Your help needed: What are the World’s Best Mammals?

Hello.  I am just back from a fabulous trip to Sierra Leone, where the quality of the mammals and the company of my companions (thanks Charles, Phil and Ash) made up for some challenging humidity, very dense forest and eating rice and peanut soup 3 times a day for the entire trip.

We had a lot of time to sit, chat and think while we were waiting for the wildlife and got to talking about the world’s best mammals. Don Roberson wrote a page on this a few years back and I would love to get other people’s opinions and revise my own too. It would also be great to hear from some of the members of this community who don’t post so much. Everyone will have an opinion on this I think,

So what do you think are the ten best mammals in the world to see in the wild?

I will tally up the final scores in a couple of weeks and then let’s talk about people’s currently most wanted species.




  • jo dale

    Hmmm that is very subjective!

    Tiger would be my number 1. Other big cats also high on my list. Wolf, African wild dog, some of the great whales (humpback and blue for instance) I guess the great apes would be high on some peoples’ lists (I personally prefer lemurs) , giant panda, polar bear. How do you choose.

    • Jon Hall

      Yes, totally subjective of course! But I also suspect that there will be a considerable degree of overlap. For me I think species rank high because of their weirdness, rarity, beauty, coolness and if being prefixed with Giant helps too!

  • Martin Royle

    10 best mammals to see, that’s very hard. I have included my 10 best purely on how spectacular they are as animals, but then another 10 based on the epicness of seeing these in the wild. So here goes, in no particular order.

    General Best:

    1- tiger
    2- blue whale
    3- giant panda
    4- orca
    5- leopard seal
    6- polar bear
    7- African elephant
    8- mountain gorilla
    9- okapi
    10- snow leopard

    Now the super 10, if there is someone alive today who has seen all of these in the wild then we (as the mammal watching community) should knight them and forge a medal or something.

    1- okapi
    2- Javan rhino
    3- Sumatran rhino
    4- either clouded leopard
    5- any mesoplodon beaked whale
    6- any long-beaked echidna
    7- Pygmy hippo
    8- wild Bactrian camel
    9- hainan crested gibbon
    10- Amazonian manatee

    You could probably also have a top 10 dedicated to rodents and or bats, I have just stuck to the bigger stuff

  • tomeslice

    When we were in India, before having seen the snow leopard, you and I talked about a formula of Animal Coolness over lunch, and when I came back I actually tried to make an algorithm based on factors like size, rarity, elusiveness, colorfull-ness, weirdness, baddassness, etc. but it’s too complicated. Lol.
    Another factor that makes an animal cooler to YOU, is the fact that you haven’t seen it yet. Like, how cool is an Okapi??? We’ve both long forgotten how fucking esctatic we were when we each saw our first jaguar (thankfully Luc reminded me when I met up with him in Cameroon, because he happened to be there when that happened back in 2009 🙂 ) But then again, I was way more excited about the gorillas, even though I knew I would see them, than I was about the palm civets and the pottos…

    So a “top 10” list is never an objective list, and it’s very dynamic. Even Don Robertson’s list has changed a few times over the years since I first found it back in like 2005-2006ish.. So I’d have to say that probably the top mammals would be the Great Apes, Big predators (big cats, bears, wolverine, wild dogs etc.), and the weirdos (rhinos, anteaters, pangolins, echidna, platypus, and some of the whales)

    But with that long and unnecessary introduction, here’s my personal, biased list:

    1. Giant Panda
    2. Tiger
    3. any Gorilla
    4. Snow Leopard
    5. Sumatran Rhino
    6. Jaguar & Puma (tie)
    7. Okapi
    8. Bonobo
    9. Orangutan and Chimpanzee (tie)
    10. Giant Pangolin

    11. Polar Bear
    12. either Clouded Leopard
    13. Giant Anteater
    14. Andean bear / Sun bear (tie)
    15. Blue whale
    16. Aardvark + any Echidna (tie)
    17. Aardwolf
    18. Platypus
    19. Any of the rare, nicely-patterned small cats
    20. Mandrill

  • mikehoit

    That’s a tricky one! I could probably fill a top ten of cetaceans, another of primates and another of carnivores, and then there are the weird ones… and it’s easy to take some ‘easier’ stuff for granted (I bet not many people would say Giraffe, but they are brilliantly bizarre!). I’m going to use the criteria of ‘Not commonly seen from a vehicle in a well-visited national park/by a road’ to whittle mine down, if that isn’t cheating too much.
    Giant Panda
    Bactrian Camel
    Javan Rhino
    African Golden Cat
    Arnoux’s Beaked Whale
    Long-beaked Echidna

    (may well have to come back and edit this 🙂

  • Lennart

    Alright without looking at any of the other comments these would be the mammals I definitely would want to see in my life:

    1. Giant Panda
    2. Okapi
    3. Tiger
    4. Lion
    5. Cheetah
    6. (melanistic) Jaguar
    7. Platypus
    8. Red panda
    9. Mountain gorilla
    10. Bornean bay cat

    Lion and cheetah are of course pretty easy, but still very cool mammals.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Wow, people here really love cats!
    Here are my two versions of the list. Species I’ve seen are marked with +

    List 1. Coolness irrespective of finding difficulty:
    1. Blue whale (only underwater views count);
    2. Any elephant +;
    3. Any Hominidae ape +;
    4. Any Panthera cat +;
    5. Star-nosed mole +;
    6. Bumblebee bat;
    7. Aardwark +;
    8. Aye-aye +;
    9. Naked molerat +;
    10. Any giraffe +.

