Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s a good bet that most people would consider the following animals some of the fairest of them all. Of course, in most cases, the beauty of these beasts didn’t arise to please the human eye, but to provide camouflage or warning or make the animal more attractive to the opposite sex. Beauty is also a double-edged sword. The same looks that make humans want to protect an animal from extinction were likely the reason that the animal needed to be protected in the first place, as it stimulated a lust for its fur, feathers, or head on the wall. So, here’s a list of 10 of the most beautiful animals on earth.
#10 Most Beautiful Animal: Siberian Tiger
Foley editors are the people who add sound effects to movies. One of their secrets is that whenever the moviegoer hears a lion roaring, the sound is probably a tiger roaring. The roar of a lion can sound rather like a groan of pain, but a tiger’s roar is a real roar.
Tigers are the world’s most beautiful apex predators, with their thick, tawny red and black striped coats, bone-crushing fangs, huge, neck-snapping paws, and imperial mien. The Siberian tiger is probably the largest of these magnificent, endangered cats, with a big male probably weighing well over 400 pounds and 100 inches long with a 40-inch tail. Besides providing movie lion roars, the tiger figures prominently in the myths of many countries. It is found on a plethora of flags, has sporting teams named after it, and is the national animal of several Asian countries.
#9 Most Beautiful Animal: Arabian Horse
The Arabian horse has been bred to be both beautiful and biddable for about 4500 years. It’s one of the world’s most popular breeds and has improved the line of many other horse breeds, including racing thoroughbreds. Its head is unmistakable, as it is short, concave, and elegant.
The head of a true Arabian has a jibbah by the Bedouin, which is a long bulge found between the eyes. The eyes are large and spaced farther apart and lower on the head than they are on other types of horses. The ears are small and sometimes have an inward curve. The arched neck is graceful but powerful and flows beautifully into the withers. The horse has a short back, hard, clean legs and a tail held high in proportion to its croup. Even its skeleton is different, for the Arabian has 17 ribs, 16 tail bones, and five lumbar bones. Other horses have 18 ribs, 18 tailbones, and six lumbar bones. The Arabian horse is prized for its stamina as well as its beauty.
#8 Most Beautiful Animal: White Tern
In sharp contrast to the peacock, the white tern, Gygis alba is pure white, with a black bill and large black eyes. Also called the white noddy, it has a 30- to 34-inch wingspan and is found around the coasts of the Pacific Ocean and on islands in the Indian Ocean such as the Maldives and Seychelles. It’s a long-lived bird that can live over 40 years.
Unlike other terns, it doesn’t build a nest on the ground. Indeed, the white tern doesn’t build a nest at all but simply lays its one egg on bare tree branches. Fortunately, the feet of hatchlings have evolved to be able to hold on to tree limbs. The white tern is also the official bird of Honolulu.
#7 Most Beautiful Animal: Peacock
Native to Asia and Africa, the peacock is bound to be on a list of the world’s most beautiful animals. Its jewel-like coloration and the male’s stupendous train are unignorable. But again, the peacock didn’t evolve to please humans. Some biologists believe that the train, made of long-tail coverts that end in iridescent eyespots, evolved to demonstrate a male’s fitness to the females. If he could live to breed age with such an encumbrance, he’s certainly fit to pass on his genes. There are three species of the peacock, Pavo cristatus, Pavo muticus, and Afropavo congensis.
#6 Most Beautiful Animal: Undulate, or Orange-lined Triggerfish
This beautiful but unusually shaped tropical fish is about a foot long and native to the coastal waters of the Indo-Pacific. Its body is more or less oval-shaped, very flat with a huge head and a tiny mouth with powerful teeth. Its small eyes are near the top of its head. It has two fins on its back, and the first set is made of three spines that can be retracted. The first spine is erected then locked into place by the second or “trigger” spine, which gives the fish its name. This triggerfish has a lime green or brown body with diagonal, orange-yellow stripes and a black spot on the stem of the tail. The tail itself is orange. Some people keep this fish as a pet, but it must be kept alone in a big tank. It is notoriously mean-tempered and will eat anything it can handle.
#5 Most Beautiful Animal: Scarlet Kingsnake
This beautiful, nonvenomous snake is found in the pine forests and fields of the American south and east. It grows in length from between 2 to 4.27 feet and has a stunning color pattern of black, red, white, or yellow bands over its body. These bands make potential predators, including humans, confuse it with the venomous coral snake. But a person can tell a kingsnake from a coral snake by looking at its snout, which should be red compared with the black of the coral snake.
Young kingsnakes might be said to be more beautiful than their elders, for their bands are pure red, black and white, and the white yellows with age until it is the color of a ripe apricot. Though the kingsnake can climb and even swim, it prefers being out of sight and likes to hide beneath decaying pine bark or in pine stumps.
#4 Most Beautiful Animal: Fleischmann’s Glass Frog
This little frog, only 0.8 to 1.26 inches long, is widespread and found in forests that run from Mexico to Venezuela and Ecuador. It is bright, light green with yellow spots and pinpoints of black. Its bulging eyes are golden, its black pupils are horizontal, and it has a blunt little snout. When it’s turned over you’ll see why it has its name. The skin of its belly is transparent, and its internal organs can be seen.
The male frogs spend the breeding season, which runs from late winter to late fall, defending their territory and calling for females. After mating, the females deposit up to 30 eggs on the underside of a leaf over a body of water. Both parents guard them and when it’s time for the tadpoles to hatch, they simply plop into the water.
#3 Most Beautiful Animal: Beadlet Anemone
This flower-like little sea anemone is found from the United Kingdom down to the Mediterranean Sea and all the way down the Atlantic coast of Africa. It has a dark red body with as many as 192 lighter red or even pink tentacles. These tentacles can retract completely, leaving a red or orange blob. This ability is useful as the anemone is often found in tidal pools where the tide does not come in for long periods. When the tentacles are open, tiny blue beads can be found just beneath them. These beads are called acrorhagi and contain the anemone’s stinging cells. Still, people sometimes keep beadlet anemones in home aquariums.
#2 Most Beautiful Animal: Nudibranchs
These shell-less sea slugs come in a rainbow of colors. They are found in all the seas of the world, from the chilly Arctic to the even colder Southern Sea around Antarctica. They live in shallow coral reefs and as deep as 8200 feet, and the smallest is about 0.16 of an inch long while the largest is nearly 2 feet in length. Some nudibranchs eat venomous animals such as sea anemones or men of war and store the venom in fleshy spikes on their bodies called cerata. They’re hermaphrodites, and their genitals are right behind their heads and on the right side of the body. There are about 3000 species of nudibranchs.
#1 Most Beautiful Animal: Chrysina aurigans
Though it’s tempting to list some gorgeous species of butterfly such as the mother-of-pearl morpho, the most beautiful insect in the world is simply Chrysina aurigans. Growing a bit over a half an inch to a little over an inch in length, this beetle of the Costa Rican rainforest looks like a nugget of polished, 24-karat gold. Though its shimmering color is an optical illusion, any insect that looks like it’s made out of solid gold is going to beat out even the most sensationally colored lepidopteran.