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In Harry Potter each house has its own animal that represents it; is it ever explained how these animals came to represent a specific house? I never read a canon explanation to who chose the animals, is that known?

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2 Answers 2

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Since the four founders were involved in choosing students for their houses, it seems reasonable to assume that they also chose their house animal.

Reading the welcome letters on Pottermore offers one explanation: the animals were chosen because they had the traits that the founders valued in their students.

  • Slytherin and the snake. From the welcome letter:

    We’re like our emblem, the snake: sleek, powerful, and frequently misunderstood.

    It’s also well-known that Salazar Slytherin was a Parselmouth, and had an affinity with snakes. (I don’t know if Parseltongue had such a negative connotation when Hogwarts was founded; if so, I’m surprised he chose to advertise it.)

  • Gryffindor and the lion. From the welcome letter:

    Our emblem is the lion, the bravest of all creatures

    The lion is often depicted as the “king of the jungle/beasts” and as a symbol of bravery. If you look on heraldic crests, the lion is a popular choice for royalty, for similar reasons. It’s easy to see why Godric chose it.

  • Ravenclaw and the eagle. From the welcome letter:

    Our emblem is the eagle, which soars where others cannot climb

    This is a not-so-subtle reference to the fact that Ravenclaws believe themselves to be more intelligent than other students.

    You could look at the answers to When is a raven like an eagle? When it's on the Ravenclaw house crest for a bit more discussion of the Ravenclaw house crest.

  • Hufflepuff and the badger. From the welcome letter:

    Hufflepuffs are trustworthy and loyal. We don’t shoot our mouths off, but cross us at your peril; like our emblem, the badger, we will protect ourselves, our friends and our families against all-comers. […] Like badgers, we know exactly how to lie low – and how to defend ourselves.

    I discussed Hufflepuff’s association with the badger more fully in another answer on the site.

Somebody who knows more about history than me might be able to comment on thehistorical significance of these symbols in medieval times (when these animals would have been chosen).

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Didn't the Eagle also have a Raven coloured Claw? –  Simon Jul 1 at 8:08

2 of the 4 are pretty obvious:

Salazar Slytherin was a Parselmouth, therefore very close to snakes, which immediatly leads to the snake as a symbol.

To be in Gryffindor one has to be brave beyond any other personal quality, what animal stands for courage? Exactly: The lion.

As far as the other to houses are concerned:

Ravenclaw:

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw
If you've a ready mind
Where those of wit and learning
Will always find their kind.

I think from wise to eagle is not that far a fetch, I also consider this to be pretty obvious.

Finally: Hufflepuff:

The badger is known for having a gentle nature and has come to be the symbol of love and loyalty; both are traits of Hufflepuff house. It also is an ordinary animal if there is any, If there is a more specific reason out there I have not seen it yet

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