Personality Types: Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, and Beaver

When it comes to personality profiles, most have heard of Myers-Briggs, Ned Herrmann’s Whole Brain, Galen’s four temperaments, DiSC assessment, and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. One of the lesser known profiles, but just as insightful, was developed by Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent. They base their personalities around animal characteristics. Not only are these entertaining but they are very easy for children to grasp as well. My wife and I often find ourselves saying, “that person sure is a ‘beaver,'” or “you’re such a ‘lion-otter.'”

While these personality types are certainly broad categories, I find them very easy to remember and communicate. This is extremely beneficial when dealing with family members, employees, and/or people in general. Knowing their temperaments can make the home, work environment, meetings, and projects run much smoother.

Listed below are the characteristics of each temperament and how they line up with Galen’s and the DiSC for comparison:

Lion TemperamentLion (Choleric/Dominance)

Strengths— Visionary, practical, productive, strong-willed, independent, decisive, leader

Weaknesses— Cold, domineering, unemotional self-sufficient, unforgiving, sarcastic, cruel

Otter TemperamentOtter (Sanguine/Influence)

Strengths— Outgoing, responsive, warm, friendly, talkative, enthusiastic, compassionate

Weaknesses— Undisciplined, unproductive, exaggerates, egocentric, unstable

Retriever TemperamentGolden Retriever (Phlegmatic/Steadiness)

Strengths— Calm, easy-going, dependable, quiet, objective, diplomatic, humorous

Weaknesses— Selfish, stingy, procrastinator, unmotivated, indecisive, fearful, worrier

Beaver TemperamentBeaver (Melancholy/Compliance)

Strengths— Analytical, self-disciplined, industrious, organized, aesthetic, sacrificing

Weaknesses— Moody, self-centered, touchy, negative, unsociable, critical, revengeful

Often you’ll find that people have a primary character type and a secondary type. Take a look at yourself. Which one is your primary and which one is your secondary? Some naturally go together and make for a wonderful set of strengths. Also, be senstive to the weaknesses in yourself and in others.

Next time, I’ll post how to better understand the perceived needs of these temperaments and then how to best communicate to them (See Related Links). Until then, enjoy “animal watching”.

Related Links
Understanding the Animal Temperaments
Communicating Amongst the Animal Temperaments
Leadership Styles: Dictatorial, Authoritative, Consultative, Participative
Leadership Styles: When To Use Them
How Leadership Styles Affect Productivity
You Might Be A Micromanager If…

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176 thoughts on “Personality Types: Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, and Beaver

    • Sweetness says:

      OMG!!!!!!!!! I absolutely loved taking this test with my fiance’. Sooooooooo much F U N! You are right on the money with everything : ) Just wanted to thank you for being so very brillant! Although, I would’ve thought a women was responsible for developing this personality test! Please don’t take offense to that last comment : ) So, what do you think I am????? If you get it right, I must believe a man is truely responsible for this! If not: I will believe a woman was truely the brains behind this OP, LOL……

    • I think that Golden Retrievers are not so much selfish as the article says, but are more self-less. This can be just as bad at times because they have a problem saying no to people.

      • Eric Brown says:

        Good point Bill. I would say because of the relational nature of Retrievers and their desire to be “liked” they can act self-less (a strength and a weakness). The weakness being rooted in a selfish desire to be wanted, liked, and perceived as a good person, friend, and employee. We always need to check our motivation and we’re often the best at fooling ourselves into thinking our self-less attitude is noble.

        My 2 cents, -eb

  1. wynn says:

    All the way Otter!!! with a tad of Golden Retriever and Lion…

    I am MESSED up!!! hahah … Otter at heart as you can see!

    thanks! this was fun!


    • Jaju says:

      I agree with you. If I get around to getting a pet I would love to have a lioness. The most wonderful of characteristics. Especially in a human female.

