In an earlier post, I started discussing measure words, and talked about the common measure words for people. In this post, I'll look at measure words for animals.
In English, we have many of these and they are confusing e.g. a flock of geese, but a murder of crows, etc.
While you could use the standard measure word 个 (Gè) for animals in Chinese, you'll sound a lot better if you use the appropriate specific measure words.
条 (Tiáo) is one of my favourite measure words. It's not just use for animals. It's used for most long skinny things. Here are some examples for animals:
一条蛇 (yì tiáo shé) is "a snake". Now that makes sense as they're pretty long and skinny. But others use this, even though they are less long and skinny.
一条鱼 (yì tiáo yú) is "a fish".
一条龙 (yì tiáo lóng) is a surprising one. It's "a dragon". Not sure they're all that long and skinny.
I've also seen this measure word applied to things like dogs, although they have better measure words.
一只狗 (yì zhī gǒu) is "a dog"
一只鸟 (yì zhī niǎo) is "a bird"
一只老鼠 (yì zhī lǎo shǔ) is "a mouse"
一只熊猫 (yī zhǐ xióngmāo) is "a panda"
头 (tóu) literally means "head" on its own, but as a measure word, it's used for some larger animals:
一头牛 (yì tóu niú) is "a cow"
一头猪 (yì tóu zhū) is "a pig"
But even though horses seem pretty similar, they have a different measure word:
一匹马 (yì pǐ mǎ) is "a horse"