Discover The 9 Official State Animals Of Massachusetts

Written by Em Casalena
Updated: May 8, 2023
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Are you interested in learning about the state animals of Massachusetts? Massachusetts is a vacation favorite for New England tourists and for good reason. Outside of the state’s rich history, it is also very biodiverse. With a low coastal plain in the east, the beautiful Pioneer Valley, and the massive Berkshire and Taconic Mountains in the west, Massachusetts has a varied topography. The Berkshire Mountains, a sweeping series of purple mountains, are located further west. Massachusetts has a primarily humid continental climate, similar to much of the Northeast and Upper Midwest, with warm summers and chilly winters as well as year-round precipitation.

The population of the North Atlantic right whale has been greatly decreased by centuries of hunting .

Due to its humid and diverse environment, Massachusetts is known for its wide range of wild animal species. Let’s take a look at some of the state animals of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State Reptile: Garter Snake

Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Garter snakes (pictured) are very common in the wild and in residential areas of Massachusetts.


Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis

The state reptile of Massachusetts is the garter snake. It also serves as Virginia’s state snake. With ridged scales and a variety of colors and patterns, adult garter snakes can reach lengths of 18 to 26 inches. Their backs are a rich shade of dark brown, green, or olive with a middle stripe that is either yellow or white. Two less noticeable white, yellow, brown, green, or blue stripes frequently run parallel to this middle stripe. However, rarely are individuals all-black with no stripes.

Although garter snakes are not venomous, they can be aggressive and quick to attack and bite, which can occasionally cause allergic reactions in humans. They will produce a foul-smelling musk if handled or assaulted, which is their main mode of defense.

Earthworms, millipedes, insects, salamanders, fish, and frogs are among the prey items that these snakes eat. Hawks, large rodents, raccoons, large native snakes, and bullfrogs are some of their predators. After waking up from their winter slumber, garter snakes mate in the spring. Garter snakes don’t lay eggs, unlike the majority of snakes. In the summer, females deliver a litter of up to 40 live baby snakes.

Massachusetts State Shell: New England Neptune Sea Snail

The New England Neptune Sea Snail is a species of big sea snail in the family Buccinidae.

©NOAA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Scientific Name: Neptunea lyrata decemcostata

The New England Neptune Sea Snail, also known as the Wrinkle Whelk, is the state shell of Massachusetts. It is the state shell of Massachusetts and is a species of big sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Buccinidae. There are many subspecies within this species. You won’t see this snail around the coast of Massachusetts. You also might night find its shell washed up on shore, but nothing is impossible!

Massachusetts State Dog: Boston Terrier

Types of terrier dogs


Boston terrier

(pictured) is one of the first United States breeds of dogs.


Scientific Name: Canis familiaris bostenensis

In 1979, the Boston terrier was named the state dog of Massachusetts. The Boston terrier is an excellent breed option for anyone looking for a happy and vivacious companion since it is lively and fun. The Boston terrier, a mix between an English bulldog and an English terrier, was created in America in 1869 and became the country’s first purebred dog. During the start of the 20th century, Boston terriers were the star of dog exhibitions all over the world, with events being planned particularly for the breed.

Males typically stand at 17 inches tall, while females stand at around 16 inches. Boston terriers are adorable small canines that are compact and well-proportioned. Their chests are wide. Their muzzles are short, square, and wide, and their skulls are square and rather flat on top. The charming Boston has round, big, black eyes. Although some Boston terrier puppies are born with floppy ears that are cut to stand, the ears are often short and upright, resembling bat ears. The tail of this breed is short and straight or in the form of a corkscrew. Also having a short, silky coat are Boston terriers. They come in one of three colors: black with white markings, black with a red tint, or brindle with white markings.

Massachusetts State Bird: Black-Capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped chickadees are usually heard before they are seen.

©Paul Roedding/

Scientific Name: Poecile atricapillus

Massachusetts’ official state bird, the black-capped chickadee, can be found all around the state.

Most people find the black-capped chickadee to be adorable because of its large round head, little body, and curiosity about everything, including people. This species of chickadee can be identified by its black head-top and bib, adorable white cheeks, and gray wings and tail. It is among the first birds that most people learn about in Massachusetts because of its propensity to investigate people and everything else in its home range as well as its speed to find bird feeders.

Black-capped chickadees can be easily spotted everywhere there are trees and at numerous feeding stations within their habitat in Massachusetts. Usually, they are heard before they are seen. This is one of the easiest birds to draw to feeders with sunflower and peanut seeds. They quickly visit window feeders and don’t mind utilizing little hanging feeders that sway in the wind. The black-capped chickadee also stores food for later consumption. The chickadee can recall hundreds of hiding spots where each food item is placed.

Massachusetts State Horse: Morgan Horse

Morgan horse in paddock

Morgan horses are very versatile. They can be used as stock horses and for pleasure riding.

©Christopher Crosby Morris/

Scientific Name: Equus caballus morganensis

One of the first horse breeds to be established in the United States was the Morgan horse. The Morgan is the state horse of Massachusetts, the state mammal of Rhode Island, and the official state animal of Vermont. In 1970, Massachusetts officially adopted the lovely Morgan horse as its state equine.

Regardless of the discipline or ancestry of the specific horse, there is only one breed standard for the Morgan type. The Morgan is a compact and elegant breed with powerful legs, an expressive head with a straight profile, and a broad forehead. It has big, prominent eyes, lax shoulders, and an arching neck. The majority of Morgan coats are chestnut, bay, or brown, although the breed also includes several black, palomino, buckskin, and even a few grays. 

