These Are the Cutest Baby Animals in The World, According to Science

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  • Explore Worldwide’s new study reveals which baby animals humans are most drawn to 
  • Their new eye-tracking study shows that the Indian Rhinoceros ranks as the cutest baby animal that we can’t take our eyes off, with the Morepork and Swiss Mountain Dog also making the rankings
  • In Australia, it is the Quokka that is named the most adorable native animal, landing in 4th place on the global list

With World Wildlife Day being celebrated on March 3rd, wildlife tour operator Explore Worldwide has conducted an eye-tracking study to reveal which baby animals captivate our attention the most. 

The study analysed participants’ eye movements as they looked at images of 80 different baby animals from countries all around the world. The study tracked which wildlife held the participant’s gaze (fixation) the longest and which baby animal the participant kept returning to look at (number of fixations).   

The 20 Baby Animals That Captivate Humans The Most 

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

The new research shows that the Indian Rhinoceros, with its armour-like appearance, takes the top spot as the world’s cutest baby animal, due to its expressive adorable eyes and incredibly playful behaviour. Considered an endangered species due to habitat loss and poaching, this Rhino is joined by other endangered animals in the top 15 rankings such as the Bengal Tiger and the Scottish Wildcat.

The runner-up is the Morepork, a small New Zealand owl known for its distinctive “more-pork” call. Its fluffy feathered head and large eyes make the Morepork, also known as Ruru in Māori, earn a reputation as a watchful guardian (and an adorable one at that), playing a significant role in native folklore. 

Another animal that also plays a role in its native country’s culture and lore is the Tanuki, found in Japan, which ranks in 9th place. More commonly known as a Japanese Racoon Dog, the Tanuki has a mischievous nature, and within folklore it has a reputation to be able to magically shape-shift.  Its fluffy racoon-like face and small-sized dog’s body contribute to the Tanuki’s position as one of the world’s cutest baby animals. 

From the subtropical warmth of New Zealand to the changing landscape of Japan, animals of all environments make the list, which makes it even more interesting that not one, but two Irish species enter the rankings: the Irish Hare and the Pine Marten. Wrapping up the top three, the Irish Hare could easily be confused with a very cute bunny in its small infant form, making it difficult for study participants to keep their eyes off it! Interestingly, it grows to be quite large and also changes its coat colour from brown to white in winter, similar to the Arctic Fox (7th place), whose fur also changes with the seasons.

Moving from the Arctic’s harsh cold to the warmth of Australia, the Quokka is named one of the world’s most adorable baby animals in 4th position. Known as the “world’s happiest animal” due to its smiling appearance, this small wallaby is joined by another Australian native in the top 10: the dingo.

Ben Ittensohn, Regional Director Australia and New Zealand at Explore Travel, comments: “With World Wildlife Day upon us, we thought it was a wonderful opportunity to remind ourselves of the enchanting animals across the globe that deserve our attention and protection. However, we didn’t expect our study to find so many of the adorable animals featured on the list being considered vulnerable, threatened or endangered species

“This broad spectrum of conservation challenges faced by different groups is a key reminder of the importance of protecting the welfare of animals and their environment when we visit them, and ensuring that, when you book a wildlife visit, your tour follows animal protection policies such as the ones we implement at Explore. There is nothing quite as adorable as seeing a baby koala munching on a eucalyptus leaf or a sleeping red panda in its mother’s embrace, so let us all ensure that many generations to come can also enjoy this experience.

The full findings and further information on the world’s most interesting destinations can be found here: https://www.exploreworldwide.com.au/blog/adorable-baby-animals 

Methodology:  

Explore Worldwide shortlisted 80 animal species from each continent around the world. A study was then conducted where participants were shown images of the animal species in their infant form. Using eye-tracking technology, the average fixation duration of each baby animal was measured to reveal which of these drew participants’ attention the most, providing a ranking of the most adorable baby animals globally. 

All data correct as of February 2024.

About Explore 

Explore has over 40 years’ experience in creating expert-led small group tours all over the world. Tours that are all about getting under the skin of your destination: making friends, treading lightly, and being mindful of local communities. With more than 350 trips in 100 countries, the company offers everything from classic cultural holidays and wildlife safaris to walking and cycling trips, family adventures and even polar expeditions. Explore’s expertly crafted itineraries combined with award-winning tour leaders, small group sizes and a commitment to responsible travel ensure unforgettable travel experiences in extraordinary destinations.

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