What Is Australia’s National Animal? What Are Some of Our Favourite Animals?

When it comes to talking about our national animal, Australians have different opinions on this. Australia has never formally proclaimed or adopted an official animal. Some animals seem to hold more significance towards our country than others and some even are emblems, while others simply popular in general with Australians.

Often we think of a national animal as an animal widely recognisable throughout a country. It can be an animal the majority of a country is familiar with. Some national animals around the world include: the markhor (wild goat) in Pakistan, the giant panda in China and since the 1300s, the unicorn in Scotland.

Many Australians see the koala as our unofficial animal | Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimism.

Many Australians see the koala as our unofficial animal | Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic.

I have vivid memories of animals being a considerable part of my life growing up in Australia. As a kid, I always looked forward to trips to the zoo. Perked up seeing Big Bird on Sesame Street in the evenings on TV. As part of my collection of stuffed toys, my parents insisted there was a kangaroo and a koala – both long thought of as unofficial animals of Australia.

We might call an animal the national icon of our country because it’s an animal that we can call our own, found uniquely in our part of the world and not anywhere else. Kangaroos and koalas are two endangered “native animals” predominantly originating and found Down Under, two creatures uniquely representative of Australian nature and land. My Chinese-Malaysian parents think that way and when they visit family in Malaysia, they like gifting kangaroo and koala-shaped pencil cases and soft toys to the younger relatives – authentic Aussie gifts from Australia according to them.

An animal that’s symbolic of our country’s values could be the official animal of our nation. If something has always been associated with our country’s history, we probably feel a connection towards it. The Red kangaroo and the emu are depicted holding a shield on Australia’s Commonwealth Coat of Arms, an emblem signifying our Commonwealth authority and ownership. Rumour has it both kangaroo and emu were chosen to symbolise a nation moving forwards; the two animals can’t move backwards easily.

Hungry wallaby. They look like kangaroos.

Hungry wallaby. They look like kangaroos.

Sometimes we might call an animal our national animal as it’s a natural part of our environment, an extension of our everyday life. The animals we see and face ever so often could be creatures that we learn to live with – maybe put up with – and come to be fond of somewhat. Travel through the Australian outback and chances are kangaroos and wallabies will hop across your path. Spiders are also all too familiar with Australians as well. No matter which part of Australia you live in, be it around the bush or concrete, there is usually a spider around the corner.

Personally, spiders scare me. A few years ago on a hot summer’s night, I was sitting at my desk beside an open window in my apartment in the city. Suddenly, I sensed movement above me. Looking up, I saw a black spider bigger than the palm of my hand crawling on the wall beside the window. It looked like a giant huntsman spider. I ran from my room.

Different states in Australia affiliate with different animals, and there are different faunal (animal) emblems around the country. In New South Wales, it’s the platypus, and the kookaburra is the state’s bird emblem. The koala was proclaimed Queensland’s faunal emblem in 1971. The hairy-nosed wombat was given the title of South Australia’s the previous year. Here in Victoria, the leadbeatters possum is our animal emblem. Coincidentally, these faunal emblems are appointed after animals that adapt well in each state.

Maybe wallaby doesn't like all the attention.

Maybe wallaby doesn’t like all the attention.

Time and time again some of us confuse animals with one other in Australia. Wallabies get mistaken for kangaroos; they look like kangaroos and vice-versa. Both animals belong to the macropod family but the former is smaller in size and has a shinier coat. Also, some call koalas “koala bears”. However, koalas are not bears and they belong to the marsupial family. No one really kicks up much of a fuss about these mistakes in Australia, though.

More often than not, we take a liking to animals because they are just like us: warm-blooded with a beating heart and love to give. Sometimes we like animals so much we open the sanctuary that is our homes to them. Australia undeniably loves animals. Around 63% of Australians have pets at home, and there are around 4.2 million pet dogs in the country. Or perhaps we have a soft spot for animals because they are companions that rarely judge us provided we come across as no harm, accepting the conditions around them as best they can. As novelist George Eliot said:

“Animals are such agreeable friends. They ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”

Australia's Mr Wobbles. Brown as nature's bark. Loves sunshine.

Australia’s Mr Wobbles. Brown as nature’s bark. Loves sunshine.

We all have our favourite animals. My favourite animal? Monkey, and I have this brown stuffed monkey called Mr Wobbles. Like real-life animals, Mr Wobbles doesn’t speak – but always has a big smile across his face. When I chucked him on blonde-haired Australian colleague Simone’s desk for the first time, she exclaimed in delight, “I love him! He’s all knit!”. Pretty sure Simone loves Mr Wobbles as much as koalas…

Perhaps it’s not worth arguing over which animal should be Australia’s national animal. At the end of the day, all animals are our friends, and all deserve to be respected and loved in their own right.

