35 National Animals That Represent Their Countries Perfectly
Here are 35 national animals that represent their countries perfectly, whether they were associated with the gods, appeared in folklore or even benefited their country’s economy.
35 National Animals That Symbolize Their Countries Perfectly
A country’s national animal can be real, mythical, thriving, endangered or extinct. They are picked for their bravery, power and historical significance that impacted how the country operates today. And, in many cases, they are also made national symbols to help conserve them for future generations.
Here are 35 national animals that represent their countries perfectly, whether they were associated with the gods, appeared in folklore or even benefited their country’s economy.
National Animal of China: Giant Panda
The giant panda reflects China's ancient history and is a well-loved cultural symbol. Pandas have been a favorite of royals and commoners alike for more than 2,000 years. They are considered “living fossils" or real-life connections to China's rich past.
The giant panda was endangered until 2015 when there were only about 2,000 left in the wild, but efforts by the government to breed and reforest farmland for the panda's main source of food, bamboo, are showing some success, and their status has now been upgraded to vulnerable. They're also unbelievably cute.
National Animal of Canada: North American Beaver
Canada's national animal, the North American beaver, almost didn't make it. During the late 1600s and early 1700s, fur hats were all the rage, and beaver pelts were the main fabric. Before the start of the fur trade, there were 6 million beavers in Canada, but with 100,000 pelts being shipped to Europe annually, beavers were almost extinct by the mid-1800s. Luckily, trends changed, and the beaver population was left to thrive.
Today, they are alive and well all over the country. Because of their impact on the history, economy and development of Canada, they're an important part of the country’s identity.
National Animal of India: Bengal Tiger
Even though the Bengal tiger didn't become the national animal of India until 1972, it has been part of India's cultural identity since 2500 B.C. It was one of many animals worshipped as a companion to the gods.
Immediately after the Bengal tiger was made the national animal, the Indian Wildlife Protection Act was created to ensure the conservation of the species. Today, there are nearly 50 tiger reserves in India.
National Animal of Kenya: Lion
Seeing this majestic national animal while on safari is one of the main reasons tourists flock to Kenya. There are about 20,000 lions in the country that live in its national parks and game reserves, but they are still being lost to human encroachment, despite conservation efforts.
They can be seen on Kenya’s coat of palms as a symbol of bravery and protection.
National Animal of Madagascar: Ring-Tailed Lemur
The ring-tailed lemur can only be found in Madagascar — and only the southern part of the country. Even though they are revered as a national symbol of Madagascar, they are greatly endangered due to the destruction of their habitat.
Conservation groups around the world have taken it upon themselves to create breeding programs to keep the numbers up. They have been successful so far, as the ring-tailed lemurs reproduce regularly in captivity.
National Animal of New Zealand: Kiwi
Despite its strange, hair-like feathers and inability to fly, the Kiwi has strong cultural and symbolic ties to the people of New Zealand. The Maori refer to it as "te manu huna a Tane" (the hidden bird of the forest god Tane).
The kiwi is highly endangered due to attacks from other animals such as stoats (from the weasel family) and dogs. There are only about 68,000 left today — at their peak, there were more than 12 million.
National Animal of Panama: Panamanian Golden Frog
This little frog represents good fortune for Panamanians, but they don't see them on anything more than products, logos or in tourism promotion. They are extinct in the wild due to human encroachment and climate change. However, they live and breed in captivity.
Conservationists are working to increase the population and hopefully rehome the frog in Panama.
National Animal of Romania: Lynx
The cat-like Eurasian lynx is a loner that stays out of sight from humans and other animals and makes its home in Romania's dense forests. The only way to really encounter them is via their footprints.
The Lynx is a proud symbol of Romania and Macedonia. As a result of their endangered status, these countries have decided to work together to give them protected status. So far, this decision seems to be stabilizing their population.
National Animal of Sierra Leone: Western Chimpanzee
Sierra Leonean authorities made the chimpanzee the national animal to protect the species, which is on the decline. In just three generations, they've lost more than 80 percent of their population due to human encroachment and poaching.
The chimp shares almost 99 percent of human’s DNA — these highly intelligent, social animals live in large groups in the wild and are one of the only subspecies that makes spears to hunt.
National Animal of Spain: Bull
If you associate bulls with Spain, you're not alone — they've been a big part of Spanish culture for centuries. The Running of the Bulls dates back to the 16th century as part of the San Fermin Festival in which participants run down Calle Estafeta with the animals in hopes that they don't get gored. But many have been injured and some have even died in the process.
Bullfighting has also been a national sport in Spain for generations, but there have been calls to abolish the practice in recent years due to its cruelty.
National Animal of the United States: American Bison
The American bison has made quite the comeback, and it's been the country's national mammal since 2016. It, along with the bald eagle, is one of the defining symbols of the U.S. Before there were any European settlers in the New World, 30 million to 60 million of bison roamed the continent, but by the late 1800s, there were only 325 left.
