While some architects prefer to take more subtle cues from the natural world, others go whole hog (or sheep or elephant or cat) and make grand structures shaped like animals. From a kitty kindergarten to a whale of a house, here are some of the more spectacular examples of animal architecture.

Lucy, the Elephant, Margate City, New Jersey

Incredible Animal-Shaped Buildings from Around the World

This six-story wooden elephant, which was constructed in 1881 by James V. Lafferty, has served as a hotel, cottage, tavern, office, and restaurant.

(via My Own Time Machine and Postcardiness)

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Gagudju Crocodile Holiday Inn, Kakadu National Park, North Australia

Incredible Animal-Shaped Buildings from Around the World

(via TripAdvisor and Sunlover Holidays)

Big Chicken, Marietta, Georgia

The original building was constructed in 1956, but in 1963 it was improved upon with a 56 ft (17 m) tall chicken. Thirty years later, a giant storm damaged the structure, but because of the public outcry it was remodelled by the current owner, the Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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(via Waymarking)

Elephant Building (Chang Building), Bangkok

The 32-floor (102 m or 335 ft) high iconic building was completed in 1997 as a collaboration between Dr. Arthur Chaisaree and Ong-ard Satrabhandhu.

(via Wikimedia Commons)

Kindergarten Wolfartsweier, Karlsruhe, Germany

There is no cuter thing than a cat-shaped kindergarten. Designed by Tomi Ungerer and Ayla Suzan Yöndel.

(via Apartment Therapy)

Casa Caracol, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This shell structure was constructed by architect Eduardo Ocampo and his wife Raquel. The main building was completed in 1994 for just the two of them, but they added a guest house ten years later.

(via Casa Caracol/Facebook and Daily Venture)

Whale House, Corona del Mar, Newport Beach, California

(via Flickr/cyclotourist)

Nautilus House, Mexico City, Mexico

Designed by Javier Senosiain (of Arquitectura Organica) in 2006 for a young couple with two children, this building was inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudí and Frank Lloyd Wright.

(via Arquitectura Organica)

Whale House, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

(via Arquitectura Curiosa)

Whale House in Emu Park, Australia

(via John Douglas)

Sheep and Dog-shaped buildings in Tirau, New Zealand

(via Flickr/Philip Capper and Strange Buildings)

Big Duck, Flanders, Long Island, New York

This duck-shaped ferrocement building was originally built in 1931 by Broadway set designers the Collins Brothers, and crafted by locals George Reeve, John Smith, and Merlin Yeager in 1931. Yeager used it as a shop to sell ducks and eggs.

The 18 x 30 x 20 ft (5.5 m x 9.1 m x 6.1 m) duck's eyes are made from Ford Model T tail lights.

(via Doug Kerr/Flickr and NYCAviation)

National Fisheries Development Board Building, Hyderabad, India

Opened in February 2012.

(via ccindia2012)

Dog Bark Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho

This hotel has only one suite—inside the world's biggest beagle named Sweet Willy. It was built by Dennis J. Sullivan and Frances Conklin in 2003.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Graystock)

National Fresh Water Fishing Hall Of Fame, Hayward, Wisconsin

One of the museum's buildings is a 143-foot (44 m) long fiberglass jumping muskie fish used as an observation deck (used for weddings, too!) and houses an exhibition of mounted fishes an outboard motors.

(via Wikimedia Commons)