Why doesn't Curious George have a tail?

These are the things I think about.

Actually, these are the things my husband thinks about then brings them to my attention so that I can obsess over them. And apparently I'm not the first to wonder why Curious George has no tail.

He is a monkey, right? Yellow Man (as my two-year-old calls him) always says, "Be a good little monkey!" But monkeys have tails. And George has no tail.

And now that I think about it, it really does look weird! There's not even a stump...

So then I went to the all-knowing. The big man in the cyber-sky. Google. And what do you know, when I started typing in the question, the auto-complete finished it for me so that I would know that this was an apparently popular topic for Google and I wasn't the first to question his monkey status.

And I scrolled through and read pages upon pages of people asking the same question. And I found lots and lots of theories. (Fascinating.)

And in case you're curious, like me, the closest thing to an answer was that back when George was "born" during World War II, people referred to the term "monkey" for both chimps and monkeys interchangeably (this according to some research done by the Georgia Library Media Association). Nowadays, we make the anatomical distinction between a monkey (which has a tail) and chimpanzee (which has no tail). So it would seem that George is actually a chimp and not a monkey, though the creators of George just called him a monkey. Which, if you read that article, apparently made one set of parents so mad they called for the Curious George books to be sent to the "banned books" list for being inaccurate. (In my opinion, it's one thing to spend way too much time researching why George has no tail, and quite another to spend actual time and money being so angry about George having no tail that you decide you must make it your life's cause to call for its banishment. But that's just me.)

Anyway, another funny little tidbit mentions that George, who was conceived by Hans and Margret Rey, was actually modeled after Margret.

So then when it came time for the Will Ferrell movie, the director didn't know why George didn't have a tail either (according to USA Today) and decided to keep it that way. So there you go. I know you've been wondering too.


  1. you are my KINDRED SPIRIT!!
    I oft wonder that about the (horrible role model monkey which is) curious geo as well :)

  2. Absolutely fascinating. Really.

  3. It's always annoyed me, since I've known since I was a kid that monkeys have tails and apes don't, but, after all, it was just a kids' book. The thing that bothers me now is that there is a series on PBS Kids that purports to be educational and teach kids about science, yet it perpetuates the misconception that chimps are the same as monkeys, even though they're much closer to humans. I've seen an explanation that he could be a Barbary Macaque, which is known as a "Barbary Ape" because it only has a stump, but is actually a monkey. After looking at some pictures, I can live with it.

  4. he has no tail because in the very first book he was a character in (not the main one) none of the monkeys had tails because they thought it looked to much like spaghetti drawing nine monkeys with tails and a long necked long legged giraffe you can see the cover of the original book following the link and because of this they ended up keeping him the way he was without a tail :)

    "George was born in France in the mid-1930′s. He started out as a minor character, improbably name “Fifi.” Fifi didn’t even get title billing, he was just one of the crowd in Raffy and the 9 Monkeys, published by Gallimard in France, and Chatto & Windus in Great Britain, in 1939. This first book did have a huge impact on the simian’s appearance, however. It is the reason that, unlike other monkeys, he doesn’t have a tail. H.A. Rey explained: “the giraffe’s long neck and legs plus the tails of all nine monkeys made the drawings look like spaghetti.” This should once and for all end speculation that the tailless George is actually a member of the ape family."

  5. My daughter just asked me this question. Thanks for providing a very well explained answer!

  6. I just realize this too.. I almost had a hard argument with my daughter. She said george doesn't have a tail, and i insist the he must have one, she just missed seeing it because it's covered by his body. Then i looked around all george books. And she's right.. Omg.. Thanks for the answer, also thanks other comenters above me..

    1. Seems like we had the same life moment there. I insisted the same. Good thing our daughters pay attention to detail! Here's to hoping the same is true when it comes time to start dating!

  7. My son (5 years old) just asked this question too.. thank you for having a great answer!!! Here's to be curious!

  8. Absolutely disgusting. My wife just emailed me a link to this page, and I may have to leave work, it has made me feel so ill. How can they knowingly teach children this inaccurate filth, when we have fought so long and hard to get where we are today as a species? What will it be next, teaching them that we evolved from apes?!?!? We did NOT evolve from apes, we (and the apes) evolved from an APELIKE ancestor.

  9. My 4 year old son just told me that George isn't a monkey because he didn't have a tail.. I argued that he probably just didn't see it, but he's right, no tail.... Thanks for this! Now to explain it to him :-).

  10. The real question that i'm always asking myself, everytime my two year old watches the movie, is...
    Where are George's Parents?
    I'm guessing he's an Orphan.
    When Ted finds him he seems to be craving affection.
    It makes me feel sad.

  11. I never noticed, but my 5yo just asked me, while watching the show, "Why doesn't George have a tail? He's a monkey isn't he? Monkeys have tails." So then I did the same google search as you, it finished it for me, and your blog was the first on the list. Yay for you!

    Then of course I was forced to question why PBS doesn't just change all reference to George from "monkey" to "chimp" - aren't they supposed to be educational?

  12. My son, now almost 2yro, is becoming a fan of Curious George. Since his middle name is "Goodall", after the amazing Jane Goodall, I feel he must learn the difference between monkeys and Chimps. I was completely disturbed when I noticed that George has no tail. I'm glad I now know the story, but am none-the-less disappointed.


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