World religion, folk tales, and general culture have always attributed symbolic significance to certain animals. The symbolic meanings of many animals vary depending on location and culture.
Across much of the world, birds symbolize freedom because of their ability to fly. Other qualities are attributed to specific birds. In the United States, the bald eagle is a symbol of national identity, strength and power. In the Western world, the owl is often associated with wisdom in folk tales; however, in Africa and the East, the owl is usually a symbol of death because of its nocturnal habits and chilling call.
Animals are also important fertility symbols. For instance, the Easter bunny is a leftover pagan symbol of spring and fecundity. Both ancient Egyptians and Aztecs believed dogs could lead them through the afterlife if buried with their owners. Today, dogs symbolize loyalty as "man's best friend."