The Depiction of Animal Behavioural Patterns in Selected RUSSIAN and YORÙBÁ Proverbs and Sayings

John Olubunmi Faloju and Ayodele Solomon Oyewale

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Proverbs and sayings are vehicles of cultural wisdom and knowledge that drive a society forward. They are considered as the repository of a people’ssociocultural, economic and political wisdom that are passed from generation to generation. The meaning of proverbs cannot be understood independent of human cognition; therefore their meanings must be surveyed in a way that is easily understandable to human beings. In the context of creation and human keen observation on nature, animals have peculiar behavioural patterns respectively. In this paper, a pragmatic analysis of selected proverbs and sayings on animals especially dog, cat, mouse, fox and wolf in Russian and Yorùbá proverbs are provided. The paper further seeks to examine the comprehension of animal behaviour in proverbs and sayings with the convergences and divergences inherent in them as depicted by the two cultures. This paper employs the socio- cognitive approach to bring to light the convergences and the divergences in the depiction of animals in Russian and Yorùbá cultural milieu.  Our findings show a comprehensive evident uniqueness in fauna of both cultures. The paper reveals that proverbs on animals have conceptual communicative values and basic cognition process is involved in their interpretation.

Keywords: Proverbs, Sayings, Cognition, Behavioural Pattern, Socio-Cultural Milieu, Fauna.


Пословицы и поговорки являются средствами передачи культурной мудрости и знаний, которые движут любой социум вперед. Они считаются хранилищем социокультурной, экономической и политической мудрости народа, передаваемой из поколения в поколение. Смысл пословиц не может быть понято независимо от человеческого познания, поэтому их значение должно быть изучено таким образом, чтобы люди могли легко понять его. В контексте творения и тщательное человеческое  наблюдение за природой, животные имеют специфические модели поведения соответственно. В этой статье представлена ​​прагматическая попытка анализа отборных пословици поговорок на животных, в частности на собаках, кошках, мышах, лисах, и  вольках на русском языке и  в языке народа йоруба. Также  в статье делается попытка исследовать понимание поведения животных в пословицах и поговорках с присущими им сходствами и расхождениями, как это показано двумя культурами. В данной статье используется социально-когнитивный подход для выявления сходств и расхождений в изображении животных в русской культурной обстановке и в культурной обстановке народа. Наши результаты показывают проблеск уникальности в фауне обеих культур. В статье показано, что пословицы и поговорки о животных имеют концептуальные коммуникативные ценности, и в их интерпретацию вовлечен базовый процесс познания.

Ключевые слова: пословиы, поговорки, познание, характер поведения, социо-культурная обстановка ,фауна                                                                                


Language has been described as an avenue through which human beings understand culture. Since language and social reality are strictly connected, therefore, language is said to be culturally transmitted (Heath, 2012).

There is no doubt that proverbs and sayings are considered the fount and receptacle of a people’s socio-cultural and political wisdom that are transmitted from generation to generation.  Numerous definitions exist on proverbs and sayings. Meider defines proverbs as “a short, generally known sentence of the folk which contains wisdom, truth, morals, and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed and memorable form and which is handed down from generation to generation” (Meider, 1993). Proverbs have also been described as condensations of accumulated experiences from which appropriate selections are made and shared as contexts of verbal discourse demand in order to elucidate knotty and intricate propositions (Ayodabo, 2013). They can also be considered as pearls of folk wisdom whose main purpose is to portray the dominant assessment of the objective reality of phenomena. Proverbs and sayings indeed portray the worldview, historical development, attitude, cultural ethos of the people and are often viewed as efficient means of conveying ideas about different aspects of social life (Faloju & Akinlade 2018). It is worth mentioning that a proverb is a special way by which social behaviours are controlled in order to ensure mutual intelligibility among the interlocutors in any linguistic community.

