Obscure Animal Alphabet: Axolotl to Zebu

This is my first attempt at creating an animal alphabet. I’ve tried to make sure everything on the list is somewhat obscure, but also somewhat notable! You probably know about some of these creatures, but did you know about all of them? Let me know!

Some descriptions are shorter than others because either there isn’t that much information on them, or just because I might have forgot to put more information in. I’ll probably augment some of these descriptions later. I was kind of anxious to post this!

A is for


The axolotl is a neotenic species of salamander, a salamander that does not go through metamorphosis. While it resembles the texas cave salamander that the BBC’s Planet Earth made famous, the two are not closely related, the texas cave salamander coming from a lungless family of salamanders. The axolotl does have lungs, but part of the resemblance between the two species comes from their external gills that they retain as adults.

Axolotls are critically endangered in the wild, being only native to two lakes, one of which has been drained by humans to prevent flooding. Despite their status as a critically endangered, they are kept as pets and used by scientists, largely because they are easy to breed.


B is for

bongo antelope

The bongo is a large forest antelope native to Central and Western Africa.

Pictured is an eastern bongo, an endangered species only found in Kenya, with more animals in captivity than believed to be in the wild.


C is for


The Coati is a relative of the raccoon that are native to Southern North America, Central America, and Northern South America. They are omnivores, eating mostly insects and fruit, but are noted as being one of the few animals that can eat large tarantulas.


D is for


The dik-dik are a small antelope native to eastern and southern Africa. They weigh 3 to 6 kilograms (about 6.5 to 13 pounds). Female dik-diks tend to be larger than males.

The black spots at the corners of their eyes carry a gland that produces a dark and sticky secretion that the animals use to scent-mark their territories.


E is for
Electric Catfish

electric catfish

Electric catfish appear in freshwater systems in tropical Africa.

As their name would have you to believe, electric catfish are capable of electrical shocks. The 350 volt shocks are used to incapacitate their prey.


F is for
Fiddler Crab

fiddler crab

Fiddler crabs are a small kind of crab found in mangroves and on the beaches of much of the world. The male fiddler crab is recognizable by its asymmetrical claws.


G is for
Greater Sage-grouse

greater sage grouse

The greater sage-grouse is North America’s largest grouse.

You should watch the courting ritual of the male greater sage-grouse. I’m not sure which is greater, the bizarre yellow sacs that inflate, or the sound they make. It reminds me of the hooded seal.


H is for


The hoatzin is a species of bird found in the Amazon of still debated origins. The species is unique in several ways, including the presence of two claws at the end of each wing as a chick, and a digestive system based on fermentation.

The species is also known by the name “stinkbird,” a name that I also had as a child.


I is for
Iriomote Cat

iriomote cat in japan

The Iriomote cat is a critically endangered species of cat only found on the Japanese island of Iriomote. It is one of four species of cat that can not sheath their claws, the others being the fishing cat, the flat-headed cat, and the cheetah.

An estimated 100 animals are believed to be alive, their decline due to habitat destruction and over hunting. A third of the Iriomote’s 289 square kilometers (about 111.5 square miles) of land was declared a natural reserve, but most of their preferred habitats remain outside of this region. The species is also threatened by their ability to breed with feral cats on the island.


J is for


Javelinas are the wild suinans native to the Americas. While they appear similar to Afro-Eurasian pigs and hogs, javelinas are placed in their own order. One way to tell the difference is that Afro-Eurasian hogs have curved tusks, while javelinas have straight tusks.

Javelinas can not [yet] be domesticated.


K is for


The Kanchil is the world’s smallest hoofed animal. It is native to southern Asia.


L is for

lamprey mouth

The lamprey is a jawless fish with a terrifying mouth (pictured) found in both saltwater and freshwater systems in most temperate regions of our planet. They begin their lives as toothless larvae that feed on microbes, but go through metamorphosis to become these creatures that vaguely resemble eels or hagfish.

The adult lamprey feeds by attaching itself to a fish, digging into it, and sucking its blood. JUST SHOWING YOU SHOULD NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.


M is for
Marsupial Mole

marsupial mole

The marsupial mole is a burrowing marsupial native to Western Australia.

Marsupial moles only have vestige eyes covered in skin, and lack external ears, giving it the appearance of being a bag of hair with a nose, mouth, and feet.

The golden mole, found in southern Africa, was once considered to be a relative of the marsupial mole, as it appears similar, despite it not being a marsupial.


N is for


The nautilus is the only shelled cephalopod. It’s regarded as a “living fossil” (I ordinarily do not like the term, but find it appropriate here), as hundreds of millions of years ago they were more varied and far more prosperous. Today there are only six species of nautilus, all limited to the Indo-Pacific.


O is for


The okapi is the closest living relative to the Giraffe, and is native to central Africa. It only became known to the European scientific tradition in the early 20th century.

One of our favorite features of the giraffe is their blue tongue, and okapis share this feature. It is also one of the few mammals that can lick their own ears. Zach VandeZande’s sister- in-law had the great fortunate of being licked by an okapi.


