Gaw's brilliant post on Russia got me thinking about the perfect synchronicity between the Russian character and their national animal - the bear. Like bears, russians are resourceful, good at surviving winters and have a semblance of cuddly approachability, but like bears, they make a mess and annoy them and they'll rip your face off.
There's a few national animals that seem to perfectly capture a deep level of intangible nationalistic mythos, in a way that is greater than the sum of their parts - for instance, the rooster as the emblem of France - what animal could better represent Frenchness in all its strutting, overly coiffeured pomposity? In the case of the British Bulldog, how perfectly it captures our ugly, lumpen faced, belligerent nation. In these cases, you wonder who bestowed the mascot upon the country, its own people, or other neighbouring countries? And why are the french so happy to align themselves to a pompous strutting cockerel?
Other national animals don't seem to have the same perfect fit - I find the American Eagle is a bit of a vague cypher, especially compared with the average american today, and many countries just pick an animal that they are known for rather than one that fits their characteristic - for instance Mauritius has the Dodo as their emblem, even though it represents comical avian failure. Other countries have laughably obtuse national animals - like:
Belgium - Lion (ooh Belgium, you're so well known for your strength and bravery)
Grenada - Ostrich (er..ok)
although I think Wales are the weirdest overall, by having an imaginary animal as their emblem.