    List 2. Coolness combined with difficulty (I excluded species that might be extinct):
    1. Blue whale (only underwater views count);
    2. Any marsupial mole;
    3. Saola (if it goes extinct, substitute with okapi);
    4. Any golden cat (there are 3, not all closely related) +;
    5. Any otter shrew or otter tenrec +;
    6. Woolly flying squirrel +;
    7. Pygmy right whale +;
    8. Ross’s seal;
    9. Any Idiurus;
    10. Sumatran rhino +.

  • Morgan

    I tend to value weirdness and uniqueness (along with rarity), a bit more than overall spectacle. So while I greatly enjoyed seeing my first Blue Whales, ultimately its just a really big rorqual and not all that different in appearance from many other members of that family. I would be far far more stoked to see a Pygmy Right Whale, which is not only really hard to see in the wild, but also unique and the last of a very ancient lineage of whales.

    So here is my list. Not going to rank them as the ranks are kind of arbitrary anyway and would vary day by day. Also I can’t narrow it to ten, so here are 20

    Pangolin (any)
    Red Panda
    Babirusa (any)
    Pygmy Right Whale
    Leopard Seal
    Pudu (any)
    Aye Aye
    Pygmy Hippo
    Solenodon (any)
    Malaysian Tapir
    Tasmanian Devil
    African Wild Dog

  • phil telfer

    Very hard to choose but these 10 for me in no order:

    1. Giant Panda
    2. Clouded Leopard
    3. Tiger
    4. Javan Rhino
    5. Blue Whale
    6. Fossa
    7. Wolverine
    8. Lynx, any.
    9. Hunting Dog
    10. Giant Armadillo

    Have seen all these except the Rhino which we heard only in Ujung Kulon. Five more that were difficult to leave out are, Red Panda, Polar Bear, Any Pangolin, Giant Anteater and Wolf. Maybe would have included the Pygmy Hippo had i not missed it by only 45 minutes on the recent Sierra Leone trip. Guess i’ll get over it!

  • Shari

    My list would be:
    South American Maned wolf
    Giant Otter
    South African Wild Dog

  • Cheryl Antonucci

    Instead of listing my ten best mammals, I decided to list my ten current most wanted. I tend to get easily distracted however when I see trips come up for species I had not put much previous thought into.

    1. Mandrill (to be really picky I would like him to be a mature male)
    2. Giant Panda
    3. Yellow – tailed Woolly Monkey
    4. Snub nosed Monkey (any)
    5. Bonobo
    6. Sun Bear
    7. Lion-tailed Macaque
    8. Leopard Seal (I was so close this past November! I was standing on the beach on Brown Bluff in Antarctica photographing a Crabeater Seal, while on the opposite side of the beach a Leopard Seal briefly swam around the landing site 🙁 )
    9. Tasmanian Devil
    10. Superagui (black-faced) Lion Tamarin

    • Jon Hall

      Cheryl, I have a good contact now for the Superagui Tamarin … sounds like it is a little complicated to get to the island but he can help arrange a visit

      • Cheryl antonucci

        Nice! The most beautiful tamarin of all! I guess that means you have not seen one ?

        • Jon Hall

          No I haven’t seen them. I was pretty keen to try for it after the Amazon trip but it is just a bit too complicated to do in the time I had available. I now know a really great guy who set up an NGO on the island, and built a school there among other things, so he knows the place very well, the people and the monkeys (funnily enough he also knew ). It sounds fascinating culturally as well. Definitely one to visit in the next year or two I reckon.

  • Andy Holman

    My list is a combination of most wanted and interestingmammals I have seen that I never thought I would have the opportunity due to see:

    1. Falanouc
    2. Silky anteater
    3. Blue Whale
    4. Muriqui
    5. Golden cat
    6. Servaline genet
    7. Narwhal
    8.African Manatee
    10 Numbat

  • Jon Hall

    This is great – keep them coming! Interesting to see how much overlap there is and a few species cropping up that surprise me. It is very true for me – as Tomer said – that once I have seen something it loses its mystique a little so I am trying to cast my mind back 20 years to think about those species that would get me so hot under the collar back then. I think my list – which is very different to my currently most wanted list – is

    Giant Panda
    Snow Leopard
    Killer Whale
    Polar Bear
    Giant Anteater
    Giant Pangolin
    Either Gorilla

    But there are so many more with Narhwal, Giant Armadillo, Aye Aye, Ghost Bat, either Desman, Solenodon, Pygmy Hippo and Star-nosed Mole among the very close runners up.

  • Eran Tomer

    Hello all,

    First – `Tomeslice’ – over several years I have developed a scale to rank the “desirability” of bird species regardless of “listing value” (i.e. regardless of whether one has seen the species previously). It is necessarily subjective because the metrics are not comparable. Meaning, one cannot compare / equate things like various physical characteristics, rarity, conservation statuses and taxonomic uniqueness directly. And one’s personal preferences are always the bottom line. Still, it is highly systematic and works well. It can probably be adapted for other taxa. Please let me know if you’d like details.

    Now for the mammals; here are species / groups that I regard as particularly desirable. Quite a list, apologetically, and I make no attempt to rank them as “best” or “top choices” since my interests span many taxa (hence I cannot pick just 10). Hopefully these will stimulate interest and discussion. Biases are evident in favor of species that are morphologically unique, little known, highly endangered or irresistibly cute. In no particular order:

    * Perissodactyls – Grevy’s Zebra, Javan Rhinoceros, African Wild Ass. Closely behind – Mountain Zebra, Kiang, Onager, Przewalski’s Horse, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Malayan Tapir. Runner-ups: Baird’s, Mountain and Kabomani Tapirs, and any other rhino.

