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The Big 5 of Louisiana
"Great Blue Heron" by Arvind Balaraman. Courtesy of

The Big 5 of Louisiana

Louisiana’s “Big 5”

We have all heard of the big 5 from Africa.  You know how it goes, in Africa you HAVE TO SEE: an African elephant, black rhinoceros, cape buffalo, lion, and leopard.  Did you know that Louisiana has a big 5 also? I bet you didn’t.  In fact, Louisiana has a big 5 that are an integral part of Louisiana culture, and sometimes even a big part of the local Louisiana cuisine.  These animals were chosen  based on their significance to the State both for their influence on culture and even in their influence on local Cajun cuisine.  Most will be found in other areas as well, but have particular importance to Louisiana. Here is the list of Louisiana’s big 5 according to me (be sure to read through the bottom for my explanations):

1.) Louisiana Brown Pelican – The Louisiana Brown Pelican is an iconic symbol of Louisiana. Outside of being the state bird, it can also be found on the State Seal, Flag, and a number of other official documents. Brown Pelicans can often be spotted near the coasts of Louisiana soaring over and fishing the seas. Nothing to me says Louisiana more than a pelican sitting on a pylon near the sea. Represents: The Louisiana Brown Pelican represents the people of Louisiana. If you have met them, hopefully you have been shown true hospitality.

Louisiana brown pelican swimming in a lake

2.) Alligator – The alligators of Louisiana are probably the one of the more ‘dangerous’ animals that we have. Louisiana has a very high percentage of alligators per capita and they can often be found in swamps, rivers, lakes, and ponds around Louisiana. Although states like Florida have a moderate amount of alligators, Louisiana swamps are famous for having the highest number and for integrating the alligators into local cuisine. Alligator can be eaten and is usually served as an appetizer, on a po-boy, or in a sauce piquante. Respresents: The alligator represents the great swamps. If you have seen the alligator, then you have likely seen one of Louisiana’s greatest resources. The Atchafalaya Basin lies at the heart of South Louisiana culture.

An alligator in a swamp. This photo was taken in the swamp at University of Louisiana Lafayette.

3.) Crawfish – Crawfish are hugely popular in Louisiana. They are popular for many reasons, but crawfish are a largely consumed food in Louisiana especially during their season, which is in the spring time.  In addition, crawfish are often associated as a symbol of Louisiana and people use them in pictures and promotions. Represents: The Louisiana crawfish represents the local cuisine that is unique to Louisiana. Louisiana’s cuisine is world renown for its rich flavors and spices. Try it and you won’t forget it. People travel long and far to taste the foods of Louisiana.

Louisiana crawfish. How to boil crawfish Louisiana style

4.) White-tail Deer – The Louisiana white-tail deer is most prevalent large-game that Louisiana has. A long time ago, elk and even some buffalo roamed Louisiana, but in modern-day Louisiana the white-tail deer is king. Driving on some roads at night during the winter months, one is sure to see a deer grazing on the side of the road. Represents: The White-tail deer represents the abundance of nature that Louisiana has. Louisiana is often referred to by its nickname “Sportsmen’s Paradise”. This is because it truly is. Louisiana is full of wildlife and has many places where people can go to enjoy the great outdoors.

White-tail deer buck

5.) Great Blue Heron – The great blue heron of Louisiana is often found near the swamps and waterways of Louisiana. They are aren’t as common as the white egrets, and much more beautiful because of their rich blue colors. Blue Herons are individualists, rarely will you see more than one of them together. They are symbolic and stoic figures for Louisiana. Represents: The longstanding traditions of Louisiana, its culture, history, and people. If you have experienced the Great Blue Heron, then you have understood the traditions of Louisiana.

"Great Blue Heron" by Arvind Balaraman. Courtesy of

“Great Blue Heron” by Arvind Balaraman. Courtesy of


Truthfully, there is no specific set of big 5 in Louisiana; In fact, many of these animals may be found in other areas as well. However, I chose this list of animals for a very specific reason. What is my reasoning for choosing them? My reasoning is very simple. If you have seen these animals then you have likely seen many of the best things that Louisiana has to offer. To me, each one of these animals is representative of something in Louisiana culture.


Runners up:

Nutria Rat – Nutria rats came to Louisiana via trading ships. Nowadays, they are considered to be pests, but nonetheless they are still a part of local life in the swamps and waterways of Louisiana. Representative of the fact that nearly all Louisianans are immigrants, and they have adopted Louisiana as their home.

Shrimp – An alternative representative of the seafood industry in Louisiana.

Mosquito – Represents the tenacity of the people in Louisiana. They can be stubborn, hard-headed even, but they are Louisiana-grown nonetheless.


What do you think?

Which is your favorite? Which have you seen?


Thanks for stopping by!



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  1. That is an interesting perspective Andy. I’ve seen 4 of the Big 5 in Africa, I missed a leopard by seconds! Hopefully I’ll soon get to the 5 of Louisiana.

    I really like the picture of the deer.

    • Wow, that is incredible that you got to see some many. I’d say 4/5 isn’t too bad! You are always welcome in Louisiana. I have actually been working on an article “Why every Brit should visit Louisiana” we will see where that one goes. Thanks

  2. Susan Marie via Facebook

    Dude… Check! Scene em all… And one in my garage… And one by our koi pond… And one on ma plate!!! Lol!

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