What animals are popular and/or recognised in your country?

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253 thoughts on “What Is Australia’s National Animal? What Are Some of Our Favourite Animals?

  1. Non – Australians are always fascinated with the Koala and other marsupials. Steve Irwin even made people want to see the crocodile…. For us, these animals are our everyday. And I think it was a great use of symbols to have the kangaroo and emu on our coat of arms! Love the Eliot quote too! It is so true and that is why they make the best companions.

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    • Ah, Steve Irwin. Honestly I didn’t think of him when I wrote this post, and strangely enough you are the first person to bring him up :/ Maybe it’s a generational thing, I don’t know.

      Crocodiles – something that I noticed no one so far has also mentioned. Maybe quite a few of us see it as a savage species? It seems that we warm towards animals that are cute and cuddly; it’s in our nature to be loved and be loved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have a Norwegian friend who calls this attachment towards the cute and cuddly animals: the ‘Bambi complex’ ie – “People affected by the Bambi Complex are very sentimental and sympathetic towards wildlife and wild animals. They usually have very strong feelings against hunting, controlled fires, and any other inhumane treatment of animals, especially the cute ones like deer.”
        I am not so sure. I think, like you do, that it is more in our nature to be protective and warm and fuzzy towards animals…. although yeh, I definitely would have a problem with snakes, spiders, and most reptiles! And let us face it crocs ARE savage.

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        • That is a rather catchy term, the Bambi Complex. First time I’m hearing of it. Maybe it is a Norwegian term as you mentioned. I have yet to meet anyone who is extremely sympathetic towards animals and wildlife in general. Animal lovers I’ve met, yes, for instance those who work with animals. But as for those who protest on the streets for animals rights or “tree huggers”, not so. Some really are prepared to stand up for animals, and it does take quite some heart and effort.

          I have never seen a crocodile in the wild in Australia before. Not sure if I want too. They seem to blend into rivers and muddy areas!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Since arriving in Australia, I have seen kangaroos, koalas (but only in the zoo or as street murals), cockatoos (white and pink), emus, wallabies, wombats (unfortunately, only after they’d been hit by a car), kookaburra, rainbow lorikeets, fairy wrens and a monkey named Mr Wobbles. My vote for the national animal of Australia would definitely be for Mr Wobbles! I am still keeping an eye out for a platypus, crock and shark (hopefully spotted while I have to get away). In the states, our national animal is the bald eagle. I think the bear is a second favorite.

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  3. I was surprised how few kangaroos I saw when I lived in Australia and we drove the entire southern coast. It was so hot when we visited Kangaroo Island, (45!) that I think they were all hiding. I love koalas and went to a wonderful sanctuary where you could walk right up to them resting in the trees. Great post, Mabel!

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  4. I am sorry to hear my comment didn’t go through. This time I am going to be smart and copy it just in case the same thing happens again.

    As I said in my previous comment, the animal I probably associate the most with Australia is the kangaroo. I mean Qantas even uses it as its symbol. Whenever I see the airline with the kangaroo, I know it is from ‘down under.’

    I think the beaver is the national animal of Canada as it appears on the Canadian nickel. I also associate the moose with Canada as it is on the quarter and they are plentiful in some regions.

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    • And this one went through! Thanks so much for stopping by again, Constance. You are very kind 🙂

      You are so right. The kangaroo is the symbol of Australia’s national airline, and sometimes it is referred to as the ‘flying kangaroo’.

      Interesting to hear the beaver is significant in Canada, and so cool it is on a coin. I don’t think Australia has coined the kangaraoo on a coin yet.

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  5. mr wobbles on the bench – oh how cute 🙂
    and great ending to celebrate the animals –
    and if there were ever a country to confuse the animals in I would say it would be yours at the top of my list – so diverse there.
    and here, not sure if anyone noted the eagle for the US yet, but did you know that one flew above Lady Gaga after she sang the star spangled banner? It was right near the end in when the planes took off. I have an image of her with it, but went with the piano one instead. anyhow, the eagle for us….

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  6. I have never been to Australia, but even as a child, I knew about these animals. I guess to a foreigher up north the most exceptional animal is the kangaroo. In Sweden I guess it is the moose and the reindeer.
    Interesting post as usual!

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  7. The significance of animals varies depending on culture, whether you live in that country, or you are a visitor. As loveable as they are, kangaroos ,wombats and dingoes are more of a nuisance to motoring Australia. We have many unique animals here, due to our isolation.

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    • That is so true. Driving along suburban roads, you never know when a kangaroo might jump out at you. Or when sheep might cross the road. And if they do, the driver has no choice but to stop.