    * Giraffids – Okapi and Giraffe (one of the world’s most incredible animals, though frequently underrated).

    * Unique artyodactyls – wild Bactrian Camel, Pygmy Hippopotamus. Runner-ups: Babirusa, Red River Pig, Guanaco, Vicuna.

    * Typical artyodactyls / ungulates – Jentink’s and Zebra Duikers, Bongo, Nile Lechwe, Sable Antelope (magnificent creature, esp. Giant H. n. variani), Saola, Addax (amazing animal), White Oryx (quasi-legendary), Tibetan Antelope, Wisent. Closely behind: Hirola, Dama Gazelle, Scimitar-horned Oryx, Markhor, Walia Ibex. Runner-ups: Bontebok, Eland, Greater Kudu, Rowan Antelope, any Tragulid (Chevrotain / Mouse Deer), Blackbuck, Nilgai, Saiga, Royal Antelope, either Anoa, Tamaraw, Gaur, Wild Yak, Takin, Kouprey, American Bison, Chamois, Mountain Goat, Muskox, Pronghorn, Nubian Ibex, Mouflon, Bharal, any Tahr and Serow. (In short, glorified cows, sheep and goats).

    A plug for 10 unique, restricted-range and / or threatened gazelles: Cuvier’s, Dorcas, Mountain, Przewalski’s, Slender-horned, Speke’s, Tibetan, Goitered, Arabian and Soemmerring’s.

    * Cetaceans – Blue Whale, Bowhead Whale, Pygmy Right Whale, Narwhal, Strap-toothed Beaked Whale (arguably the most impressive mesoplodont), Franciscana, Spectacled Porpoise, Vaquita (if extant). Closely behind – North Atlantic and Pacific Right Whales, Omura’s Whale, Sperm Whale, Pygmy and Dward Sperm Whales, Baird’s or Arnoux’s Beaked Whale, Northern / Southern Bottlenose Whales, any mesoplodon or relative (e.g Tasman Beaked Whale), Melon-headed Whale, Fraser’s Dolphin, Chilean Dolphin, Commerson’s Dolphin, Heaviside’s Dolphin, Hourglass Dolphin, Peale’s Dolphin, Southern Right Whale Dolphin, Clymene Dolphin, Spinner Dolphin, White-beaked Dolphin, Atlantic White-sided Dolphin, Burmeister’s Porpoise, Ganges River Dolphin, Boto.

    * Both Colugos / Flying Lemurs.

    * Russian and Pyrenean Desmans.

    * Cuban and Hispaniolan Solenodons.

    * Giant Anteater, Giant Armadillo, Pink Fairy Armadillo. Close behind – Silky Anteater, both Tamanduas, any armadillo.

    * Aardvark.

    * Any elephant species.

    * Any Golden Mole (Chrysochloridae).

    * Any hedgehog but European (amazing group).

    * Lagomorphs – difficult picks among so many adorable furballs with funny ears to boot, but Ili Pika (Ochotona iliensis) stands out – strikingly lovable, range-restricted and endangered. I know I am missing some species here.

    * Marsupials – Greater Bilby, Numbat, Thylacine (may yet persist). Closely behind – Leadbeater’s Possum, Greater Glider, Koala, any Tree Kangaroo. Then, again difficult picks as I am a total sucker for cute little animals. Too many choices among marsupials – Feathertail Glider, any Dunnart, some other possums, planigales… The list goes on. Australia / Australasia is simply one big cute-animal factory.

    * Platypus and any Long-beaked Echidna.

    * Giant, Sunda, Chinese and Philippine Pangolins. Closely behind – any other pangolin.

    * Pinnipeds – Walrus (incredible beast), Mediterranean Monk Seal, Ribbon Seal. Closely behind – Harp Seal, Hawaiian Monk Seal, Baikal Seal, Caspian Seal, Southern Elephant Seal.

    * Primates – will all due respect, I don’t belong to the ape / monkey fan club. Too anthropomorphic. Yet several monkeys do make the cut, notably Tamarins and Mandrill. Other primates are another story, being so lovable: any Galago, any Tarsier and several lemurs – especially the charming little ones (e.g. mouse lemurs) and the strikingly-pigmented big ones.

    * Any Tenrec.

    * Any Treeshrew.

    * Any Elephant-shrew.

    * Any Otter-shrew (potamogalinae).

    * Any Gymnure.

    * Water Opossum.

    * Monito del Monte.

    * Rodents – a huge group of irresistible critters but several deserve special mention. Both beavers, Capybara, Mara, Hutias, Pacas, and several flying squirrels (esp. genus Petaurista, giant fliers) for their morphological uniqeness. For attractiveness – endless list but I’ll mention Long-eared Jerboa, Least Chipmunk, Springhares, Harvest Mouse (Micromys minutus – Little Tiny-mouse – can’t go wrong with a name like that), both Chinchillas, Eurasian Red Squirrel, quite a few Dormice, any Vizcacha.

    * West African Manatee, Amazonian Manatee, Dugong.

    * Carnivores – this group includes one of the top contenders for the title, “World’s cutest animal” – the Fennec Fox. Elusive and little studied in the wild, which makes it even more attractive. This wee-tiny beastie is in a class entirely of its own. Bat-eared Fox, comic and charming, is a close second (again, can’t go wrong with such a name).

