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Animals in Your Dreams

The animals we dream of express the wealth of our own feelings and depth of our unconscious understanding of life.

Few of the things we do as an individual in today’s world are uniquely human. Like other animals we build dwellings, we eat, sleep and reproduce. We care for our young with the same passion and self sacrifice seen in other mammals. We follow leaders and develop hierarchy as do wolves and primates. Above all else, we share with our fellow creatures our existence in a physical body we have inherited from a long line of forebears and pre-human animals. From this long past we carry traits and urges, fears and dispositions that underpin our self aware human personality. In dreams, these largely unconscious responses to what we face in life are shown as animals.

For instance some of these traits we know as the flight, fight or freeze response; as the new born baby’s instinct to suckle and bond with its parent; as our urge to find a partner and mate; and particularly we see it in the drive to survive and thrive. But there are many more subtle aspects of the animal inheritance we carry with us. Some of these we see in our social behaviour, as when we shrewdly asses a person’s character, or discover what we call the ‘chemistry’ that exists between us and another person. Such things arise largely from our unconscious intuitions and senses. Such senses and responses were developed over millions of years by our animal forbears. In fact we are like a small face on top of a long line of beautiful animals.

This ancient heritage that dreams portray as our animal is not simply a psychological belief. It is built into our body and is very evident in the fact that we have three interwoven brains. The most ancient brain, one we share with reptiles and birds is called the R complex – R for reptilian. This part of your brain deals with deeply instinctive behaviour such as flight or fight, swallowing, automatic reflexes, inbuilt mating behaviour, territorial defence and aggression. This R complex developed about 200 million years ago and is still an underpinning part of what influences your behaviour today. Dreams often portray these urges in you as snakes or lizards.

The second part of your brain is called the Limbic System. This is wrapped around the R complex, and is something we share with other mammals such as cats, dogs and horses. It developed about 60 million years ago and deals with your emotions, feelings responses to people and events, the subtler inner life you feel in love and sex, and it provides a deep wisdom about social and individual relationships. Dreams often use mammals or apes to portray the influence in your life of this part of your unconscious drives and intuitions.

Many people are frightened or terrified of their dream animals. That is rather like being terrified of a picture on a cinema screen, for dreams are nothing more than moving images on the screen four sleeping mind. Like a computer game you can be attacked or even killed many times but you are still whole and unhurt. Face up to the animals in your dreams and make friends of them, because they are really helpful assets to have. See Inner World

Useful questions:

Is there any concern about the animal’s health?

Is there an indication the animal has been injured?
Does love, caring or affection enter into the dream?

The third part of your brain is the Cortex. This is unique to humans and takes up five sixths of the brain mass. It deals with all the things that are distinctly human, such as logical thought, writing, analysis, self awareness and conscious movements.

An American advertising company, describing these three brains in its instructions to planning advertising campaigns says, “Our Reptilian Brain is more powerful than the Limbic (emotional) Brain, which in turn is more powerful that the Cortex (thinking) Brain. It is best to take all three brains into account when planning a marketing/branding campaign.” See Animals.

Meeting your dream animals

What has been said about your three brains and what sort of dream arises from them is of course a generalisation. When you are looking at your own animal dreams you want to know specifically how they refer to you. So we will move from the general to the specific in looking at the dream meanings of animals such as a dog, cat, snake, horse, tiger and elephant. Those are mentioned because they are, in the order given, the most frequently dreamed of animals.

As explained in an earlier chapter, these are not to be thought of as symbols. They are more like computer desktop icons that if you connect with them lead you to awareness of, and ability to work with, what are usually unconscious processes in you. To gain even the beginnings of insight into your dream animals, you first need to remember that you as a person are a tiny spark of consciousness. You are a little bit of self awareness riding an incredibly ancient animal you call your body. Remember that your body has formed from cells and genetic information that has gradually developed over millions of years. It holds that information in it unconsciously. To actually make a living connection with your dream animals see Acting in your Dream

To gain an understanding of your dream animals, it is helpful to imagine that you are the keeper of a prehistoric type of human being. As such you would need to be aware what the correct diet is for this big creature; what type of dwelling it needs; what are its sexual and emotional needs; what frightens it or causes it stress; what amount of exercise keeps it healthy, what its stages of growth are and how it can best develop through those stages; and what satisfies it in relationships with others of its kind? Your animal dreams are showing you exactly those issues. They are giving you insight into how to care for the instinctive, the spontaneous and natural in you.

Therefore ask yourself the following questions about your animal dreams, and write down any responses. If the answer is no to a question, move on the next one:

Is your dream animal struggling to survive?

Survival is the most powerful and fundamental drive in your body and personality. Survival skills today are often linked with managing to remain alive in difficult terrain or harsh countryside, but we all live in the midst of challenges even in civilised surroundings. Your everyday social, work and political environments confront you with enormous difficulties. Also, every cell in your being is trying to survive. Your body and its systems are constantly involved in maintaining balance amidst powerful counter influences, or even against your own bad habits. Understanding what difficulties you face in surviving, and what resources you have to handle them is a huge step toward a better life. If you had the reptilian brain and the mammalian brains removed you would not function.

Therefore define if you can what your dream animal is struggling with or against in its efforts to survive. Look for connections with your everyday life. In doing so remember that the dream is putting into graphic form, perhaps like a mime, something that needs to be lifted into everyday words and perceptions.