 In every speech community, animal lexica are used by people to portray humans, express feelings or describe situations in diverse contextual discourses. The importance of animals to human society cannot be over-emphasised because animals take part in the constitution of the sociocultural moral and religious context of human’s life. It is truism that animal proverbs constitute a significant part of the anthology of proverbs in almost any language. Russian and Yorùbá are not exceptions in this regard. However, animals, both as entities and words or expressions related to them, are associated with lots of contextualized figurative and connotative meanings which can be creatively exploited. This creativity “involves exploitation of conventional familiar language, and in doing so multiple layers of meanings are generated (Philip, 2011:4).

Detailed attention of researchers in the field of linguistics is therefore required on the treatment of pragmatic, figurative, symbolic functions of animal words and expressions in order to determine their accurate contextual meanings and cultural assessment. Animal vocabularies and expressions in proverbs and sayings therefore, must be evaluated differently by researchers and scholars from those of other realms, such as flora and climate. The communicative power of proverbs and sayings with animal lexis has deep connotative and denotative meanings in Russian and Yorùbá societies. It is on this note that we compare animal behavioural pattern in Russian and Yorùbá proverbs with a view to showing their sociocultural significance with their fundamental universality and peculiarity. The paper has the following structure: Section 1 – Introduction; Section 2 – Discussions on the Russian, Yoruba people and their languages; Section 3 – Theoretical Framework; Section 4 – Pragmatic analysis of proverbs and saying with animal behavioural patterns in Russian and Yorùbá Section 5 – Findings; Section 6 – Conclusion.  

 The Russians, the Yorùbá and their languages.

The Russians are an East Slavic ethnic nation or group that predominantly dwells in the territories of Eurasia particularly in parts of Eastern Europe and central Asia. They are the largest ethnic group in Europe. There are large Diasporas in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, the U.S., Canada, Belarus, Latvia and other nations.  Russian language is the language of the Russians; it is an international and an inter-ethnic language of communication among the languages in the world. Russian is one of the official and working languages of the United Nations’ Organization (UN) alongside English, French, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic. Apart from this, it is one of the official and working languages of international organizations such as UNESCO, OSCE, IAEA, WHO, CIS etc. (Шибко, 2014:9).  All Slavic languages are divided into 3 groups: South Slavic group of languages, East Slavic group and West Slavic group of languages. South Slavic comprises: Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian languages. West Slavic comprises: Polish, Czech, Slovak languages. The East Slavic group comprises: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Russian is the largest native language in Europe. As an East Slavic language, Russian language belongs to the Indo-European group of languages. There are about 300 million speakers of Russian in the world, 154 of which live in Russia, Belarus parts of Ukraine and Krygzstan (Арефьев, 2006). Russian is the fourth most widely spread and the eight most widely spoken native language in the world and it is the official and State language in Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, parts of southern Ossetia; Moldova, Kazakhstan, parts of Abkhazia in Georgia and in Tajikistan it is an international and official language (Шибко, 2014).

 Yorùbá is a major ethnic group in the western part of sub-saharan Africa. In the view of Fákọ̀yà (2008), it is used as a first language by more than an estimated 22 million people spanning the south-western parts of Nigeria, neighbouring countries of the Republic of Benin and Togo  (Fakoya, 2008). Yorùbá language is natively spoken in Nigerian states which includes Lagos, Ondó, Kwara, Ògùn, Èkìtì, Ọ̀yọ́, Ọ̀ṣun as well as in some parts of Kogí and Edo States. It is the native language of the Yorùbá race and it belongs to the Kwa branch of the Niger-Congo stock of African languages (Heine & Nurse, 2000). It is one of the three major languages in Nigeria, apart from the Hausa and Igbo. It is important to state, that various diaspora groups and varieties of Yorùbá also exist in Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. (Yusuff, 2014).

The nature of proverbs and sayings in Russian and Yorùbá

Since the time of Aristotle, different attempts have been made to define what a proverb is by several researchers and scholars across diverse discipline.  Taylor (1931) affirms that the task of defining a proverb is a knotty one. In Wolfgang Mieder’s view it is difficult to arrive at universally acceptable and ambiguous proverb markers which will enable people to identify a sentence as a proverbial. Nevertheless, (Mieder, 2004) states that proverbs “fulfill the human need to summarise experiences and observations into nuggets of wisdom that provide ready-made comments on personal relationships and social affairs. In addition to this, Meider further stated that “there exist proverbs for every imaginable context, and they are thus as contradictory as life itself” (Mieder, 2004).

