10 of the World's Ugliest Animals: So Homely They're Cute

By: Jesslyn Shields  | 
The hairless, baggy-skinned naked mole rat is so ugly that there's something oddly beautiful about it. Eric Isselee/Shutterstock

Key Takeaways

  • The California condor, naked mole rat and blobfish are notable for their unusual appearances, each having unique features that distinguish them.
  • Animals like the aye-aye, proboscis monkey and goblin shark have distinct physical traits that many find unappealing but are fascinating from an evolutionary perspective.
  • Other notably "ugly" animals include the Chinese giant salamander, hammer-headed fruit bat, star-nosed mole and southern elephant seal, each with specific adaptations that make them appear bizarre but serve important functions in their survival.

Who's to say what's beautiful and what's hideous?

Animals sometimes evolve to catch admiring eyes, but often other evolutionary concerns take precedence over flashy feathers or athletic physiques. That said, the world is full of ugly animals. If you had to guess which animal is the ugliest, you might guess that some member of the pig family would win the title. But pigs don't even make our list when you put them beside aye-ayes and blobfish. So, here we go — according to our human sensibilities, here are 10 of the ugliest animals that live on our planet.



California Condor

The California condor has slowly made a recovery from a population low of 22 wild animals in the 1980s. Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a New World vulture and the largest land bird in North America. This critically endangered species makes the ugly animals list because of its fleshy, purplish-pink bald head, pudgy jowls, its black, feathery ruff and disdainful expression.

However, what the California condor lacks in conventional beauty, it makes up for in majesty. With a wingspan of up to 9 feet (2.7 meters), it can weigh up to 20 pounds (9 kilograms). Like other vultures, the California condor is a scavenger that feeds on the carcasses of large animals: deer, livestock like cows and pigs, and marine mammals like whales and sea lions.


California condors can soar as high as 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and they nest in caves high on cliff faces.

But the California condor might have gone extinct entirely in the 1980s, when lead poisoning whittled the population to 22 birds in the wild. These days about 275 wild members of the species soar over the Western U.S., and more than 160 live in captivity.


Naked Mole Rat

Talk about ugly animals. The naked mole rat looks like nothing more than a sack of baggy skin. Eric Isselee/Shutterstock

Of all the contenders for world's ugliest animal, the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is the most similar to humans in appearance.

Sorry, everybody.


The naked mole rat is hairless, with pink, baggy skin, poor eyesight and giant sharp teeth that can move independently from one another like chopsticks.

It is one of the world's truly ugly animals, but it's also one of the most interesting creatures in the animal kingdom.

Native to Eastern Africa, naked mole rats are not like other species of rodent. They live in communities like eusocial insects, with several dozen of them living together in a colony led by one dominant queen.

Life underground in Sub-Saharan Africa is hard because there's not much air down there, and snakes, their natural predators, are always around. These guys end up eating their own poop a lot.

However, the naked mole rat thrives under these conditions: They can live up to 18 minutes without oxygen, rarely get cancer and have an average lifespan of 30 years!



The blobfish has a face that seems oddly human. Simon Elgood/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Ugly animals might be, by definition, unique-looking, but nothing in the animal kingdom looks like the blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus).

This deep-sea fish occupies the ocean floor around 2,000 to 3,900 feet (610 to 1,189 meters) under the Pacific Ocean.


The funny thing about the blobfish is that, in its natural habitat, it's not actually one of the ugliest animals — in this case, ugly animals can be contextual.

As a deep-sea creature, the blobfish relies on the pressure from the billions of gallons of ocean water overhead to help it keep its shape. In its natural habitat it's as attractive as any other fish, but when the blobfish was first hauled up from the ocean floor and exposed to the world in 2003, it was heralded as the world's ugliest species.

This designation was understandable: The blobfish is truly an ugly animal, with gray, gelatinous skin and an elongated nose that droops over its giant, frowning mouth.



The aye-aye has a long, pointed face with huge eyes and even bigger ears. Rob Cousins /Bristol Zoo/Getty Images

The aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is the world's largest nocturnal primate and a threatened species — perhaps partly because it is unattractive.

Native to Madagascar, the aye-aye is closely related to the lemur.


These nocturnal fur balls with unsettling orange eyes, perpetually growing teeth and long spindly middle fingers seriously freak people out. The aye-aye is critically endangered, partly due to modern habitat loss, but also because of a slanderous myth surrounding it.

The aye-aye has been rumored to be a harbinger of death (maybe because it is one of the world's ugly animals?) and has often been killed on sight.

This unique creature was thought to be extinct in the 1930s but was rediscovered in 1957.

Aye-ayes are the only primate to use echolocation to find food. They eat insects and drum on trees with their fingers, using the sound waves to locate grubs in tree cavities, which they use their long middle fingers to capture.


