Not all animals are as attractive and eye-pleasing as cats, dogs, and pandas. There are animals that can be termed as ‘ugly’ and are not so pleasing to the eyes.
The ugliness of an animal can be morphological (such as unusual body parts and filaments) in origin or due to its lifestyle. For example, Marabou storks can often be seen dripped with the blood of dead animals which they feed on.
Based on such unusual characteristics, we have compiled this list of the ugliest animals.
An aardwolf in Namibia | Image Courtesy: Dominik Käuferle
Scientific Name: Hyaenidae (family taxonomy)
Notable Features: Downward slant back, large skull and ears
Hyenas are perhaps one of the world’s fiercest scavengers. While hyenas can hunt or kill on their own, they rely mostly on the kills of other predators in the wild. A pack of hyenas can scare off larger predators, including lions, to claim their prey.
There are four living species of hyena, namely aardwolf, brown, striped, and spotted hyena, each having distinct physical attributes. However, they all have identical wolf-like built, thick but short hind legs and long front legs.
The large skull and ears, thick hair around the neck and back make hyenas stand apart from other similar-sized mammals. Due to their rough appearance, hyenas are largely vilified and seen as frightening.
The brown and striped hyena population is currently on the decline and is listed as near threatened species. According to IUCN, one of the major reasons behind the decline in their population is mistreatment or persecution by humans.
14. Chinese Sturgeon
A Chinese sturgeon at Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park | Image Courtesy: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
Scientific Name: Acipenser sinensis
Notable Features: Sharks-like body, barbels
The Chinese sturgeon is one of the living members of the family Acipenseridae (sturgeon) found only in China. Like the Giant Panda, the Chinese sturgeon has received ‘protected animal’ status by the Chinese government. The species have been named a “national treasure.” But they are not as attractive as the pandas.
Chinese sturgeons have a shark-like built, with a large pointy head, rounded snout, prominent pectoral fins, and a longer upper tail fin. They also have multiple noticeable bone ridges running across their bodies.
Like every other sturgeon species, Chinese sturgeons have four barbels (spike-like features) located at mid-way between their mouth and the snout. Barbel is a sensory organ that helps fishes to detect and acquire prey or food.
13. Proboscis Monkey
A typical male Proboscis monkey | Image Courtesy: Charles J. Sharp
Scientific Name: Nasalis larvatus
Notable Features: Unusually large nose, pot belly, colored genitalia
The Proboscis monkey is an old-world monkey species native to Borneo, a small island nation in Southeast Asia. They have an unusually large nose, which makes them distinct from other primates. In males, the nose is much longer and can exceed 10 cm in length.
In most cases, the nose hangs lower than their mouths. Though females have a smaller nose than males, they still have the largest nose of any primate. According to a theory, a larger nose, especially in males, increases the volume of their mating call.
There are a few other traits that make the species quite unique. The proboscis monkey is one of the largest monkey species in Asia.
Both male and female populations have large pot belly-like stomachs and long tails. Males feature a black scrotum. They have bright orange or yellowish colored fur on the back and light greyish or orange in front.
12. Titicaca Water Frog
A Titicaca Water Frog individual at Prague Zoo | Image Courtesy: Petr Hamerník
Scientific Name: Telmatobius culeus
Notable Features: Excessive skin on the body
This rare frog species acquired its name from Lake Titicaca, a large freshwater lake in South America, where it is exclusively found. Titicaca Water Frog is one of the largest frog species in the world that can reach up to 15 cm or 5.9 inches in length. Only a few other frog species can outgrow them.
However, the most striking feature of Titicaca water frogs is their excessive skin folding. Their skin can be described as loose and floppy that forms ripples in folds around its body. It is more prominent in larger individuals. Due to such appearance, Titicaca frogs have earned the nickname of “scrotum frog.”
Studies have shown that the excessive amount of skin on their body allows the animal to conduct respiratory functions in cold waters. It is also used as a defense mechanism.