President Teddy Roosevelt was integral in their conservation after spending time around them when visiting the West. He created the American Bison Society, and today, 500,000 bison live all over the country.
National Animal of Scotland: Unicorn
Some countries' national animals don't exist, and it's not that they're endangered — they never existed. Such is the case with Scotland, which has been using the unicorn in its coat of arms since the 1500s.
Mythology fans know the unicorn as a proud entity that cannot be captured or conquered, much like the country itself. The symbol of the unicorn can be found in Scotland's architecture and on its historic tapestries, jewelry and furniture.
National Animal of Denmark: Mute Swan
The regal, fierce and powerful mute swan used to make its home all over Northern Europe, but as with many animals on this list, hunters nearly wiped it out. Now, as the national animal of Denmark, it is protected, and its numbers have increased.
These highly intelligent animals come in different color variations — black, gray or orange — but it is only the white mute swan that is Denmark's national symbol.
National Animal of Iceland: Gyrfalcon
The largest bird in the falcon family, the gyrfalcon symbolizes freedom and power, which makes it the right fit for Iceland's national animal status. This majestic predator feeds itself with small mammals and fish, lives peacefully beside humans and plays an important role in balancing the country's ecological system.
Icelanders also believe that the bird is representative of the country's unspoiled beauty.
National Animal of Norway: Fjord Horse
The fjord horse is a robust symbol of Norway and is one of the oldest breeds. It made its first appearance in the county about 4,000 years ago, and archeologists have found the horse was selectively bred by Vikings for 2,000 years.
This charming, gentle animal continues to be healthy, fertile and useful for riding and farm work and is seen on the coat of arms for the cities of Gloppen and Eid.
National Animal of Peru: Vicuña
The vicuña is Peru's most beloved animal and is seen in its coat of arms. One of two wild camelids, it lives high in the Andes and is known for its wool, which almost brought it to extinction in the 1960s.
Today, due to conservation protections, they number in 6,000. Still, their wool is considered a luxury, and poaching is a problem.
National Animal of Eritrea: Arabian Camel
These one-humped camels are often seen making long journeys across the desert as transport animals, as they can store fat and nutrients in their hump and live off of it for several months. The camel has provided a multitude of necessities for the people of northeastern Africa over the centuries, such as milk, meat, wool, leather and fuel, and has enabled them to live in an extremely harsh climate.
Arabian camels are now practically domesticated and live their lives under the watchful eye of herdsmen.
National Animal of Britain: Bulldog
The bulldog has been long known to be a symbol of British tenacity — Prime Minister Winston Churchill became known as the "British Bulldog” during World War II when standing up to the Nazis. But this mascot has a dark past — the dog was used in bull-baiting during the 1700s and has connotations to militarism, racism and globalism.
While it is still a British national animal, the lion has become more popular in recent years.
National Animal of Mexico: Golden Eagle
Mexico has several national animals, but the golden eagle is one of the oldest. It has been a symbol of Mexican politics and culture for centuries. In fact, legend has it that the Aztecs would build cities in places where they saw the bird eating a snake by a lake.
The golden eagle is one of the largest birds in all of North America — it's big enough to kill domestic livestock, but it instead feasts on rabbits, squirrels and prairie dogs. It is also a national animal to Albania, Germany, Austria and Kazakhstan.
National Animal of Afghanistan: Snow Leopard
Since 2006, the majestic snow leopard has symbolized bravery and beauty to the people of Afghanistan as the country's national animal. It lives in remote parts of the country and is crucially endangered due to the wildlife trade.
To prevent extinction, conservationists have helped create a 4,200-square-mile national park in Wakhan. During the colder months, the park is unreachable, but the country hopes to encourage ecotourism in the warmer months.
National Animal of Algeria: Fennec Fox
Not only is this adorable fox the national animal of Algeria, the country’s soccer team is known as "Les Fennecs." The smallest canid on earth, it has oversize ears (to dissipate heat), slanted eyes and a pointy nose.
The fennec is usually seen in the Algerian desert, as it makes its den in the sand and eats small animals and some plants. Raptors and humans selling them to tourists are the biggest threats it faces, despite it being a protected species.
National Animal of Australia: Red Kangaroo
Red kangaroos have been hunted by Australia’s First Peoples for their skin and meat for centuries, and they also play a big part in the culture's Dreaming stories. When the British settled in Australia in the mid-18th century, they were fascinated by this unusual animal that looked nothing like they had ever seen.
After Europe got word of the kangaroo, they soon became synonymous with the Australian continent and have appeared on the country's coat of arms and on coins, stamps and even on Qantas' fleet of planes.
National Animal of Botswana: Plains Zebra
The plains zebra is the species of zebra we are most used to seeing — and the most populous. This generally harmless animal roams grasslands and woodlands and lives in groups near water sources.
The zebra has been on the Botswana coat of arms since 1966, and there's even a black-and-white stripe in the middle of the country's flag. The animal is ingrained in Botswana culture and is one of the primary tourist attractions in the country.