  Dundes (1981) notes that a proverb syntactically, must consist of two elements which are topic and comment for example in: Look before you leap

                                                             Topic           Comment

Milner as cited in (Fair, 2003) also states that proverbs comprise two parts: the first one is known as the “head” while the latter is referred to as the “tail”:

A stitch in time saves nine

  Head                     Tail

Proverbs are meaning-governed expressions; its main function in a discourse is to give cultural depth to speakers’ thoughts (Adeeko, 1998:3). In the view of Akoto-Abutiate, proverbs are likened to shadows that move with humans (Akoto-Abutiate, 2014:74).   Proverbs and sayings  are one of the many kinds of socio-cultural use of language although, the sociolinguistic significance of proverbs in Russia and Africa is brought about by their close connections with other forms of language use in the two societies yet their connotative and denotative meanings differ. In Africa, proverbs are seen as parts of African spoken language and folk literature which has its origin in oral tradition. Amongst the Africans especially the Yorùbá, wisdom and information are transmitted from the elders to the youth through proverbs and indigenous sayings.  Effective speech and social success depend on a good command of proverbs and sayings among the Yorùbá. These treasured sayings convey the demonstrated wisdom of the ages and therefore serve as a reliable authority in any linguistic discourse. Proverbs and sayings in Yorùbá give aesthetic quality and value to the Yorùbá language therefore; proverbs are peculiar devices for forming moral beliefs systems, opinions as well as moral consciousness.

It is customary to translate the Yorùbá lexicon ὸwe into English since there is a close connection between the verbal formulations and the word designate in Yorùbá. In the view of Owomoyela 2005, the etymology of the lexicon ὸwe in Yorùbá, appeared to have been formed from the contraction of ὸ-we e literally something that wraps it. This means to wrap something around something else. (Owomoyela, 2005).  Many speakers of Yorùbá proverbs consider proverbs as horses of speech and when communication is lost proverbs are employed to find it. we  l in ọ̀rọ̀,  ọ̀rọ̀ l in ὸwe.  However Faloju & Akinlade (2018), citing Ajikobi (2014) opine that the Yoruba proverbs in question may have been misconstrued, as the original idea was to view proverbs as fishing spears rather than horses (Faloju& Akinlade, 2018: 184).  When words are lost in communication, proverbs are the spear with which to pick and explain them .The criterion for determining a proverb in the view of  Brunvand, Jan is plain.- “A true proverb is always a complete sentence and it never varies more than slightly in form and usually expresses some general truth or wisdom” (Brunvand, 1978). Majority of proverbs are metaphorical descriptions of an act or event applied as a general truth. Russians are group of people that possess a rich cultural heritage and this is evident in their proverbs and sayings. Russians proverbs have been defined as

  Краткие народные изречения  афористического характера . Они имеют одновременно буквальный и переносный (образный) план или только переносный  план и в грамматическом отнощении составляют заключение предложения” (Зимн, Ашурова и др,1994)

 short folk sayings that have an aphoristic character. They have a literal and figurative plan simultaneously or only a figurative plan and in grammatical relation they express a complete thought or sentence.

In addition to this, Snegirev 1996 opines that a Russian proverb defines itself as

“сама определяет себя площадью, торговою речью,       принимая «торг» и «площадь» в древнем значении народного сбора, сходки, мира, веча, на коих родилась большая часть судебных и нравственных пословиц ” (Снегирев, 1996 :202).

