Saiga antelope

Image by vzmaze/iStock

1. Pudu

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetartiodactyl

Family: Cervidae

Pudu puda and Pudu mephistophiles

Looking like a stuffed animal, pudu are so cute it hurts. The two species of pudu are the world’s tiniest deer at less than two feet tall. Northern pudu live on the northwestern coast of South America, while southern pudu live on the southwestern coast.

Pudu deer animal obscurePudu deer animal obscure
Image by Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

In the forests of South America, these little deer live in the dense undergrowth where they eat a variety of plant parts. Unfortunately, these little cuties are threatened by domestic dogs and their habitat is being turned into plantations. These little guys need a home, but it probably shouldn’t be your house.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened, Vulnerable

2. Brookesia micra

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Family: Chamaeleonidae

Brookesia micra

Another trophy winner, this tiny reptile wins the award for smallest chameleon at about an inch long. It’s only been found on a small island off the coast of Madagascar, where it lives in leaf litter on the forest floor. Unlike larger chameleons, it uses its little tail for stability.

Tiny chameleon animal obscureTiny chameleon animal obscure
Image by Frank Glaw, Jörn Köhler, Ted M. Townsend, Miguel Vences/Wikimedia Commons

B. micra was only discovered six years ago and how the scientists managed to not step on it remains one of the biggest mysteries of the century. Reptiles can get this small because they don’t regulate their own body temperature, but a mammal that generates its own heat can’t be as tiny.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

3. Pallas’s cat

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Otocolobus manul

The Pallas’s cat resembles a grumpy old grandpa with hairy ears, so maybe don’t bother it while it’s sleeping. This odd kitty lives in Asia, mostly in Mongolia and China, on high elevation rocky grasslands. They avoid open areas to hide from predators, like raptors, wolves, and foxes.

Pallas's cat wild obscure animalPallas's cat wild obscure animal
Image by Dick Smit/Flickr

These cats eat mostly small mammals, but also insects, birds, and reptiles. For shelter and raising their kittens, they use marmot burrows or lay among the rocks. They’re great at climbing on this rocky landscape and stay warm with their thick fur. But like other animals on this list, their habitat is decreasing and causing their numbers to do the same.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

4. Kakapo

Class: Aves

Order: Psittaciformes

Family: Strigopidae

Strigops habroptila

This large, flightless parrot kinda looks like the jungle came to life in the form of an awkward feathered creature. Actually, kakapo have been fighting for their lives, coming back from the brink of extinction. In 1999 there were only about 50 kakapo in existence. They live exclusively in New Zealand, where invasive mammals have hunted them to this low point. Now, there are over 150 kakapo because conservationists moved all of them to predator-free islands.

Kakapo parrotKakapo parrot
Image by Department of Conservation/Flickr

Kakapo are nocturnal and live an average of 60 years. They eat pretty much all parts of plants, but they mate every couple of years when there is a particular fruit in season. New Zealanders have been helping along their breeding via artificial insemination, to increase the chances of baby birds. Their numbers are slowly increasing.

Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

5. Aardwolf

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Hyaenidae

Proteles cristata

The grassy plains of Africa are home to the nocturnal aardwolf, which means “earth wolf” in Afrikaans, but they’re more closely related to hyenas than wolves. They’re not quite hyena and not quite wolf, but something in between and a lot cuter.

Aardwolf animalAardwolf animal
Image by wagon16/Flickr

Oh, and it’s definitely not an aardvark, but they do have a very similar diet. Surprisingly, aardwolves eat mostly termites. And they barely drink any water, because it all comes from those tasty termites. They can eat as many as 200,000 termites in one successful night! 

Conservation Status: Least Concern

6. Golden snub-nosed monkey

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Cercopithecidae

Rhinopithecus roxellana

These majestic monkeys look like royalty, ruling over the snowy mountainous forests of China. They’re very social and pass the time by grooming and fighting amongst themselves. When communicating to each other, they can vocalize without any visible sign, like a ventriloquist.