National Animal of Belize: Baird's Tapir
The chances of anyone running into a Baird's tapir in the wild may be slim, as they are nocturnal and shy away from people and other animals. They were discovered in Mexico in 1853 by Spencer Fullerton Baird and are affectionately known as “mountain cows.”
They have since disappeared from most of Central and South America, due to poaching and human encroachment, but Belize still has some of the biggest populations of tapirs in the world.
National Animal of Cambodia: Kouprey
While the kouprey is Cambodia’s national animal, it hasn’t been seen since 1988 and may already be extinct. This wild cattle species was probably low in numbers to begin with and were decimated due to hunting.
Although the last published records of kouprey were made by a zoologist in 1964, skulls pop up for sale every so often, which makes conservationists hopeful that there are still some alive, but if they are, scientists believe they’ve become nocturnal over the years to avoid humans.
National Animal of Democratic Republic of the Congo: Okapi
While thought to be a mythical animal like the unicorn, the okapi does exist and looks like a cross between a donkey and a zebra with the height of a giraffe. (They are, in fact, part of the giraffe family.)
This unusual looking animal lives in the high altitudes of the Ituri rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and while fully protected by the government and a proud symbol of the DRC, it is a threatened species, due to deforestation and poaching for bushmeat.
National Animal of Gambia: Spotted Hyena
The spotted hyena can take down animals much larger than itself with ease, and its power and intelligence are some of the reasons it's Gambia’s national animal. The hyena looks like a dog but is more related to civets, genets and other cats.
Also known as the “laughing hyena,” this mighty hunter is the largest hyena of the species.
National Animal of Indonesia: Komodo Dragon
Komodo dragons have been known to the West since about 1910, but they’ve been roaming the area of Flores, Indonesia, for at least 900,000 years. Today, they’re still there, fascinating tourists and feasting on deer, pigs, birds and other small mammals.
The country has made the Komodo the national animal to further protect it from its threatened status. Despite this, they are a vulnerable species — there are only about 6,000 left — due to destruction of their habitat and poaching.
National Animal of Italy: Italian Wolf
According to Roman legend, brothers Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf who acted as their mother, so it's no wonder the Italian wolf has been an unofficial symbol of Italy since ancient times.
It’s been a protected species since the early 1970s, and today, nearly 2,000 wolves live in the Alps and Apennines. Their population is trending upward, despite some illegal hunting.
National Animal of Malta: Pharaoh Hound
The pharaoh hound is traditionally used for hunting rabbits in Malta. While it has no real link with ancient Egypt, legend has it that the hound is descended from ancient Egyptian hunting dogs, which were brought to Malta by the Phoenicians about 2,000 years ago.
However, according to scientists, this canine breed is probably closer to 200 years old and came to Malta by way of Italy.
National Animal of Brazil: Jaguar
According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the jaguar used to roam a wide swath of land from the southwestern United States to northern Argentina, but they’ve lost much of it to human encroachment over the centuries.
Brazil, however, still holds about 85,000, or half the estimated world population of these big cats. Their name, “jaguar” is derived from “'yaguar,” an indigenous word meaning “he who kills with one leap.”
National Animal of Qatar: Arabian Oryx
The Arabian oryx is an antelope native to the Arabian Peninsula, and it thrives in the harsh desert climate. It drinks water when it’s available, but it can go weeks without it and stays hydrated by eating plants.
Currently, there are about 6,000 oryx in semi-captivity, which are generally safe, but those outside of protected areas face danger from poaching. As the national animal of Qatar, it can be seen on the Qatar Airways logo and was the official mascot for the country during the 2006 Asian Games.
National Animal of Tanzania: Masai Giraffe
The world has been fascinated by giraffes for centuries, and Tanzania is home to the largest population of Masai in the world. But they are not safe from predators in their home country, with habitat loss, poaching and drought being their biggest threats.
While there are about 35,000 remaining in all of Africa, that’s 50 percent less than there were only 50 years ago. The government has made significant conservation efforts to keep them from extinction and frequently encourages citizens not to participate in the bushmeat trade.
National Animal of South Korea: Siberian Tiger
The Siberian tiger plays a big part in Korean culture and folklore. It is frequently seen in Korean art and was even the mascot for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Unfortunately, it was nearly driven to extinction in the 1940s — and there hasn’t been one tiger seen in the country ever since.
Today, they number just 500 in a concentrated area of far-eastern Russia and northeast China, bordering North Korea. Due to its extremely remote location, it may be the perfect place for these cats to make a comeback.
National Animal of Colombia: Andean Condor
In Andean mythology, the condor was associated with the sun god who was believed to rule the heavens. The bird is considered a symbol of power and health and appears on Colombia’s coat of arms, but it is vulnerable, facing threats of habitat loss and poisoning.
As a result of their declining numbers, captive breeding programs have been instituted around the world with some success.