                      “defines itself as a square, a trade speech, accepting «bargaining» and «square»

                        in the ancient meaning of the national gathering, peace, eternity,

                        on which the majority of judicial and moral proverbs were born”

Theoretical Framework

The socio-cognitive approach (SCA) is the theoretical background for Intercultural pragmatics. It is also a theoretical framework used in the field of psychology, education, and communication. This theory was proposed by Kecskes, (2008, Kecskes and Zang 2009, Kecskes, 2009).  SCA   holds that, portions of an individual’s knowledge acquisition can be directly related to observing others within the context of social interactions, experiences, and outside media influences. The theory states that when people observe a model performing a behavior and the consequences of that behavior, they remember the sequence of events and use this information to guide subsequent behaviors. Observing a model can also prompt the viewer to engage in behaviour they already learned. In the view of Keckes , the social cognitive approach is an attempt to unite the “individualistic” intention-based cognitive-philosophical line and the “societal,” context-based sociocultural-interactional line (Keckes, 2016). This paper utilises the socio- cognitive approach to interpret the animal behavioural patterns in Russian and Yorùbá  proverbs and sayings. The Russian and Yorùbá proverbs used in this research paper are translated into English using the linguistic approach to translation. The paper focuses on the functional linguistic approach to translation since language is used in a given social context therefore; the proverbs are studied, analyzed and translated from the point of view of their fundamental units and social usage in order to bring out their equivalent in English.

Data Analysis and Discussions

Pragmatic analysis of proverbs and saying with animal behavioural patterns in Russian and Yorùbá

Many proverbs and sayings exist on dogs in Russian and examples include:

  •  Cобака во сне лаёт – гости приедут

The dog barks in its sleep- guest are coming. This proverb is a sign that guests are coming.

  • Собака друг, лошадб ворог

       A dog is a friend, a horse is an enemy

Dogs are considered as man’s best friend due to their friendly nature. This view is reinforced by another Russian proverbial saying

  • Собака-  лучшии друг человека, сказал солдат, обнимая ефрейтора

A solider said the dog is a man’s best friend, hugging a corporal. This saying is used jokingly among soldiers without anyone taking offence. However, when any of the soldiers is a corporal it becomes an offensive joke.

  • Белая собака, черная собака – все равно собака.-

A white dog, a black dog – all the same is a dog. The universal truism about dogs is evident in this Russian proverb. All dogs are the same irrespective of their colour and breed. This also implies that all humans are the same irrespective of race, tribe, religion or gender.

  • Злую собаку держат на короткой привязи – 

A vicious dog is kept on a short leash.

This proverb brings to light the behaviour of a vicious dog. This behaviour is to attack anyone that is a stranger and such a dog is always kept on a short leash by the owner

  • Бешеная собака и хозяина кусает– 

A mad dog bites its owner

   Although this saying has the lexicon собака (dog), denotatively it refers to an angry person who loses his mind and gets angry and attributes his anger to others even his relatives.

  • Не бойся собаки, которая лает, а бойся, которая молча кусает –

Don’t be afraid of the dog that barks, but be afraid of the dog that bites silently.

The lexicon ‘dog’ in this Russian saying is used figuratively to mean that most often one get unexpected “surprises”, troubles from those people who do not express their opinions. Therefore, one should be careful when dealing with such people. One do not know what to expect from them (Зимин, 2008)

Cats are also entrenched in Russian folktales, proverbs and sayings. They are depicted as friendly, gentle, affectionate domestic animals. The following proverbs and sayings portray the world view about the cat and its behaviour in Russian culture.

  • Кошка выгибается, тянется

The cat bends and stretches –

This Russian saying brings to light the general behaviour of cats. Cats often stretch their bodies and bend their back.  Russians belief that when a cat bends and stretches, the weather is going to be good. Therefore the saying Кошка выгибается, тянется is used to refer to a sign that the weather will be good.

  • Hочью все кошки серы

All cats are grey in the dark.

Another meaning of this proverb is – When the candles are out all cats are grey. – This proverb reveals truism about cats in the dark. The proverb means when in the dark appearance are meaningless since everything is hard to see. The denotative meaning of this proverb transcends cats, rather it reaffirms that the qualities which distinguish people from one another are obscured in some circumstances and if they cannot be perceived therefore, they are inconsequential.

  • Кошка клубком ложиться

The cat lies like a ball –

This Russian saying depicts the way and manner which cats often lay down. This Russian proverb shows the comfortable position a cat assumes when lying down.

  • Кошка скребёт на свой хребет

A cat scratches on its back.

Cats general scratch on their back.

