Top 10 Happiest Animals on Earth

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: June 19, 2021


Many animals look happy when they’re in their natural habitat. They have their favorite food around, and they have their whole nest, pack or brood with them. How do we know which happy animals are truly loving life?

To make our picks, we chose animals that seem to have easy lives compared to others. We looked for animals known to engage in high levels of play.

Why does play matter? Contrary to what we used to think, scientists now believe animals don’t just engage in play to learn the skills they’ll need in adulthood. We used to think, for instance, that bear cubs “play fight” to learn fighting techniques, or that tiger cubs stalk each other because they’re learning how to hunt.

Why Animals Play

Recent studies have questioned that conventional wisdom, however. It turns out that many animals use play like we do. They use it to bond with other members of their species, let off steam, reduce stress and learn more about their environment.

The happy animals on our list seem to live blissful lives with lots of room for play. Read on to learn about nature’s most fun-loving furballs.

#10 Happiest Animals: Kinkajou or Honey Bear

Happiest Animals: Kinkajou
Kinkajou (Potos flavus) on a tree branch. Kinkajous are sometimes called honey bears because they raid bees’ nests. They use their long, skinny tongues to slurp honey from a hive.

This cute creature is native to the tropical rainforests of Central America. It has thick, fluffy fur that helps keep it dry while it’s swinging through the damp tropical weather.

Kinkajous have long tongues that help them catch their favorite insects and grubs to eat. Kinkajous have a powerful sweet tooth and frequently raid bees’ nests to get honey. This is the source of the nickname “honey bear” for these adorable little mammals.

Kinkajous travel in small family groups and frequently fill the forests with their loud squeaks and barks. You can see these happy animals at the San Diego Zoo and the Phoenix Zoo.

#9 Happiest Animals: Bluebird

Happiest Animals: Bluebird
Male Eastern Bluebird Perched on Budding Limb in Early Spring. A bluebird can spot caterpillars and insects in tall grass at a remarkable distance of over 50 yards.

There’s a reason this stunning songbird is known as the bird of happiness. The eastern bluebird, mountain bluebird, and western bluebird are known for their gorgeous coloring and for living in large, sociable groups.

Bluebirds bring color and a glorious song to any garden. They’re also great at eating grubs and other unwanted insects. These sweet, happy animals just want to find a nest and sing.

In many cultures, bluebirds are a sign of the coming of spring and a symbol of happiness.

These beautiful birds were once common in North America. The introduction of invasive species, especially European house sparrows, was devastating to native bluebird populations. Fortunately, most birders treasure bluebirds. Bluebird boxes have become a popular item in parks and gardens, and they have helped their numbers increase.

#8 Happiest Animals: Opossum

Happiest Animals: Opossum
Opossums are the only known North American marsupial. They can eat ticks by the thousands.

Like squirrels, opossums are so common you may not notice how happy they are. With few predators and impervious to many diseases, including rabies and snake venom, opossums live an untroubled life.

These gentle marsupials are sometimes called “nature’s cleanup crew.” Because they eat everything, they clean harmful pathogens, waste, and even ticks from the environment.

They’re also fun to watch. They enjoy hanging from their tails and cuddling with each other. When her babies are too big to live in her pouch, a mama possum carries them on her back.

These harmless helpers are often misunderstood. If you see one in your yard, thank it for helping you stay safe.

#7 Happiest Animals: Penguin

Happiest Animals: Penguin
Adelie penguins diving into the water (Hope Bay, Antarctica). The black and white “tuxedo” look donned by most penguin species is a clever camouflage called countershading.

Penguins spend their lives in some of the harshest environments on earth, but that doesn’t slow them down. They are known for their strong family ties and ability to protect each other from bigger, fiercer predators.

When they’re not migrating across the frozen tundra, penguins enjoy outdoor sports like tobogganing across the ice into the water, diving, and fishing. Even without snow, South African penguins are clearly having fun when they waddle down the beach for a swim.

Many zoos have penguins. The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha has an emperor penguin exhibit, and the Edinburgh Zoo has had great success breeding several penguin breeds. The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has African penguins.

#6 Happiest Animals: Laughing Kookaburra

Happiest Animals: Laughing Kookaburra
Two Kookaburras sitting on a branch. Kookaburras are famous for their call, which sounds like laughter.

We can’t leave out an animal that spends its life laughing.

