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The World’s Most Adorable Baby Animals

Our new study looks at the animal kingdom to discover which animals across the globe are the most eye-catching

 
When it comes to exploring our world’s wonderful wildlife, few sights capture our hearts (and eyes) quite like the sight of baby animals. From the playful hops of an Arctic Fox to the endearing clumsiness of a Black Bear cub, the appeal of cute tiny creatures transcends borders and languages.

Getting to witness nature’s incredible species first-hand is one of the biggest reasons people travel. In a previous study we revealed which wild animals each different country is most excited to see, and we saw interesting discrepancies between nationalities. Now, we’re looking at irresistible baby animals that most catch our attention and we’ve used eye-tracking technology to create a study that evaluates which baby animals capture our gazes the longest.

We began by shortlisting 80 animal species indigenous to various countries around the world, showing participants images of these fluffy, scaly or feathery creatures in their infant form. By measuring the lingering time of a gaze and the number of fixations, we found the ultimate list of the world's most adorable baby animals.

So, let's unwrap this list together!

Cutest Baby Animals in The World

Rank Animal Name  Country of Origin Continent Avg Fixation Duration (seconds) Nr of Fixations
1 Indian Rhinoceros India Asia 0.34 104
2 Morepork New Zealand Oceania 0.34 59
3 Irish Hare  Ireland Europe 0.33 84
4 Quokka Australia Oceania 0.32 132
5 Swiss Mountain Dog  Switzerland Europe 0.32 127
6 Lion South Africa Africa 0.32 123
7 Arctic Fox Greenland Arctic 0.32 119
8 Dingo Australia Oceania 0.32 110
9 Tanuki Japan Asia 0.32 96
10 Scottish Wildcat Scotland Europe 0.32 85
11 Red Panda Nepal Asia 0.32 82
12 Pine Marten Ireland Europe 0.32 66
13= Emperor Penguin Antarctica Antarctica 0.31 121
13= Red Squirrel UK Europe 0.31 121
14 Bengal Tiger India Asia 0.31 119
15 American Black Bear United States North America 0.31 110
16 Iberian Lynx Spain Europe 0.31 108
17 Giant Panda China Asia 0.31 97
18 Cheetah Namibia Africa 0.31 90
19 Giraffe Kenya Africa 0.31 88
20 Weddell Seal Antarctica Antarctica 0.31 81
From the unexpectedly charming Indian rhinoceros to the always delightful quokka, here’s a look at the creatures that tug at our heartstrings and command our attention the most:

1. Indian Rhinoceros (India, Asia)

Surprisingly, the number one animal that holds viewers' attention with its natural cuteness the most is the Indian rhinoceros. Large mammals like rhinos aren’t typically associated with 'adorableness', especially when compared to smaller, fluffier animals, yet the young rhino seems to enchant us.

Native to the grasslands and forests in the foothills of the Himalayas, why does the Indian Rhinoceros captivate us so much? The main reason may be that their large and expressive eyes which are disproportionate to their armoured bodies, create a ‘gentle giant’ effect, making it a particularly endearing member of India’s wildlife.

 

2. Morepork (New Zealand, Oceania)

The morepork, a bird species from New Zealand, ranks second on the list, marking another unexpected outcome. Birds would not be an obvious part of the most-endearing charts, yet our study shows we cannot take our eyes off this particular species! 

The Kiwi-native bird’s expressive eyes contribute to a look of constant surprise, and in combination with their soft feathers, they draw prolonged attention (0.34 seconds of average fixation duration), once again challenging the typical notion of what makes an animal adorable.

Fun fact: the morepork is named after its distinctive call, which sounds like it is saying "more pork!", but this type of owl feeds mainly on insects and small vertebrates.

 

3. Irish hare (Ireland, Europe)

If you couldn’t tell, mammals dominate the list: out of the top 20 of the world’s most adorable animals, 17 are mammals. So, it’s no surprise in that grand scheme that the Irish hare hops into the rankings for third place.

Known for their playful antics and large lovable eyes, these hares are found in a wide range of habitats in Ireland, including green, luscious grasslands, meadows, and uplands. Their long, floppy ears add to their innocent and playful appearance. And, like other mammals, their expressive faces are similar to human infants, evoking strong emotional connections, helping it to third place in the cuteness charts.

4. Quokka (Australia, Oceania)

Australian wildlife is represented in our rankings by multiple species, starting with the quokka. It’s no surprise that the quokka makes the top five, starting with the fact their facial structure gives the appearance of a constant smile, and helping it earn the nickname of "world's happiest animal".

