Animal Game
Frequently Asked Questions

Why is your spelling so bad?
The questions and answers in the Animal Game are entered by players like you. I remove offensive entries, but only occasionally correct for spelling, grammar or correctness.

"I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way." - Mark Twain.

Remember that many of our players are very young and some do not speak English as a first language.

Can I be a guesser?
There are no human guessers. A computer program is asking the questions. Don't laugh, people have asked.
How does the game work?
The Animal Game is a classic learning computer game, an early example of Artifical Intelligence (AI). Roughly it works like this:

  • Initially the game is created knowing only a single animal.
  • When the game is first played, the computer guesses the only animal it knows. If it guesses wrong, the player gets a chance to add their new animal, plus a yes or no question the computer could ask to distinguish between the old animal and the new animal.
  • This process is repeated, and each time the computer does not guess correctly, the player can add a new animal and distinguishing question to the game.
Why do you require an email address?
You only need to supply an email address if you want to add a new animal to the game. We do this to discourage players from adding offensive entries. If they do, we have the option of sending them a polite email explaining why this is inappropriate. We don't do that very often. Mostly we just quietly delete offensive entries.

We don't use your email address for any other purpose. We don't sell or redistribute the information. We won't send you unsolicited email unless we deem your entry to be offensive.

Where did this game come from?
The Animal Game predates the personal computer by many years, going back at least to the early 70's.

I first saw it in "101 BASIC Computer Games" (ed. by David H. Ahl - Maynard, Mass., Digital Equipment, 1973.)

A BASIC version of the game was included on the "Games, Puzzles and Recreation--1" tape for the RSTS operating system in August 1973. You can view the original source code in BASIC at that site. Unfortunately the source does not include any attribution to the original author.

Update! This lovely site has scans of source code from "BASIC Computer Games" (ed. by David H. Ahl, 1978). This looks to be the same version I saw back in the 70's. It also includes an attribution for the original authors:

Originally developed by Arthur Luehrmann at Dartmouth College, Animal was subsequently shortened and modified by Nathan Teichholtz at DEC and Steve North at Creative Computing.

The version running here was originally written in Perl by Guy Carpenter for the (now closed) BushNet project ( in early 1995. Browsers of that era didn't support fancy features like color and frames, and so the game was necessarily kept simple, and that hasn't changed much over the years. When the BushNet project closed in March 2000, the AnimalGame was moved to its current home. The game code has been rewritten several times. The current implementation was written in PHP in April 2003.

A couple of people have mentioned there was a very early version of the Animal Game on the net prior to BushNet's version, but it shut down sometime prior to 1995.

Where Can I Find More Animal Games?
There is an interesting animal game at Braingle which uses a neural network approach to guess the animal.

A rather beautiful variation of the Animal Game, which is not about animals at all, is Guess the Dictator and/or Television Sit-Com Character.

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