    Three carnivore groups are particularly appealing but little studied, save for a few species: viverrids, euplerids (fossa, falanouc, Malagasy mongooses) and herpestids (mongooses / mongeese). Many species therein rank high on the `wanted’ list. The Linsangs are especially desirable and interesting.

    Also appealing are the mid-size felines (e.g. Lynx, Caracal, Serval) and the smaller, lesser-known species (e.g. African Golden Cat, Jaguarundi, Sand Cat, Pallas’ Cat, Bay Cat, numerous others). Unlike most folks, I do not strongly admire the larger felids.

    Other highly-desirable beasts include Aardwolf, Blanford’s Fox, Bush Dog, Maned Wolf, Ethiopian Wolf (as in Canis simensis), Red Panda, Giant Panda, Gray Wolf (or whatever taxonomy has made of it now), Black-footed Ferret, Fisher, both Stink Badgers, Olinguito, Kinkajou, Ringtail, Cacomistle, Sea Otter and Marine Otter.
    That’s it, and I know I am forgetting some things (e.g. certain shrews, otters and mustelids). Still only a fraction of all mammalian species. What an incredible class of animals.

    Thank you for the thread, all.

    Best regards,

    – Eran Tomer
    Atlanta, Georgia, USA

    • Jon Hall

      Hi Eran
      I would be interested to see your formula for calculating a species desirability (as it were!). Please post it if you can cheers

      • tomeslice

        @Eran Tomer – Also can you please legally change your name? We can’t have two people with the name Tomer in the community.. ;-P

        I’m kidding.
        But yeah, that would be great to see the formula. Good to see another fellow Israeli mammal watcher. Too bad you live in Georgia or I’d recruit you to come search for caracals with me.

        • Eran Tomer

          Hi Tomer and John,

          Thank you much for the interest, I will post the ranking scale (not truly a formula) shortly as a separate thread. Apologies for the delay. It does need to be modified from birds to mammals and I must write directions for its use.

          Incidentally, I am an American, my name notwithstanding. Though an Israeli connection does exist.

          Thanks again, best regards,

          – Eran Tomer, Atlanta

  • Tao Pan

    I guess I’m the member on the forum who never posts…

    I would say
    1. snow leopard
    2. giant panda
    3. tiger
    4. any anteater
    5. either gorilla
    6. orangutan
    7. polar bear
    8. wolf
    9. any tapir
    10. sloth bear

    All big land-living mammals. I guess encountering them in the wild would be surreal.

  • Michael Kessler

    Off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

    Any gorilla
    Any gibbon singing in the morning mist
    Humpback Whale breaching and doing its thing
    Naked Mole Rat
    Pink Fairy Armadillo
    Giant Panda

    (but this of course left out many other great mammals, most of them listed above…)

    • Jon Hall

      Pink Fairy Armadillos are a really great one for sure! I have no idea how to go about looking for them though … definitely one to try for one day

  • John Wright

    Here’s my top 10 in no particular order.
    1. Red Fox
    2. Wolf
    3. Hunting Dog
    4. Snow Leopard
    5. African Elephant
    6. Blue Whale
    7. Tiger
    8. Pine Marten
    9. Eurasian Otter
    10. Mountain Gorilla

  • Antee

    Well, as a direct answer to a difficult question, the best mammal would be any Rodent. At least they are the most successfull group om mammals. Managed to survive almost everywhere and often in good numbers.

    Unfortunately Homo Sapiens are to stupid and self destructive to top the list… otherwise we had good conditions but I think our big brain have made us in the end, rather self destructive.

    My personal favourites is as follows. This is a mix of most sought after and already seen creatures. A subspecies also take place.
    Without ranking order.

    1. Snowleopard – The ghost of the mountain, always mythical, beautiful and on top of that, powerful.

    2. Gobi Bear – This ancient line of the Brown bear soon will end. Very sought after because the environment it lives in and the fact that only around 30 exists.

    3. Okapi – Beautiful weird looking mammal with such a small living environment.

    4. Blue whale – The biggest mammal who have ever roam the earth. Need I say more?

    5. Narwhal – Unicorn of the sea. Also mythical and exciting.

    6. Polar Bear – The hard environment it lives in, the constant struggling for surviving. Dangerous and attractive at the same time.

    7. Orangutang – Maybe it is the proximity to humans. Just the fact that they take care of their young for about 7-8 years is worth a place on the list.

    8. Clouded Leopard – The most elusive of the big cats. It will always be in my mind…

    9. African wild dog – The hunts, the social network in a pack, the care of their young. They are true survivers.

    10. Platypus – A mammal who lay eggs and are venomous suggests that it has chosen a different path in the evolution. Good or bad? I have no idea but a place on this list is at least something 🙂 Very weird looking as well.

  • Samuel

    Hi everyone
    Very difficult list to draw and for sure highly subjective.
    On my side, I’d like to propose my ten best mammals in 2 lists: those I had the chance to see and those I would dream to see:
    List 1: 10 best mammals I will remember for a long time
    1 Snow leopard
    2 Humpback whale (my best snorkeling/diving experience so far)
    3 Polar bear
    4 Orang-utans
    5 Florida manatees
    6 Hirola
    7 Maned Wolf
    8 Platypus
    9 Leopard seal
    10 Aardwolf
    List 2: 10 best mammals I dream to see
    1 Giant panda (although I fear there is very little chance I could see one one day)
    2 Any gorillas
    3 Okapi
    4 Narwhal
    5 Bongos
    6 Pallas cat
    7 Bonobo
    8 Aye-aye
    9 Tiger
    10 Wild Bactrian camel

  • vmoser

    My top 10 at the moment. For me, spectacularity is the most important.