Because of its adaptability, the Morgan breed is popular for both English and Western competitions. They have won competitions in a variety of sports, including endurance riding, dressage, and show jumping. Just as well, they are employed as stock horses and for recreational riding. Breeders still place a high value on the breed’s exceptional courage, temperament, substance, and appearance now as they did 200 years ago.

Massachusetts State Insect: Ladybug

Ladybug, Eating, Aphid, Animal, Animal Wildlife

Ladybugs (pictured) are beneficial insects that are predators of many invasive pests.

© Rozehnal

Scientific Name: Coccinellidae spp.

If you’re from the state, ladybugs being one of the state animals of Massachusetts is no surprise. Also known as ladybeetles, the ladybug is the state insect of Massachusetts. And for good reason! This insect, which is actually a collection of species in the Coccinellidae genus, can be found virtually everywhere in the state. These insects come in around 5,000 distinct species, and they don’t all have the same appetites.

Ladybugs are around four millimeters long, oval and convex, and often red-orange with black dots on the wing coverings. Their larvae have many yellow, white, or red dots and are gray or blue-gray in color.

In protected settings, lady beetles overwinter as adults and certain species can be seen in groups in forested or hilly environments. In April and May, they move to fields in search of aphid prey. After briefly feasting, they lay eggs on plants that are afflicted with prey. In five to seven days, the eggs hatch into tiny larvae that start eating smaller aphids or other soft-bodied food. The most common insect predator in nurseries, urban areas, and most agricultural crops in the United States is likely the lady beetle. As such, ladybugs are beneficial to many crops grown in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State Marine Fish: Atlantic Cod

Large Atlantic Cod Underwater

Atlantic cod was very common in New England that the region Cape Cod was named for it.

©Miroslav Halama/

Scientific Name: Gadus morhua

As one of the state animals of Massachusetts, this fish is very beneficial to the state’s economy. Atlantic cod are found on coasts along the Atlantic Ocean, including Massachusetts. Cod can be found in the Northwest Atlantic between Greenland to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Atlantic cod is most prevalent on Georges Bank and in the western Gulf of Maine in U.S. waters. This species is very symbolic of New England.

Despite overfishing of the Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine populations, population increase has been encouraged by the fishing rate set under restoration programs. In the past, cod was so common in New England that early explorers gave the region the name Cape Cod after the fish.

The heavy-bodied Atlantic cod has a huge head, a blunt snout, and a distinctive barbel or organ that resembles a set of whiskers under the lower jaw. Its hues range from pale yellowish-green to red and olive, and they frequently have darker specks on their head, fins, tails, and bodies. The belly is normally immaculate and has a pale tone. People are easily able to change their hue. This species can live to be 20 years old and they can easily reach 50 inches and 75 pounds in height and weight. They are the apex predators in the community of bottom-dwelling fish and invertebrates throughout the Atlantic coast of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State Marine Mammal: North Atlantic Right Whale

North Atlantic Right Whale Swimming in Ocean.

North Atlantic right whales are docile, baleen whales that tend to keep close to the coast.


Scientific Name: Eubalaena glacialis

The gigantic, sluggish-moving North Atlantic right whales are also commonly referred to as tube whales. These whales are skilled acrobats who can breach and slap their flippers and tails against the water despite their size. This is one of the most endangered state animals of Massachusetts, and also one of the most stunning.

Right whales from the North Atlantic are enormous, round, and generally black. Some have white spots on their bellies. There is no dorsal fin on this species. They have large, paddle-shaped flippers and broad tail flukes. The right whale’s head is massive, making up nearly one-third of its whole body length.

Formerly, North Atlantic right whales were found all across the region. Their population has been greatly decreased by centuries of hunting to a minuscule percentage of what it once was. Tragically, the western North Atlantic, together with the eastern United States and Atlantic Canada, is now their only surviving home.

Massachusetts State Cat: The Tabby


Tabby cat facing camera, isolated on black background. A bit of collar and tag visible. Grumpy, confrontational glare or scowl. Horizontal with copy space.

© DiSavino

Scientific Name: Felis catus

The tabby cat because the official state cat of Massachusetts in 1988. Any cat with a pattern of stripes, swirls, spots, or blotches of coloring in its fur coat is referred to as a tabby in most contexts. It describes a particular pattern or hue rather than a particular breed. Gray, brown, and orange coats are the most typical colors on which the pattern may be seen. An M-shaped mark can be seen on the foreheads of all tabby cats. You’ll observe variations in the pattern’s appearance because the tabby characteristic is so prevalent among most feline breeds.

Since all domestic cats carry the gene that causes the tabby pattern, it is not surprising that the tabby cat is so common. Since they include so many distinct breeds, these vividly patterned cats vary in size and temperament. However, tabby fans concur that friendly, inquisitive, outgoing attitudes are typical among tabbies. Some scientists and cat enthusiasts claim that the Egyptian Mau, an ancient Egyptian breed created via the domestication of the African wildcat, is where the tabby’s origins lie. However, the true origins of the tabby cat are unknown. 

Massachusetts has some seriously fascinating animal species. These state animals of Massachusetts can easily be seen around the state, even in densely populated cities like Boston.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Steve Byland/

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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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