A Group of Baboons Is Not a 'Congress'

A group of baboons swarms over as car.
A Troop of Baboons Encounters a Car. Fox Photos / Getty Images

By now, you have almost certainly seen or been emailed the meme picture showing several baboons playing in the snow captioned, "Did you know that a large group of baboons is called a Congress?

"We are all familiar with a herd of cows, a flock of chickens, a school of fish and a gaggle of geese," the email begins. "However, less widely known is a pride of lions, a murder of crows (as well as their cousins the rooks and ravens), an exaltation of doves and, presumably because they look so wise, a parliament of owls.

"Now consider a group of baboons. They are the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and least intelligent of all primates. And what is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons? Believe it or not ... a Congress! I guess that pretty much explains the things that come out of Washington!"

Well, it does explain one thing. It explains that the person who posted or sent it does not know what a large group of baboons is called.

It’s a ‘Troop,’ Not a ‘Congress’

National Geographic says, baboons "form large troops, composed of dozens or even hundreds of baboons, governed by a complex hierarchy that fascinates scientists."

Of course, the U.S. Congress has recently evolved into a complex, bipartisan hierarchy that largely disappoints the American people.

According to the Oxford Dictionaries list of proper terms for groups of things, organized gatherings of kangaroos, monkeys, and baboons are all called “troops,” while the only group called a “congress” is Congress.

 

According to an Expert on Baboons

And in an email to PolitiFact, Shirley Strum, director of the University of California's Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project in Nairobi, Kenya, agreed that a group of baboons is known as a “troop.”

“I have never heard the term congress used for a group of baboons!" she wrote, adding, "I would prefer to be governed by baboons than the current Congress!

They are more socially committed, abide by the golden rule and are generally nicer people."

Baboons are "socially sophisticated and incredibly smart" and among primates, "no species is as dangerous as humans," said Strum. "Only baboons who have been spoiled by humans feeding them are dangerous and are never as aggressive as humans."

And sure, you get the point of the email that the U.S. Congress has pretty much degenerated into a largely ineffectual collection of lifetime professional politicians, typically trusted by only 10% of the American people, that spends more time arguing, running for reelection and on vacation than it does tending to its real jobs of carrying out the legislative process in a way that helps Americans happily pursue life and liberty.  

In 1970, for example, our troop called Congress passed its very own Legislative Reorganization Act, which among other things “required” both the House of Representatives and the Senate to take the entire month of August off every year unless a “state of war” or “emergency” exists at the time. The last time Congress decided to take a break from its break was in the summer of  2005 when lawmakers returned to Washington just long enough to pass legislation authorizing aid for victims of hurricane Katrina.

But the fact remains that a gathering of baboons is not a "congress." When a troop of baboons gathers it usually accomplishes something useful.