  2. Twinkle says:

    I just watched the session this morning that deals with personality types and was so enlightened and amused! lol I felt better about myself by the end of it, like Dr. Gary Smalley said! I found myself starting to analyze my family and friends to discover their personality types as well! Life will be much easier now! lol Keep up the good work!

  3. An interesting view on our personality and leadership styles. While leadership is often thought of a vague subject, it’s really a lifelong journey of self-improvement in the area of leading teams to achieving your goals. we can all improve our leadership through the study of the principles and some self-awareness and the willingness to apply these ideas in our teams.

  4. @David – Hey, sorry to be late responding to you. To the best of my knowledge, there is no book about the Lion/Otter/Beaver/Golden Retreiver. Dr.’s Trent and Smalley have synthesized the info from all the various personality tests into a manner that makes it easy to transmit to others and kids. In 1998, they did put out a children’s book called, The Treasure Tree: Helping Kids Understand Their Personality. That is the only book I know of…

    Hope that helps.

    • Will Richardson says:

      The two sides of Love was available at least as long ago as 1992, I think it was published in 1988…ISBN 1589973038 guess who’s a Golden Retriever Beaver…but with a splash of Otter…definitely lacking Lion but working on it whilst holding my nuzzzle/nostrils ;-)

      Any tips on how to deal with Lion/Otter’s going off the track?

      • Hey Will, Lion/Otters are an interesting mix. I have found they need lots of accountability. Often the the Otter side has them scattered in various directions with various ideas and the Lion side has them convinced they are right. See the article on Communicating Amongst the Tempraments (see related links above), then lemme know how it goes, OK?.


      • @Will Richardson – my apologies for getting back to you later than expected. I must be showing Otter-ish tendencies :)

        Lion/Otter is an interesting combo. I work with a Lion/Otter. He likes to have fun and makes sure everyone is having fun too – in his opinion. The first thing to ask yourself is, “do they understand their strengths and weaknesses?” My co-worker definitely understands his weaknesses and is quick to tell others what he needs (the Lion in him) because he is not organized (the Otter).

        Once the person understands their strengths and weaknesses let them know it is OK. We all have weaknesses and we should celebrate those differences. One person may have a strength where the other is weak. How many times have you met married couples that compliment each other in this way? The Lion will not want to naturally admit weakness but you need to work with that; anticipate it and keep the communication lines open.


  5. Kat says:

    David, there’s a book called Taming the Family Zoo by Jim and Suzette Brawner. Personally found it very informative and useful.

  6. Carol Panneton says:

    I saw a VHS video years ago that John Trent did, and later that Gary Smalley did. They spoke on each of the animal types in front of what looked like a large audience who had done the test and were hearing the results. Any idea what that video was and if it’s still around?

  7. Lion/Otter/GR/Bever..... says:

    I am a little bit of everything i guess…but i would like to know where i can find a video that would be very easy to explain to kids online do you know of any?

  8. Walter Burnette says:

    Good personality profiling gives one an advantage in understading self and others. As such, better commuication.

  9. Sweetness says:

    OK,I totally messed up. I left a comment @ the very top of this page, SORRY! Please check it out! Thanks : )
    ~ Sarah

      • @Sweetness (Sarah)- If you have created an avatar in WordPress, it will show up there on the right. If not, WP throws in these little designs as place-holders.


  10. Mary Pat says:

    HELP! When I retired from being a school counselor for a million years, I threw away everything…including my paper and pencil version of the animal prsonalities test. I am back in counseling and NEED this! Computers are not available to everyone all the time. Can you help me find a copy of this test?
    Many thanks.
    Mary Pat



    • Hey brehanaaa!!! (feels like I am yelling your name :D)
      Sometimes when we look at the temperaments we see ourselves in a lot of them. The fact is, there are traits from all in each person yet there tends to always be a primary an d secondary that are stronger than the rest. If you are not sure, as a friend or family member. Once they are familiar with the temperaments they can usually tell you flat out what your strongest is.

