Animals have strong symbolic meanings, such as lambs for innocence, lions for courage and the dove for purity and peace.
Bee and Bee Hive
The bee is a symbol of industriousness and productivity; small actions of an individual benefit the whole. Germans see the erratic flight of the bee as “wandering souls.” The bee hive is a symbol of a unified, harmonious community and a symbol of Mormonism.
Beetle or Scarab
The Scarab Beetle symbolizes renewal and regeneration.
Transcendence; symbol of the soul — flight of the soul after death. See also specific breeds of birds.
The boar depicts bravery, courage, and truth. Three boars on a coat of arms was frequently used to represent nobility in Ireland.
A bull symbolizes strength. A winged bull represents Luke the Evangelist.
Butterfly or Moth
Symbolic of resurrection – the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and then the butterfly or moth. The moth, attracted to light, ascends in its final flight toward Heaven. The moth sometimes symbolizes a short life.
According to Egyptian mythology, two cobras depicted with the winged sun are said to guard the gates of the underworld.
Cock or Rooster
The Cock or Rooster is a symbol of the Chinese Zodiac. Roosters symbolize pride, honesty, watchfulness, vigilance and courage.
The crane is a symbol of vigilance, good works and loyalty. In China, the crane symbolizes longevity and immortality. The VA added the Sandhill Crane (left) to symbolize the same-sex partner of a Veteran who passed away.
A dog is generally a symbol of a remembered pet. The image at left is a dog and the boy he tried to save from drowning.
The dove is a symbol of resurrection, innocence and peace, love, purity and resurrection. A dove with an olive spring represents peace.
An ascending dove represents the transport of the soul to heaven.
A Dead Dove represents a prematurely shortened life.
A dove descending represents a descent from Heaven — an assurance of a passage to heaven. A dive-bombing dove with a twig represents the Holy Ghost.
An eagle with a “32” is a sign of a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason. Eagles are sometimes engraved on military graves in the United States.
The eagle is associated with St. John the Evangelist and is sometimes found on Celtic Crosses with the four evangelists who wrote the respective gospels: Matthew (Angel), Mark (Winged Lion), Luke (Winged Ox) and John (Eagle.)
An elk is generally a symbol found on tombstones for members of the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks. See acronym BPOE.
A fawn is a symbol of innocence and is generally found on the graves of children.
A fish is often used as a symbol of Christianity, but may also symbolize a hobby or occupation. There is no specific meaning associated with a fish in heraldry.
A horse is generally a military symbol for the cavalry. A horse on a Coat of Arms symbolizes readiness for all employments for king and country.
The horse at left is running off after a log mishap crushed the driver.
Hummingbirds are primarily decorative.
The Lamb is a symbol of innocence and is frequently used on the graves of children.
Courage, Majesty and Strength. A winged lion represents St. Mark the Evangelist.
The Owl represents night in this relief taken from the work of Bertel Thorvaldsen. The owl may also represent solitude, wisdom or watchfulness.
Elm Grove Cemetery, Mystic, CT
The ox symbolizes sacrifice and service, signifying that Christians should be prepared to sacrifice themselves in following Christ. A Winged Ox represents St. Luke the Evangelist.
The Ox drawn hay wagon at left depicts the cause of death of Auston Robinson at the age of 25 after he fell off of the cart.
The peacock represents immortality through resurrection. Glory, immortality, royalty, incorruptibility, and pride.
Snake or Serpent
A coiled snake indicates sin. A snake biting an apple represents overcoming original sin. An Ouroboros is a snake biting its tail–a symbol of immortality or everlasting life. A snake with its head upright–Uraeus— is an ancient Egyptian symbol for divine or royal authority.
Stag, Hart, Buck or Deer
A stag on a Coat of Arms represents Policy, Peace and Harmony. A stag with a cross attached to its antlers portrays The Legend of St. Eustace.
Turtle or Tortoise
The turtle is generally used as a decorative element, though it may represent longevity, patience, durability and strength.
Twin vultures are Egyptian symbols for maternal care. Vulture’s wings symbolize protection and maternal care.