    1. Snow leopard
    2. Blue Whale
    3. Any great ape
    4. Any Lynx
    5. Aardvark
    6. Platypus
    7. Ribbon Seal (male)
    8. Narwal
    9. Muskox
    10. Aye-aye

  • Charles Foley

    Here’s my list. Quite different to my top 10 most wanted but all pretty iconic species. Of course if I’d never been to Africa I might have African elephant and lion on that list too.

    Giant pangolin
    Blue whale
    Arabian oryx
    Snow leopard
    Timber wolf
    Polar bear

  • Maurice Tijm

    Wow this is hard! My top ten is based on beauty and my love for stocky animals with great coat patterns.
    1. Red Panda
    2. Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby
    3. Manatees and Dugong
    4. Killer Whale
    5. Either of the Hairy-nosed Wombat
    6. Bongo
    7. Ring-tailed Mongoose
    8. Orang Utan
    9. Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo
    10. Marbled Cat

  • mattinidaho

    A very difficult task. It’s also interesting (and sometimes funny) to see how others complete the assignment. I’d say my own list is a very unscientific compilation based entirely on personal interest. And also reflects my lifelong obsession with ungulates.

    1. Saola
    2. Snow leopard
    3. African wild dog
    4. Jaguar
    5. Wolverine
    6. Bongo
    7. Any tapir
    8. Tasmanian devil
    9. Musk ox
    10. Okapi

    I keep revising this list and ask me tomorrow and several of these could change. I would also note that I see mule deer most days of the week, but I can honestly say I still have not lost my fascination with observing them.

  • geomalia

    My list puts a premium on difficulty and distinctiveness. I’ve put it together without looking at the other comments here. An (x) means I’ve seen it – lots of work to do!

    1. Okapi
    2. Sumatran Rhino
    3. any Long-beaked Echidna
    4. Saola
    5. Panda
    6. either Asian Linsang
    7. Snow Leopard (close views)
    8. Bush Dog
    9. Any Pangolin (x)
    10. Thylacine*

    Honrable mention:
    Aye-aye (a truly wild one)
    Sperm Whale (under the water)

    * Put on the list because of the recent news stories. I’ve asked a couple ecologists who’ve lived in Australia whether it is remotely plausible that it persists in Cape York. One said yes, the other no. Both are generally skeptical of anything like this.

    For fun, other taxa:

    Birds (less weighted by rarity than mammals):
    1. Crested Argus
    2. Kakapo
    3. Congo Peacock
    4. Any Cassowary
    5. Bornean Bristlehead
    6. Kagu
    7. Any Picathartes (x)
    8. Shoebill
    9. Wilson’s BOP
    10. Any Neomorphus Ground-cuckoo (x)

    Honorable mention:
    Congo Bay Owl
    Bengal Florican (displaying) (x)
    Any Tragopan (x)
    Philippine Eagle (close views)
    Harpy Eagle (hunting)
    Tooth-billed Pigeon

    Herps (with the proviso that my knowledge is very limited):
    1. Tuatara
    2. any Caecelian
    3. Bornean Earless Monitor
    4. Mata-mata
    5. Either Giant Salamander
    6. Purple Frog
    7. Gaboon Viper
    8. Wallace’s Flying Frog
    9. Emerald Tree Boa
    10. Fiji Banded Iguana

    • Jon Hall

      Ouch.. your top 10 mammals might be the hardest to see of anyone’s list Ben. You are not making life easy for yourself!

  • Charles Foley

    Here’s my daughter Ellesmere’s list:

    Timber wolf
    Pygmy hippo
    Dwarf mongoose
    Any flying squirrel
    Red panda
    Sea otter
    Any elephant shrew

  • Malcolm Turner

    Hi My top ten most interesting and outrageous mammals – not based of difficulty of seeing. (not in order)
    1 Elephant
    2 Giraffe
    3 Lion
    4 Panda
    5 Platypus
    6 Tasmanian Devil
    7 Ghost Bat
    8 Blue Whale
    9 Dugong
    10 Gorilla
    A second list also includes excitement of seeing or intensity of dreaming of seeing (a couple of double-ups)
    1 Tiger
    2 Panda
    3 Bonobo
    4 Walrus
    5 Polar Bear
    6 Narwhal
    7 Walrus
    8 Blue Whale
    9 Marsupial Mole
    10 Okapi

  • mac hunter

    I first compiled my list in 1981 while stuck in a hut by a 3-day storm. It was devised to provide some taxonomic diversity (at the family level; note the Carnivora order dominates) but particularly geographic and ecosystem diversity that would lead to wide travel. It is biased by the fact that I had been to East Africa at that time and thus giraffes, elephants, hippos, etc were not included. I would call this an intermediate level list. That is to say an introductory list would have polar bear, orca, and African elephant, while a connoisseur ‘s list would have seriously challenging species such as Sumatran rhino, bay cat, saola, pygmy right whale, and marsupial mole.

    Maned wolf
    Mountain gorilla
    Giant panda
    Snow leopard
    Aye aye
    Giant otter
    Leopard seal

    • Jon Hall

      I was chatting with Charles about listing and came to the conclusion that one of the reasons I like to keep a list is that it charts how much of the planet’s ecosystems I have visited.. so I agree that your point on geographic (along with taxonomic) diversity is an important one for me too Mac.

