On this page you’ll find an African animals list that contains all of the continent’s most famous animals together with many species that aren’t quite as well known.
You’ll also find links to further information about the animals.
The continent of Africa is home to many of the world’s most famous animals, including lions, zebras, giraffes, gorillas, hippos and rhinos. Wildlife lovers flock to Africa from all over the world in order to view its incredible wildlife.
Africa is the world’s second largest continent (Asia is the largest). Habitats range from rainforest to desert, and Africa’s animal life is every bit as varied as its landscapes. The animals included on this list represent just a fraction of what can be found in the continent, and we’ll be adding new species regularly.
You can click on many of the images below to find out more amazing facts about the animal.
- Download a FREE African animals worksheet for this page here: Free Printable Worksheets.
List of African Animals: Introduction
Perhaps the best-known African habitat is savannah (US spelling: savanna). Savannahs are grasslands with widely-spaced trees. They are home to many of Africa’s most recognisable animals, including lions, cheetahs, giraffes and zebras.
Deserts such as the Sahara Desert are home to species with special adaptations for living in the intense heat.
How many species on our African animals list have you heard of?
African Animals List
The aardvark is a nocturnal mammal whose diet consists mainly of ants and termites. It uses its excellent sense of smell to find food, and its long, sticky tongue to capture its prey.
The aardvark is an expert digger, and can even burrow its way out of danger from predators.
Although slightly pig-like in appearance, the aardvark is not a member of the Suidae (pig) family. In fact, the aardvark is the last remaining species of the order Tubulidentata.
- You can find out more about aardvarks here.
Aardwolf means ‘earth wolf’ in Afrikaans, a language spoken by many South African people. The aardwolf lives in scrublands in eastern and southern Africa.
The aardwolf is nocturnal, and sleeps in burrows during the day. Although the aardwolf is in the hyena family, it doesn’t eat large animals. Instead, it eats insects, its favourite food being termites.
The aardwolf uses its long, sticky tongue to capture and eat up to 250,000 termites in one night!
The African elephant is the world’s largest land animal. Recent studies have shown that there are two subspecies of African elephant: the African bush elephant, and the smaller African forest elephant.
- Learn about the amazing African elephant here.
There are 91 species of antelope, most of which are native to Africa. They live in a range of habitats, including forests and grasslands. Antelopes are herbivores (plant eaters), and many species live in large herds.
Antelopes have a range of strategies to protect themselves from predators, including being able to run fast, good senses of smell and vision, and camouflage.
Baboons are monkeys with long muzzles and close-set eyes, giving their faces a dog-like appearance.
Baboons live in groups called troops, which range in size from 5 to 250 individuals. Male baboons use noises and visual threats such as showing their sharp, pointed teeth to establish their standing within the troop.
- You can find out more about baboons here.
The bonobo is an endangered primate that lives in the Central African rainforests. It is closely related to the chimpanzee.
- Find out more here: Bonobo Facts
The African buffalo has distinctive upwards-curved horns. The buffalo is a very thick-set and robust animal, generally standing at around 1.5m (5ft). Although distantly related to other bovines, the buffalo is not an ancestor of domestic cattle.
Also known as Galagos or Nagapies (which means ‘little night monkeys’ in Afrikaans), Bushbabies are nocturnal (active at night), and have large, round eyes, giving them excellent night vision.
Bushbabies have long tails that help them balance, and powerful hind legs for jumping. When leaping through dense vegetation, bushbabies can fold their bat-like ears back for protection.
The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal. It uses its great speed to capture its prey, which consists of animals such as antelope and hares.
The cheetah’s coat is pale brown / yellow and covered with distinctive black spots. The spots provide camouflage, breaking up the animal’s outline against grasses and other foliage.
The cheetah is a member of the felidae (cat) family.
- Click here to learn more awesome cheetah facts.
You need to be careful when walking near rivers and lakes in Africa; the continent is home to several species of crocodile!
Crocodiles are large, meat-eating reptiles, and are among Africa’s most dangerous animals. These ambush predators lie in wait in shallow water for their unsuspecting prey to approach.
The largest African crocodile is the Nile crocodile. It is the second-largest crocodile species: only Australia’s saltwater crocodile is bigger!
- You can find out more about Africa’s crocodiles here: African Crocodiles List & Information
No African animals list would be complete without the giraffe. One of the most distinctive of all animals, this long-necked creature is the world’s tallest land animal.
Its extreme height gives the giraffe easy access to tall trees, meaning that it can eat plants and leaves that other herbivores can’t reach.
- You can find out more about the tallest creature in the world here.
Gorillas live in the forests of central Africa. Gorillas are members of the great ape (Hominidae) family, and are the largest living primates.
Despite their fearsome looks, gorillas are peaceful creatures and are largely herbivorous.
There are two species of gorilla: the eastern gorilla and the western gorilla. Both are critically endangered. Only 880 mountain gorillas (a subspecies of eastern gorilla) are left in the wild.
- Find out more about gorillas here: Gorilla Facts.
- Find out more about mountain gorillas here: Mountain Gorilla Facts
Gorilla Charity: The Gorilla Organization.
The word ‘hippopotamus’ is derived from ancient Greek for ‘river horse’. It is a fitting name for this large animal, which has a semi-aquatic lifestyle.