      Have fun! -eb

  12. We used this on our church staff and had the best time with it. Fun and interesting. We studied the next few weeks about all the traits of each animal. I highly recommend it and it is very easy to implement. Just one way to have fun in the church office. For more ideas see my blog at

  13. Mark Matson says:

    Are you familiar with a video series that Tim LaHaye did, possibly with another author, on the personality types; Otter, Beaver etc?

  14. Susie King says:

    An Otter I am – married to a beaver, best friends with a lion and know very few Golden Retrievers… My otterness – bugs the others… what can I do? I want to stay on the positive section – not the negative…

  15. Ivan Dusterhoft says:

    Can you tell me if the Homes Of Honour video or dvd series on the animal personality types is still available to purchase?

  16. gloria says:


    why oh why do supposed men of God buy into this rubbish? As if some ridiculous animal personality typing test proves…WHAT??? God alone knows us,
    our very thoughts. This is the big lie of psychoanalysis….it sets itself up as ‘God’ in the sense that it claims to be able to understand what only the Lord knows and beyond that, to help ‘cure’ us. God won’t share His Glory with another. certain not Freud and his cronies

    • Hey Gloria,

      Thank you for your comment. This is by no means a theological debate but a look into the uniqueness of each of us and the commonalities we all share in regard to temperaments and personalities. In trying to better understand my spouse or others I am by no means setting myself up as God but wanting to know them, communicate with them, and love them better.


  17. Eric,

    Did you know we have created a kid’s interactive adventure using the four animals so kids can discover their God given strengths that is endorsed by John Trent?

    Special Note from Dr. John Trent, Creator of the
    Lion, Otter, Retriever and Beaver way of looking at Strengths!

    Welcome to Incredible Creatures and to an incredibly powerful way of teaching students and families about their own unique strengths, and how to value and blend differences with others!

    More then twenty years ago, I began helping children and parents recognize and value their strengths, using “four best friends” — a Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever and Beaver. As part of this Incredible Creatures kit, you’ve received a copy of The Treasure Tree which first told the story of four friends who learn to recognize and value each other’s unique, God-given strengths – and in doing so, make their way to The Treasure Tree. While individual teachers have used this book in classrooms of all types over the years, it’s been a dream of mine to see an entire curriculum created to help Lance, Giggles, Honey and Chewy’s story get their positive message of strengths and acceptance into classrooms and homes, world-wide.

    It’s my honor to get to introduce, endorse, approve and applaud the incredible work that Betty Good and Karen Van Riesen have done in creating this Incredible Creatures Kit! Here for the first time, these two outstanding educators have created a curriculum and system for teaching strengths using the four animals that is simply outstanding.

    Get ready for your students to rave about the creative, colorful and life-changing exercises and activities you’ll find here. Even more, get ready for classrooms, children and their families to change for the better, as each child sees more clearly their own unique strengths, and how to better value, accept and appreciate the strengths of others.

    John Trent, Ph.D.
    Creator of the Lion, Otter, Retriever and Beaver in Strengths Assessments
    (Visit to learn more about a powerful online strengths assessment for adults and teams as well)
    Check out our website!!

  18. Keith says:

    The question I have is this: “Can a Golden Retriever be an effective leader?” I have been in management for over 5 years and I still struggle with it. I constantly feel like I am making the wrong decisions, always second guessing or putting things off so I don’t have to face them. Should I change careers or learn to work with my shortcomings?

    • Good question Keith. I would say any of the temperaments can be a leader in the right environment. For example, an Otter would be a natural fit for a Cruise Director, where a Beaver would be more of a fit for heading an I.T. Dept, etc. Of course, these are just examples and there are numerous variants. I have seen Golden Retriever types that are very passionate, deliberate, and intentional in their leadership where a Lion was more snap-judgment and spontaneous. Depending on the organization and environment these can be good or detrimental.

