To celebrate World Wildlife Day (March 3rd), here are ten well-known animal connections from across LaLiga Santander, Spain’s top football division.  
Spaniards love football and they love animals, so it’s no surprise that LaLiga football is full of references to animals. From team and player nicknames to crests and symbols, here’s a look at just ten of the best examples.  
The Lions of Athletic Club
Athletic Club are known throughout Spain as ‘the Lions,’ with this nickname originating from the decision to name their stadium San Mamés when they moved into the previous home back in 1913. Legend has it that the stadium’s namesake, the original Saint Mamés, was thrown to the lions for his faith but miraculously survived. This eventually produced the football team’s nickname, and it has stuck ever since. 
Falcao the Tiger
Rayo Vallecano’s Radamel Falcao is known all around the world for his ability to score goals and for his famous nickname: ‘the Tiger’. The moniker was given to the Colombian when he was starting out his career in River Plate’s youth categories and it has stayed with him ever since. During his first stint in LaLiga with Atlético de Madrid, Falcao even posed with a tiger at the club’s old Vicente Calderón stadium for a photo shoot.
Bats adorn the crests of Valencia CF and Levante UD
Valencia CF and Levante UD, who both hail from the city of Valencia on Spain’s eastern coast, feature bats at the top of their club crests. That’s because the city’s very own coat of arms has a bat symbol atop the crest, given that the city is known for being home to so many. 
Levante UD, the ‘frogs’
As well as having the bat on their club badge, Levante have another big animal link: they are nicknamed ‘the Frogs’. The story behind this curious name is that their old stadium was located next to a riverbed that was home to a large number of frogs – who could be heard croaking in the distance on matchdays! The football team embraced this nickname and now even their mascots Blau and Grana, one male and one female, are frogs.  
Negredo the Buffalo 
Cádiz CF striker Álvaro Negredo makes his presence felt in the penalty area, just like a Buffalo would. The former Spain number nine has enjoyed ‘the Buffalo’ nickname throughout his career, while on occasion he has also been labelled ‘the Shark’ for his predatory instincts. 
PUMA matchballs
PUMA has been the official technical partner of LaLiga since 2019 and the sports brand provide both the Accelerate and Adrenalina footballs used in LaLiga matches. The brand’s logo is, of course, a puma and it features on all of the balls, as well as on the kits of club partner Valencia CF. 
Cádiz and Hércules’ two lions
If you look closely at the club badge of Cádiz CF, you’ll see two lions either side of a man. This is a depiction of Greek legendary hero Hercules, an image which also features on the flag of Andalusia. It has become part of the Cádiz club badge over the years, with local legend claiming that the encounter between Hercules and Geryon took place close to the modern-day city of Cádiz.
Benzema the Cat
When Jose Mourinho once described Karim Benzema as a cat, the nickname stuck for fans and media in Spain. To this day, Benzema is still sometimes referred to as ‘the Cat,’ with his agile and smooth way of playing football reminiscent of an athletic feline. 
RCD Espanyol, the Parakeets 
One of the most unique club nicknames in world football belongs to RCD Espanyol, who are known as ‘the Parakeets.’ It stems from their time at the Estadio de Sarriá, the Catalan club’s home between 1923 and 1997. The parakeets on the trees outside the ground were RCD Espanyol’s noisy neighbours for all those years, which led to this very original nickname. 
The bear and strawberry tree statue at Atlético de Madrid 
One of the main well-known symbols on the Madrid city coat of arms is a bear supported by a strawberry tree. Atleti are synonymous with the city and over the years adopted the symbol for their club crest. It’s become such an important symbol for the club that they even built a replica of the famous bear and tree statue which has stood for decades in the city’s Puerta del Sol square outside their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
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