Have you ever been playing on the playground and took a spill that put you flat on your rear end? We’ve all been there and done that. Sometimes it really hurts, especially when you land square on your tailbone.

Did you ever WONDER why you have a tailbone but not a tail? When you look around, tails are everywhere. They follow cats and dogs, horses and cows, and all sorts of other creatures, big and small.

So why don’t humans have tails? Of course, if we did, fashion would probably look a lot different than it does today. Can you imagine what blue jeans would look like if humans had tails?

We can’t know for certain why humans don’t have tails. We just don’t. But perhaps the answer might be as simple as this: we just don’t need them!

If you look at all the animals that have tails and the ways they use them, it’s clear that tails can and do serve many important purposes. Let’s take a look at some animals with tails and why they’re important to those animals.

For example, the humble alligator has a long, long tail. Without it, he wouldn’t be able to swim as quickly as he does. If you’re a swimmer, think about how much faster you might be able to go if you had legs kicking AND a tail wagging!

Tails can also help you maintain your balance…at least that’s what the monkeys and squirrels in Wonderopolis tell us. Have you ever tried to run along the thin branches high up in a tree? We hope not, because you’d probably fall out of the tree! Squirrels and monkeys, though, use their tails to keep their balance and sometimes to even hold on to a branch.

Humans walk really well on just two legs, so we don’t need tails to help us keep our balance. In fact, a tail might throw us off balance. Can you imagine running or walking with a tail following you around? That would take some getting used to, wouldn’t it?

Some animals use their tails to communicate. Have you ever seen a dog wagging its tail in happiness? If not, grab a treat the next time you meet a dog and you’ll see what we mean!

Other animals might use their tails for protection. If you ever find yourself in a facedown with a kangaroo or a crocodile, you might be worried about flying feet and snapping jaws. What you should watch out for, though, is a swinging tail that can send you reeling!

We’ve touched on just a few examples. Animals use their tails for all sorts of other things, including keeping warm (foxes), steering (fish), and grooming (a cow swatting flies!). Since we humans handle these things with our hands and feet, we just don’t need tails!

43 Join the Discussion

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    • Thanks so much, Wonder Friend Destiny! What was your favorite animal featured in today’s Wonder video? We loved the pig and the monkey– they have curly tails– and we think our furry puppy friends have the happiest tails around! What do you think, Destiny? :)

  1. Hi Wonderopolis,

    We thought about what it would be like to to have tails. We were laughing. We talked about what our animals do with their tails-like chase them! We also talked about some dogs who got their tails cut off. Why do they do that?
    We predict tomorrows wonder will be about a baby eating, steak, a loch ness monster, ice cream, a shark, a dentist, or eating.

    • Good morning, Froggy 1! What a fantastic way to start your Friday– by using your imaginations! WOHOO! :)

      It’s great that you’ve been WONDERing about what life would be like if you walked around with a tail! We can’t help but giggle!

      What a great question about dogs and their tails– perhaps you can ask your local vet or talk with your family about what that is!

      Your predictions for tomorrow’s Wonder are out of this world– what great guesses! We Wonder if the loch ness monster has to go to the dentist? :)

    • That’s a great observation, Gabe, thanks for sharing your comment today! If you had a tail, what kind of tail would it be? It would have to be long in order to chase it, wouldn’t it? :)

    • Way to go, Ethan, you’ve really been using your imagination with us today! How cool! We Wonder what you would do all day as a cat… perhaps you can find a favorite spot to curl up or stretch out in your home? What’s the best part of being a cat? :)

  2. My favorite animal’s tail was the peacock’s tail because it looked very pretty!
    When my brother was in preschool, his teacher had two pet turtles in the classroom. The cat’s tails on the video looked really cute.
    I know why cats have tails. They have tails to balance themselves when they jump. Some breeds of cats that have tails that are very short.
    Great wonder! ;-)

    • Great pick, Julie, peacocks have beautiful feathers indeed! Thank you for watching today’s Wonder video and making all kinds of WONDERful connections to the animals’ tails you saw. What fun!

      You are a super Wonder Friend, Julie, and we LOVE all the cool facts you have shared with us! It sounds like you know all about cats and their tails, do you and your family have a cat or a family of cats? :)

  3. We loved that video. Mr. Fines would stop between the animals so we could guess what kind of tails they had. Our favorite was the bushy tail squirrel!

    • Hello, KF Dragons! It sounds like you had lots of fun WONDERing about all sorts of tails today– what fun! Mr. Fines is so WONDERful and we hope he gave all of you high fives today! Thank you for telling us about your favorite animal tail– keep an eye out for all sorts of animal tails this weekend, Wonder Friends! :)

  4. ==========================================================
    If I Could Be An Animal With A Tail It Would Me A Blue Spider Monkey
    (A Monkey With For Arms 4 Eyes And Can Shoot Webs)
    ==========================================================

    Wonder What’s Next???

    Open Wide!!! Tomorrow’s Wonder Of The Day Is A Real Mouthful!!!

    It’s Finding Aliens Life Forms!!!
    ==========================================================
    See You For Tomorrow’s Epic (Or Annoying) Wonder!!! :D
    ==========================================================

    • Hey Max, we always love reading your comments! You are full of energy- nice work, Wonder Friend! It sounds like you have been doing some WONDERing about aliens and other life forms… what have you found?! :)

    • Hey there, Anthony! Thanks for sharing your comment and question- what a great point! Perhaps a tail would work for humans if our arms and legs weren’t so heavy! We have muscles and bones in our arms and legs that help us get from place to place with ease. Monkeys use their tails to swing from branch to branch, but their arms and legs are tiny compared to ours! We bet you’d love this Wonder, Anthony: #936– How Many Bones Are In Your Body? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-many-bones-are-in-your-body/ :)

  5. Hi Wonderopolis!

    I never knew tails could be so useful! Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a tail. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about hot dog eating contests.