Another Russian proverb about cats is:

  • Знает кошка, чьё сало съела

           The cat knows whose meat it has eaten.

Although this proverb contain the lexicon кошка, the denotative  meaning of the proverb  indicates a person whose appearance makes it clear that he was guilty, but does not want to admit his guilt, fearing that he or she will be punished.

The rat is portrayed in Russian proverbs and sayings as a small fearful animal.

  • Kрысы бегут с тонущего корабля

The rats desert a sinking ship

This Russian proverb describes people who abandon others in the face of difficulty

  • Мышке и кошка звер

The rat and the cat are wild animals

The connotative meaning of this Russian proverb is that the smaller a creature is the bigger the enemy such a creature will have. Humans are afraid of bears for example, however for a rabbit the bears would seem like giants. In like manner, the rat though an animal like the cat is more afraid of the cat. 

  • Cлепая кошка мышей не ловит

A blind cat cannot catch rats

The relationship and characteristics of the cat and the rat is revealed in this proverb. Cats have always hunted rats however; when a cat is blind it will not be able to catch any rat.

In the course of studying Russian proverbs about animals, we discovered proverbs about Лиса the fox .In Russian folktales the fox is often described as a cunning animal.

  • Вская лисца свой хвост хвалит –

              Every fox praises its own tail 

 Every self – loving (proud) person praises himself .Another variant of this proverb is –

  • Каждая лиса о своём хвосте заботится

             Every fox takes care of its tail.

  • Где я лисой пройдёт, там куры не  несутся 

Where I the fox will pass, a fowl is not carried.

The denotative meaning of the proverb is that the consequences of some actions are quite long lasting in life.

Russian proverbs and sayings reveal the behavioural pattern of the fox in relation to chickens. 

  • Лиса во сне куры не считается .

The fox counts the chicken in its sleep.

Foxes treat chickens with lust to devour them .The denotative meaning of this proverb transcends foxes and chickens. It implies a passionate person especially one that is passionate about making profit to the extent that even while asleep he counts money.

  • Лиса придет — и курица раскудахчется.

The fox comes –and the chicken cackles.

The denotative meaning of this Russian proverb emphasises the sadness the chicken passes through when the fox appears.

There are a lot of Russian proverbs and sayings about the wolf. These proverbs and sayings depict the behavioural pattern of the wolf in Russian culture. Such proverbs include:

  • C волками жить – по-волчьи выть

He who keeps company with the wolf will learn to howl

This proverb depicts the characteristic of wolf, which is howling, the denotative meaning is that human beings should watch the company they keep. He who keeps bad company will eventually be affected by the company he keeps since bad company corrupt good moral. People are therefore, enjoined to be careful.

  • Волк коню не товариш

The wolf is not a friend to the horse

The English variant of this proverb is “you cannot put the wolves in with the sheep. This proverb implies that one should not put people that are known as enemies together. The Russian proverb brings to light the enmity which exists between the wolf and the horse.

  • И волки сыты, и овцы целы  

The wolves are fed, and the sheep are safe.

This Russian proverbial saying is often used when a difficult situation is resolved and everyone is happy or when a decision is made that satisfies everyone in the society.

In Yorùbá worldview, proverbs and sayings on dogs that reflect the behavioural pattern of the dog abounds. Examples of such proverbs and sayings are found in (Owomoyela, 2005:64 & Ọláwuyì, 2011:49- 50).

  • Eré tí ajá fi ogún ọ̣dún sá, ìrìn fàájì ni fún ẹṣin.

The race that the dog ran for twenty (20 years), is just mere stroll for the horse.

This proverb indicates that the dexterity of a dog cannot match or be compared to the strength of a horse when it comes to racing. The implication is that one should be mindful of giving due respect to whoever is more knowledgeable than one in life.

  • Ajá tó wọ̣lé tó ẹ̣kùn, yó wẹ̣̀wù ẹ̀jẹ̀.

The dog that challenges the leopard would be drenched in blood.

In reality, there is no way a dog could fight with a leopard with intention of killing it without getting seriously injured or killed in the process. History is filled with very sad stories of an individual, community or countries that dare to contend with developed country that possesses sophisticated weapons.