Golden snub-nosed monkeyGolden snub-nosed monkey
Image by Danielinblue/Wikimedia Commons

Golden snub-nosed monkeys spend most of their time in trees, but they are losing habitat to agricultural demands. The good news is that illegal hunting of them has stopped for some of the subspecies since 1990. In the mountains, they mostly eat lichen and leaves. They have a variety of predators, including leopards and golden eagles.

Conservation Status: Endangered

7. Indian giant squirrel

Class: Mammalia

Order: Rodentia

Family: Sciuridae

Ratufa indica

The Indian giant squirrel is like the better looking cousin to North American squirrels. As their name might suggest, these multicolored creatures make their home in India. They live high up in the tropical forests, and almost never leave trees unless to chase some tail during breeding season.

Indian giant squirrelIndian giant squirrel
Image by VinodBhattu/Wikimedia Commons

These rodents take the big bushy tail to a whole new level, putting North American squirrels to shame. But while it looks like their tails might get in the way, they actually help with balancing in the trees. Up high, these squirrels eat fruits, flowers, and insects.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

8. Nilgiri marten

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Martes gwatkinsii

No, it’s not an onigiri marten. They aren’t named after a tasty rice snack, but rather the Nilgiri Mountains of southern India. They live in evergreen and mountainous forests, where they eat anything from small mammals to birds to insects. Some have strayed to plantations growing things like tea and coffee.

Nilgiri martenNilgiri marten
Image by N.A.Nazeer/Wikimedia Commons

This cutie pie is sometimes seen raiding bee boxes for tasty larvae and sometimes they even eat the colorful Indian giant squirrel. They like to spend time in trees, where their long tail is helpful for balancing while climbing and jumping. Not a lot is known about these martens, because they are rather elusive. 

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

9. Pangolin

Class: Mammalia

Order: Pholidota

You may be surprised to know that pangolins are actually mammals, despite their scales that protect them from predators. There are eight different species of pangolin, four in Asia and four in Africa. Generally, they live in tropical forests and grasslands. Some of them can be found climbing trees, looking for tasty ants, while others dig burrows in the ground.

Pangolin obscure animalPangolin obscure animal
Image by Adam Tusk/Flickr

When a pangolin is scared, it rolls into a ball to protect itself. Unfortunately, this nifty method doesn’t protect them from humans. Pangolins are one of the most trafficked animals in the world. In Asia and Africa, people eat their meat and use their scales for medicine.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable to Critically Endangered, depending on the species

10. Mexican mole lizard

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Family: Bipedidae

Bipes biporus

This giant worm is actually not a giant worm, but a lizard with only two legs. It’s perhaps the most disturbing reptile, and is even reminiscent of sphynx cats. These Mexican mole lizards live only on the Baja California peninsula, in the dry desert environment.

Mexican mole lizard baja californiaMexican mole lizard baja california
Image by Wild Horizons/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Mexican mole lizards live mostly underground, so they aren’t seen often. But some scientists think they’re actually very common. They generally eat insects and regulate their body temperature by moving up and down in the soil. It must suck having to always move itself around like that park zombie from The Walking Dead, but its claws are very good at digging.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

11. Hoatzin

Class: Aves

Order: Opisthocomiformes

Family: Opisthocomidae

Opisthocomus hoazin

Deep in the Amazon river basin, these dinosaurs are common and striking. Birds are technically dinosaurs, and few show it better than the hoatzin. Their name is actually pronounced “what-seen” or “what-son” and they are the only birds to digest their food like a cow does, by fermenting leaves and buds.

Hoatzin birdHoatzin bird
Image by Carine06/Flickr

Hoatzins live in the swamps of northern South America, largely in Brazil. And while they’re not very good at flying, it’s possible that their ancestors actually rafted across the Atlantic from Africa. Rafting across the ocean may seem impossible, but I assure you it’s elementary, my dear hoatzin.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

12. Vampire squid

Class: Cephalopoda

Order: Vampyromorphida

Family: Vampyroteuthidae

Vampyroteuthis infernalis

The vampire squid is neither vampire nor squid, but its scientific name literally translates to “vampire squid from hell”. It’s not even an octopus, it is something completely different and the only living species in its order. In fact, it is also the only non-predator cephalopod (which is the class consisting of squid, octopus, and cuttlefish). It eats dead bits of things called marine snow.