Commonly known as ‘hippos’, these herbivorous animals spend most of the day bathing in water or mud, only emerging at dusk when the temperature is cooler.
The hippo’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom are the Cetaceans – the group of animals that includes whales and porpoises.
- Learn more about the hippopotamus here: Hippo Facts
Hyenas may look like a mixture between a dog and a wolf, but they are more closely related to cats and viverrids (cat-like mammals).
Although hyenas have a reputation for being scavengers it is only the striped hyena and the brown hyena that find most of their food this way. The spotted hyena (also known as the laughing hyena) actively hunts most of its own prey.
The fourth member of the hyena family is the Aardwolf, which appears further up this list.
Hyenas often appear in African and Middle Eastern folklore and mythology.
Jackals are small canines (members of the dog family). They have long, agile legs and curved teeth that are well adapted to their omnivorous diet. Jackals are built for long distance running and are most active at dawn and dusk.
- You can see a list of ALL of the members of the dog family here: Wild Dogs List.
The leopard is a fast and powerful big cat that is found in Africa and Asia. Its coat is dotted with distinctive rings known as ‘rosettes’. These provide camouflage in the grasslands and forests in which the leopard lives.
After subduing its victim, the leopard will sometimes drag its prey up a tree. Here the leopard can finish its meal in peace away from other predators.
- You can learn some amazing leopard facts here.
Although they are known as being the ‘kings of the jungle’, lions are actually the second biggest of the big cats (tigers are the biggest).
Lions tend to be fairly inactive during the day and can spend up to 20 hours of the day resting.
Lions are most active after dusk, when they groom and socialise before going to hunt. Lions are carnivores (meat eaters) and use teamwork to capture large prey.
- Learn more about lions here: Amazing Lion Facts.
There are around 33 species of mongoose. These small mammals are found in Africa and Asis. They range in size from 20cm (8in) to 60cm (27in).
Mongooses are most active during the day. Their diet consists mostly of insects, earthworms, and other small creatures such as crabs, lizards, snakes, and birds.
One of the best-known species of mongoose is the meerkat, which lives in desert habitats in southern Africa.
Africa is home to many species of monkey, including the black-and-white colobus monkey, mandrill, de Brazza’s monkey and the vervet monkey.
Some species live in trees and some tend to stay on the ground. Most monkeys are active during the day and live in organized social groups.
Monkeys are omnivorous (i.e. they eat both meat and plants).
Monkeys range in size from pygmy species which can be as small as 12cm (4.6 in) in height, to larger species which can weigh up to 36kg (80lb).
These shy, rarely-seen African animals live in the forests of central Africa. They have stripes like a zebra, but in fact are more closely related to the giraffe. The okapi’s markings provide camouflage in the forest environment.
The okapi is an endangered species.
- Find out more about the okapi at our Okapi Facts page.
The ostrich may not be able to fly, but it is a true record breaker. Not only is it the world’s largest bird, but it is also the fastest (on land) and the layer of the biggest eggs!
Ostriches mainly eat grasses and other plants, but occasionally also eat insects and bugs.
The pangolin’s most distinctive feature is its thick, armor-like coat, which is made of keratin – the same substance that fingernails and hair are made of.
Pangolins are often referred to as ‘scaly anteaters’. They live in hollows in trees or in burrows, and are active at night. They eat ants and termites.
The rhinoceros is another creature that is sure to appear in any list of African animals. These big, powerful animals are unmistakeable due to their bulk and distinctive nose horns.
There are five species of rhino, two of which, the white rhino and the black rhino, are found in Africa. The black rhino is critically endangered.
Rhinos are herbivores and mainly eat grass.
- Find out more about rhinos here.
The serval is a medium-sized wild cat that is closely related to the African golden cat. Servals are tall, with small heads and big ears. They have yellow-gold coats with black spots.
Servals are fast and agile, and their diet consists of a variety of small creatures such as birds, mammals and reptiles. They are nocturnal, and their main habitat is savannah.
- You can see a list of wild cats here: Wild Cats List.
The warthog is a member of the pig family that lives in grassland and savannah habitats. There are two species of warthog, the common warthog and the desert warthog.
The common warthog, as its name suggests, is widespread throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. The desert warthog is found in parts of eastern Africa.
Warthogs are large animals which have two pairs of tusks protruding from their faces. These are used for digging, and for fighting with other warthogs.
The warthog’s name refers to the fleshy bumps on its face.
Wildebeests, also known as gnus, are a type of antelope. Wildebeest are a common sight on the African savannah, and can form huge herds which sometimes also include zebras.
Wildebeest are mostly found in open plains or woodlands where they graze on grass.
The zebra is one of the most distinctive African animals. Its black and white striped coat is known throughout the world.
Zebras are herd animals, and are found in grasslands, savannahs and woodlands.
There are three species of zebra, the plains zebra, Grévy’s zebra and mountain zebra.
- You can find out more about zebras here.
African Animals List Conclusion
We hope that you have found this list of African animals interesting, and have learned something about the incredible creatures that live in Africa.
Now you have learned all about African animals, find out more about animals from other parts of the world by visiting our Amazing Animals page.