The Yorùbá people like the Russians, also believe that the dog is not only a good human companion but also an effective domestic animal used as a guard. However, in spite of how effective and alert the dog his, it cannot watch over two things are the same time.  The proverb below shows the alertness of the dog:

  • Ajá kì í rorò kó sọ́ ojúlé méjì.

No matter how vicious a dog is, it cannot guard two compounds simultaneously  

The connotative meaning embedded in the proverb illustrates that one can only be effective in a particular endeavour in life. It is similar to this wise saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

  • Ìpọ̀nrí ajá kan kì í jẹ̀fun òkété.

No generation of dogs can eat the intestine of the giant rat.

It is considered a taboo for a dog to eat giant rat intestine. If a dog eats the intestine of a rat, such a dog will automatically become insane. The dog would turn into a rabid dog. The connotative meaning in the proverb indicates that anybody that engages in what the Yorùbá culture considers to be taboo would instantly see the repercussion sooner or later.

  • Bí ajá bá ń sínwín, yó mọ̣ ojú iná.

If the dog is insane it would know how to avoid the fire (danger).

The above proverb implies that, there is a limitation and extent to which a dog could go even when it is in a bad mood. One may consider this stance as being illogical, in the sense that dog, being an animal, may not be able to exercise self-restraint on how it exhibits emotional trait. However, the connotative meaning and warning attached to this Yorùbá proverb shows that an individual must understand his or her limitation and behave accordingly.

  • Ajá tí yóò sọ̣nù  kì í gbó  fèrè ọdẹ

The dog that will get lost never heeds the hunter’s whistle

The above proverb depicts the characteristics of a hunting dog which is often guided by the whistle of the hunter during hunting. Although the proverb contains the lexicon “dog”, the denotative meaning of the proverb is, that one should always heed to warning from others. The proverb is used to describe people in Yorùbá society who do not want to heed to correction/warning and the implication is that such people will eventually be destroyed.

Cats also feature prominently in Yorùbá proverbs and sayings. They are considered as domestic animals in traditional and contemporary Yorùbá societies. Below are proverbs depicting the behavioural patterns of the cats as animals that hunt rats:

  • À̀ pa àìmúdélé ni kò jẹ́ ká mọ̀ pólóńgbò ń ṣọdẹ.

            Having nothing to present makes cat looks like an incompetent hunter.

More often than not, cat eats its prey without taking it home. This proverb illustrates that having little or nothing to show for being a hardworking person makes one looks like a lazy person.

  • Gbogbo àlùwàlá ológbò, ọgbọ́n àti kẹ́ran jẹ ni.

          All the gimmicks of a cat, is to catch a prey.

The cat family has peculiar manner of catching their prey through seemingly sluggish style of movement before jumping suddenly to catch it. This stylish movement is what is metaphorically compared with ablution (àlùwàlá) in Yorùbá culture. The lexicon (àlùwàlá) in this proverb is a phonetic adaptation of the Arabic word alwuduh in Yorùbá. This proverbial saying is used to castigate a person that is not being straightforward in his or her request or expression.

  • Èèwọ̣ ni, ẹ̀yìn ológbò kì í kanlẹ̀.

It is a taboo for the cat’s back to touch the ground

It is a taboo for cats to be overpowered in a wrestling competition. The cat, by nature, is a very strong animal with great skills therefore in Yorùbá worldview when the back of the cat touches the ground it implies that the cat has been defeated. The connotative meaning of this proverb is that in a wrestling competition or a fight a powerful wrestler should avoid being defeated or being over powered. Apart from this, the saying is also employed during incantation against an opponent.

  • Àìàsínílé ológbò, ilé dilé èkúte

The absence of cat makes giant rats to play around the house.

In an ideal situation, giant rats dare not play around in the presence of a cat. The consequence of such affront is death. This saying is similar to the axiom of “cat and rat game.” The connotative meaning of this proverb is an expression that a person boasts in the fact that he or she is not subject to the authority of a superior person particularly, in the absence of such a person.