The largest member of the kingfisher family, the laughing kookaburra is a pretty bird with brown and white feathers. The wild, laughing call of the kookaburra is one of the most distinctive sounds of the Australian bush. Kookaburras usually laugh at dawn and dusk, but they can do it any time.

These birds throw their heads back and open their mouths wide when they laugh. Usually, one member of a family will start and wait for the others to join. If another kookaburra family is nearby, they will also join in until the sky is filled with their calls.

Zoo Atlanta, the Australia Zoo and the Belfast Zoo in Ireland have kookaburras.

#5 Happiest Animals: Crow

Happiest Animals: Crow
Carrion crow (Corvus corone) black bird perched on a branch. Crows are extremely intelligent birds. They are known for their problem-solving skills and amazing communication skills.

Crafty crows are known for their intelligence and loud, rasping caws. These curious birds can learn to mimic the intonations of human voices. They also remember which humans were kind to them and which ones weren’t. Even more impressive, they pass that information onto their children.

Scientists have observed crows playing pranks on each other and engaging in advanced types of play. They will swing from branches, slide down inclines and hide objects from each other, all just for fun.

Crows are sociable and cooperative. When they’re not tricking each other, they’re imparting valuable information to young crows. Before they find mates, male crows will roost together in a kind of bird bachelor pad.

These birds clearly know how to enjoy life.

#4 Happiest Animals: Donkey

Happiest Animals: Donkey
Family of donkeys outdoors in spring. Donkeys are loyal and loving creatures. Some people call them the dogs of the livestock world!

Playful, intelligent donkeys know how to make the most of every day. They enjoy socializing and grooming each other. In fact, they get depressed if they’re alone, but they will perk up if they have some goat friends to hang out with.

Donkeys live in every part of the world, but they are especially suited to desert climates. There are wild donkey herds in the U.S., northern Africa, and the Middle East.

Donkeys have a reputation for being stubborn, but that stubbornness is a sign of their intelligence. Donkeys refuse to go anywhere if they think it’s unsafe.

You can spot wild donkeys in the Nevada and California deserts. Agia Marina is a sanctuary for domestic donkeys in Greece. The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, U.K., operates donkey rescues around the world.

#3 Happiest Animals: Dolphin

Happiest Animals: Dolphin
Dolphins are caring creatures, often seen tending to the sick, the old and the injured in their group, which is known as ‘pod’.

These friendly marine mammals always look like they’re smiling or laughing, which makes us wonder, what’s the joke? Dolphins have a great time as they leap through the air and into the water.

Dolphins are among the world’s most intelligent animals. They have learned to use tools and have developed complex communication systems with each other. They are also caring animals. Instead of abandoning hurt or weak members of their group, dolphins will help them reach the surface and get food.

These sociable, intelligent, and compassionate animals live a glorious life, and that’s probably why they’re always smiling.

#2 Happiest Animals: Goat

Happiest Animals_ Goat
Goats were one of the first animals to be tamed by humans and were being herded 9,000 years ago.

Whether they’re wild goats dashing up a steep mountain or domestic goats prancing in a farm field, these sociable, happy animals are fun to watch. Their wise little faces, short beards, and prancing movements make them hard to resist.

Contrary to what some people think, goats are clean animals who prefer clean food and not trash. That said, they’re not that picky about what they eat and will try to taste everything.

Goats are so mellow and happy that they often work as “therapy goats” to calm down anxious horses. You can find “goat yoga” studios that use goats to enhance the relaxing effects of yoga.

Domestic goats are far from endangered, but many wild goat species are endangered. You can see pygmy wild goats at the Oakland Zoo. The Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C., has Nigerian dwarves and San Clemente Island goats. 

#1 Happiest Animals: Squirrel

Happiest Animals_ Squirrel
Two ground squirrels (Xerus inaurus) playing, Kalahari desert, South Africa. Squirrels can jump a distance of up to 20 feet. They have long, muscular hind legs and short front legs that work together to aid in leaping.

As the second most intelligent rodent (after rats), squirrels are feisty survivors who live in every corner of the world. Squirrels have learned to thrive in suburban and urban environments, and they are important parts of these ecosystems.

Squirrels seem to spend their days hunting for food, burying that same food, leaping between tree branches and chasing each other. These little guys never seem to sit still. They provide hours of entertainment when you watch them in your yard or a city park.

The squirrel family includes chipmunks, groundhogs, and prairie dogs. These are all happy animals in their own way, but squirrels take the prize for looking like they’re always having a blast.

Next Up: Top Eight Most Aggressive Animals in the World