What Kind of Animal is Arthur?
If you are reading this, you probably grew up watching the cartoon series Arthur. Based on a children’s book series by Marc Brown, Arthur aired on PBS in the United States and on other networks overseas. In 2021, many hearts were crushed when it was announced that the series would be coming to an end in 2022 after a 25-year run.
The series follows Arthur Read and his family and friends, all of whom live in the fictional Elwood City. Elwood is actually inspired by the real-life city of Ellwood City in Pennsylvania; the series’ creator had relatives living there and thought that the city’s name (with a slightly-changed spelling) would fit the tone of his series.
One of the most distinctive things about Arthur is that its characters are not human beings. Instead, all of them are animals. For years, young and old alike have speculated what kind of animal Arthur really is. Some have called him a bear, others have called him a mouse. But, what kind of animal is Arthur really? The answer may surprise you.
Arthur Has an African Origin
Although Arthur is set in the United States, Arthur himself is not an animal native to the continent. Arthur is not a bear, a mouse, a rabbit, or some other common animal. Instead, Arthur is an aardvark.
An aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is a mammal native to Africa. Its name literally means “earth pig” in Afrikaans. As seen in the picture, its head resembles that of a pig, except thinner and with a longer snout. Although Arthur the character does not exactly look like an aardvark, the show’s creator and staff have confirmed that he is one. Arthur does have some clear aardvark features, however. One is his long ears. In the earlier books, Arthur does resemble an aardvark more closely, but his design changed over time.
Other members of Arthur’s family, such as his parents as well as his sister D.W., are also aardvarks.
Fun Fact: Arthur being an aardvark was inspired by series creator Marc Brown’s bedtime stories to his son Tolon. Tolon wanted to hear stories involving unusual animals. Marc chose the aardvark because it was the first that came to his mind.
Francine and Muffy Are Our Cousins
Muffy and Francine are two of Arthur’s friends. Francine is a tomboyish and athletic girl, while Muffy is her best friend and the richest kid in school. When one looks at them, the first impression may be that they are primates. And indeed, they are. Muffy and Francine are both monkeys.
Incidentally, Francine is Jewish and celebrates Hanukkah. This is part of the series’ emphasis on multiculturalism: indeed, other ethnic holidays such as Kwanzaa have also been depicted in the series.
Could Buster Be Distantly Related To Bugs Bunny?
Buster, Arthur’s best friend who has many interests, is probably one of the easiest to identify. He is clearly a rabbit.
Brain Has Something In Common With Winnie the Pooh
Binky is Man’s Best Friend
Binky Barnes is the bully in Arthur’s school. When one sees him for the first time, him being a dog would probably be the first impression. And that would be accurate: Binky is a bulldog.
Mr. Ratburn And Jerry Would Probably Get Along
Mr. Ratburn, the gang’s teacher, would probably get along with Jerry or Mickey Mouse. Why? Mr. Ratburn, as his name suggests, is a rat. He is a kind-natured teacher and is well-loved by his students as well as the series’ fans.
In 2019, Mr. Ratburn made news when he got married to a male character in an episode titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone”. The episode was widely praised by both critics and fans, particularly for its positive depiction of same-sex couples.
Fun Fact: Mr. Ratburn is inspired by a teacher Marc Brown had as a child. In fact, most of the characters in the series are inspired by real people. For example, Arthur is based on himself, Binky was inspired by a school bully he knew, and D.W. is inspired by his actual younger sister.
What About the Other Characters?
The next time you watch Arthur, you no longer will be confused as to what animal is a certain character. And while the cartoon itself has ended, the show’s creator and staff have assured fans that it is not the end of the road for Arthur and his friends.