Top 8 Mysterious Gray Animals

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: December 15, 2021
Image Credit iStock.com/rogertrentham
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Gray is the unheralded color of the animal kingdom. While seemingly drab and boring, it can provide animals with enough camouflage to protect them against lurking dangers. It’s also a common color for animals with mostly bare skin. This article will cover some fascinating details about the top eight gray wild animals in the world. Every gray animal on this list will have something mysterious about it that scientists couldn’t understand for a long time. Most of the time the mystery was solved, but in some cases, it’s still ongoing.

#8: African Grey Parrot

Mysterious Gray Animals - african grey parrot
One of the most well-known gray animals, an African Grey parrot, stands on a natural wooden perch.

iStock.com/n1kcy

Most parrots are bright and colorful; the African grey is a rare exception. Clad in pure gray plumage, with only a bit of bright red around the short tails, these gray wild animals are spirited, friendly, curious birds, capable of amassing a vocabulary of more than a thousand words – and even putting words into unique contexts. With their ability to count, reason, and associate sounds with meanings, they appear to have the basic intelligence of a three or four-year-old human child. It has taken scientists decades to understand all the interesting aspects of the animal’s cognition. In the wild, the African grey parrot prefers to live in lowland rainforests, savannas, mangroves, and agricultural lands throughout eastern and central Africa. A single flock may consist of a thousand birds roosting together at night.

You can read more about the African grey parrot here.

#7: Raccoons

Mysterious Gray Animals - Raccoon
Raccoons are gray animals that are also one of the ultimate scavengers of the animal world.

iStock.com/cullenphotos

Raccoons reside in forest areas anywhere near a source of water throughout North America. As anyone within their range can attest, they are the ultimate scavengers of the animal world with their habit of disrupting trash bins and stealing food from homes during the night. Raccoons are generally clad in gray or brown fur and a black and white facial mask, plus a ringed tail. Some subspecies are quite pale, and albino color morphs are also known to exist.

Perhaps the strangest thing about these gray wild animals involves an unusual behavior in which they appear to wash food in the water. Even the scientific name of the animal essentially means washer in Latin. But raccoons do not really wash their food at all. Instead, scientists believe something else is happening. The paws have an extremely acute sense of touch with lots of nerve ends in them. Raccoons will roll the food around in their paws to determine the exact composition of these morsels. Covering the paws in water may increase their sensitivity.

You can read more about the raccoon here.

#6: Rhinoceros

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White rhinoceros standing in the veld. The Rhino is the gray animal that is most under threat from poaching.

Rocchas/Shutterstock.com

At one point, thousands of years ago, rhinos could be seen roaming across much of Europe, Africa, and Asia. But today only five species remain in the wild, and some of them are close to disappearing. These gray mammals live on a fraction of their previous territory, which consists of tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, forests, deserts, and shrublands. Measuring anywhere between 4 and 10 feet long with one or two big horns on their head, the rhinos are like massive armored beasts. Much of the rhino’s tough, gray skin, which provides protection against dangerous animals, is covered with only sparse hair, especially around the ears and tail.

For a long time one of the facts that wasn’t well-understood about the rhino was how they communicate. Apart from a few sounds, these gray mammals appear to be mostly silent. It turns out that rhinos have some of the best hearing in the entire animal kingdom. Whereas humans can only hear sounds about as low as 20 hertz, rhinos can hear all the way down to just 4 hertz. Their low-frequency rumbling appears to be an adaptation for the dense vegetation in which they live. The sounds are used to attract mating partners in the breeding season.

You can read more about the rhinoceros here.

#5: Koala

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A koala bear in the zoo. Koalas are one of the most adorable gray animals in the world.

iStock.com/Annalucasa

Scientists have spent years unraveling the mysteries of this strange and unusual marsupial. Koalas are characterized by coarse, wooly silver-gray or chocolate brown fur shading to white around the underside and ears. This fur is highly effective at providing insulation against harsh wind, rain, and sunlight. With their sharp claws, specialized gripping toes, curved spines, and rounded rear ends, koalas are specially adapted for living in forests of eucalypt trees across all of Australia. These trees provide the koalas with homes, food, and protection.