    Bye!

    • Good afternoon, Ms. H’s Class! Thanks for visiting us today- it’s a fantastic Friday here in Wonderopolis and we hope you’re doing great! :)

      We’re glad you’ve been thinking about life with a tail, Wonder Friend! What kind of tail would you like? A long one, a striped one, and bushy one? Thanks for sharing your prediction for tomorrow’s Wonder– check out this Wonder from the past, we hope you’re hungry… #273– How Many Hot Dogs Can You Eat in 10 Minutes? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-many-hot-dogs-can-you-eat-in-10-minutes/ :)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,
    In the video that turtle was really small and its tail looks
    really pointy. I think if we had tails the pants would have to have a hole in the pants. I can already see when my sister’s dog is happy she sometimes wags her tail. Then when I pet her she stays all okay but when I stop petting her she just goes away. I wonder why she does that.

    Shantal

    • Good afternoon, Shantal, thanks for WONDERing with us today! You made some awesome observations from today’s Wonder video! We think it would be tough to sit in our chairs or ride to and from school with a pointy tail in the way! EEK! Perhaps that is why so many animals enjoy resting on their backs or their stomachs! :)

      We love your connections, too. Thanks for telling us all about your sister’s happy dog– we bet she wags her tail when she sees you! Why is that? We hope you talk to a friend or a parent about why animals wag their tails! :)

  7. Ava F said: I didn’t know peacocks had tails. I thought they were just feathers!

    August said: I think some cats and dogs don’t have tails.

    Will said: The tails on the animals are cute! I also like whales.

    LIlly said: I wonder why they would want to cut off some dogs’ tails, because it may hurt them!

    Tessa said: Maybe some animals use their tails to help them eat.

    Hannah said: I didn’t know that lizards had really long tails!

    Matthias said: I wonder why turtles have tails? Is it to help them swim?

    Darcy said: My favorite animal that had tails were the pigs.

    Duke said: I liked the whale because they can move fast.

    • Hello to all our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Flanigan’s Class! We are thrilled you’re here today! We’ve enjoyed comments from Ava F, August, Will, Lilly, Tessa, Hannah, Matthias, Darcy and Duke! HOORAY for you! :)

      We love to know how much you’ve been WONDERing today- from peacocks to dogs to lizards to turtles, there are lots of different types of tails out there! Keep your eyes open for the Wonder around you this weekend– we Wonder how many different types of tails you’ll see? :)

    • Hey there, Destiny, thanks for visiting us today! We’ve had a SUPER week WONDERing with you! :)

      Keep it up and have a fun weekend full of WONDERing! :)

    • Great question, Kim! Animals have tails to help them get from place to place, but also to keep their balance! The tail helps many dogs balance while they swim, and some other animals use their tails to get from place to place- like monkeys in a tree. Can you think of other ways a tail might help an animal balance? :)

  8. Hi wonderopolis I talked about different kinds of tails with my family and my school. I never knew that I have a tail bone. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a baby eating.

    • Thanks for telling us about your great uses for a tail, Shilpa! We bet that tail would come in handy if you needed an extra arm for carrying lots of things, like books at school or even sports equipment! Thanks for visiting us today, Shilpa! :)

  9. I wonder if I had a tail what would I do, thinking about it I would probably hit my cat in the face with it for all the times shes done it to me.

  10. I personally think that the tailbone, or the coccyx, is incontrovertible evidence for substantiating the fact of evolution.

  11. We learned that we don’t need tails, but animals need tails for many different reasons. One is so they can climb trees and protect their selves. We also learned ,that what kind of tails animals have. We still wonder why do pigs have tails.

    • Hi, Mason and DeAntre! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! Be sure to read the entire Wonder of the Day above to explore the questions you have! :)

    • You’re right, khgflugp3rubv! Tails are very useful for certain animals like monkeys, cats and cows! We’re glad you’re WONDERing with us, Wonder Friend! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why don’t humans have tails?
  • What purposes do tails serve?
  • If you could pick a tail, what would you choose?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Aren’t tails great? Keep the learning going by exploring one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Tails come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. How good are you at identifying them? Check out this Name That Tail gallery and test yourself. Can you guess which animals the tails belong to? Try it with a friend or family member and see who can guess the most correctly.
  • Have you ever noticed how big bears are? They’re huge! But they have very small tails compared to their size. It’s almost like it’s not there at all. Why is this? Well, some people think the answer lies in an old story told by scouts around the campfire. Jump online and have fun reading How Bear Lost His Tail. What do you think? Could there be any truth to this story? Why or why not?
  • So are you feeling a little bit jealous right now? If you are, it’s only natural. After all this talk of tails and you not having one…well…that could make anyone a bit envious. What if you were granted one wish: you can have a tail. It can be any kind of tail you want. You get to decide what it looks like and how long it is. What would you choose? Maybe a long, fluffy tail like a cat’s? Or how about a powerful wagger like you might find on a Golden Retriever? Perhaps an alligator’s tail is more your style? What kind of tail would you want to wag and why? Let us know! Post a comment below or leave us a comment on Facebook. We can’t wait to read about what kind of tail you’d choose if you could pick one!

Still Wondering

ReadWriteThink’s Explanation of a Weather Saying: “Mares’ Tails…” lesson provides an explanation of the weather saying, “Mares’ tails and mackerel scales make tall ships take in their sails.”

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

Open wide! Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is a real mouthful!

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