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Real-World Origins of Pokémon: Woobat & Swoobat

Did you know that many Pokémon are based off real-world mythology and animals? In this series, we’ll look at some of the real-world origins of Pokémon, showcasing a few particular specimens from the Pokédex and revealing their design origins in relation with our planet, Earth.  Even the strangest of Pokémon are more real than you think!

In this article, let’s examine a rather peculiar bat Pokémon and its evolution: Woobat and Swoobat.

Long-time fans of the Pokémon games might have been expecting to see swarms of Zubat when they entered their first cave in Pokémon Black and White.  However, eager trainers were soon to discover that the region of Unova was home to a different kind of bat altogether!  With a spherical body covered in white fur and a big heart-shaped nostril, Woobat was quite an odd-looking Pokémon and probably the last thing you think of when you think of a bat-like Pokémon.  Its evolution into Swoobat looks much more like a bat should, but it still has that strange heart-like nose.

Are they based off some kind of strange Japanese myth? Creatures of Greek mythology? Or are they just based on a clever play-on-words like so many Pokémon?

Believe it or not, both of these Pokémon are based off of actual animals in real life: the Honduran white bat and the heart-nosed bat!

Woobat and the Honduran White Bat

woobat-honduras

Original Photo: Wanjah Krah @ Flickr

Woobat’s design is based on the Honduran white bat, a small mammal native to Central America in places like Panama, Costa Rica, and its namesake Honduras.  Much like Woobat, the Honduran white bat has a small, rounded body covered with thick white fur.  It has a big, leaf-like nose which helps to identify itself from the similar-looking northern ghost bat.  Roughly 4 cm tall, it feeds predominantly on fruit and makes its home under large plant leaves and, occasionally, hollowed-out trees and abandoned buildings.

Compared to most bat species, they are considered quite adorable, given their round body and white fur.

Swoobat and the Heart-Nosed Bat

swoobat-heart

Original Photo © Paul_Webala

While Swoobat shares some similarities with Woobat and the Honduran white bat, Swoobat has much in more common in design with the heart-nosed bat.  The heart-nosed bat is found throughout many regions throughout Africa, and feeds mostly on insects (though it has been known to eat other smaller creatures as well).   Compared to the Honduran white bat, it has a longer body akin to most bats and its ears are long and upright, as is the shape of its head compared to the rather squished-looking face typical of many bat species.

True to its name, the nostrils on its large fleshy nose resemble the outline of a valentine heart.  Both Woobat and Swoobat take this concept literally, as both Pokémon have a prominent heart-shaped nose.

Woobat and Swoobat are just two examples of the many Pokémon that, while strange, are based on real-world creatures.  While the creators and art-designers working on the Pokémon series take serious creative licenses when designing every Pokémon, even the most bizarre-looking Pokémon share similarities with the many fascinating animals that already exist in our world.


Man, those Honduran white bats are freakin’ adorable.

Sources: Bulbapedia, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Life
Images: Originally sourced from iNaturalist.org, The Ark In Space, Bulbapedia