The Happiest Animal on Earth Is the Quokka

By: Yara Simón  | 
We can't help but smile back at the adorably joyful quokka. Martin Pelanek / Shutterstock

It's small. It's cute. It's the happiest animal on Earth. The quokka earned the title of world's happiest animal because of its "smile."

Learn more about the adorable creatures mostly found in Western Australia that beat out other animals like dogs.


What Is a Quokka?

The quokka (Setonix brachyurus) is a mammal in the kangaroo and wallaby family (Macropodidae). The fuzzy marsupials have round ears and are about the size of small cats — they weigh up to 11 pounds (5 kg) and are between 16 to 21 inches (40.64 to 53.34 centimeters).

Listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, their population has dwindled in recent decades. Foxes in mainland Australia are a threat to quokkas, but since these small animals mostly live in Rottnest Island and Bald Island, they have some protection.


5 Quokka Facts

Here are a few interesting facts about the happiest animal in the world.

1. A Dutch Captain Confused Quokkas for Rodents

In 1696, a Dutch captain Willem de Vlamingh came across quokkas and thought they were rats. He dubbed their home Rottnest Island, which translates to rats' nest.


2. They Are Nocturnal

Quokkas spend the day sleeping. And when they do snooze, they might sleep beneath Acanthocarpus preissii plants in a sitting position.

3. They Live in Their Mother's Pouch for 5 Months

These mammals the first five months of their lives in their mother's pouches. According to Adelaide Zoo keepers, at that point, they make "their way out to explore the world."

4. They Are Hoppers

Similar to bunnies, quokkas hop to get around.

5. They Are Herbivores

Quokkas, which have two stomachs, eat leaves and grasses. They also can go some time without eating food or drinking water.


Quokkas as Social Media Stars

quokka on an empty paved street
The quokka's hind legs are similar to those of a kangaroo. Kevin Schafer / Getty Images

Quokkas' status as the happiest animals has made them social media stars. People have traveled to Rottnest to take pictures with quokkas because of their constant smiles. Not only are people getting cute selfies out of the visit, but they are also helping quokkas.

The quokkas' popularity led to an increase in tourism to the island. The island reinvested these funds in research for the animals' conservation.


"And when the quokka population grows once more with the new birth, the island will have selfies, in part, to thank," says Michelle Reynolds, the island's executive director to People. "It has really highlighted and brought to the attention of the world this most amazing mammal and the opportunity to really see them close up, in their natural environment."