Titicaca water frogs are usually brown or greenish in color and have a pale underside. An exclusive population of the species has bright orange-colored underside and strip marks on things.
11. Red-Lipped Batfish
Red-lipped batfish | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Rein Ketelaars
Scientific Name: Ogcocephalus darwini
Notable Features: Red-colored lips, unusual body structure
The red-lipped batfish are found off the coast of Peru and around the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the 13 recognized species of batfishes that has one of the weirdest body structures in the entire animal kingdom.
Batfish are poor swimmers and thus navigate underwater mostly by ‘walking on the seabed with the help of their highly modified pectoral fins. These fins are identical to human ankles in appearance.
Adult batfishes have a peculiar body part that extends outward from the top of their head. This spine-like extension only manifests when an individual reaches a certain age.
However, the animal is more known for its flashy and bright red colored lips. Biologists believe that its purpose is to attract partners during mating and species recognition during spawning.
A typical red-lipped batfish can reach about 40 cm or 0.4 meters in length. They are greyish or light-brown in color on the top side and mostly white underside.
10. Male Elephant Seal
A male elephant seal with proboscis | Image Courtesy: NOAA
Scientific Name: Mirounga (Genus taxonomy)
Notable Features: Large floppy nose
Adolescent elephant seals are one of the most adorable creatures on earth. They have been a center of attraction at zoo aquariums around the world. However, the same cannot be said about the adult male population of the elephant seals.
Elephant seals have an average lifespan of 21 years (Southern Elephant seals). By the age of 7-8, male elephant seals (bull) display certain distinct characteristics that are absent in the female population, including a thickened chest area and a proboscis or a long floppy nose.
As the name suggests, the proboscis of male elephant seals closely resembles the trunk of an elephant. Like proboscis monkey, their nose is used to make loud noises to attract mating partners. More importantly, it allows the mammal to retain enough moisture during their extended period of stay on land.
In general, the elephant seals have large round and black eyes, facial whiskers, and no external ears. Their body is covered in blubber, which protects them from extreme cold. However, it greatly affects their movement on land.
A common warthog in Senegal | Image Courtesy: Wikipedia: Charles J. Sharp
Scientific Name: Phacochoerus (Genus taxonomy)
Notable Features: Large head with a long snout, tusks
Warthogs are a member of the pig family (Suidae) that are widespread in the African savanna south of the Sahara. Two distinct species of warthogs are recognized, namely common warthogs and dessert warthogs. The latter is found in a small region of East Africa and is slightly smaller than its counterparts.
They have physical characteristics typical of the pigs, including a large head and long snout with wart-like features and protruding tusks. Common warthogs have two pairs of tusks. The upper tusks that extend from their mouths are curved upwards. They are longer and more prominent than lower tusks, located just below them. The animal has prickly or rough hair on the body.
While these attributes make warthogs unattractive, they allow them to thrive in the grassland ecosystem of Africa.
8. Marabou Stork
A Marabou Stork closeup at Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda | Image Courtesy: Charles J. Sharp
Scientific Name: Leptoptilos crumenifer
Notable Features: Bald head and neck, long beak
The marabou stork is a large stork bird species found in the African continent south of the Sahara. They can reach up to a height of 152 cm (60 inches) and weigh as much as 9 kg. The wingspan of the marabou stork, which is about 7-9 ft long, was once considered the largest among any living bird.
The animal has a naked, featherless head due to its scavenging lifestyle, same with the vultures, a long beak, and a pink gular sac (pouch-like feature at the neck). Like many other stork species, it has a white underside, black back, and thin grey legs. Due to their appearance, marabous are sometimes referred to as the ‘undertaker bird.’
Marabou storks are unattractive in many ways. Due to scavenging, their heads are often dripped in blood and other substances, like feces, of the carrions. An increasing number of Marabous are found around garbage dumps and have been seen virtually anything they can eat from plastics, cloths, and metal pieces.