      One thing all leaders struggle with is, “Am I doing a good job?” Even the ones who think they are “doing good” wrestle with this question. If you know someone who does not, they are either in denial or delusional. A good leader will recognize his/her weaknesses and surround themselves with key people that are strong where they are weak. You as the leader need to hold the vision, goals, and strategy. People will be looking to you for those things. So, my questions would be, are you leading or following? Are you bringing an agenda to the table or seeking others to supply it?

      Hang in there and have fun!

    • Knowing that the Golden Retriever’s greatest fear is loss of relationship can be a hindrance to effective leading because sometimes you have to say hard things. Think about where you get stuck and determine your motivation/self talk when in a tough situation. Are you asking yourself, “What do they want to hear?” Are you trying to avoid their displeasure or anger? You’ll have a tough time leading lions if you don’t study them. Get to know who you are talking to and their favored communication style and practice it. Lions want you to be brief, be bright, be gone. GR tend to talk around the problem. Lions respect someone who will say it straight up to them and not beat around the bush. They need it. Also practice saying NO in front of the mirror. Email me for a sheet of behavior traits of the four animals so you can study them – i.e. greatest need, personal motto, basic need, how they dress, what their office looks like. You need to become a student of the person you are communicating with. GRs are going to have a relational style of leadership – people focused rather than task focus. Just knowing this can help you adjust. If your success insights wheel shows a great disparity between core and adaptive strengths, I would consider changing jobs. You can purchase the profile at

  19. Yes, they did. John Trent’s latest book, written with Rodney Cox and Eric Tooker is called
    Leading From Your Strengths.
    There is now an online assessment as well – you can see it on our website. We are actually partners with John and Rodney and have created an assessment in the form of an adventure for kids.

    Check out our website.

  20. It’s seems as though there are many different personalities. Perhaps, if it isn’t a problem, can you please show more animals because i do like this website. I will be very pleased if you did.

    Thank you.

    -Bill Cosby

  21. anonymouse says:

    putting someone in a box is not the best way to assess their abilities or even better understand them. period. cute analogies though.

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  23. taylor says:

    i took this at my school and every one in 6 grade did it and it was so much fun to figureout what caracter we are. iwas the beaver but i dont know if i like to be the beaver i sound pushy with those discriptions.

      • Hi Eric, if you go to our website you will see that we have created an interactive adventure with the endorsement of John Trent (creator of the animal characteristics) and take it into elementary schools, camps, churches, etc. We even facilitate for entire families and everyone leaves with their own discovery report and tips on how to implement this info into their family settings.
        Have a look at our kit. We also facilitate the adventure ‘live’.


  24. Eric,
    I should have replied to your comment about the beaver’s organizational strength. It becomes pushy when the organizational piece becomes more important than relationships. We all need to find balance with our strengths.


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  26. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav) says:

    Long ago I took Gary Smalley’s temperament test and split the difference between G.R. and Beaver (40/40%) and between Otter and Lion (30/30%). Unfortunately the Law of Unintended Consequences set in and that only reinforced how the MBTI had been mistyping and continued to mistype me: as an INTJ (of the so-called Beaver temperament). Thirty years the MBTI came up with the same wrong results!

    The MBTI was never intended to be used apart from qualified feedback because it’s right only 70% of the time at best and can be off by as much as four letters. :( And one can have an equally wrong view of one’s temperament balance. It took professional counseling with Vicky Jo Varner, using Dr. Linda V. Berens’ workbooks and other tools plus one-on-one exercises with Vicky Jo, for me to understand that I’m actually an ENFP at the “core” and my G.R. side (what Dr. Berens calls Catalyst) is actually the predominate and by far the strongest of the four. But I do have a strong backup Theorist (Beaver) temperament all the same.