P is for

pangolin hanging by tail

While the pangolin looks like a xenarthran (the cohort of animals that include anteaters, sloths, armadillos, and everyone’s favorite semi-obscure extinct mammal, the glyptodon, all of which are only found in the new world), sharing the long tongue of the anteater and having armor like an armadillo or glyptodon, it’s closest living relatives are actually the carnivorans (dogs, cats, bears, pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, walruses), etc). This seems especially strange because pangolins lack teeth.

The behavior of the pangolin is just as great as their appearance. They use their claws to dig for insects, burrow, and to climb. Some species can hang from tree branches with their tail. When sleeping or threatened, they roll into balls. They are pretty much a grade A animal.


Q is for


A quoll is a carnivorous marsupial native to Australia and Papua New Guinea, related to the tasmanian devil.


R is for

ringtail cat

The ringtail is a relative of the coati, posted earlier, and the raccoon. They are sometimes called “ringtailed cats,” but are actually caniformians (members of the dog-like half of carnivorans).

Ringtails are nocturnal, solitary, and omnivores, much like this poster.


S is for


The shoebill is a rare, large bird found over a wide area of Central Africa.

What taxon the shoebill fits into is still not widely agreed upon. It could be a relative of the stork, or the heron, or it could be an offshoot of the pelican.


T is for


The tapir is an odd-toed ungulate native to Central and South America, and Southern Asia

Pictured is a Malayan tapir, the largest of the four tapir species, and the only old world species. It is also the only tapir with that black and white pattern. However, despite their being a large difference in the coats of adult tapirs of different species, juvenile tapirs share a very similar brown body with white spots and stripes.


U is for


Uakaris are a group of monkeys found in the upper Amazon Basin.

Pictured is a bald uakari. In this species, more red the face, the more healthy the uakari.


V is for


The vaquita is the smallest marine cetacean (the order that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises). It is native to the Gulf of Mexico Sea of Cortez.

The vaquita is a critically endangered species. The number of surviving individuals could be as few as 100, none of which are in captivity. Only one photograph of a living vaquita has ever been taken.

One cause of decline is that vaquita have been accidently caught by humans fishing for other marine life. The damming of the Colorado River has also altered their habitat. In an effort to preserve the species, the Mexican government has created a nature preserve covering the Colorado River delta, and the upper part of the Gulf of Mexico, and a move to the use of fishing gear that will not hurt this species has been made.

Wikipedia | World Wildlife Fund profile

W is for


The woylie is a small marsupial native to Australia. It has a prehensile tail. I love prehensility.


X is for


The xenopus are frogs native to Africa. They are probably most notable as being a model organism for study, the females producing large oocytes, and having easy to manipulate embryos.

The xenopus was used in the first well-documented pregnancy test, as it was discovered that urine from pregnant women induced the production of oocytes in xenopus females. I AM COMPLETELY UNSURE AS TO HOW THEY WOULD HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT.


Y is for
Yellow-cheeked Gibbon

yellow-cheeked gibbon

The yellow-cheeked gibbon is a gibbon native to Southern Asia.


Z is for


Zebus are a line of domestic cattle mostly found in South Asia and Africa. They are more suited for dry and warm climates than non-humped cattle, and have a distinctive hump on their shoulders, and large dewlaps.



This list (and I guess the little descriptions, even though they’re essentially poorly written summaries of Wikipedia articles) is (are) being released under a Creative Commons 3.0 license. None of the pictures are mine, details on each can be found by clicking them!

If I’ve made any mistakes in this post, please let me know! It’s kind of a long post, and I am not the greatest proof-reader of my own work.

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#1 inkytwist on 03.30.08 at 10:28 am

Much love for the alphabets and your posts! :D And way to focus on mostly endangered animals. The more we talk about it, hopefully the more people will take notice!


#2 Mom on 03.30.08 at 9:15 pm

Wow, this is very impressive… as well as entertaining and educational! Way to go, Stinkybird.

#3 RKNet Blog… thing » A is for… Mudkips? on 03.31.08 at 10:52 am

[...] Ok, not really. My good friend Kento over at Uglorable has composed an AMAZING compendium of obscure animals – one for each letter of the alphabet – entitled: Obscure Animal Alphabet: Axolotl to Zebu. [...]

#4 Bpaul on 04.05.08 at 8:46 am

Grabbing this to link off my blog, great stuff!

#5 Spiffy on 04.05.08 at 3:54 pm

Hey Kento this is a cool site i love you obscure animal alphabet!! I saw coatimundis once in Costa rica they are so cute :)

#6 From Obscure To Obscurer. :: Just Write on 04.05.08 at 10:56 pm

[...] for a new way to remember the alphabet? Check out the Obscure Animal Alphabet over at Uglorable. Covering animals from the axolotl to the zebu it’s a list of some of my [...]

#7 paul on 04.06.08 at 10:57 pm

Top notch work. Couldn’t stop reading.

