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"We [science fiction writers] always wanted to believe in "private sector" space -- hucksters make better characters than a government does."
- Larry Niven

Robot Animals  
  Artificial animals created using robotic elements.  

This is the earliest use of the phrase "robot animals" that I know about.

Gramp strode forward and looked. And what he saw - instead of flesh and bone, instead of any animal structure - were metal plates and molten wire and cogs of many shapes and sizes.

"Robots," he said. "I'll be a bowlegged Marshie if that ain't what they are. Nothin' but dog-gone robot animals."

Technovelgy from Reunion on Ganymede, by Clifford Simak.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1938
Additional resources -

Here's a detailed take on this idea from Otis Adelbert Kline's story The Robot Beasts published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1941:

He contemplated these creatures of his wearily, yet with the pride of a creator. There were tiny mice and moles of various colors and types; rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, dogs. There were turtles, frogs, salamanders, lizards and snakes...

For Dr. Fletcher they represented a lifetime of toil and study. For each and every one of these creatures was not merely a stuffed animal, bird or reptile, but a delicately and intricately constructed robot in which the scientist had attempted to induce a natural degree of the intelligence of its kind by brain transplantation.

The brains, immersed in a nutrient solution which required renewal only once in fifty years, were in crystal brain cases, from which wires, attached to electrodes, ran to various parts of the robot anatomies, acting as motor and sensory nerves. With muscles and tendons of tough, contractile plastic, and a system of levers, gears, wires and chains of light, strong aluminum alloy; powered by supercharged, lightweight storage batteries in the body cavities, these synthetic creatures were designed not only to see, hear, feel and smell, but to move and react to peripheral stimuli like the original animals.

See also robot dog from an even earlier (1937) Kline short story.

Compare to the electric sheep from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick, Purza the Pukha, from The Rowan, a 1990 novel by Anne McCaffrey.

See also Ray Bradbury's mechanical hound from Fahrenheit 451 (1953).

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Reunion on Ganymede
  More Ideas and Technology by Clifford Simak
  Tech news articles related to Reunion on Ganymede
  Tech news articles related to works by Clifford Simak

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