    I do have another beef with Mr. Smalley’s model. He could well have used the Cherubic Faces long known in the Eastern Aramaic churches to correspond to the Four Gospels and also to the four human temperaments: Lion (S_P), Ox (S_J), Man or Cherub (NF) and Eagle (NT). There has been some very misleading conclusions put out there by people who don’t understand what the temperaments really are all about and what best symbolizes them, and Mr. Smalley’s model is as bad as any in this. S_J’s don’t want to “dominate”, they want to control or (better) to stabilize (so they befit the Ox and not the Lion), but that’s not the same thing. That’s confusing temperament with leadership or social or interaction style, as many people do, and one type in each temperament cannot not dominate because they have what Dr. Berens calls the “In-Charge” interaction style. (For the record, that’s ESTP, ESTJ, ENFJ and maybe the toughest of them all, ENTJ.)

    Mr. Smalley’s summaries of the strengths and weaknesses of the temperaments are even worse. NFs (so-called Retrievers) may or may not have issues with procrastination (that’s connected with P in all types in all temperaments – Js like their plans settled, Ps like them open-ended). And we’re not exactly calm either – in fact we are noted for our enthusiasm, not our calmness. It’s the NTs who are calm. In both cases this runs across types and interaction styles. ENFP. INFP, INFJ and ENFJ are not calm – trust me, I know a lot of them and I’ve never met a calm one yet. Diplomatic, yes – usually. Calm, no! :D

    I could go on, but let me just end by expressing my gratitude that I ran into Dr. Berens et al., and particularly Ms. Varner her student. Without their help I would’ve been totally lost trying to get a real handle on how my personality works. May I suggest an overview of what are really the best models out there, via this page from my own blog? :D

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    • John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav) says:

      Jack: That feeling is common to the so-called Golden Retriever temperament (the NFs on the Myers-Briggs grid), when they first encounter personality type theory. They feel as if all the types are inside of them. People of other temperaments have other objections at first.

      It takes time and careful feedback from others to work through the priority of how one’s thoughts, feelings and actions are organized systematically. One factor involved is that none of us have a “pure” temperament; we all are influenced by four hormones in the womb and these determine our temperamental balance. I happen to split the difference, almost, between Retriever and Beaver 30/30% (with the other two 20/20%) – a temperamental near-balance that isn’t common – and for many years I thought I was predominately Beaver. But that is because a good deal of my truly predominant temperament’s expression was contextually suppressed – people appreciated and encouraged my logical faculties but not my objective intuition or especially my personal value judgements and the sentiments that go with them. It took time for me to learn, and professional counseling with Vicky Jo Varner, that my “core” temperament – the one side of me I cannot do without – is NF and my “core” Myers-Briggs type is ENFP.

      The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is at best right only 70% of the time (it was only meant as a “first cut” anyway and never without professional feedback) and for 30 years it mistyped me as INTJ. One peculiar reason – leaving aside the contextual roles I was asked to play – is that INTJ, in a sense, is what an ENFP wants to be “when he grows up”. :D He admires such people as someone might admire a wise parent – and as it happens, it also works in reverse in an INTJ/ENFP pairing.

      May I recommend an overview of the subject that I put on a dedicated blog, and also the resources listed in the margin of the blog?

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  38. I am searching for material to work through with my children other than “The Treasure Tree” and related lessons as I have already used that. Books, stories etc, something I can read/show to them and discuss to help them work on their character strengths and weaknesses. Wondered if anything new has come out since other responders above have not known of any?

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  42. Jameson says:

    I have the same score of 35 each for Lion and Beaver….. it is normal to have Lion-Beaver personality? thank you

  43. Milissa Lee says:

    Thank you for this comparison. It is always interesting and helpful in understanding ourselves & those around us.
    I find it is a life long pursuit of understanding.

  44. says:

    One animal does not totally describe her personality. I would have to say as far a her strengths an otter would best describe her. Her weakness i would have to say non of the listed animals, however, if I had to chose one for her weakness it would be the beaver.

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