We all have so many aspects to what we need in life to survive as a whole person. We might be doing very well in work or social recognition, but our need for warmth and love might be struggling. So it is helpful to list the facets of your own life, such as physical health, mental health and vitality, emotional needs, finance, acclaim, and so on, and asses their survival rating.

Is the animal domesticated or wild?

This illustrates the difference between urges within yourself that you have completely socialised or learned to cooperate with, and those that are in conflict with your conscious actions or what other people expect of you. An example of this can be seen in youthful rebellion, and in the difference between what is instinctive and spontaneous in a young person, such as aggression or fear, and what is expected of them by others. The rebellious youth might allow their unsocialised urges to express as criminal acts, or disruptive social behaviour. On the other hand they might express it in the form of music or art that, while it is still anti establishment, is rewarded, as with the Rolling Stones.

So the need here is to recognise what of your feelings or urges are involved, and ask yourself if the wild is healthy as it is, or does it need a better relationship with your social or work activities? On the other hand, sometimes social restraints or needs deaden the spontaneous and natural in oneself, and so need to be reduced for greater personal harmony.

  • Is there any concern about the animal’s health?
  • Is there an indication the animal has been injured?
  • Does love, caring or affection enter into the dream?

We have inherited and enlarged the great tenderness and care seen in other mammals.

  • Are sexual feelings involved?
  • Does the animal show unusual intelligence or ability to speak?
  • Is the animal giving advice or showing you something?
  • Are baby animals involved?
  • Is the animal attacking or being attacked?
  • Is there a herd or group of these animals?
  • Has the animal been neglected or mutilated?
  • Are you trapped by or running away from an animal?


-Ann-Marie Latimer 2014-11-28 21:28:46

hi j was wondering if you could help me witb my dream to try givr me some enlightment. last night i dreamt of finding an injured rainbow lorikeet or some other type of small colourful parrot, anyway i found him hurt down in some bushes amd went to walk off realising he was injured then i caught him in a towel and managed to take him inside. i then placed him in the cage still wrapped in the towel and last thing i vaguely remember was getting the bird to eat from my hands.


    -Tony Crisp 2015-01-14 13:14:30

    Ann-Marie – I wonder how your colourful sense of freedom has been hurt. Because if I am right you have become aware of it and are caring for it. But you are keeping it caged, maybe because of the hurt. But as soon as possible let yourself, your imagination and creativity be free again. But find out for yourself by using



-Tara 2015-01-17 18:08:54

Hi, I just read your articles and it’s very informative and was a wonderful and insightful read. I am always seeking the meaning of my dreams and I have very vivid ones that usually have such a strong message. I’ve dreamt of frogs and elephants, however last night I dreamt of apes, who were wild in the jungle. For some reason I rescued or took a young male chimpanzee and it’s mother as well a male gorilla looking ape. I took them to my house and were very concerned about their health. I made fruit salads and told them they can go to the garden for fresh air or if they wanted to eat some bugs. I kept them beside the dinner table during food. But my parents were not fond of it and couldn’t entirely understand why I am doing this. The first night they slept downstairs in a big cage. The next day They were picking fleas off each and grooming each other which made me worry as to how I can treat the fleas but then mother of the chimpanzee came up to me and started checking my hair. Then soon I had them sleeping in my room… The male gorilla found it hardest to warm up to me and I was always suspecting that it could harm me. But I treated him the same and tried not to let fear of that over take the care that I had for the three. I’ve always liked apes but never really think anything or much about them. I can’t seem to understand what this is….


-Aubrey 2015-02-13 18:50:11

Hi Tony. I was hoping you could help me undertand a dream I had earlier today. I can’t stop thinking about it and it has really puzzled me. In the beginning of the dream I was sitting in my backyard, in a chair. I looked towards the woods and noticed a large shadowy figure some ways off heading in my general direction. I didn’t feel scared just very curious. The shadowy shape was that of a large elephant, at least 3 stories high and a man standing on his back. They emerged from the woods and stopped right in front of me. There was nothing draped on the elephant and no harness. The man standing there was very calm. He seemed to be of mature and spiritual, intellect.. but that’s all I remember feeling about him. My dream then went a little hazy and I was then in my room. The next thing I remember, a baby elephant (the size of a full grown house cat) dropped into my room by my dresser and I rushed over to the elephant very concerned to see if it had been injured. It was barely able to open its eyes, but not because of injury, but because it was in a state of just being born. It was not injured. I coddled the the baby in a very loving and motherly way. I rubbed its head and I remember it’s eyes staring into mine and us forming some kind of connection. After this, my dream seemed to have lasted for years in which only “flashbacks” of the elephant maturing and going on adventures seemed to run through my head. The very end of my dream I was laying with the elephant, which had grown and was now slightly smaller than myself. I remember feeling very lovingly towards the elephant and us combining our genitals in a very fond way. The elephant had no sexual orientation, no distinctive form of genitalia. I just remember after what seemed to me a normal length of time, we came to pleasure with each other. I felt extremely at peace and then I awoke. –I felt happy but confused while remembering my dream. I feel it might mean something good but at the same time, the whole taboo connection I had with the elephant really confused me. I’ve never had a dream anything like this and would really like to know if you have any kind of insight on what this might be about. Thank you. <3


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