Vampire squid pineapple formVampire squid pineapple form
Image by Carl Chun/Wikimedia Commons

At about 10 inches long, these cephalopods live in the ocean’s oxygen minimum zone at about 3000 feet below the surface. There’s pretty much no light at this depth, so these vampires aren’t threatened by sunlight. Instead, they make their own light via bioluminescence. When in danger, the vampire squid’s webbed arms fold up and over its head and it assumes its pineapple posture.

Conservation Status: Unknown

13. Honduran white bat

Class: Mammalia

Order: Chiroptera

Family: Phyllostomidae

Ectophylla alba

These white puff balls are actually real life fruit bats, and not pokemon. At less than two inches long, the Honduran white bats are scientifically teeny tiny. Obviously, the Honduran white bat lives in Honduras, but it also can be found in the rainforests of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Honduran white batsHonduran white bats
Image by KenCanning/iStock

These little guys cuddle up next to each other under heliconia leaves, which form a tent under their weight. This tent is excellent for avoiding predators. It’s high enough off the ground and when the plant’s stem is moved, the leaf shakes and alerts the bats. Also, when the sun shines through the leaf, the bats actually appear green and blend in with the plant.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

14. Andean cock-of-the-rock

Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Cotingidae

Rupicola peruvianus

This bird certainly belongs in a Dr. Seuss book, flying among the truffula trees. But rather than living in a children’s book, these birds make their home along the west coast of South America.  It does actually have a beak, it’s just hidden under the nose fluff.

Andean cock of the rockAndean cock of the rock
Image by webguzs/iStock

Andean Cock-of-the-rocks feast on fruits and insects in the low levels of the forest. The males try to woo the females by flapping their wings, bobbing their heads, and doing other attractive movements, like someone at a dance club. But their weird dance moves actually work.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

15. Guianan cock-of-the-rock

Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Cotingidae

Rupicola rupicola

Cousin to the Dr. Seuss bird is this flamboyant species that looks as if a budding designer dressed it on Project Runway. However, rather than being dressed for the runway, they are dressed to impress — to impress the female Guianan Cock-of-the-rocks, that is.

Guianan cock of the rockGuianan cock of the rock
Image by Manakin/iStock

Like their Andean cousins, male Guianans display themselves to females in hopes of scoring a mate. These birds live in the humid forests of northern South America, in rocky areas (as their name might suggest). They also eat mainly fruit, with some cheat days for insects.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

16. Maned wolf

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Chrysocyon brachyurus

These beauties are neither fox nor wolf, but their own unique species. They stand a little more than three feet tall and live in tall grasses on the savannas of central and eastern South America. With long legs, they can see above the tall grasses. Other than a little physical resemblance, they aren’t similar to wolves.

Maned wolf Maned wolf
Image by Musat/iStock

They hunt alone and they don’t howl, they bark. They eat fruits and vegetables, but also small rodents and insects. Maned wolves are monogamous, so a male and female share territory together and only mate with each other. It seems the two don’t spend much time together outside of mating season, but males do help provide some food to the pups.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

17. Pink fairy armadillo

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cingulata

Family: Chlamyphoridae

Chlamyphorus truncatus

While at first glance the pink fairy armadillo appears to be a huge land shrimp, upon closer inspection it reveals itself to be just a really weird armadillo. Not much is known about them, since they seem to be almost as elusive as actual fairies.

Pink fairy armadilloPink fairy armadillo
Image by Cliff/Flickr

We do know that these nocturnal creatures are the smallest of all armadillos. They live on the grasslands and sandy plains of Argentina, but are losing some of their habitat to agriculture and cattle ranching. They’re also illegally taken as pets and sold on the black market, but they don’t live long in captivity.

Conservation Status: Unknown

18. Saiga antelope

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Saiga tatarica

At first glance, this antelope looks like an alien from Star Wars, but it lives in Kazakhstan rather than Tatooine. These antelope travel the grasslands in herds of about 40 animals. Its extraordinary inflatable nose is great for avoiding dust and taking in clean air during the summer, and heating air in the winter.

