I’ve always thought beavers and otters are the same kind of animal. One reason is because I’ve never encountered them in the real life. Another reason is because there is only one Indonesian word used to refer to both, i.e. berang-berang.

I know, that sounds so wrong. But what to do? We do not have any beavers here in the tropical Indonesia and in a quick glance, beavers and otters do look similar….

beaver taking a dip (source: Wikipedia)
chillin’ otter (source: Wikipedia)

Okay, perhaps not really look the same at this close range….

With its thick body, a beaver looks like a giant rat with a plank tail. In fact, this animal is related to rodent since it belongs to order Rodentia. Otters, however, have longer bodies and necks, with long tubular tails. Otters are related to weasels, in which they belong to order Carnivora.

Look, look at the tail!
Beav’s showing off its tail… (source: Wikipedia)

Back to the translation problem, how can we translate both terms into Indonesian without leading readers to misunderstanding?

Some tips

I initially thought that it’d be nice if I call beavers ‘berang-berang’ and otters ‘musang air’ (Eng: water weasel) but then I realized the term ‘berang-berang’ has been used more often to refer to otters.

Mister Beaver doesn’t have any Indonesian name because he’s not a native to this land. He lives in Northern hemisphere. To call him ‘tikus besar’ (Eng: giant rat) may hurt his feeling since he’s not an ordinary rodent. He can build a dam and perhaps slap any intruder with his tail.


The same thing happens in Malay language; there’s only one term to refer to both beavers and otters, i.e. memerang. In this post, memerang is referred to as ‘beaver’ while in this one, it’s otter.

There are a few things we can do:

#1 Use Latin names

While new names aren’t yet available, we can use Latin names to prevent misunderstanding. Put a Latin name in brackets after ‘berang-berang’ to indicate whether this berang-berang is an otter or a beaver.

So for beavers, it may be Castor fiber, Castor canadensis, Castor californicus, and so on. For otters, it can be Lutra lutra, Lutra sumatrana, Lutra nippon, etc.

It’s even better if you can also include their pictures.

#2 Combine English and Indonesian terms

We can also use both English and Indonesian versions together: berang-berang otters and berang-berang beavers. But that doesn’t look too pretty, does it?

Grammarians will cringe when they see this.

#3 Set up a petition

No, really. It’s not necessary to do that.

I’ll suggest to use the first technique. Don’t forget to research the type of species so you can use the right Latin term.