The World’s 10 Favorite & Most Popular Animals

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: May 13, 2021
Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: May 13, 2021


We have a natural affection for animals. Animals bring out our compassion and curiosity. It’s why zoos and expeditions are so popular. It seems we can’t get enough of our favorite animals.

What follows is a list of the world’s 10 favorite and most popular animals alongside fun facts and cool information about why we love them so much.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Monkeys
A White-headed Capuchin monkey sitting on tree branch in the tropical forest in Costa Rica.

What is it about monkeys we love so much that makes them one of our favorite animals?

Studies show the human creature is almost indistinguishable from the monkey. Over 95 percent of our DNA is identical. They shake their heads “no.” Unlike the majority of popular animals, monkeys recognize their mirror reflections. They use hand gestures and laugh when tickled. Monkeys have smoked cigarettes, drank coffee, and eaten when stressed.

Their behavior and intelligence bring them so close to humankind monkeys are a go-to for behavioral studies of humans. They’re equipped to be service animals and have played roles in elaborate training that’s taken the animals into outer space.

It’s no wonder monkeys are extremely popular in zoos around the world. The Smithsonian National Zoo is a great place to see monkeys.

And here’s a great place to learn more about why monkeys made our list of popular animals.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Lion
Lions are the kings of the jungle because of their raw power and strength. Lions fear no other animals, and only in danger from poachers.

For thousands of years, the lion was the most popular animal in the world. Emperors and tyrants paraded them as regal accessories. Today, lions are the second largest cat in the world, close behind the tiger.

Despite what we hear to the contrary, lions are not angry and aggressive. Social animals, lions live in communities of up to 30. The males are responsible for guarding the territory and cubs. They chase off intruders, mark spots with urine, and roar to ward off perceived threats.

In the pride, females do the hunting. Smaller and more agile than males, they operate as a team to bring prey down. The lionesses form semicircles and herd toward the prey.

The cubs are extremely vulnerable. Easy prey to leopards, hyenas and jackals.

A great place to see these big cats is the Bronx Zoo. You can also learn more about them here.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Shark
A Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) swimming over the reef. Sharks have been swimming in the ocean for more than 400 million years.

Once a year, television audiences go wild over programs about the shark.

Mistakenly viewed as a horrifying beast, the truth is these popular animals are responsible for few human fatalities. Horses and cows are responsible for more human deaths per year.

There are over 500 types of shark, over 140 of those on endangered lists of favorite animals. The shark plays a major role in marine ecosystems. They eat aquatic life that balances the food chain.

Sharks are found in tropical coral reefs, the deep blue sea and under the Arctic ice. There are unique animals like the hammerhead and the goblin, an unmissable shark with bright pink skin.

The great white is warm-blooded while most sharks are as cold-blooded as the waters they swim in. This distinction lets the great white move faster than its cousins.

The Georgia Aquarium has a rep as a distinguished setting for sharks.

For shark facts, check out these most popular animals.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Bird
Blue hummingbird, Violet Sabrewing, flying next to a beautiful red flower, sucking nectar in a tropical forest in Costa Rica.

On any list of most popular animals, you’ll find the bird.

Birds are vertebrates and have adapted to flight for survival. There are species of bird who don’t fly, like the penguin and ostrich, the latter of which is the largest bird in the world. The smallest is the bee hummingbird, coming in at two inches.

The bird’s anatomy is designed for flying. The shape of the wings creates lift. Wings have feathers that narrow to a point for balance. The foundation in the engineering of airplane wings follows the design of bird wings.

Birds are undoubtedly one of the most popular creatures in the world. The best place to see these popular animals is in a bird sanctuary.

You can find more about birds here.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Bear
Protective female brown bear, Ursus arctos, standing close to her two adorable young cubs in the middle of grass meadow.

The bear is a solitary animal. They socialize only when courting or when young. There are eight species of bear and six are omnivorous. The outsiders are the panda bear who eats bamboo while the polar bear indulging in meat.

Despite a clumsy appearance, bears are fast. They’d have no problem catching up to a horse, let alone a human. The bear operates mostly through smell as they have poor vision and hearing. Bears are strong swimmers but not good climbers.