  • Jurek


    star-nosed mole
    any tarsier
    all great apes
    giant pangolin
    all big cats
    giant panda
    red panda
    polar bear
    marbled cat
    ribbon seal
    blue whale

    I think the concept of ‘best mammal’ is somewhat undefinable, because many best mammals are easy to see in on the bought tour and therefore not really appreciated. Lions, elephants and giraffe for example. Had they been rare, they would be surely appreciated. When I saw an Iberian Lynx, it required some effort, fitness, sharp eyes, persistence, luck. There was an element of my own skill. But seeing mountain gorillas requires simply buying a tour. Even elderly grandmothers are taken to a gorilla group which is close by and on level ground. Actually it is impossible to find a mountain gorilla not on a bought tour. The difference is like between climbing a mountain on your own and being taken for a plane trip over the top of this mountain.

    If rarity would matter, however, then literally tens of small mammals are known only from one specimen.

    Perhaps a claim to fame would be to discover a new species of mammal yourself. But this may not be so difficult, if one searches less visited places e.g. in South America.

  • geomalia

    I’m also surprised that many rank Javan Rhino above Sumatran Rhino, given that the latter is far more distinctive. Could someone explain why?

    Also surprising that no one has mentioned Kha-nyou.

    • mikehoit

      Personally, I went for Javan as I reckoned Sumatran wasn’t ever likely to be possible. I normally think there must be site for everything (even if we don’t know about one yet…) but depressingly I think that little two-horned rhino might be exception.
      I should probably have picked Soala instead, but Kha-nyou is a good shout!

  • phil telfer

    Ben, i went for Javan Rhino because as you know i tried hard to see it and the interest came from seeing a tv prog years ago of someones attempt to film it in Ujung Kulon. So i still really want to set eyes on one. I would also have included Sumatran Rhino and agree about it’s unique appearance but i think i’ll have to give up on that one unless some great new info. comes to light which seems very doubtful.
    The Rock Rat or Kha-Nyou would also be great to see but wouldn’t make a top 10 for me.


    1 – Okapi
    2= Javan & Sumatran Rhinos (inseparable)
    3= Narwhal and Bowhead in the iceflows. Both awesome
    4 Mainland Clouded Leopard
    5 Giant Panda
    6 Jaguar
    7 Tiger
    8 Polar Bear
    9 African Hunting Dog
    10 Bush Dog

  • LD

    General lurker checking in

    Top ten I want to see

    Tibetan blue bear
    Dama gazelle
    Maned wolf
    Bush dog
    Bioko drill
    Asiatic cheetah

    Top ten of those have seen

    African wild dog
    Northwest African cheetah
    Golden snub nosed monkeys
    Lowland bongo
    Pangolin – black bellied
    Western giant eland & Lord Darby
    Giant anteater
    Ethiopian red wolf
    Western lowland gorilla

  • Yeye

    This was a question that I had to think a bit about when I was commuting during the week.
    I am a cat fan so I could put all of the 38 (or if it is 41) on the list but that would be too easy and I also wanted some (?) variety when I am out photographing.

    1.Sunda clouded leopard
    2. Clouded leopard
    3. Pallas’ cat
    4. Bay cat
    5. Lynx
    6. African Wild Dog
    7. Javan rhino
    8. Aye-aye
    9. Bonobo
    10. Puma

    I read your lists and came to the conclusion that I have been blessed because I have photographed many of the mammals like snow leopard, gorilla, rhinos and Giant Otter.

  • Alan D

    I thought about this a bit and here is my list in random order. If you ask me again next week I bet it will change:

    1. Jaguar (First big cat seen in the wild, what a thrill)
    2. Puma/Cougar (Been searching for years…still no luck)
    3. Giant Anteater (What a unique creature)
    4. Tarsier (Just struck out in Borneo, need to go back)
    5. Tapir (Awesome to see this in daylight in the Pantanal)
    6. Grizzly Bear (The animal that got me into wildlife watching. Such an impressive beast)
    7. Aye Aye (Who wouldn’t want to see a real life gremlin)
    8. Lemur (Indri is top of the list)
    9. Cheetah (Seeing a hunt would be great)
    10. Wolf (Hearing them howl is a fantastic experience)


  • tomeslice

    Re: Sumatran vs. Javan rhino –
    Just because it’s “too difficult” doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on the most wanted list in my opinion.. Actually I think of it as quite the opposite 😉

    Also – in Ujung Kulon (which is SUPER high on my list right now) you kind of “know” where to find them, whereas on Sumatra there’s no “concentrated” place with definite rhino activity and a platform you can stay on. But with that said, how many reports do we get from Bukit Barisan Selatan, Gunung Leuser and from Sumatra in General? Not that many.. I think it would take 1 successful trip report from there with a Sumatran Rhino for people to start flocking there and then perhaps we would see that 1 in X trips are successful…? I realize their situation is NOT GOOD to say the least. But I talked with a super nice lady who worked in BBS for a year and she has some great information about all the species there, and also promised to hook me up with a very knowledgable guide wheneve I go.
    She said “I can’t give you any rhino wallow locations. They are so rare and easily disturbed that even we didn’t ever visit wallows. They are a pretty closely guarded secret” which is somewhat reassuring to hear. I mean, just the fact that there are some wallows that are “known” to the park rangers, even if they’re seldom visited.

    Anyway, the conclusion is that I haven’t given up on this species yet. Also if the infrastructure in Way Kambas would improve in the form of quiter and newer boats and quieter land vehicles, that place could potentially be another place with somewhat decent chances to see them, but at the moment we were mostly scarrying away animals 10s of meters before we could see them, with a few notable exceptions. Also we did much better on foot, if I recall correctly.

