This question also has an answer here (in German):
Eine männliche Giraffe und [seine|ihre] Kälber?

Why isn't animals gender (in German) dependent on the biological gender of the animal?

Irrespective of cats' gender we say »die Katze« and for horse »das Pferd« etc.

Why is so?

  • 6
    Grammatical gender is not based on biological sex. What would an biologically neuter animal look like? "Masculine", "feminine" and "neuter" are just misnomers for different categories of words.
    – Tsundoku
    Mar 6, 2017 at 16:50
  • 3
    Sowohl für gemischte Gruppen als auch für unbestimmte Individuen benötigt man eine generische Form. "Ein Kater oder eine Katze, dessen oder deren Geschlecht hier keine Rolle spielt, saß vor dem Fenster" wäre reichlich umständlich. Mar 6, 2017 at 17:29
  • Imho, gender is qua definitionem not biological. What is biological is the sex. The sex of a person, the sex of an animal. Gender is the role model, associated with a sex. It*s a sociological, cultural category. I guess gender of animals aren't investigated yet. This would mean, that for the same species, you would find different roles/behaviour in different populations. Mar 7, 2017 at 1:51

3 Answers 3


Biology has two genders (male and female), but German grammar has three genders (male, female and neuter), some African bantu-languages like Swahili even have more than 20 genders, which in this case are no longer called genders but noun classes.

This already should tell you, that biological genders and grammatical genders can not be exactly the same.

Maybe this can help you too:

Grammatical gender is NOT a property of the physical thing you are talking about. It is a property of the word.

Synonyms are different words that are used to name the same physical thing. For example, a car can be in German:

das Auto (neuter)
der Wagen (male)
die Karre (female)

This three words have not exactly the same meaning, but their meanings overlap in a very wide range. (»Karre« is used for shabby cars, »Wagen« for bigger limousines, and »Auto« is used for all cars.) So when you have a shabby old limousine, you can use all three words. But this three words have three different genders.

It is not the vehicle, that you can use to drive along a street, which has a grammatical gender. The words have genders, and they have nothing to do with biological genders. (btw: what might be the biological gender of a car?)


When learning German, this fact should be accepted that there is NO RULE on articles, although there are sometimes some hints when finding the correct article for a word.

Some animals with die article

Die Katze, die Maus, die Ziege, die Biene, die Schlange, die Giraffe

with das

Das Pferd, das Schaf, das Eichhörnchen, das Nashorn, das Huhn, das Schwein

with der

Der Hund, der Hase, der Löwe, der Tiger, der Affe

As you see, unfortunallely no rule. One should learn the words as they are and with their articles.

  • 6
    And of course it's the same for humans: "die Fachkraft" or "die Geisel" can be male, whereas "das Mädchen" is surely female. There is no strict correspondence.
    – Uwe
    Mar 6, 2017 at 13:36

There are gender specific animal names but in colloquial speech we don't always use them and the rules are variable:

das Kätzchen, die Katze, der Kater
das Pferd, die Stute, der Hengst
das Huhn, die Henne, der Hahn
der Hund, die Hündin, der Rüde

to name only a few.

  • 4
    And even for a gender-specific animal name, the grammatical gender need not agree with the natural gender: "die Drohne" is a male bee!
    – Uwe
    Mar 6, 2017 at 17:18

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