#8 Grandma on 04.10.08 at 12:06 am

The Okapi facinates me. I’ve heard a camel discribed as “A horse designed by a committee.” I wonder what they were trying to design with the Okapi?

#9 clegg on 04.13.08 at 10:36 pm

Excellent article, but the Vaquita lives in the Gulf of California (aka the Sea of Cortez) not the Gulf of Mexico. Just thought to point that out.

#10 Jason on 04.15.08 at 5:04 pm

This is an AMAZING website!

Thank God for Stumbleupon!!

#11 Cat on 04.17.08 at 7:41 am

They peed on them. They peed on the frogs.

Maybe not, but it’s giggle-inducing to imagine women holding frog between their legs, praying for it not to start producing ooctyes.

#12 boom on 04.17.08 at 8:19 pm

Yeah, I wonder how that scientific breakthrough about the xenopus just HAPPENED, RANDOMLY to occur.

#13 4 The Love of Animals » Blog Archive » Obscure Animal Alphabet on 04.18.08 at 10:05 am

[...] have to check out this fun obscure animal alphabet that was put together on Ugorable (don’t you love that [...]

#14 Marjorie Dorfman on 04.30.08 at 4:03 am

Fascinating! So much that I didn’t know.

#15 alex on 05.03.08 at 2:22 am

Fascinating collection, but this post is a real killer to anyone with a slower connection–we’ve got two frozen monitors over here. Mine just barely recovered long enough for me to get through this. If there’s a way for you to break this into smaller posts, it would be appreciated.

#16 kristine on 05.04.08 at 6:44 am

awesome alphbet, i love the idea of obscurity!

#17 Anonymous on 05.06.08 at 4:46 pm

Sweet! I love the pangolin. Good post.

#18 Zargon on 05.10.08 at 7:28 pm

“I wonder what they were trying to design with the Okapi?”

- That’s what they came up with instead of a camel!

#19 sid on 05.16.08 at 5:02 pm

Impressive and neato.

#20 shadowfax on 05.21.08 at 8:27 am

I had the great privilege of filming the Okapi family in San Diego Zoo while on holiday there from Ireland 2 years ago. A beautiful placid animal with the most amazing chocolate-coloured coat with those lovely horizontal white stripes. The dark blue tongue gives you quite a shock when the Okapi use it to lick their eyes!

#21 Sketch on 05.26.08 at 1:38 pm

Very cute, I love it! Especially the vaquita. I wish you’d picked a yapok to put on there, though. ^_~

#22 Walace on 05.27.08 at 8:31 am

Muito interessante, aí tem animais que eu nem conhecia. Muitos vem da Asia e África.

vocês não sabem ler português?

it’s very intersting, there are animals that I haven’t known before. Several species are stem from Asia and Africa

#23 JunkieYard Dot Com on 05.30.08 at 7:13 am

You’ve change my kids alphabet world. They love it! ;)
For some of them, I don’t even know that they existed. Even I as an adult having a hard time explaining it to the kids. :D

#24 DaviDC. on 07.04.08 at 7:35 pm

Excellent! Well done! Glad I Stumble(ed)Upon this site.

#25 Rita on 11.25.08 at 5:42 pm

Woah! I’ve just started going thorough my animal book and picked out the weirdest animal for each letter. You’ve picked a few of the same as me like axolotl and hoatzin. I’m illustrating an alphabet book!

#26 JuanS on 12.13.08 at 9:27 am

very creative!

#27 music lover on 08.28.09 at 9:10 am

I loved this!!!! A new twist on existing animal alphabets.
Thank you

#28 Leeanne A on 06.23.11 at 5:53 pm

So Cool! Love this! Mind if I link you on facebook?

#29 Rosie on 07.18.11 at 10:23 pm

Excellent list – thank you!

#30 Bunny Wright on 08.02.11 at 7:56 am

Wow! Wonderful! Great list. I am making a book for my grandson and I am calling it ‘Bugs and Beasts’ with ‘zentangled’ letters. This is a wonderful resource and I do thank you for it…take an alphabet book out of the ordinary!

#31 Axolotl Therapy « Power Animals on 10.18.11 at 10:02 am

[...] via: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / [...]

#32 Bow Ties on 01.10.12 at 10:29 pm

B is for Bow Ties = P

I think there are a few of those living fossils in Carmel, CA.

#33 Day Sixty-Eight « A New Day on 03.27.12 at 5:43 pm

[...] book–”X is for Xenops!” Yeah five year olds really identify with that one. (This blog has a really funny alphabet list of obscure animals that I’m glad don’t pop up often in [...]

#34 omer on 06.02.12 at 2:17 am

i love it

#35 omer on 06.02.12 at 2:20 am

if you make another website like this i will be suprised

#36 kanishka raz on 07.30.12 at 6:01 am

achcha laga

#37 kanishka raz on 07.30.12 at 6:02 am


#38 BeagleHappy on 10.05.12 at 4:02 pm

I don’t think I’ve heard of any of these animals before. Really cool pictures though :) . Oh and Lamprey looks scary!

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