For a long time, the koala’s behavior remained a mystery to scientists. While the eucalyptus plants make toxic compounds that would repel any other animal, the koala is mostly impervious to them. Research indicates that the koala’s digestive system may have something to do with neutralizing the toxic substances. We also discovered that koalas will drink running water off the smooth surface a tree trunk when it rains. Koalas were never previously seen drinking free water in the wild.

You can read more about the koala here.

#4: Seals

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Grey Seal Resting at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla, San Diego California. Seals are semi-aquatic gray animals that are found in all the world’s oceans.

Dancestrokes/Shutterstock.com

Seals are semi-aquatic gray mammals that thrive all over the world’s oceans. They tend to have gray or brown rubbery skin because of the thick blubber which protects them from the frigid waters in which they live. Some of them have white or black spots covering their body as well. There are generally two different types of seals: the true seals, which have minimal fur and no external ear flaps, and the fur seals, which do have thick fur as well as visible ear flaps. The fur seals are closely related to both sea lions and walruses in a group called the Pinnipeds.

Scientists have spent a lot of time trying to understand the mysterious lives of these gray animals. We know that they spend the majority of their lives submerged in water to hunt and rest, thanks to the ability to store huge amounts of oxygen in their blood and muscles. They also come ashore frequently to mate, give birth, or escape from predators. Haul-out sites appear to be chosen based on season, tidal height, and time of the day. Some species have extremely short development time; harp seal pups put on an astonishing 5 pounds per day.

You can read more about seals here.

#3: Gray Whales (and Other Cetaceans)

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A Humpback whale swimming close to the surface. These gray animals communicate with a series of intricate sounds.

iStock.com/Yann-HUBERT

Like seals, many whale species have gray blubber just beneath the skin to protect them from cold water, especially when they dive to enormous depths. They are found all over the world, sometimes migrating hundreds of miles in response to the seasons. Some travel alone, but others move together in small groups, cooperating together to feed. Despite how much we know about them, the exact meaning of their mysterious calls is still not fully understood. Their unusual vocalizations are extremely loud and vary by the species, but many of them probably have something to do with mating. The sounds often take the forms of knocks, grunts, clicks, croaks, and bangs. They are extremely important for marine mammals because the effectiveness of the other senses is often reduced in the water.

#2: Gray Fox

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Grey fox with orange-red fur highlights, prominently displaying its tail. These gray animals are one of the few foxes that can climb trees.

iStock.com/johnpane

The gray fox can be found in a very large stretch of territory between Canada and Colombia. They are characterized by coarse salt and pepper fur color with mixtures of black markings on the face, a white underbelly, and reddish orange fur around the chest, legs, and other parts of the body. They are often accidentally mistaken for gray or silver color morphs of the standard red fox, which are considered to be a separate species (as well as an entirely separate genus). They normally weigh 6 to 15 pounds, about the same as a red fox. However, because they’re so dependent on forests for their survival (they’re one of the few foxes that can climb trees), deforestation has given them a disadvantage compared to the more common red fox. Their mysterious behavior has led to a lot of confusion and misconceptions about these gray animals.

You can read more about the gray fox here.

#1: Gray Wolves

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A gray wolf running in the snow. These gray animals are pack animals, organized into distinctive hierarchies within their wolf packs.

Holly S Cannon/Shutterstock.com

The gray wolf takes the top spot for the ultimate mysterious gray animal. The fur color actually features a mixture of silver, gray, brown, black, and white underside. While they’ve been hunted and persecuted by people for centuries, there are actually more than 30 recognized subspecies, widespread all over the Northern Hemisphere. The average size is 3 to 5 feet long and 60 to 145 pounds.

As pack animals, all of their daily activities are organized into distinctive hierarchies. This allows them to hunt, play, and defend the territory together. There is still some debate about how wolf packs are organized. A single breeding pair at the top appears to maintain order and cohesion throughout the group. The rest of the wolf pack is organized into a distinctive hierarchy, although the actual rankings are somewhat fluid and may change after a few years. Despite this pack organization, wolves still appear to care for each other as individuals. It has taken years to understand these important nuances of pack behavior.

You can read more about gray wolves here.

The Top 8 Mysterious Gray Animals are:

  • Gray Wolves
  • Gray Fox
  • Gray Whales (and Other Cetaceans)
  • Seals
  • Koala
  • Rhinoceros
  • Raccoons
  • African Grey Parrot

Next Up: How Long Do Lions Live: The Oldest Lion Ever

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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.