Did you know that Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride has almost as many animals as it does pirates? You’ll find critters all throughout every version of the beloved attraction, from Disneyland to Disney World to Disneyland Paris. There’s a bona fide menagerie of furry and feathered friends popping up throughout Pirates, including in some of its most iconic scenes. They make this world seem realer than it would without them, as any 17th or 18th century Caribbean port town would clearly have an ample population of dogs, livestock, and other beasts of burden. In turn they also make Pirates of the Caribbean a more entertaining experience, injecting some cuteness and levity in a ride that actually tells a fairly tragic story. If you’re a diehard Disney fan, you’re probably familiar with every animal that pops up throughout Pirates, and you also probably know which ones you love the most. As a pop culture website, it’s Paste’s sacred duty to rank literally everything we can possibly think of, so let’s finally crank out our most important list ever, and rank every animal in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride—or at least in the Disneyland and Disney World versions. (Sorry, I haven’t been to France since before the pandemic, and don’t remember if that Pirates has any unique animals of its own. Don’t worry: the robot animals won’t care if they get left out.)
Here it is: a complete ranking of every animal from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
Goats are a top tier animal, easily one of the 100 or so best creatures on this planet, but two of the three Pirates of the Caribbean goats feel like an afterthought. They’ve stood by the water in the auction scene for decades, surviving the 2017 update that turned the auction from a lighthearted bit of human trafficking into a nonsensical scene of pirates auctioning off booty to other pirates. That’s pretty much all they do, just stand there, without making much of an impression at all. I honestly forgot they even existed until I fact checked this article between writing and publication. These goats sure aren’t the GOAT.
In 2017 the wench auction was replaced with a weird scene where two pirates are auctioning off stuff they stole from the city to other pirates—who you’d think would just steal their own stuff, instead of paying other pirates for it, but whatever. Now the auctioneer is asking for bids on a flock of chickens, who sit there obliviously as their future hangs in the balance. How is a pirate invading a port town going to care for a dozen chickens? Or is the plan to just slaughter them on the spot and have a feast? The ride answers that question almost immediately, as in the very next scene we see those same chickens running amok in the town as the residents start fighting against the pirates. It’s good to see they don’t go down easy, but it’s also a little hard to get emotionally invested in chickens.
Unsurprisingly, there are a handful of parrots throughout Pirates. The least notable is the one perched on top of a treasure chest next to Jack Sparrow in the ride-ending treasure room scene. This bird doesn’t have much of its own personality and doesn’t add that much to the scene, existing pretty much just to accompany Jack’s singing with the occasional whistle and squawk. It’s the third parrot you see in the ride, and makes the least impact.
Dogs tie parrots on the Pirates scorecard, with three mutts popping up throughout the ride. They’re all very good boys, of course, but three is a bit of overkill, even if it’s supposed to be the same dog showing up in different scenes. (That’s entirely possible, as they all basically look the same.) Unlike the parrots, the least notable dog is the very first one you see. It shows up in the scene where Jack Sparrow, hiding inside a barrel, studies a treasure map over the shoulder of a drunken pirate who boasts about stealing the map from Sparrow. There’s a dog quizzically looking at this Johnny Depp audio-animatronic poking out of a barrel, wagging his tale and threatening to blow the pirate’s cover. He’s the least important figure in this little scenario, and also the least important dog in the ride.
The Pirates ride has a bit of a macabre opening, with your boat sailing through a cove filled with the skeletons of long dead pirates. One of them was apparently run through with a sword that left his corpse pinned against a rock wall. In time all that was left was his skeleton, propped upright against that wall and with a sword sticking out through his rib cage. At some point a seagull built a nest inside the pirate’s hat. This seagull is a resourceful bird, which is very admirable, but it otherwise doesn’t really do anything or make much of an impression. He makes for a good visual gag and little else. Sorry, seagull!
All hail crab. He’s just hanging out on the beach, undisturbed by the skeletons around him, waving his claws in the air like he just don’t care. Crab’s one cool customer, he is. He’s scurried straight into the hearts of Disney fans for over five decades now, unflappable all the while.
At least one goat on this ride has some gumption. While those two other goats lollygag down by the water, meekly awaiting their fate, this go-getter somehow climbed up to one of the pillars on the bridge overlooking the auction. It’s his way of asserting his dominance over the pirates below; they won’t be auctioning this goat off, and given how incompetent most of these pirates seem, it’s entirely possible this goat will be captaining his own pirate ship when all is said and done. You can’t keep a good goat down.
