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Why Do Animals Have tails?

Updated on September 10, 2009

QUESTION: Why do animals have tails?

Many animals have tails, and it may seem like a small extremity for us humans, but for the animals it really is a big deal. Different animals have tails for different reasons. What may help one animal may not be the purpose of another animal's tail.

Dogs and cats use their tails as one sign of emotion and communication. Body language is very important in the canine and feline world, and the wrong sign can cause a bad reaction. A ducked tail usually means fear, whereas an erect tail shows confidence.

Balance and equilibrium can, also, be contributed to an animal's tail.

Horses use their tails to swat flies away from their body's.

Some animals use their tails for balance. Actually, many animals use their tails for balance. Some gecko species use their tails as extra insurance when on vertical surfaces. Feline species use their tails for balance, as well, when they're jumping around on rocks and trees. Snow Leopards have the longest tail of any feline, which betters their balance while they move in the rugged mountainous environment.

Bird use their tails to stay balanced when not moving. The tail of the blue and gold macaws is extremely long as to offest the weight from their beak. Without the long tail, they would tip over when perching.

Crested geckos use their tails to help stick to vertical surfaces.
Crested geckos use their tails to help stick to vertical surfaces.

Aquatic animals and other animals that swim, use their tails like propellers to help move through the water with ease. Beavers, otters, fish, alligators, and sharks, are great examples of animals that use their tails to help movement in the water. The West African Dwarf Crocodile will tuck his legs under his body and use only his tail to propel through the water. Salmon, use their tails to up swim upstream to spawn.

On the other hand, birds will use their tails to help movement through the air when flying.

Some birds' have another purpose for their tail. Some birds such as peacocks, use their tails for aesthetic purposes when finding a mate. Males with the prettier, more ornate tail, tend to get the females faster than those with duller tails.

Many reptile species rely on their tail to run from predators. When a larger reptile or mammal grabs a smaller gecko species by the tail, the gecko can drop the tail and scurry away. Another replacement tail will usually grow back in case of another attack.

Animals have tails for different reasons. Each reason assisting their everyday life. Tails aid animals with balance, movement, defense, mating, and communication.


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      Jackson 6 years ago

      @trsmd Of course geckos are animals!!!!! The definition of an animal is anythng that eats organic matter that pretty much includes every animal on the earth evn fish, who are not mammals but are still animals.

      With the exception of humans all lifeforms are considered animals, humans are also animals there is just a lot of disagreement as to whether we should own grade ourselves to the same level, in my opinion yes we should.

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      yolanda 7 years ago

      well even humans have tails so it procautionary that the taliban people do not get to our main base in wyoming.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      Crested Geckos are geckos, not necessarily lizards. Lizards are animals. I'm not sure why think think they are not. Please explain...

      Mammals, Reptiles, Fish, and Amphibians, are all animals. A gecko is a reptile, as is a lizard, so that means it's an animal.

    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 9 years ago from India

      I think Crested Geakos is not an animal.. it's a Lizard...

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      AnimalTurd 9 years ago

      Interesting hub...good work.

    • Jaelyn profile image

      Jaelyn 10 years ago from Sunset District, San Francisco

      excellent hub. congrats.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      Tiffany: you may want to make sure that your hamster does not have wet-tail. Other than that, I'm not sure. It's not normal for a hamster to constant bite or chew her tail.

      I'm not 100% as to why human babies are born with tails. The tail is more an extension of the spine, that decreased over time, as it was no longer useful, similar to wisdom teeth. The tails seem to be like a genetic set back, so to speak.

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      Tiffany 10 years ago

      My hamster keeps biting her tail ! Is that naturall?