Dogs can use their tail to show happiness by wailing its tail from side to side. They can also show other emotions with the position of their tails, as we will look at in a bit.
Another animal that can show emotions with the tail is the Horse.
Horses will often wring it’s tail if it’s in pain or being stressed.
That is a way of signaling stress and discomfort. They can also raise their tails when they are excited and alert to dangers. When that happens you have to calm it down in order to keep good contact and to control it.
When horsetail is pressed down toward the ground it is often showing nervousness. You need to stop riding and make sure everything is alright.
Cats can also feelings such as irritation and fear by sticking their tail in the air while arching their back.
You have probably seen this when you are playing with a cat or if it becomes scared.
For defense and to survive
Other animals will use their tail in order to protect themselves from enemies. They have different ways of doing this.
Salamanders, for instance, can deliberately choose to lose their tails if an enemy grabs it. The very cool part about this feature is that they can often grow them back pretty fast! Smaller salamanders will also throw their tails off if you surprise them.
If they haven’t seen you coming and you scare them with a loud sound or waving gestures if will also often let go of the tail.
This will leave the attacking enemy with only a little snack. The enemy often gets so confused and surprised that it doesn’t set after the salamander.
Some rats have been known to show similar behavior. They can also shed parts of their tails during an attack and this enables them to get away.
They do so in order to be able to move much faster and get in safety.
To attach and hunt their prey
But not all animals will have a friendly use of their tails. Some will use them for hunting and defense.
This is the case with Scorpions.
They have a sting at their tail which they can swing forward and use to insert poison in their prey.
The same goes for sea creatures like Jellyfish and Stingrays. They also have poison in their tails (or tentacles) which they can use to paralyze the enemy.
This venom will momentarily set the enemy of the game by paralyzing their muscles for a while. This enables the sea creature to catch and kill the animal.
You can read more here about the weird Jellyfish and how it eats.
We also find predators in the animal kingdom with armored tails.
The Brown African Lizard has an armored tail it can use for defending itself against bites and scratches during a fight. Or simply to look as scary as possible in order to scare the enemy away.
And it does look pretty scary!
It’s spiky and tells the other animals around it to keep their distance. The yellow color is also a sign of danger and makes the animal look a lot longer than it really is. Salamanders are wonderful creatures. If you like this pretty scary look you should take a look at the Bearded Dragon.
Bearded Dragons have some of the same looks and they are wonderful pets.
I have looked after a Bearded Dragon during a week and it’s a happy fella you can actually pet and hold in your hand.
Many ancient (now extinct) species among the dinosaurs had armored tails as well.
Many fish and other marine animals use their tail in order to move forward.
This is also true for many arboreal animals (who live in trees). These are animals like monkeys and Sugar Gliders. They will use their tails to grab the branches in order to keep a better grip or in order to swing themselves to the next tree.
Smaller monkeys are exceptionally good at this.
They can swing themselves pretty far and they almost never lose their grip and fall to the ground. Very impressive! But we also have monkeys without tails so it’s hard to say anything in general about why a group of animals has a tail.
To keep flies away
If you have ever watched a Cow on a warm sunny day you might have noticed how many flies they have buzzing around their head and body.
That must be super irritating. Imagine having hundreds of flies constantly trying to sit on your body.
A Cow will use its tail to brush away flies. The same goes for other types of cattle and large land animals such as horses.
Horses can swing their tail in many directions and they can also show emotions with their tails as we looked at above.
To store fat
This is a pretty unique use of the tail.
You find this feature among several species of Alligators.
They can actually store fat inside their tails in order to keep alive for around two years (without eating anything). So there’s plenty of fat here to keep the animal safe during a long season without food.
The tail of the Alligator can also be used for defense and for swimming.
So as you can see, each animal has its own unique ways of using its tails and some have several reasons.
What’s The Purpose Of DOG Tails?
Ever wondered why dogs have tails?
There are many different uses. First and foremost, it uses the tail to show emotions, as we looked at briefly above.
Here are some of the basic dog emotions you can tell from paying attention to its tail:
- A wagging tail
This is a happy dog. It’s a social signal to other creatures that all is well and the dog is happy. So it’s time to pet your dog and have a good time together.
- A tail held low
The dog is probably sad. Pay attention to it and try to see if it is hungry or in pain. Maybe it just needs some company. After all, dogs are very social creatures!
- A stiff tail
This is typically a sign of an aggressive dog. It’s ready to attach or to defend itself or its territory.
- Tucked between the legs
A sign of submission (more info below)
Why we cut them off some breeds
Why do dogs put their tails between their legs?
When a dog puts its tail between its lets it is a sign of submission.
When the tail points forward between the legs it prevents the dog from releasing its scent. Something dogs to in order to mark their territory. So when they stop the scent from being released they also let go of the territory.
So when your dog puts its tail between its legs you must pay attention. Maybe it is scared of another animal but it may also be a behavior it displays during training. It shows that the dog is submissive and lets you be the master.
But it can also be a sign that the dog is scared. So you have to pay close attention to the rest of the body. Listen to the sounds and see what you can tell from the posture.
It can also be a sign that it has been a bad dog.
Maybe Fido has just eaten your socks and it knows that it was not supposed to do that.
What’s The Purpose Of CAT Tails?
You might also wonder why cats have tails.
They don’t seem to use them much but there are actually good reasons why our cat-friends have tails.
Cats will often stick their tail in the air and slightly backward. If they do this while arching their back it’s typically a sign that they are threatened or ready to attack. This can be a serious matter or during play.
Here are some other things you can read from the cat’s tail:
- Straight down tail
The cat is probably aggressive or irritated. Try to talk calm words to it and see if you can call it towards you.
- Curled tail around it
The cat wants some privacy and it’s not ready to play right now. It can also be a sign that it’s nervous.
- Swaying slowly from side to side
- The cat is alert and playing. It’s probably trying to catch a ball. It can also be a cat sneaking up on a mouse or trying to stay put while hunting in the garden.
Always pay close attention to sounds and body language as well. You can not always tell anything from looking at the tail alone. So take your time and find out what’s really going on.
Which Animals Have No Tail?
Let’s make a list of 10 types of animals without a tail. All mammals have tails (at some point) so we have to look elsewhere.
These are 10 animals without a tail:
As you can see, there are a wide variety of animals with no tail.
The most surprising animals without tails are probably Chimps. Their cousins, Gorillas, also have no tails.
This is interesting because other monkeys are very dependent on their long tails in order to move around in the trees and to keep their balance.
We also find mammals among the list and they are not actually completely tail-less.
They will have a tail at some point in their development as embryos. But for them sometimes disappear before the babies are born. The same is true for humans (as we will look at below).
Why Do Humans Not Have Tails?
Actually, we do have a tail-like part as embryos.
All mammals have a tail at some point and for humans, they are only present in the first couple of weeks.
It disappears as the embryo grows.
But once in a while, a child is born with a small part being left at the body. It will be a soft and useless extension that has no use at all.
We do have a tail bone, as we call it.
Some scientists believe humans used to have a small tail and that this is the reason we still have a tail bone. We still use it for stabilization when we sit and that’s probably the reason we have it.
List Of 10 Animals With Tails
Lots of animals have tails.
Here’s a list of 10 animals with tails:
- Miniature Donkeys (They’re adorable!)
As we mentioned at the top of the article, they all have different purposes and uses. It’s amazing how many things animals will do with their tails.
It’s almost like an extra arm. Especially for monkeys and other animals with very good sensory and movement skills.