The rat is a small fearful animal that exists in many Yorùbá proverbs and sayings:

  • Eku ẹdá ní gbóhùn olóko mórí wọgbó, olè ní gbóhùn olóhun o sálọ

The bush rat heard the voice of the farm owner it ran into the bush, the thief heard the voice of the owner, s/he runs away.

This Yorùbá saying depicts the behaviour of the rat to stealthy eats food and farm products. This behavioural pattern is akin to the behaviour of a thief in Yorùbá worldview and cosmology.

  • Èkúté ò rẹ́ni fẹjọ́ ológbò sùn àyàfi Ọlọ́run Ọba

The rat has no one to report the cat to except God Almighty.

The relationship and the behavioural pattern of the rats and the cats are brought to light in this proverb. The rat is depicted as the tormented animal and the cat is portrayed as its tormentor. The rat has no one to come to its aid anytime he falls into the hands of the cat since it’s considered as an enemy of humans and the cat. Another variant of this proverb can be seen below:

  • Eku tó bímọ tí kò fi tológbò ṣe, ológìnní ni ó ko jẹ

The rat that gave birth without respecting the cat would have all her children devoured by the cats.

This proverb vividly depicts the behavioural pattern of the cat and the rat. Since the rat and the cat are enemies, the rat must respect the cats and the cat’s territory. The proverb implies that whoever does not defer to his or her superior would have him or herself to be blamed. 

In yorùbá proverbs and sayings there are proverbs and sayings on the foxes. These proverbs and sayings reveal the behavioural pattern of the fox as it relates to the hen or cock in yorùbá folklore:

  • Kọ̀lọ̀kọ̀lọ̀ ti ó bá sùn ò le rí ogbe orí adìyẹ jẹ

The fox that does not sleep can eat the crest of cock’s head.

The above proverb shows that if the fox is not asleep, it has the capacity to eat or devour the crest of a cock’s head. This proverb implies that self-denial of certain comforts in life helps a person to achieve his life aim or desire 

  • Kọ̀lọ̀kọ̀lọ̀ tó ń pa adìyẹ kó rántí pé òhun bọ̀ wá kú.

The fox that kills a cock/hen, should remember he too is not invincible to death.

The truism that befalls every living thing which is death is depicted in this proverb. Death is inevitable to every living thing .The the devourer will one day become a victim of death.

  • Kọ̀lọ̀kọ̀lọ̀  tó pani ládìyẹ̣ tí ò gbe lọ̣, bó ṣ̣e ń dunni ló ń dunni mọ ni.

The fox that kills ones fowl and did not carry it away, the pain will be minimal.

The above proverb clearly shows the relationship between the fox and the fowl .This proverb implies that when a disaster occurs and one can still salvage the situation then the loss will be minimal to some extent.


The proverbs and sayings examined in this study reveal the comprehensive and detailed peculiarity and universality in the fauna of the Russian and Yorùbá people. It also reveals their worldview in relation to animal behavioural patterns. Compared to the Russian proverbs examined, animals such as dog, cat, mouse, fox exhibit a similar behavioural pattern in Yorùbá proverbs and sayings. The dog is viewed as man’s friend in both cultures. The rat is considered as a small inferior animal compared to the cat and is seen as an enemy to both humans and cats. The cats attributes as an animal, whose back never touches the ground, is vividly portrayed in Yorùbá proverbs. The behavioural pattern of the cat as animal that bends and scratches its back is also evident in Russian proverbs and sayings. The fox exhibits similar behavioural patterns in both cultures. The wolf however, is an animal peculiar to Russian culture therefore; Yorùbá proverbs and sayings depicting the behavioural pattern of the wolf do not exist.


In this paper, we have examined two unrelated cultures and languages. We focused on selected animal behavioural patterns in Russian and Yorùbá proverbs and sayings. We found similarities, differences, and peculiarities in the behavioural patterns of these animals in the proverbs and sayings of the two cultures and languages. Inequality among the animals is common to both Russian and Yorùbá fauna as revealed by the Russian and Yorùbá proverbs. The study further reveals that proverbs on animals have conceptual communicative values and basic cognition process is involved in their interpretation.


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