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

 Originally Published on January 8, 2014

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? That explains a lot now, doesn't it?"

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.  

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."

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, now 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.


Congress Back in Session: Ready, Set, Set, Set...

The troop we call the 113th U.S. Congress just reconvened after the traditional long winter's nap for its 2nd session.

With immediate issues like extending unemployment benefits and quelling another debt limit crisis, plus long left-over chores like a new Farm Bill, immigration reform, and saving the Postal Service, our lawmakers should be a virtual blur of legislative progress.

However, in November, the 2014 mid-term election will force all 435 Representatives and 33 Senators to face re-election, thus keeping all that other "stuff" on their back-most burners for most of the entire year. Instead, the lawmakers – especially those running for re-election – will, as always, spend most of the year at home shaking hands, kissing babies and raising campaign funds.

And remember, in 1970, 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.