Giant Pandas are some of the most adorable and playful creatures on this planet. The young can be very comical to watch as they learn to interact with their family and others. While they share many similarities and characteristics of the wider bear family, there are a few things, some obvious, that set them apart.
As such they have their own set of collective nouns that describe them. Some of these are incredibly imaginative and unobvious. So what is a group of pandas called? Let’s take a look.
What Is A Group Of Pandas Called?
There are two types of panda, the Giant Panda, of which there are two subspecies, and the Red Panda. Both are very different animals in size and appearance. When people talk about pandas they are usually talking about the giant panda.
While they may be similar in name, they are very different in nature, and are known by completely different collective nouns.
Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
The most commonly used collective noun for a group of giant pandas is an ‘embarrassment‘. Its possible that this comes from observations of their clumsy movement and behaviour. This is one of the more inventive and humours name for a group of animals. It was not the first collective noun to be used for pandas though. The original term, a ‘cupboard‘ of pandas is equally as obscure, but not quite as funny.
The term cupboard was agreed upon through debate, by a symposium of zoologists of the Royal Society in the mid-19th Century. It’s not a term you hear often, or see referenced often today, but it is an accepted zoological term for a group of pandas.
Other collective nouns for pandas include, a ‘bamboo’ of pandas, and in common with other species of bear, a ‘sleuth‘ of pandas.
There are two subspecies of giant panda. Sichuan giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca melanoleuca) – which are the nominal and most common subspecies, and Qinling giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis) which are brown and white, and limited to the Qinling mountain region.
Individually, female pandas are known as sows, males are known as boars and babies, as with other species of bear, are cubs. In the wild, giant pandas are rather solitary animals.
Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)
The collective noun used to describe Red Pandas is a ‘pack‘ of red pandas. Though by nature, these animals are quite solitary.
The Red Panda, also known as the Lesser Panda, is only found in specific regions of Southwest China and the Himalayas. It looks much more like a raccoon than their giant panda cousins. In fact, while both species are from the same Order of Carnivora, the Red Panda is from a different family entirely to the giant panda.
There are some features and characteristics that they share with the giant panda. In fact, it is these similarities that earns both species the ‘panda’ in their name. The most obvious similarity is that both animals love to primarily eat bamboo. Also, they both have what are known as false thumbs. These are elongated wrist bones that they can use to grip things in a similar way to which we humans use our thumbs.
Like the giant panda, the red panda also has many vocalisations, and they love to playfight. Despite the giant panda being the more recognizable species of panda, the red panda was the first to inherit ‘panda’ into its name.
What Is The Usual Size Of A Group Of Pandas ?
In the wild, both giant pandas and red pandas are mostly solitary animals. In captivity it is more common to see groups of giant pandas, especially young pandas playing and socialising together. Infants that are born in pairs or litters also have a greater chance of surviving and growing up together in captivity. In 2021, a group of triplets were born in captivity and all of them managed to survive!
Some large breeding programmes in China often have more than ten panda cubs playing or feeding together. In the absence of the competitive wild, they appear quite social and playful together.
In the wild however, giant pandas are very solitary animals. They mark their territory with scent, particularly urine, and males keep away from each other. Males and females will only come together generally for mating, and the males do not hang about to help rear the offspring. Females will raise their cub alone, and do not like to have more than one cub.
Red pandas are also solitary in the wild, but couples are more affectionate during the mating season, often grooming each other and feeding close together. Females can have litters between one and four pandas in size, and will care for all of them until maturity, which is usually by the next mating season.
What Are Other Groups Of Bears Called?
Generally, a group of bears is collectively known as a ‘sleuth‘ or a ‘sloth‘, or occasionally a ‘maul‘. Most bears are solitary, but will live in families of mother and cubs once mated. The fathers don’t generally hang about in the family unit, but most bear families will consist of more than one cub, unlike giant pandas.
What Are A Group Of Baby Pandas Called?
A group of baby giant pandas and red pandas is typically called a panda “litter.” When they are born, red pandas are fully furred but blind. Baby giant panda cubs are pink and hairless, as well as blind. It is common to see groups of baby pandas in captivity, but in the wild this is not common at all.
Red pandas will give birth to and rear up to 4 cubs. With giant pandas, although females may give birth to twins up to 50% of the time, or triplets, they are known to abandon one in favor of the other when this happens. In the wild, usually only one cub survives. The mother conserves her limited resources for one chosen offspring.
The bond is so close that the mother barely eats – perhaps a quarter of the norm – for as much as a month after birth. They hold their cub close, and feed them and this is very energy intensive. They choose the strongest cub to nurture, the one that has the greatest chance of survival, and the other will die of neglect.
In captivity there is a much greater chance that all cubs will survive.
While mother and cub grow a close bond, male pandas are not involved in the care of their cubs at all. In fact a cub may never meet its father in the wild.
Do All Pandas Like To Live In Groups?
In the wild, pandas do not like to live in groups. Giant panda males are solitary, females will happily raise a single cub until mature, but other than that they are also solitary creatures out with their mating and rearing windows.
Red pandas also, will only live in family groups while mothers are raising their offspring. Other than this, they are a solitary species.
Facts About Groups Of Pandas
- A group of pandas is typically called an embarrassment.
- Pandas are generally solitary animals, but young pandas will play and live well together in captivity.
- In addition, when pandas are feeling playful or frisky in captivity, they often engage in activities together like chasing each other or wrestling.
- A group of baby pandas is typically called a “panda litter.”
- Pandas have several vocalizations that they use. The sounds they use are known as a chirping, honking, bleating, chomping and barking.
Did You Know?
Pandas Sometimes Do A Handstand When Peeing
In order to mark their scent at a greater height, pandas have been known to climb a tree with their hindfeet backwards, with their weight on their front paws, in order to get into an upside down handstand position when they pee. It is believed that the higher up they can mark their scent, the stronger they are perceived to be.
It’s behaviour like this that, although having a real function, looks pretty funny or strange, which is probably an indicator as to where the term ’embarrassment’ comes from!
Pandas Used To Be Carnivorous
Historically, meat made up a major part of the pandas diet. They can still eat meat today, but very rarely do. The vast majority of their diet today is made up of bamboo, but their digestive system is slow to catch up and is still more like that of a carnivore than a herbivore. As such, most of what they eat is passed as waste, and they can poo up to 40 times in a day!
It is thought that they made the change in diet thousands of years ago, to avoid becoming extinct like some of their competitor predator species that died off.