If you decide you would like to learn how to carve animals in wood as a hobby, you will quickly learn that it can be a very relaxing, creative outlet. You really don't need a lot to get started--just a nice piece of wood, a couple of carving tools and your imagination. If you become good enough, you may even consider selling your work or entering wood carving competitions.
Choose a soft wood, especially if you are just learning how to carve animals in wood. It's easier to carve and more forgiving if you make mistakes. Basswood is ideal for beginners, and butternut is also a good first choice.
Start by tracing your design on the surface of the wood. You can use carbon paper for this process, which is one of the most common ways carvers do it. This paper works on most wood, but if the wood is dark, you may want to use dress maker's carbon paper, which is usually white. Put the tracing paper on the wood and the design you be tracing on top of that, secure the paper to the wood with tape and trace the exact design onto the wood.
Use a curved chisel to begin slowly removing wood, a little at a time, according to the pattern. You can get patterns from wood carving books such as "Carving Animals in Wood" by E. J. Tangerman.
Continue cutting away more pieces to carve the animal in the wood. Refine the shape of your animal pattern using smaller curved chisel tools for detail, as needed.
Smooth and shape your image. You may use very tiny wood chisels, picks, files and sanding tools to get the results you desire. Use gradually finer sandpaper with gentle strokes to keep from the scarring the wood and to get your project as smooth as possible.
Finish carving your wood project. Now you can decide whether to leave it natural, seal it with a varnish or paint it. The finish you decide to use should enhance your carving.
Learn to carve animals in wood with as few tools as possible. You may be a carver who doesn't require many tools, so buy only a couple to get started and then buy more as you need them. There are several basic tools that are standard, however, such as the bench knife, straight gouge, "U" gouge, "V" gouge or "V" point chisel and straight chisel. Your carving tools will eventually require sharpening, which is something a carver should learn to do for themselves and isn't very difficult to do.
Wear goggles and a mask to protect yourself when carving wood.