Outside of the polar and giant panda bear, bears consume a lot of ants, tree seeds, bees, nuts, berries, insect larvae, and even flowers. It’s interesting to note such large popular animals can sustain themselves on tiny foodstuffs. They also enjoy rodents, deer, fish, pigs, and seals. The Grizzly is famous for its fishing skills. And, for the record, many bears do relish honey.

You can find a variety of bears at the San Diego Zoo. Also, get the scoop on bear facts.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Fish
Fish have been kept in aquariums since the nineteenth century. Here are colorful discus fish swimming in an aquarium.

Fish play a role in world economy and culture. They’re ingrained in legend and myth.

We love fish (Neon Tetra) and fear fish (sharks). And we can’t take our eyes off of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s the shimmering seahorse, goldfish, or tuna, we’re there.

Regardless of the species, all fish share two characteristics. One, they live in water. Two, they are vertebrates. After that, the differences are phenomenal. Eels are slimy and worm-like. Salmon have gills and scales. Not all fish reproduce through eggs.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has over 500 types of fish on display. Find more details about these favorite animals here.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Horse
Horses have been domesticated more than 5 000 years ago and have been working with man every since.

The majority of the world’s equine life is domesticated. The wild horse is pretty feral, the result of domesticated ancestors in their lineage. The Przewalski horse is truly wild. It’s an endangered species localized in Mongolia.

The horse, up and running within hours of birth, is beloved for its representation of freedom. Of all the animals we ride or use for labor, the nimble horse represents speed and agility. Its grace and beauty captivate us. The creature is soft and approachable, strong and gentle. These popular animals are deeply entrenched in our culture, our religions and our mythologies.

While you can find or ride horses anywhere, if you want to see wild horses, check out McCullough Peaks. Until then, read more about horses.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Chicken
Keeping chickens is becoming increasingly popular in urban and suburban areas as more and more people are becoming self-sufficient.

Around the world, there are dozens of billions of chickens. That makes them the most populated species on earth, far outdistancing number two: humans.

Chickens were not originally bred for food but cockfighting. That history makes the male chicken is a fierce creature. The hen is a global symbol of fertility and nurturance. The rooster remains an icon of virility.

Chickens were companions of Roman armies. According to legend, chickens were fortunetellers. In 249 B.C., if chickens on a vessel refused to eat, it meant the crew was about to go into a battle they would lose.

It was the Egyptians who cultivated the chicken as a source of food. They created the artificial incubation process. The production was a secret the Egyptians kept for centuries.

The Lincoln Park Zoo has chickens in its Farm-in-the-Zoo.

Take a look here to get more facts to see how chickens landed on this list of popular animals.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Cat
Cats are the most popular animal to keep as a pet in the world today. Here a cute kitten is playing in the garden.

Okay, so the felines are number two on our list of most popular animals. But they’re actually the most popular animals in the world when someone’s looking for a pet.

Cat lovers will tell you cats can share traits but each has its personality. Much of its behavior derives from early experiences or lack thereof. Cats can be solitary creatures but appreciate human companionship. A cat may need outdoor access. They are infamous wanderers.

These favorite animals are pretty much low maintenance. They don’t necessarily need training, walking, supervised exercise, etc. They do need care and attention. They will fit into the busy lifestyle but that doesn’t mean they don’t need you.

Cats thrive on varying interactions. They’re just as likely to adapt to a busy household as a small, single-person home. You can learn about the personalities of cats with a little research or through conversations with a vet or breeder.

Get more info on cat breeds here.

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Dog
Dogs can truly be regarded as man’s best friend! Here two white Jack Russell Terrier puppies are standing on a tree stump among purple flowers.

History traces the dog to small foxes who grew larger as a result of evolving climate and weather. The genetic adaptation gave them greater hunting capability. This culminated in the species “Canis.” That was a large wolfish creature that greatly resembled the animal sitting at the heel of dog lovers around the world.

The dog and humankind evolved together. They collaborated to live better together. Each species tailored its behavior for cohabitation.

Dogs kept an eye out for predators. They barked to alarm us of threats. The dog always followed ancient man, helping him get food and being satisfied with just the scraps.

Today, the dog is still man’s best friend. Unlike the cat, your dog’s fierce loyalty is seen in the way he listens, follows, obeys, protects and more. A cat will never look at you with the affection a dog does.

Is it any wonder the canine tops our list of favorite animals?

For more on dogs, read this.

Next Up: Can Chickens Fly?