Animals of the Crypto Zoo: Bull, Bear, Whale, Unicorn

The crypto world is a thing unto itself. It’s very different from the good old stock market, yet these two universes have a lot in common, too. One of the peculiar things that crypto traders and investors share is the use of animalistic metaphors: ‘bull’, ‘bear’ and even ‘whale’. What are these terms supposed to mean, and do they belong in the crypto ‘zoo’?

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

Bears and bulls

Traditional stock exchanges coined the concepts of bear and bull markets. The former tend to underestimate prices, whereas the latter remain expressly optimistic. By the same token, in the crypto world investors could be deemed bullish if they neglect the red flags and keep on reinforcing a project no matter what. A bear market, in its turn, stands for a long period of decreasing prices.

Other associated terms include bear traps and bull traps. In the first scenario, a bear keeps selling on the downward trend and nearly reaches the bottom when the market suddenly goes up. A bull trap scenario, on the other hand, is an erroneous signal that a downward trend is going to reverse, yet, in fact, it doesn’t, and the market drops even lower.


The term ‘whale’ is broadly used in marketing, and in freemium games, to denote a well-paying customer, or player. In our case, this is a generous investor, a lucky gambler or a powerful holding accumulating thousands of coins. The impact these whales make is crushing. They may manipulate the market to boost their profits in a number of ways. A good example is fast currency dropoff within a short time frame. This inevitably causes a downward action, and the whales then obtain the crypto at a cheaper rate and in greater volumes.

Smart traders do their good share of whale-watching. They try to monitor the whale activity and go along with the whales’ moves to avoid losses — or profit on occasion. The rule of thumb here is to keep an eye out for irregular price fluctuations during expectedly steady periods.

Sticking to the metaphor, let’s watch the big fish out there in the crypto ocean. Funds like Binary Financial, Bitcoin Investment Fund, Bitcoins Reserve, Coin Capital Partners, etc. are the ‘beasts’ that can shatter the market as they please. As of 2017, full-fledged whales could only be found among Bitcoin tycoons. At this point, altcoin whales also boast significant wealth accumulated.

A frequenter of crypto forums may also come across mock classifications based on the crypto sea creatures. We now have plankton (under 0.1 Bitcoin), shrimps (0.1–1 Bitcoin), crabs (1–10 Bitcoin) and fish (10–50 Bitcoin) up to octopuses (50–100 Bitcoin), dolphins (100–500 Bitcoin), sharks (500–1,000 Bitcoin), regular whales (1,000–5,000 Bitcoin), and blue whales (5,000–10,000 Bitcoin).

All in all — despite certain equity trends and regulations for fair token distribution — big whale holdings still have vast influence on the market.

Startup Unicorn

Another ‘beast’ in the zoo is a unicorn. A unicorn is a startup company valued at over $1 billion. The term was coined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee who picked unicorn for its rarity to emphasize the metaphor. Indeed, such lucky ventures do not just emerge out of nowhere every now and then. To be consistent with the terms, we should also name decacorns ($10B+) and hectocorns ($100B+). Among the unicorn ICOs, one may find blockchain-based businesses like Ontology, OmisGO, Qtum, TRON, and VeChain. Founders maintain that this status helps increase media visibility, and so it should!

In conclusion

Do these labels have any real weight? Probably not. Yet once involved in cryptocurrency, you need to respond quickly to the market situations these ‘animals’ represent. Telling a bull from a bear, spotting a whale at the right moment, or chasing a promising unicorn could be instrumental to your success in crypto trading. Long story short, get your ticket to the zoo and watch this wildlife as closely as you can.



Digital nomad, entrepreneur, blockchain enthusiast. I help companies raise money through token sales.

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Tony Simonovsky

Digital nomad, entrepreneur, blockchain enthusiast. I help companies raise money through token sales.