how to sign animals in bsl

How to sign animals in BSL

Children love to play with toy animals and now you can teach them how to sign animals in BSL! Learning the signs for animals is great for parents, teachers and can widen a child’s vocabulary. Learning animals signs is also essential for more structured courses such as BSL level 1. Whatever reason you’re learning sign language, you can have lots of fun with animal signs!

Farm animals in BSL:

The clip (below) from YouTube shows you how to sign farm animals. The video is by Dan from Commanding Hands:

The video shows 12 BSL signs for farm animals. The video was chosen by our BSL tutors as it covers the signs needed for the Level 1 BSL course. Animal signs form the foundation of your learning on a structured course. But you can also just learn them for fun! Watch the video to see sign language for different animals: horse, goat, bull, cow, cow milk, sheep, donkey, pig, fox, dog, chicken and duck.

Other farm signs include: farm, goose, turkey, fish, fox, owl, rabbit, rat, mouse, hedgehog

Dan has another video on how to sign animals in BSL. The animal signs include cat, dog, hamster, bird, cow, pig, guinea pig, crocodile, fish, sheep as well as the sign for animal.

Regional variations in BSL:

If you’ve read any of our previous posts, we always point to regional variations in sign language. A good example of sign variation is the sign for a horse. There are three variations:

  • One sign traces the shape of a horse’s head
  • One sign if from the rider’s view of the horse
  • The sign for horse can also be from a third person view of looking at someone sitting on a horse.

We have included a different video (below) showing Scottish BSL signs. They are mostly the same with the exception of signs for farm and horse. Note that the sign for horse is from the view that you are riding a horse.

The signs in this video are: cow, sheep, horse, goat, duck, goose, pig and chicken.

BSL signs for zoo animals:

For videos of the zoo signs, it is best if you watch stories involving animals (see resources list below). When you watch stories, you will see the signers describe an animal and then take on the characteristics.

Zoo, bear, camel, chimpanzee, crocodile, eagle, elephant, giraffe, gorilla, hippo, kangaroo, lion, monkey, parrot, penguin, rhino, snake, tiger, tortoise, wolf, zebra, deer, reindeer, goldfish, lizard and spider.

Sign language for pets:

This is an excellent video by a native sign language user and BSL tutor. Marios Costi. The BSL signs for pets include cat, dog, rabbit, hamster, tortoise, goldfish, fish, guinea pig, bird. Marios also shows you how to describe an animal’s features.

Signs in BSL to describe pets and other animals:

When learning animal signs, you also need to learn how to describe their features such as floppy ears or fluffy fur. Here are some words and signs you’ll need to learn:

Large, big, tall, small, long (body), short (body), feather, fur, fluffy, thick fur, thin fur, soft, smooth, hairy, rough (skin), stripes, plain, long bushy tail, short tail, teeth, pointed ears, long ears, colours, shape, size, spots, pattern, paws, claws, shiny, sweet, cute, bark, miaow, vicious, growling, pointy ears, floppy ears, quiet, noisy, dog food, cat food, rabbit food, insect food, fish food

Expert tip: Remember that BSL is a visual language. Watch your pet or an animal video on YouTube and try to copy it’s movements. For example, a rabbit’s nose twitching. Can you twitch your nose like a rabbit?

Other Resources to learn ‘BSL for animals’:

Little Signers Club BSL farm animals flashcards

Twinkl has BSL farm animal printables

Curriculum signs for animals e.g. earthworm

Enfield School for the Deaf has an animal vocabulary list

BSL Signed Stories with animals

The Royal Association of the Deaf (RAD) have a channel dedicated to signed stories. They include:

ITV also have Signed Stories which can be accessed via Amazon Prime, or Overdrive an ebook service.