    Cheers, and great lists.. reminding me how much I HAVEN’T seen yet 🙂

  • Angela Preston

    Hello, new on here but I’ve typed up plenty of trip reports for my dad Phil! Like the idea of choosing a Top Ten although it’s quite hard to do, I think this is mine in no particular order;

    Killer Whale
    Red Fox
    Hunting Dog

    Lot’s of cats but I think for me they’re the most exciting animals to see. Glad someone else put Red Fox, I know they’re common and easy to see but I was desperate to see one when I was little and I’ve never gotten bored of seeing them! Was hard to leave out Blue Whale, Polar Bear and Orangutan.

    • Jon Hall

      Thanks Angela. Both for the list and for Phil’s trip reports. I understand typing isn’t his strong point 🙂 good point on the Red Fox. I remember feeling the same about seeing a Mole when I was growing up.

  • Stephen Shelley

    Hello – another lurker weighing in. I have based my top ten on a mixture of taxonomy and habitat diversity – trying to choose one mammal from a specific habitat or region. The list is in no particular order:

    – African crested rat
    – Aquatic genet
    – Black rhinoceros (specifically the Damaraland desert-adapted rhinos)
    – Blue whale
    – Desman (either species)
    – Golden-mantled tree kangaroo
    – Indochinese tiger
    – Indri
    – Jentink’s duiker
    – Red uakari monkey

  • s.ollers

    A little late but here we go

    In random order
    1. Clouded Leopard (either)
    2. African Wild Dog
    3. Wolf
    4. Giant Armadillo
    5. Giant Pangolin
    6. Wolverine
    7. Bongo
    8. Mandrill
    9. Aardvark
    10. Striped Hyena

    Bubbling under:
    Pretty much all other cats, hyenas, “dogs” and big mustelidae
    Any Echidna sp.
    Malaysian Tapir
    Any Takin sp.
    Saiga sp.
    Proboscis Monkey
    Tasmanian Devil
    Snub-nosed Monkey sp.
    Red-shanked Douc
    Badger bat
    Star-nosed Mole
    Wild yak



  • Ash Telfer

    Hi, hard to narrow it down to 10, but here’s my attempt:
    1. Leopard
    2. African Hunting Dog
    3. Tiger
    4. Clouded Leopard
    5. Blue Whale
    6. Killer Whale
    7. Pine Marten
    8. Wolverine
    9. Spotted Hyena (underrated animals in my opinion)
    10. Stoat

    I put stoats on there as they are probably my favourite things to see at home in the UK and are never easy to get a good look at. Spotted hyenas maybe an odd one, but again I really love seeing, and especially hearing, them. Polar bear, Eurasian badger, Lion, Spotted Quoll and several others would be high on the list too.


  • Robert Foster

    Of course it is hard to come up with an objective list of “best” mammals, or even which criteria to use to determine what species might quality. Rarity, oddity, impressive looks or behaviour, evolutionary history / taxonomic “uniqueness” (which can be hard given there are a couple of doze families with only one extant species, not to mention hundreds of monotypic genera)?

    I guess for me, “best” could be considered what species stirred my imagination as a youngster poring over books and daydreaming about seeing them one day..

    Spread across groups, geography, and habitats my top ten might include (at least today’s list) in no particular order:

    Giant Pangolin
    Malayan Tapir
    Marsupial Mole (either spp.)
    Mongolian Three-toed Jerboa
    Pygmy Tarsier
    Snow Leopard


  • Ignacio Yúfera

    I just returned from a moderately successful trip to see Red Panda in India/Nepal, so my #1 spot is a little biased. The list also leans slightly toward the Neotropics since my recent move to Panama; the rest of the spots are my currently most-wanted/dreamed:

    1. Red Panda
    2. African Golden Cat
    3. Silky Anteater
    4. Malayan Tapir
    5. Emperor Tamarin
    6. Mandrill
    7. Clouded Leopard
    8. Water Opossum
    9. Jaguarundi
    10. Tiger (missed it miserably on a last-minute attempt a few days ago)

  • MammalWatchAus

    My top ten includes many of the mammals I have always wanted to see in there natural habitat. Some of them are rare (some believed extinct), others are just plain unusual. Some are personal favorites. Many are from Australia (because I like to focus on the mammals of my home country).

    1. Thylacine (probably still exists somewhere)
    2. Pig-footed Bandicoot (also probably still exists)
    3. Aardvark
    4. Platypus
    5. Aquatic Genet
    6. Either Marsupial Mole
    7. Any Quoll
    8. Ethiopian Wolf
    9. Okapi
    10. Any Hyena

    Some close runner ups include the Aardwolf, Snow Leopard, Giraffe, Tasmanian Devil, Fennec Fox, Binturong, Arctic Fox, any Tree Kangaroo, Ghost Bat, Large Flying-fox, Pygmy Hippo, Ocelot, Kultarr, Maned Wolf, African Wild Dog, Bigfoot (just kidding) and many others.

