The Most Cowardly Animals (8 Examples With Picture)

Last updated on November 10th, 2023 at 09:04 pm

As a child, my cousin and I used to debate the bravest and strongest animals, but our conversations often led us to discuss cowardly animals. Recently, I’ve pondered the question of what makes an animal a coward and stumbled upon a surprising answer – it’s us, humans. We often forget that we, too, are animals. Unlike other creatures, we use guns and weapons to attack and harm other animals, a rather cowardly approach.

It appears that the absence of guns or weapons leaves many humans feeling powerless, leading to fear when they’re threatened and unarmed.

8 Most Cowardly Animals

1. Fainting Goats

Cowardly Animals

In the animal kingdom, one species stands out for its remarkable cowardice – the fainting goat, also known as the myotonic goat.

When faced with even a minor scare, these goats can experience a short-lived “coma” lasting anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes, with muscle rigidity for 5 to 20 seconds.

Although a 1930 journal by Oxford Journals detailed the rigidity of their muscles during these episodes, there are fortunately no long-term effects from these fainting spells. However, their propensity to easily get frightened often leads to fainting or stress.

The origins of this peculiar behavior and the underlying myotonia congenita gene remain shrouded in mystery, but one thing is clear – this gene is a significant hindrance to their survival in the wild.

2. Australian Quokkas

Cowardly Animals

Image by Flickr

Among the world’s more cowardly animals, Australian quokkas take a unique approach to survival. These seemingly innocent marsupials display surprising cowardice when faced with predators. Their tactic? They throw their own babies into the line of danger.

When confronted by a threat, quokkas launch their offspring at the predator, creating a distraction. Once successful in this daring maneuver, the quokkas make a hasty escape. Unfortunately, baby quokkas’ hissing noise upon impact often draws the predator’s attention.

This strategy prioritizes the quokkas’ future reproduction and survival over the well-being of their young. Intriguingly, it’s not just Australian quokkas employing such survival practices. Other macropods, like woylies, often resort to tossing their babies as an escape plan, granting the parent another day to live.

However, recent discussions challenge the notion that quokkas deliberately throw their babies. Some argue that the joey may emerge due to the relaxation of pouch muscles in the presence of a predator.

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3. Humans

Cowardly Animals

Image by Flickr

Humans, often regarded as the most cowardly animals, are unique in that they lack natural predators. However, their vulnerability becomes starkly evident when stripped of their technology and weapons.

It’s not just physical possessions that dictate human behavior; their mental and emotional state plays a significant role. When faced with a situation that induces mental insecurity, fear takes hold, leading to either irrational behavior or cowardice.

In dangerous or threatening situations, humans typically exhibit a fight-or-flight response. Most unarmed and untrained individuals tend to opt for flight, with their brains urging them to escape from danger.

However, when armed with weapons, humans often exude fearlessness and confidence in the face of potential threats. This dependency on arms effectively dispels their cowardly tendencies.

Yet, when devoid of these tools, humans become easy prey for physically stronger animals, reminding us of their innate vulnerability.

4. Rabbits

Cowardly Animals

Image by Pixabay

Caring for rabbits is no walk in the park. These soft and fluffy creatures are inherently anxious and fearful.

Their behavior is rooted in instinct. In the wild, rabbits live on high alert, constantly hunted by various predators. Their keen sense of smell and acute hearing are their primary tools for staying uncaught.

Domesticated rabbits inherit these wild instincts. They’re quick to react in fear to sudden movements, unfamiliar scents, or loud noises. Even the presence of their human owners can trigger a fearful response.

However, there are ways for owners to ease the anxiety of their domesticated rabbits. Treats and a calming presence, like sitting with them on the floor, can help soothe their nerves.

Research, such as a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, reveals that rabbits penned individually exhibit higher fear levels compared to those kept in pairs.

As a result, people often consider rabbits as cowardly animals due to their inherent anxious and fearful nature.

Read Also: Evil Animals

5. Opossums

Image by Wikimedia

Opossums are often listed as cowardly animals, but people often misunderstand their behavior. Despite appearing vicious and aggressive, these marsupials are, in fact, acting out of fear and anxiety.

When humans encounter an opossum, the animal responds with a hissing sound, mouth agape. However, these behaviors aren’t signs of aggression but rather strategic bluffs aimed at distracting potential threats while giving the appearance of fierceness.

In most cases, opossums are more likely to retreat than attack when confronted. When their bluffing tactics prove ineffective, they resort to the ultimate act of fear – playing dead.

Playing dead serves as a last-ditch effort to deter predators. Interestingly, opossums emit a foul-smelling substance from their glands, further convincing predators that the act is genuine. In the wild, most predators have little interest in consuming a dead animal, so the ruse is often enough to make them move on.

6. Eastern Hognose Snakes

Image by Wikimedia

Among the world’s less valiant creatures, the eastern hognose snake stands out. Unlike their more aggressive counterparts, these snakes have a peculiar instinct to play dead when threatened.