Saiga antelopeSaiga antelope
Image by DNK-KolyaN/iStock

In the warm months, saiga are a light sandy color, but they turn white in the winter. In the fall, tens of thousands of saiga migrate south together. However, since the fall of the USSR they have been hunted relentlessly for their horns and meat. Their populations are dwindling; there’s only about 165,000 left (compared to the millions from several decades ago).

Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

19. Bongo antelope

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetartiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Tragelaphus eurycerus

This striking animal is a type of antelope that lives in the rainforests of central and western Africa. They’re easily scared and hunted by leopards, hyenas, and humans. The females tend to group together in small herds, but the males are mostly solitary.

Bongo antelopeBongo antelope
Image by cherokeejones/iStock

Sometimes, the males will fight each other with their curly antlers. While only standing a little over four feet, bongos are really heavy. They weigh between 500 and 900 pounds, despite being vegetarian. Plants make up most of their diet, but they also like natural salt licks.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

20. Temminck’s tragopan

Class: Aves

Order: Galliformes

Family: Phasianidae

Tragopan temminckii

In the forests of southern China, this male pheasant walks around somewhat nondescript until he spots a female he wants to impress. He proceeds to transform into an alien creature. The blue flap unfurls from under his chin and two blue antenna-like parts pop up on his head.

Temmincks tragopanTemmincks tragopan
Image by Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Then he begins his dance. He vigorously bobs and shakes his head, then unfolds his wings and does a spastic movement. Then, real quickly, he stands up as tall as he can make himself and puffs his chest out. Hopefully, he’s got the better moves and the female picks him.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

21. Ring-tailed mongoose

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Eupleridae

Galidia elegans

You’ve probably heard of the ring-tailed lemur, but have you heard of the ring-tailed mongoose? At first glance, it looks like a red panda, or maybe a photoshopped crossbreed, but it is in fact a real live critter. Both ring-tailed animals live on the same island.

Ring tailed mongooseRing tailed mongoose
Image by dennisvdw/iStock

Ring-tailed mongoose live only in the tropical forests of Madagascar, where they tend to hang out in pairs. They like to climb trees and eat a variety of small animals and fruit. It’s unclear whether this is a monogamous mongoose, a monogamoose as it were, but it’s possible.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

22. Lowland streaked tenrec

Class: Mammalia

Order: Afrosoricida

Family: Tenrecidae

Hemicentetes semispinosus

No one’s bad hair day could ever be quite as bad as the lowland streaked tenrec’s daily look. It’s covered in quills that it uses for protection from predators and pesky males that are coming on too strong. The quills also might be used for communication when a certain few are rubbed together to make a high pitched sound.

Lowland streaked tenrecLowland streaked tenrec
Image by Frank Vassen/Wikimedia Commons

In the rainforests of Madagascar, these tenrecs feast on worms while avoiding predators like the ring-tailed mongoose. While they look like lost pokemon, it’s possible they are something more sinister: a carrier for the Bubonic plague. It isn’t confirmed, and some people actually eat them, but it may be better to stay away.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

23. Sunda flying lemur

Class: Mammalia

Order: Dermoptera

Family: Cynocephalidae

Galeopterus variegatus

The Sunda flying lemur lives in southeast Asia, where it enjoys a diet of purely plants. It doesn’t really fly, and it isn’t actually a lemur, it is in fact another case of misnomer. This animal is actually a colugo, a gliding mammal that lives in trees.

Sunda flying lemurSunda flying lemur
Image by Vincent_St_Thomas/iStock

Colugos have a huge membrane of skin, called a patagium, that allows them to glide between trees. They can glide over 300 feet without losing much altitude. The babies cling to their mom’s belly, even while she’s gliding. They almost never leave the trees, but when they do, they look ridiculous crawling across the ground.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

24. Jaguarundi

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Herpailurus yagouaroundi

Prowling from desert to swamp to rainforest, these odd-looking cats live anywhere from Mexico to Argentina. However, they used to live in Texas up to the mid 20th century. There are even plans to try and get them to come back to Texas by restoring their habitat.

