Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Answer: Which animals are associated with what professions?

Sometimes searches are tricky... 

This week we're looking for animals that are closely linked to certain professions.  Dalmatian dogs are often thought of as "firefighter dogs."  

Seeing this kind of thing made me writeup last week's Challenge: 

Can you find an animal that's closely linked to a particular profession?  What's the animal?  What's the profession?  And what's the connection? 

This is both a fun question (which animals can you think of?), and a hard question:  HOW would you do this search. 

From looking at the comments this week, it's clear that lots of people knew things off  the top of their head.  

Jon remembered that:  lab rats / scientists or guinea pigs / scientists go together, and that canaries / coal-miners are often mentioned in the same breath.  A bit later he also came up with: corgis / Queen Elizabeth (which is clever, but not really a profession, per se). 

Ramón thought about shepherd dogs / shepherds and snakes / medicine, as well as pigeons / mail carriers.  

Remmij came up a great list:  donkey, elephant, lame ducks / politicians as well as bears, bulls / stockbrokers.  And, the remarkable:  dolphins / submariners.  

Gauche Murleau came up with sharks / lawyers.  (Not all associations need be positive!) 

Marydee recalled that librarians cats (and more generally, booksellers / cats).  

While Chris also thought of doctors / tropical fish, although this is stretching the relationship thing just a bit.  


... all of these are basically remembered by each of the readers.  Almost nobody did a search to find these things.

How would you approach this kind of a problem?  

In my case, I thought about it this way:  "What terms would people use to write about such relationships?"  and  "What patterns of language would they use?"  

Once I've figured that out, I can try to create a query that expresses that pattern. 

I started by looking at job/animal pairs that I already knew about.  Since I already knew that snakes are often used in iconography about doctors, I did this search: 

I was looking for common language expressions that I might use as queries.  If you look in the Wikipedia article about the Caduceus, you'll find phrases like "...symbol of medicine" and "...symbol of healthcare."  

That suggests to me that looking for patterns like [ "symbol of *" ] might be useful.  

So I experimented with that for a while, learning that this pattern is WAY too general.  To make it work, I had tog restrict it with additional terms like this:  

     [ "symbol of *" profession ] or [ "symbol of *" job ] 

and I found a few things (such as the pineapple as the symbol of hospitality).  But it's not quite right.  

What I really want to ask my search engine is: 

     [ Find me an animal that is symbolic of an entire profession ] 

But (currently) there's no good way to say this.  

Finding a profession / animal pair is tricky--both are difficult to describe.  So when you've got a search Challenge like this, you have to think about other ways to express it.  

So I experimented with searches like: 

     [ animal emblem profession ] 
     [ animal mascot job ] 
     [ animal symbol of vocation ] 

and then switching those terms around in various combinations.  Notice that I tried synonyms of the emblem/mascot/symbol and of the profession/job/vocation.  

They all kind-of worked, and by searching with repeated combinations, I was able to find a few more things (mostly repeats from above).  

Then I thought to try Images as a way to search for these things.  And that was surprisingly a bit more productive.  

This repeats our discovery of snakes with medicine.  

While this one: 

Shows us the rat or mouse is association with scientists.  

But here was a great one that surprised me:  teamster / horses... although it's obvious in retrospect.   

I wasn't able to find many more than the ones the incredible SRS folks already commented on.. but this was a great search task!  

Search Lessons 

1.  Use your social network.  In this case, all of the readers of SearchResearch is an impressive "hive mind" you can tap into.  You might not be a blogger, but this is one reason to create and curate your own social network.  Be at least occasionally a Twitter, G+, Facebook user:  It gives you access to people who can think very differently than you do.  That difference in perspective can be a valuable thing.  

2. Use more specific terms.  As we saw, sometimes you have to do these kinds of searches one-at-a-time, instead of looking for ambiguous terms like "profession," uses particular jobs (like "doctor") or categories (like "teamster" or "scientist") instead of a less determined term 

3. Try other modes.  In this Challenge, looking in Images was helpful.  (I also tried Videos and Books, but they didn't work out.)  But often, switching resource types can give you a great set of suggestions. 

4. Look for common language to use in a pattern. Try searching for common language expressions that show up in articles that are along the lines of what you're seking. Above, we looked at the Wikipedia article about the Caduceus and found phrases like "...symbol of medicine" and "...symbol of healthcare." From this we learned that a common term--symbol--in a common phrase like "symbol of X" can be a useful search pattern.  

I hope you enjoyed this Challenge. Your answers were excellent!  

Search on! 


  1. sorry that my comment about Blaze, the Dalmatian, and the Huberts didn't make the cut… the capricious nature of comment appearance…meh
    BTW – why are all my SERP links rainbow colored? - but no so blue… may have to return to Blackle
    jon, we are cavy/guinea pigs
    are you involved with this Dan? it is kinda Pavlovian… will Google replace the Federal Government at some point? as an efficiency thing…

    thought of a few other pairings… stretches the parameters of the initial question a bit… see Search Lesson #1; e.g., is Satanism a profession?
    initiated by my meat-bag search engine, then supported by Google queries.
    •••☤ undertakers, forensic entomologists/beetles:
    burying beetle
    Carrion-feeding beetles
    (could the crashing beetle & honeybee populations be related?… a question for a different time & different hive mind)
    •••☤ Mormons/hives & bees:
    take with a grain of Salt Lake…
    honeybees v "People of the Mountains"
    pioneer symbols
    •••☤ Satanists/goats:
    Baphomet, Knights Templar
    Yahoo answers

    speaking of dolphins & submariners…
    Golden Gate video
    Golden Gate stills

    1. Hello Remmij! I just checked and Blaze, the Dalmatian is available now. I'll read it!. Now I also need to read your new links. About SERP links in rainbow color, mine works normally. I read Google testing black links instead of blue in search results but not in my case.

      Thanks for sharing the history of the blue in links!

  2. Hello Dr. Russell. It was a super fun challenge and great way to learn new tools and new connections between animals and professions.

    Thanks for sharing your answer. Lots of new things that never thought about. Specially looking for the connections in images.

    Other "animals" (sort of) related to jobs, professions or humans could be the following. One is not really an animal but depicts one and the other applies only for United States but he has being doing his job for many years.

    1. Weather prognosticator since 1887: Phil the Groundhog

    2. Mickey Mouse as a symbol of Disney Movies and them as symbol of family entertainment.

  3. Making the jump to the word 'symbol' is key here. Thank-you.