Playing dead isn’t just a clever trick; it’s a behavior ingrained in eastern hognose snakes since birth. This unusual skill is vital to their survival, allowing them to evade becoming someone else’s meal.

Interestingly, people can legally keep and even train eastern hognose snakes as pets, although coaxing them into playing dead is a rather demanding task. Such attempts can trigger their fight-or-flight instinct, leading to stress for the snake.

These snakes don’t immediately resort to playing dead when sensing danger; it’s their last resort when no other options remain. In North Carolina, state officials have even issued warnings about these snakes, affectionately known as “Zombie Snakes” due to their unusual tactic.

7. Hyenas

Image by Wikimedia

Despite being apex predators, hyenas often carry the label of cowardly animals. These creatures tend to work in packs, making it easier for them to hunt down their prey. However, what sets them apart is their preference for outsourcing the job.

Hyenas have a unique approach to securing their meals. They patiently wait for other predators to make the kill. Once a lion or another predator leaves behind a carcass, hyenas swoop in to seize the opportunity.

Scavenging is the name of the game for hyenas. They ensure that no meat goes to waste, hiding any remaining portions near a watering hole for their next meal. In this regard, they are not concerned about the next feeding – they’re all about making the most of what they find.

This scavenging behavior can be seen as a form of cowardice, as hyenas rely on the strength of others for their food. They’re not above trying to steal a hunt when the chance arises. However, hyenas only resort to hunting when they have no other choice but to rely on their own skills.

8. Pygmy Grasshoppers

On our list of timid creatures, the pygmy grasshopper claims the final spot. When confronted with danger, these tiny insects employ a unique tactic. They freeze in place and then play dead, splaying their legs in all directions, attempting to deceive their aggressors.

Their primary foes are predatory frogs, and unlike other predators that shy away from seemingly lifeless prey, these frogs are not deterred. They will readily consume pygmy grasshoppers, regardless of their apparent life status.

When a frog encounters a “dead” pygmy grasshopper, it pauses, double-taking before deciding whether to devour its supposed meal. The grasshopper’s strategic leg splaying and stiffening of its body make it an unwelcome mouthful.

While this technique isn’t foolproof, it does boost the survival odds of pygmy grasshoppers in the face of danger.

3 Facts About Behavioral Traits of Cowardly Animals

1. Timid Survival Strategies

Cowardly animals often employ unique survival tactics to compensate for their inherent fearfulness. These strategies can include playing dead, making distressing noises, or using their offspring as decoys to escape predators.

2. Instinctual Fear

Many cowardly animals inherit their fearful behavior from their wild ancestors. These creatures commonly exhibit high alertness and sensitivity to sudden movements, unfamiliar smells, or loud noises, as they have evolved to evade predators.

3. Human Misconceptions

Humans may misunderstand some animals deemed cowardly. For example, opossums often mislead people, who think they are aggressive because of their hissing and open-mouthed display, but these behaviors are actually bluffs meant to distract potential threats, not signs of aggression.

Misconceptions about animals can lead to unnecessary fear and harm.

Final Words

In nature’s grand theater of survival, cowardice takes the stage as a vital player, not a mere bystander. The intricate ballet of fear, flight, freeze, camouflage, bluffs, and herds compose a symphony that directs ecosystem dynamics. Cowardice, often underestimated, showcases the elegance of adaptation and the complexities of evolution.

Far from indicating frailty, cowardice signifies the delicate balance that upholds life. It checks rampant predation, averting ecological imbalances that could disrupt food chains. By conserving energy through avoidance and defense, cowardice ensures species continuity, contributing to the diverse tapestry of ecosystems.

From bustling forests to ocean depths, the threads of timid behaviors link species, influence interactions, and maintain equilibrium. Just as predator boldness sculpts landscapes, prey caution completes the narrative, harmonizing life’s intricate interplay. As we observe nature’s dynamics, it’s evident that cowardice isn’t a sign of weakness but a testament to the exquisite orchestration of survival strategies that shape Earth’s intricate web of life.


1. Why are rabbits so infamously cowardly compared to even another prey animal?

Rabbits are often considered cowardly due to their high alertness and sensitivity to potential threats. This behavior is rooted in their evolution as prey animals, where being cautious and easily startled helped them survive. Even domesticated rabbits retain these instincts, making them appear more timid compared to some other prey animals.

2. What is the most cowardly animal?

It’s challenging to definitively label a single animal as the “most cowardly” since fear responses vary among species. However, humans are often considered one of the most cowardly animals, as they have no natural predators but can exhibit fear and vulnerability when stripped of technology and weapons.

3. Are chickens cowardly?

Chickens are not inherently cowardly, but they tend to be more cautious due to their role as prey animals. They can startle easily, and this behavior is linked to their evolutionary survival instincts.

4. Why is the chicken associated with cowardice?

The association of chickens with cowardice likely stems from their skittish behavior and tendency to flee from perceived threats. In language and culture, the term “chicken” has been used to describe someone who is fearful or avoids taking risks, reinforcing the connection between chickens and cowardice.


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