Think you know your animals? Even if you can name a hundred beasts between Aardvark and Zebra, you still may not have heard of this curious collection of animals all of whom have more famous cousins.Share
NOT SO JUMBO – THE HYRAX
Unbelievably, while the Hyrax looks more like a relative of the gopher or the beaver, this hairy little beast actually has more in common with the lumbering grey elephant than any other animal. Though the Hyrax doesn’t have a trunk nor a bellowing call, it benefits from tiny tusks that both animals share. This is a common tree-dwelling beast that normally feeds on fruit and eggs.
LIVES: AFRICA, ASIA
SLEEPING IN SILK – THE SILKY ANTEATER
This tiny, sleepy-looking relative of the anteater normally weighs around the same as a box of cereal – and it’s a truly rare sight. This is both down to its entirely nocturnal habits, and that it will never leave the trees in the rainforests it’s found in. Armed with a pair of particularly keen claws, the Silky Anteater is for now an unthreatened creature – probably helped by being hidden away!
LIVES: SOUTH AMERICA
SCAREDY DOG – THE AARDWOLF
While its name betrays you into thinking it might be a distant cousin of the ant-eating Aardvark, it’s only their diets that are similar. The Aardwolf is actually a smaller animal from the Hyena family, and it appears to have pulled out the short straw – it’s got very weak jaws meaning it can only eat bugs (particularly termites), and is extremely shy. It’s of no real harm to anything bar insects, but it will use a cat-like technique to make itself look bigger to scare off anything unwanted.
RAINFOREST RARITY – THE OKAPI
This striking, stripy, tree-eating beast is a rare find anywhere but in the rainforests of Congo – barely smaller than a horse, this placid vegetarian has a huge tongue that it cleans the whole of its face with. What could make it weirder? It’s actually the closest known relative of the Giraffe.
THE MARVELLOUS MINIATURE – THE PYGMY HIPPO
Hippopotami are known for being big, burly bruisers that wallow in huge packs. Their lesser-known relatives, the Pygmy, are quite different. To start with, they only ever grow to around the same height as a human toddler – and they prefer to operate alone, out of water’s way. There’s a good chance they’re probably less territorial and angry as a result.
FATHER FIGURE – THE DRILL
While its name sounds more like something you’d find in a hardware catalogue, the Drill is in fact a distant relative of the colourful-faced Mandrill, a common primate. The Drill, however, is actually close to being made extinct due to a large trade in its meat – but you can tell one apart from a Mandrill due to is almost completely black face. Drills are extremely social, with a score of females at a time being governed by one patriarchal male.
ENORMOUS YET ELUSIVE – THE COLOSSAL SQUID
While many thought up until recently that the Giant Squid was the upper size limit for such tentacled terrors, recent discoveries have shown that it’s got a bigger, badder brother. The Colossal Squid has never been seen alive, though bodies of this humongous beast have been pulled out from the Antarctic and New Zealand. How big is it? At an estimated 14 metres (46 feet), it’s longer than an articulated lorry.
MY PERFECT COUSIN – THE CRAB-EATING RACCOON
While the Raccoon is a common urban scavenger and something of a notorious pest in the cities of North America, this solitary forest-dwelling relative has, for one, a much healthier diet. An expert fisherman, the Raccoon’s fish and crab-fancying relation is also a bit slighter than its urban blood-link, and is more likely to bathe thanks to its aquatic lifestyle.
LIVES: NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA
STATUS: UNTHREATENED (BUT RARELY SEEN)
MEOW GOES THE WEASEL – THE JAGUARUNDI
The Jaguarundi is a truly weird-looking and rare beast that mainly lives in South America – it’s about the same size and shape as a weasel, though it’s actually got far more in common with both the Puma and the Mountain Lion. Illegal trade and habitat destruction are sadly making sights of this odd beast even rarer, sadly.
LIVES: NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA
STATUS: POTENTIALLY THREATENED