  • Ian Thompson

    Hi Jon,
    I couldn’t come up with a list of favourite mammals, but I did come up with a list of favourite mammal-watching experiences, based on landscape, state of mind at the time, difficulty of seeing,etc. Here they are, in no particular order.
    1. Blue whale, Bergeronnes, Quebec. Size does matter, and seeing this mountain of flesh rise out of the water 30 metres off shore was stunning.
    2. Giant jumping rat, Kirindy forest, Madagascar. This site has so many fascinating and easy-to-observe species it had to be included – fosa, narrow-striped mongoose, six nocturnal species of lemurs. But there is something especially appealing about a monogamous rodent.
    3. Puma, Teniente Enciso, Paraguay. Got up at 5:00 am to walk down to a waterhole, without even bothering to put on a shirt, and ended up about 3 metres from a puma which crouched down to observe me. For some reason would have felt more comfortable with a shirt on.
    4. Leopard seal, Antarctic peninsula. I never realized how large these are and how reptilian their heads appear. Would have kept me out of the water even if it had been warmer.
    5. Sun bear, Daum valley, Sabah. A group on an earlier night-drive had seen two up a Koompasia tree without realizing how special this was. By the time we got there they were gone. Figured my only chance was to return before dawn to stake out the tree. Walked out the next morning and eventually found a cub up in another tree. He lay down for a nap allowing me time to walk back and get the rest of my family to come out and see him.
    6. Giant river otter, Surama, Guyana. I always enjoy seeing otters and these and sea otters are my favourites of the tribe.
    7. Maned wolf, Emas National Park, Brazil. Walking on a dirt track late in the afternoon one crossed in front of me with a rodent in its mouth. A beautiful animal in a beautiful landscape.
    8. Sitatunga, Saiwa Swamp National Park, Kenya. I convinced my partner to spend the day up in a platform with me to eventually see this guy emerge at dusk. As a test of the relationship it seems to have been a worthy one, as we are still together.
    9. Siamang, Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra. A family crossed in the branches just over my head. Proximity matters.
    10. Chimpanzee, Kibale Forest, Uganda. I was walking back from the village and ducked down a little trail. An adult male chimpanzee jumped into a tree by the side of the path just a few feet off the ground. Two apes, alone, observing each other. Magic.

    Regards, Ian Thompson

  • Gina Sheridan

    2017 has already been an exceptionally good mammal year for me. Most of the mammals that my husband and I have seen this year were lucky finds while we were out birding. However, we did specifically target seeing White-beaked Dolphin and Wolverine.

    While birding in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, we were fortunate enough to have seen a pair of Timber Wolves, three different American Pine Martens (two in one tree), a Mink, and Moose all in one day! Last month, we spent 12 hours in a hide in the snowy Finnish Taiga, and were rewarded with a thrilling WOLVERINE sighting (my most wanted mammal!) After witnessing two different nights of blazing aurora borealis in Icelandic skies, we were further dazzled by 100+ WHITE-BEAKED DOLPHINs on a cruise out of Reykjavik. In Finnmark(arctic), Norway , we throughing enjoyed seeing a STOAT and MOUNTAIN HAREs (all in winter-white pelage), as well as REINDEER, and EURASIAN RED SQUIRREL. In Matsual N.P., Estonia, we had close encounters with EUROPEAN BEAVERs.
    Birdwise this year, we have had the good fortune to have seen Gyrfalcon, Great Gray Owl, N. Hawk Owl, E. Pygmy Owl, Tawny Owl, Ural Owl, Steller’s & King Eiders, Arctic Redpoll, Bullfinches, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Capercaillie, Pine Grosbeak, Hazel & Black Grouse, Rock & Willow Ptarmigan ( in winter white plumage), Baltic & Heuglin’s Gull, White-backed Woodpecker, Brunnich’s Guillemot and many other alcids, and Great Snipe in Europe. In the Northeast US & Ontario Canada this winter, we tallied Ross’s & Slaty-backed Gulls, Snowy Owl, Spruce Grouse, White-winged Crossbill, Lapland Longspur, Bohemian Waxwing, Pink-footed Goose, Ross’s Goose, Tufted Duck, etc. It has been great fun!

    As if I wasn’t pumped up enough with birds and mammals already, I began reading this thread. I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, life list tidbits, successes with life mammal targets, as well as hopes and dreams that many of us share.

    Submitted for your approval, here are my top ten mammal lists.

    My Top 10 list of mammals that I have not seen as yet is:
    1. Tiger – the utlimate feline
    2. Cheetah – speed record holder
    3. Aardvark – has such an unusual appeal
    4. Narwhal – unicorn of the sea
    5. Marbled Polecat – This critter is vastly underrated.
    6. Giant Panda – an oriental icon
    7. Clouded Leopard – another beautiful cat with an alluring name
    8. pangolin (any)
    9. Duck-billed Platypus (such an impossible creature!)
    10. Giant Anteater- whats not to love about this species?

    My top 10 list of mammals that I have seen are:
    1. Wolverine (has had an almost mythical allure to me)
    2. Fisher (this fine creature was seen on a fine autumn morning in the Selkirk Mts. of extreme NE Washington state)
    3. Canada Lynx (During a rather heavy snowfall, we saw one of these elusive cats cross a high elevation road in Crater Lake N.P., OR., Just a little earlier, we had seen a Pine Marten playing in the snow).
    4. Timber Wolf seen hunting along a forest track in Sax-Zim Bog, MN and two more this year in Algonquin Park)
    5. Giant Otter – (I almost fell out of the canoe when this was spotted).
    6. Mountain Tapir – In the Andes of Ecuador, this wonderful creature was grazing in our lodge’s courtyard.
    7. Blue Whale – world’s largest mammal
    8. Black Rhinoceros (seen on my first full day in Africa)
    9. Mountain Gorilla – (The adventure of Rwandan rangers machete hacking a path through the dense vegetation and trying to keep up the gorilla troupe was in itself quite memorable.)
    10. Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew (While birding on the Kenyan coastline, I was the only one of our group who happened to see one these surreal creature cross a forest track).

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