7. California Condor
A California Condor at San Diego Zoo | Image Courtesy: Stacy Spensley/Flickr
Scientific Name: Gymnogyps californianus
Notable Features: Bald featherless head
The California condor is a critically endangered vulture species that are found in parts of California, Arizona, and Utah in the United States. A small population is also found in the Mexican state of Baja California.
With a massive wingspan of three meters (the largest in North America), and white-colored triangular-shaped bands on the underside of their wings, the California condors are surely a treat for eyes when in flight. However, up close, they are not that attractive.
California condors have almost featherless bald heads, typical of avian scavengers. The skin color on the head and neck ranges from bright yellow to red or reddish-orange. It has an off-white-colored beak and reddish eyes. The rest of the body is covered with solid black colored feathers. In the wild, they are often found dripped in blood, from head to toe, due to feeding on carrions.
The species was on the brink of extinction in the late 1980s but were saved after being introduced to captive breeding. As of August 2020, the number of living mature individuals of the species is reported to be above 90.
A wild aye-aye | Image Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons
Scientific Name: Daubentonia madagascariensis
Notable Features: Uneven body hair, freakish fingers
The aye-aye is a rare lemur species known for having unique hand anatomy. Like all other lemur species, aye-ayes are endemic to the island nation of Madagascar. Also known as long-fingered lemurs, aye-ayes have five long, forward-slanting fingers. These fingers are of varying lengths and thickness.
The third finger, which is unusually thinner than the others, is used to tap on tree trunks to find food, including insects and larva. The fourth and longest finger is then used to grab and pull the food. Apart from aye-ayes, the only mammal to find their food in this manner is the striped possum.
The animal has eyes, ears, nose (nostrils), and head shape similar to that of small feline species, such as cats. It has orange-colored eyes and a tail longer than the body. A typical aye-aye adult is completely covered in fur. On and near the head, it is usually white or grey color, while the rest of the body is brown. In the wild, the aye-aye is classified as an endangered species.
5. Northern Bald Ibis
A captive North American bald ibis | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Richard Bartz
Scientific Name: Geronticus eremita
Notable Features: Long and curved beak and bald head, face
The Northern bald ibis, also known as hermit ibis, is a rare ibis bird species known for its distinct long and curved beak and red featherless head. Once widespread in central and southern Europe, the species is now mostly found in Morocco. A small number of Northern bald ibis population is also found in Syria and Turkey.
Unlike most living members of the ibis family, the Northern ibis has a featherless head and face. These un-feathered areas in young individuals are usually greyish in color, however, it changes to pale red as they become older.
They have a long and curved beak (bill) of a color identical to their face. Their beak is rough and uneven, which adds to their unappealing appearance.
Another prominent feature of the Northern bald ibis is their ruff, a bunch of long and straight hair sticking out from the back of the bird’s neck. The rest of the body, except for their legs and feet, is covered with glossy black colored feathers.
There have been attempts to recuperate the Northern bald ibis population globally. In early 2000, they were introduced to zoos and captivity not only in Europe but also in Japan and North America. In 2018, their reported population was between 200 and 250 individuals.
A monkfish at Polaria aquarium in Norway | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Filippova Olga
Scientific Name: Lophius (Genus taxonomy)
Notable Features: Large flattened head, filaments on top, legs-like pelvic fins
Monkfish, frogfish, or sea-devils are common names for various species of lophiid anglerfish found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. They can be best described as freaky in appearance.
The head, which makes up a large portion of their body, is flattened and broad. Their mouth is wide enough to swallow prey of their own size at one go. Moreover, Monkfishes have pointy teeth and small eyes.
Monkfish can be observed with strange filaments shooting up from the top of their heads. The longest filament, known as esca or illicium, can be moved in all directions and is used to lure prey and other fishes. Moreover, a pair of modified pelvic fins (as seen above) allow them to ‘walk’ on the seafloor.
