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Unlike many states, Ukraine does not have an official animal symbol. There are no animals on the country’s flag or coat of arms, though some may argue that tryzub is a stylized image of a falcon. Despite that, many birds and animals appear on the emblems of different regions and have a special place in Ukrainian folklore with deep spiritual meaning.

Lynx, a symbol of the Carpathians

There is no official national animal in Ukraine, however, there is one specifically for the Carpathian Mountains. In 2018, the lynx was recognized as a symbol of the Carpathians by a national vote as part of the “Together for Nature” project.

The lynx is the largest wild cat in Europe. Unfortunately, unrestricted hunting and logging have been threatening the species, and today, only about 500 lynx can be found in Ukraine. The aim of the “Together for Nature” project was to raise awareness about rare and endangered species of fauna in Ukraine and draw attention to the problem of the reduction of Carpathian forests due to deforestation.

A nightingale, the voice of Ukrainian people

Ukrainians have a deep appreciation for singing, and our language, known for its melodic qualities, is often compared to the beautiful voice of the nightingale – a small bird that can be found throughout Ukraine.

A nightingale.
Photo: Frank Vassen

In Ukrainian literature and poetry, the nightingale frequently serves as a poetic motif, symbolizing romantic encounters as well as longing and melancholy. The bird’s song is perceived as a profound expression of the human soul, touching hearts and stirring emotions.

In one of Taras Shevchenko’s poems, “A cherry orchard by the house”, the nightingale becomes an integral part of the peaceful summer scenery in the Ukrainian village:

Beside the house, the mother lulls
The little children for the night,
Then she, too, settles at their side.
And all is still… Only the girls
And nightingales disturb the quiet.

Ukrainian postage stamp with a nightingale.

However, the nightingale is not the only bird with a special meaning for Ukrainians. One can hardly imagine the Ukrainian countryside without storks. These majestic birds return to the villages every spring, signifying the arrival of spring and the renewal of life. Storks are seen as symbols of birth, family well-being, and love for the homeland. Ukrainians believe that they build nests only near good people and bring happiness to the household.

Maurice Schalker / Unsplash

The falcon, as an ancient symbol of courage, is also part of Ukrainian folklore. Known for its strength, agility, and majestic presence, the falcon represents the spirit of freedom, bravery, and national pride. It embodies the resilience and determination of Ukrainians and can be seen in pieces from different historical periods.

Hardworking ох, free-spirited horse, and prosperous goat

There are more Ukrainian animal symbols that carry a lot of historical and cultural significance. The bull or auroch, for example, was one of the most honorable animals in the times of the Kyivan Rus. Later, the ox (domesticated bull) became a valuable domestic animal due to its hardworking, resilient, and calm nature. For centuries, oxen helped Ukrainians plow the land and pull caravans across vast steppes in search of salt.

A Ukrainian peasant with oxen.
Photo: Dnipro Regional Universal Scientific Library
named after First Slavic Teachers Cyril and Methodius
A Ukrainian cossack on his horse.
Photo: Yaroslav Chyzhevskyi

The horse is another important inhabitant of the Ukrainian steppe. In Ukrainian folklore, those animals are not only faithful companions of the Cossack but also an embodiment of freedom and the unconquerable spirit and resilience of the Ukrainian people.

Additionally, the goat holds a special place in Ukrainian culture, appearing prominently in fairy tales and winter holiday rituals. Symbol of wealth, prosperity, and fertility, the goat is believed to bring an abundant harvest in the year ahead. It is customary to “lead a goat” from house to house, ensuring blessings for the host and a bountiful future.

Malanka, a traditional Ukrainian celebration of the ‘Old New Year’ on January 13,
often features people dressing up in different costumes, including a goat one.
Photo: Ukrainer

Animal symbols on Ukrainian emblems

Besides culture and folklore, animals are often found on the coats of arms of different Ukrainian regions. For instance, a horse with a snake is depicted on the coat of arms of the Kyiv region, and a lion – on Lviv and the Lviv region emblems. The coat of arms of the Luhansk region features two animal symbols – a golden horse and a golden bobak on a green background.

The coat of arms of the Zakarpattia region includes a bear, which is one of the most common animals in the local forests and a typical representative of the fauna of the Carpathian Mountains. The choice of the red color for this particular bear is not an accident; it reflects courage and bravery, according to local legends.

Find out more about famous animals from Ukraine: The story of Patron, a bomb-sniffing dog

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