Quokkas are also known for their friendly and photogenic nature. Though they have adapted to a life in dense bushes and forests, they are more than happy to snap a picture with humans they encounter, truly capturing the essence of joy in the animal kingdom. 

 

5. Swiss mountain dog (Switzerland, Europe)

The Swiss mountain dog wraps up the top five cutest baby animals in the world. Despite its strong build, the native Swiss pup has a calm nature and is covered in a fluffy coat with charming eyes. In fact, this species’ ‘puppy-eyed’ look remains into adulthood. 

While they were historically used for herding cattle and pulling carts in the Alps, nowadays Swiss mountain gods are seen as a domesticated pet, often happy to cuddle indoors, though they remain accustomed to the rugged terrain and cold climate of the Swiss mountains

 

6. Lion (South Africa, Africa)

The lion, often hailed as the king of the savannah earns its place on our list by gathering 123 fixations. The cub's fluffy mane, playful nature and undeniable majesty is eye-catching to say the least and gives us the first hints of our enduring fascination with big cats.

An incredible sight under the African sun, lion cubs' tiny roars and attempts at being fearsome are endearing, contrasting sharply with their true abilities. What is not as endearing is the fact lions have been reduced to a fraction of their original range (only an estimated 24,000 lions remain in the wild), serving as a powerful reminder of the importance of conservation efforts to ensure these adorable creatures continue to thrive for future generations.
 

 

7. Arctic fox (Greenland, Arctic)

Baby animals bring out joy and wonder in people of all ages, and a perfect reminder of such is the Arctic fox. With its snow-white coat that changes with the seasons and piercing eyes, this fox perfectly captures the essence of the Arctic regions wilderness. 

While its thick fur was built for survival in extreme climates, when the Arctic fox is pictured in its enchanting frozen habitat in playful antics, or wrapping their fluffy tails around themselves for warmth, it makes for an extremely cuddly appearance that lands it in seventh place on the list. 
 

8. Dingo (Australia, Oceania)

The dingo, Australia's iconic wild dog, enters the rankings with a 0.32-second average fixation duration. Baby dingoes, with their curious eyes and adventurous spirits, are found throughout Australia, particularly in the outback. 

Even in youth, the dingoes’ striking independence and keen survival instincts are evident, but what really helps their cuteness factor is the soft light fur and growing perky ears that remind us so much of the pups we keep as pets. 

 

9. Tanuki (Japan, Asia)

The adorable face and playful nature of Tanuki puppies enchant any who see them, but what few know is that they are also enveloped in the folklore of Japan, holding a special place in the culture as they embody prosperity and good fortune in local mythology.

But what makes the Tanuki, also known as Japanese racoon dog, so fascinating to look at? One of the many reasons is their fluffy racoon-like faces, which, combined with their soft round ears, make baby Tanuki look extremely similar to a small stuffed animal. We would be hard-pressed to find someone who can resist the adorableness of a living, breathing plushie.

 

10. Scottish wildcat (Scotland, Europe)

Wrapping up the top 10 is the fiercely independent and undeniably lovable Scottish wildcat. Do not be fooled by its resemblance to the domestic kitten -  the Scottish wildcats are true wild animals, known for their tenacity and survival skills and a symbol of the untamed wilderness of Scotland. That being said, their bold patterns and curious eyes tug at our heart strings and enchant us, gathering 85 fixations. 

What many don’t know however, is that the Scottish wildcat is one of the most endangered mammals in Britain, joined in the rankings by other endangered species such as Spain’s Iberian Lynx, and China’s Giant Panda. These animals, each captivating in their own right, are not just symbols of the world's natural beauty, they’re a stark reminder that habitat loss, poaching, and other threats are putting their environment in danger.

That’s why at Explore, we enable you to embark on wildlife explorations that respect the natural habitats that sustain these adorable creatures. We know that observing baby animals in their natural settings can be a profoundly enriching experience and our Animal Protection Policy ensures that exploration is done in a manner that prioritises the well-being and preservation of creatures and their habitats.
Methodology: We shortlisted 80 animal species from each continent around the world. We then conducted a study where participants were shown images of the animal species in their infant form. Using eye-tracking technology, we measured the average fixation duration of each baby animal to reveal which of these draw participants’ attention the most, providing us with an official list of the most adorable baby animals globally that you can visit on your next wildlife holiday. 

All data correct as of February 2024.