All these features combined make monkfishes not only ugly and unattractive but scary as well.
3. Star-Nosed Mole
A star-nosed mole | Image Courtesy: Ken Catania
Scientific Name: Condylura cristata
Notable Features: A star-shaped nose, large paws
The star-nosed mole is a small-sized mole species, about the same size as a hamster, found in wetlands of the eastern United States and Canada. Like other mole species, star-nosed moles have a cylindrical body, nearly invisible eyes and ears, short limbs, and relatively large paws.
As the name suggests, the species have a peculiar star-shaped nose. The star-nose mole perhaps has the most bizarre nose in the animal kingdom.
About one centimeter across, their nose is made up of 22 appendages or protruding tentacles carrying thousands of tiny sensory receptors known as Eimer’s organs. These receptors allow the animal to detect prey from their smell even underwater.
It also makes them an efficient hunter. According to a study published in 2005, star-nosed moles are extremely good at hunting small animals. It takes an average of 227 milliseconds for an individual to identify whether it’s edible or not and eating it. The shortest recorded time is 120 milliseconds.
2. Naked Mole-Rat
A naked mole-rat | Image Courtesy: Roman Klementschitz
Scientific Name: Heterocephalus glaber
Notable Features: Without topmost skin and body hair, a pair of large frontal teeth
The naked mole-rat, also known as sand puppy, is a rodent species native to East Africa, including the island of Madagascar. An adult naked-mole rat is about 10 cm long and weighs no more than 35 grams. However, queens (breeding females) weigh over 50 grams.
As the name suggests, they lack an insulating layer of skin and have little body hair. Their large, protruding teeth, though important for their survival, adds to their unattractiveness. Moreover, they have thin and relatively short legs (though it does not affect their mobility) and small eyes.
Their appearance aside, naked mole-rates are quite interesting creatures. They have significantly low metabolic and respiration rates, allowing them to survive in locations where oxygen supply is limited, such as deep tunnels.
The naked mole-rates can live comfortably in an atmosphere with high levels of carbon dioxide and are able to survive more than 18 minutes in an atmosphere with no oxygen.
The naked mole-rat is also remarkable for its long lifespan compared to other rodents of similar size, insensitivity to pain, and cancer resistance. Their ability to repel cancerous cells is often linked to their natural habitat, where atmospheric oxygen usually remains below 10 percent.
The world’s ugliest animal: Blobfish
Scientific Name: Psychrolutes marcidus
Notable Features: Droopy appearance due to lack of skull and muscle
In a survey carried out by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, blobfish was voted as the world’s ugliest animal. Blobfish, also known as smooth-head blobfish, is a deepwater fish that are found off the coast of Australia below the photic zone of seas where sunlight cannot reach.
Blobfish spend most of their life between 600 to 1200 meters below the ocean surface, where the pressure can reach up to 120 times higher than near the surface. At this level, blobfish are just like any other fish in appearance.
However, up here, on the earth’s surface, they become a saggy and droopy jelly-like creature. This is due to their relative lack of muscles and skeleton.
In greater depths, where swim bladders (that allow bony fishes to maintain buoyancy) would collapse under immense pressure, marine species like blobfish depends on their jelly-like body to sustain. When a blobfish is bought to the surface, they suffer from decompression and loses their structural integrity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the Ugliest Extinct Animal?
The dodo, known as Raphus cucullatus, was a flightless bird species that were native to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Researchers believe that the species went extinct sometime in the latter half of the 17th century.
According to historical illustrations and descriptions, the dodos had a bald head, a hook-tipped beak of bright green or yellowish color, and a round body. The animal qualifies as one of the ugliest extinct animals.
Which is the Ugliest Dog?
Every year, the city of Petaluma in California hosts the “World’s ugliest dogs” competition to encourage dogs adoption. In 2019, this title was awarded to Scamp the Tramp, mix breed dog with a mostly hairless body and thick legs.