Jaguarundi catJaguarundi cat
Image by heckepics/iStock

Further east, rumored jaguarundis run amok in Florida where it’s believed that they were introduced over a hundred years ago. Supposedly, a man brought them from South America and let them free in Florida, where they bred and grew in number. However, there are no official specimens of jaguarundi found in Florida, only a number of reported sightings.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

25. Mangalitsa pig

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Suidae

Sus scrofa domesticus

Curly haired and cute as a stuffed animal, this pig probably made you double take. This sheep pig is not a sheep or a different pig species, but actually a breed of domestic pig. Three Hungarian breeds and the European wild boar were crossed to make this hairy pig.

Mangalitsa pigMangalitsa pig
Image by Nick Ansell/PA Images via Getty Images

Mangalitsa pigs are raised for their meat, because it’s extra fatty and supposedly delicious. These pigs like to forage for their food, eating things like nuts and acorns. They’re social and like to stick together. When treated nicely, they actually act like dogs: playful and friendly.

Conservation status: not applicable

26. Bat-eared fox

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Otocyon megalotis

Batfox is the Batman of the African savannas. Its superpowers are hearing insects moving underground and keeping cool by losing heat through its humongous ears. Well, technically it isn’t called Batfox, but its scientific name does literally translate to the immensely creative “eardog bigears.”

Bat eared foxBat eared fox
Image by Yathin S Krishnappa/Wikimedia Commons

Bat-eared foxes eat insects for a living and they actually have more teeth than any other canine, to help with this unique diet. They’re pretty social and live in burrows underground, staying out of the midday heat. They tend to be around hoofed animals, because tasty insects gather at their poop.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

27. Sand cat

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Felis margarita

In the hot Sahara, a margarita probably sounds like a little sip of heaven. But they actually have a different sort of margarita in the desert: a Felis margarita. The sand cat’s scientific name actually comes from the French general Jean Auguste Margueritte, who headed an expedition in 1858 that discovered the cute kitties.

Sand cat obscure animalSand cat obscure animal
Image by Ranjith-chemmad/Wikimedia Commons

These small cats live in the sandy deserts of northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. They hunt small rodents and reptiles, often listening to hear their prey burrowing underground. Sand cats barely drink any water, they actually get it all from their food. They’re very hard to research because the fur on the bottom of their paws makes it so they leave almost no footprints.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

28. Quoll

Class: Mammalia

Order: Dasyuromorphia

Family: Dasyuridae


Quolls look like a cat and a mouse had a baby that found itself standing under a dropped canister of white paint. There are six species of quoll, four in Australia and two in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They’re marsupials, which means they keep their babies in a pouch. They like to climb trees in their native forests, but are suffering from habitat loss.

Image by Ways/Wikimedia Commons

These carnivores eat pretty much any small animal meat they can get their little pink hands on. They also make dens in all kinds of things, like trees, burrows, and termite mounds. When it comes to mating, quolls put everything they’ve got into their first season and most die before the next.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened, Endangered

29. Banded palm civet

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Viverridae

Hemigalus derbyanus

The banded palm civet lives in the forests of southeast Asia. It’s nocturnal and mostly eats insects and other small animals like frogs and snails. This is one of over 15 species of civet, which are named after the oily fluid they secrete of the same name. It’s used for scent marking and communication.

Banded palm civetBanded palm civet
Image by Greg Hume/Wikimedia Commons

Civets are used for a very curious, and perhaps disgusting, purpose in Indonesia. The animals are fed coffee cherries, the fruit that contains coffee beans, and then the beans are collected from their feces. These coffee beans are then used to make the most expensive cup of coffee in the world. Apparently, their digestion causes the beans to lose some of their acidity. Unfortunately, these coffee civets are not treated very well.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

30. Raccoon dog

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Nyctereutes procyonoides

At a glance, this furry guy looks just like a raccoon you might find in the tree down the street, but it is actually more related to foxes and dogs than raccoons. The raccoon dog is native to Russia and East Asia. However, it was introduced to Europe for the fur trade.

Raccoon dogRaccoon dog
Image by sduben/iStock

Raccoon dogs prefer to live near water, whether it’s in a forest, a meadow, agricultural land, or even a city. They are very common in Japan, but they’re considered a pest and often killed for it. Raccoon dogs are still farmed for their fur, which has often been mislabeled on tags, sometimes even as faux fur.

Conservation Status: Least Concern