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Top Ten Unusual Animals
A few of the unsung wonders of the animal world
by Holly Hartman
Some have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years, but they may be new to you. Of course, it's hard to choose just ten of the world's bedazzling and bewildering beasts to turn the spotlight on. If you'd like to read more about an unusual animal that didn't make this list—perhaps the oryx, or the aye-aye?—check the encyclopedia.
Bongo
Found in Africa
Bongo
The bongo is known for its graceful, spiraled horns and beautiful striped hide. Timid, well camouflaged, and mostly nocturnal, it is one of Africa's most mysterious animals. The largest of all forest antelopes, bongos measure up to four feet at the shoulder.
Capybara
Found in South America
Capybara
Is it a four-foot-long guinea pig? No, this short-tailed, sleepy-eyed beast is a capybara—the world's largest rodent. Its semi-webbed feet help make it a good swimmer, and it spends much of its time around water or wallowing in mud with other capybaras.
Civet
Found in Africa and Asia
This silky cat-shaped mammal is remarkable for its beautiful spots, raccoon-like face, and unusual scent, which was once used in making perfumes. Civets grow two to three feet long (not including the long tail). They will eat most anything, from meat to fruit.
Echidna
Found in Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania
Echidna
The spiny echidna is one of only two monotremes—egg-laying mammals. It spends most of its time alone, burrowing in the ground and catching insects with its long sticky tongue. Echidnas grow about 18 inches long and have a simple oblong shape.
Jerboa
Found in Africa and Asia
Its long, powerful back legs make this mouse-sized rodent a jumping wonder—it can leap ten feet in a single bound. Fortunately, its long tail helps it balance. A jerboa never drinks, relying only on the moisture found in the bugs and plants that it eats.
Kinkajou
Found in the Americas
With its slim dark body and clever paws, you can see that this mammal is related to our raccoon. The kinkajou's long grasping tail helps it travel around its home in the rainforest trees. Although its diet is varied, its love of honey earned it the nickname "honey-bear."
Kiwi
Found in New Zealand
Kiwi
One look at the rounded brownish body of this flightless bird will tell you where the kiwi fruit got its name. The kiwi bird itself was named for its memorable call. A kiwi weighs from three to nine pounds, depending on the species, and has a long beak with nostrils.
Okapi
Found in Africa
Okapi
The okapi looks like it might be part zebra and part giraffe. In fact, it is related to the giraffe, though it is only about five feet high at the shoulder and has a much shorter neck. A mammal, it has a red-brown body and dazzling white stripes on its legs and bottom.
Pangolin
Found in Africa and Asia
No, it's not an ant-eating dachshund in an aardvark suit. It's a scaly, short-legged mammal that comes out at night to search for bugs. It has no teeth, but its sticky tongue can stretch two feet long. Shy and quiet, a pangolin will curl into a ball when frightened.
Tarsier
Found in Southeast Asia
Oh, those eyes—a tarsier's huge round eyes may be its most stunning feature. Then again, this squirrel-sized primate is also notable for its night vision and its ability to turn its head almost all the way around. It lives entirely in trees; on the ground it can only hop.


Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
On Dec. 19, 1843, Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol."

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