Proboscis Monkey

What can we say? The male proboscis monkey has a nose that attracts females, and that's good enough for us. Is this one of the world's ugly animals or is it a charmer? Yusnizam Yusof/Shutterstock

The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) is one of the weirdest-looking animals in the world.

The male, much like the land-stranded blobfish, has a pendulous nose that hangs over its mouth.


Female and juvenile proboscis monkeys have upturned snouts that are weird-looking, but not like the brown, fleshy bulb of a male.

These monkeys are endemic to the island of Borneo, where they are critically endangered due to habitat loss (not because they are ugly animals).

Male proboscis monkeys use their giant, pendulous noses to attract females because the larger the nose, the louder the racket the monkey will make, and the female loves a deafeningly loud man during mating season. Who doesn't?

Proboscis monkeys are surprisingly great swimmers and are known to jump out of trees and belly flop into the water.


Goblin Shark

The goblin shark, high on the list of ugly animals, looks like something straight out of a horror film. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

One fish you don't want to run into in the deep sea is the goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni).

The goblin shark is the only living member of a 125-million-year-old family of sharks, many species of which might have seemed less ghoulish, but we can't be sure.


This pink-skinned fish has a long, flat snout that seems like it should be attached to the jaw, but nope — there's a mean-looking set of jaws underneath the nose, full of protruding, razor-sharp teeth.

Luckily for all of us, it's not a very fast swimmer.


Chinese Giant Salamander

The Chinese giant salamander has tiny eyes in a big head, is the largest salamander in the world and so makes our list of ugly animals. Cheng Wei/Shutterstock

Sometimes things that are small aren't as ugly as the same thing made very large.

Take the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus), which is a fully aquatic salamander endemic to the mountain streams of central China in the Yangtze River basin, and the largest salamander in the world.


This giant Chinese salamander is gargantuan, growing to over 3.5 feet (1.15 meters) in length. With warty-looking skin, lidless eyes and its gargantuan stature, an amphibian that might seem cute if it were a tenth of its size is suddenly a very ugly animal indeed.

Hammer-headed Fruit Bat

The male hammer-headed fruit bat has a face that resembles some strange sort of camel. Ugliest animal, though? You decide. Wikimedia Commons (CC0 1.0)

The scientific name — Hypsignathus monstrosus — says it all when it comes to the hammer-headed fruit bat.

Native to central Africa, the hammer-headed fruit bat is the largest bat in mainland Africa, but it's also the most sexually dimorphic bat in the world.


Like the proboscis monkey, the male and female look very different, and this is where the ugly factor comes in.

The males are about twice the size of females, and they also have a funny-looking thing on their face: a gigantic nose and lips that make them look like they have the face of a camel. The females, on the other hand, have a narrower face that resembles a fox.


Star-nosed Mole

The flowery appendage on the nose of the star-nosed mole is filled with sensors that help it find food. Truly one of the ugly animals. Agnieszka Bacal/Shutterstock

The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) looks like a cute little mole, but on an alien planet.

Native to the swampy areas of North America — it's the only marsh-loving mole in the world — the thing that makes this mole ugly is also its superpower.


It looks like it has two sea anemones stuck to its face, but this weird facial structure is actually an Eimer's organ — a very delicate sensing instrument that contains 25,000 sensory receptors that let the star-nosed mole find worms and other soft-bodied animals to eat at lightning speeds.

In fact, it might be a bit hideous, but the star-nosed mole is the fastest-eating animal in the world.


Southern Elephant Seal

This Southern elephant seal was photographed on a beach near the Norwegian whaling station in Grytviken on South Georgia Island. Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket/Getty Images

The southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) is the largest marine mammal that isn't a cetacean like a whale or dolphin. Male elephant seals also have humongous noses — it seems to be a theme in nature.

It's not so much a nose as a proboscis — a fleshy, strangely shaped lump that dangles from the face of the elephant seal. It looks like a hybrid between a toucan's beak and an elephant's trunk.

Like the proboscis monkey, the southern elephant seal needs his schnoz to make himself heard. The males control harems of dozens of females, and they tend to get kind of bossy during mating season. Their big nose acts as a sort of loudspeaker for their entire community.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do some animals have such unusual and "ugly" appearances?
Many animals develop unique physical traits as adaptations to their specific environments and lifestyles. These features, while considered unattractive by human standards, often serve critical functions such as camouflage, mating displays or specialized feeding habits.
Are "ugly" animals at a disadvantage for survival due to their looks?
Not necessarily. The unusual appearances of these animals often provide evolutionary advantages, such as deterring predators, enhancing their ability to hunt or forage, or helping them attract mates. Their survival depends more on these functional traits than on aesthetic appeal.