He can kind of keep a tune. I’ll give him that. But this dog (who, again, could very well be the same dog we see at two other points during the ride) isn’t even the most notable animal in this impromptu pirate band. And since two of the human members are needed to provide the music, and the third pirate is clearly the superstar frontman of the group (that striped shirt and red sash combo is totally something Harry Styles would wear), that makes the dog the fifth out of five. He’s a Pete Best waiting to happen, and although he’s still a fantastic singer, that inherently limits how much we can care about him. Sorry, buddy!
The original Pirates at Disneyland starts off in modern day Louisiana, floating tranquilly by the Blue Bayou restaurant as unseen bugs hum and whir in the night air. There is one kind of bug you can see here, the fireflies that flit brightly in the distance as you coast past an old man picking at a banjo on the porch of his swamp hut. If you’ve only ever ridden Pirates at Disney World you’ve never seen these little dudes, and that’s a shame: they add a tremendous bit of atmosphere to the ride’s first few moments, contributing to one of the most striking and singular sections of any Disney ride.
For decades there was an adorable parrot with a peg leg and pirate’s hat stationed outside the Pirates ride at the Magic Kingdom. The Barker Bird would squawk at passersby to check out the ride, occasionally singing bits of the theme song. Although removed in 2006, this bird still regularly pops up in Pirates merchandise at the park. This bird would be near the top of our list if he was still around; he no longer exists, but there is a similar bird at the Disneyland attraction that you can see in the queue at the entrance of the ride building. He’s not decked out like a pirate, but he chirps and talks, and shows more personality than most of the birds in the actual ride. Still, he can’t beat our number one Pirates parrot…
Near the end of the ride your boat passes under a bridge from which a drunken pirate who has lost a shoe dangles a filthy bare foot. It is an almost worrisomely realistic foot—you’ll spend far too much time wondering how they made a robot foot look so much like the real thing. On top of the bridge, next to that pirate, a parrot sits on a barrel, squawking away. The foot might get most of the attention, but that bird is the cream of the parrot crop for Pirates, and exactly what you hope for out of a pet and a partner. He’s patiently watching over his beloved master, making sure he doesn’t drunkenly fall into the water below, and waiting to call for help or scare away any blackguard who might try to mess with his human. He’s a true and loyal friend, which is all the more respectable after seeing how disgusting that dude’s foot is.
We might be simultaneously disgusted and entranced by that drunken sot’s bare foot, but when it comes to lovable alcoholics in Pirates, there’s only one true choice: Old Bill, the rummy slumped against a wall by the waterside who’s trying to share his grog with three mewling kitties. The cats seem angry or scared or anxious or maybe just annoyed, with their tails sticking up straight and their cries never stopping. Do they want a taste of Bill’s rum? Are these starving babes begging Bill for something more appropriate for a cat, like milk or tuna? Or do they just want him to get out of their way so they can have some privacy for once? Cats are mysterious. There’s no mystery about Old Bill’s cats being totally awesome, though.
We’ve all been there: totally smashed on rum while invading a Caribbean port city in the 18th century, and eventually passing out in a pigsty while snuggling and snoring along with three content little piglets. Easily the most relatable character in the whole ride, the hopeless drunk who has blacked out in the mud and filth of these three pigs is in store for the thrill of a lifetime when he wakes up and realizes he’s actually gotten to cozy up to real live pigs while sleeping it off. These pigs are absolutely adorable, of course—three round, filth-crusted balls of love whose bond with this drunken pirate is as unbreakable as it is new. Those Pirates movies would’ve been way better if they were about these guys.
The chubby pirate in the red stripes might be the Harry Styles of the band, but the singing donkey is every other One Direction member in one, with a helping heaping of Jagger, Bowie, Mercury, and Elton John, to boot. This donkey is a star—one destined to go solo after he chafes under the ball and chain that is his band. There’s a reason TikTok is full of donkey fancams, and why he’s become a style inspiration for all fashion forward pop fans. The singing donkey in the Pirates of the Caribbean band has unlimited starpower and a boundless future—assuming his personal demons don’t derail his hopes and dreams. Stay strong, donkey, and don’t let fame go to your head.
Could it be anybody else? The dog holding a jail cell key just out of the reach of desperate prisoners isn’t just one of the most popular scenes in Pirates; it’s about as iconic as anything found in any Disney ride. Is it the same dog we see twice before during Pirates? Maybe, but even so, nothing he does earlier comes close to being as fun, cute, or memorable as keeping all hope just barely an arm’s length away from prisoners trapped in the jail of a town that is rapidly burning to the ground. You might be tempted to call this dog a cop, and maybe he is, but I prefer to think that he’s just a very good boy doing what his people have trained him to do. You can’t begrudge a dog from faithfully doing its job, even if that job isn’t on the right side of the moral and ethical divide. No matter what exactly is happening here, you can’t deny that this dog is the undisputed champion of Pirates of the Caribbean animals.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.