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  8. Interesting topic… Of course Australia is associated with koalas and kangaroos. Here in the States… It’s such a varied country (as is Australia, I know), I suppose we could never pick a national animal. Yes, yes, I know we have the bald eagle. But bald eagles aren’t only found here… Americans can’t even decide on (or choose) a good leader, let alone an animal!

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  9. I’d definitely choose Mr. Wobbles as the Aussie National Animal 🙂 I’d always kind of thought of the Kangaroo as your national animal, but then I would see a Koala bear and immediately think that to be your national animal. I’m partial to the Koala, they are unique and seem to be so easy going ~ similar to how I view Aussies. In the States, the Bald Eagle seems to be the symbol, but a couple hundred years ago Benjamin Franklin pushed for the turkey…and I think that is kinda cool 🙂 Wishing you a great week ahead Mabel ~

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    • Koalas are more laid-back creatures compare to kangaroos. The former are fond of lazing around. Each time I went to their enclosure at the zoo, they were sleeping – except for the one in the first shot in this post who opened his eyes for about ten seconds 🙂 Kangaroo, koala…Australians love both.

      Ah, the bald eagle. Seems like many of our fellow bloggers agree on that animal for the States. Good to know and it sounds sort of like a symbol of pride from what I gather.

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    • Thanks, D. I seem to be stuck in a rut with photography at the moment…writing takes up most of my free time. You never know. Maybe one day you will see wallabies right in front of you.

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  10. Another great and well written post Mabel and I agree totally. They definitely deserve to be loved and cared for. I love the Kangaroos and Koalas and haven’t seen photos of a Wallaby in quite a while, so thanks for sharing these amazing shots. I truly enjoyed. 😀

    Mr Wobbles is my favourite for sure and he knows it, doesn’t he? 😆 Give him lots of hugs and kisses from me. ♥

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    • Thanks, Sophia. Maybe one day you’ll get to see a wallaby again. I don’t suppose they are a common sight, along with koalas and kangaroos, where you are.

      Mr Wobbles is flattered you paid him some attention. He waves at you, and waves back at the animals and insects in your backyard today. He sees them as friends ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe I will, but I am grateful that I can do my virtual travelling and see them through your eyes.

        Not at all. The only ‘kangaroos’ we have here is the South African Springhare.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_springhare

        They are tiny ‘kangaroos’. LOL!

        Awww, he is such a sweetie and he definitely deserves the attention. I am waving back at him and all his little friends as well. 😀 ♥

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          • I’ve also just heard of them and they are. As a matter of fact, once there was someone who told tourists they are miniature kangaroos and made money by charging them to hunt these Springhares.

            Now I am waving back more furiously at him as well … and nearly fell off my chair. 😆

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              • It is sad. Greed can be such an ugly thing.

                I totally agree with you on that one. The wheel turns slowly but surely. 😀

                hahahaha! Same here and now I am also just laughing at him. He better run because I am gonna hug him up! 😆

                Liked by 1 person

  11. I think echidnas are pretty special because it’s so unusual to see them in the wild. I’ve been lucky enough to do so on only 4 or 5 occasions. I’ve never seen a platypus in the wild – even harder to find, I think, I hope I do one day. I saw koalas & kangaroos & a couple of big wallabies on a recent road trip. It’s always a treat to see Aussie wildlife because (unlike Mr Wobbles), so many creatures only come out at dawn or dusk or in the dark.

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    • Ahhh, echidnas! I don’t think I’ve seen them in Australia yet. They remind me of porcupines and I’ve seen those quite a bit when I grew up in Rowville, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. And then there are hedgehogs. All three of which look similar.

      Mr Wobbles is a day and sunshine person. He is not a huge fan of the night.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you have seen echidnas then, because there are no porcupines in Australia. A car of mistaken identity? I forgot to say, I liked your pizza art 🙂

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        • Hmmm, maybe so. I do remember my kindergarten teacher mentioning porcupines at some stage when I was a kid. Maybe they are from the same family.

          Thanks for the nice words on my photography, Maamej. Those pizzas were delicious 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Happy Hello’s my most favourite, most lovely, most beautiful little sister. 🙂 I am finally here reading your great posts, sorry about my delay, life just seemed to happen. Are you well? Are you enjoying your 2016?

    I know people associate kangaroo and koala with Australia, but I reckon it should be a dog, like my Little Chef, friendly, mans best friend, welcoming, kind, loving…. All the things I mostly think (hope) Australians are like.

    PS: I would have moved out of my house if a giant huntsman spider was sitting above my head. Shivers, cold sweats, voms…. I hate spiders so much!

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    • So many Australians I’ve met love dogs, whether they have one or not. Your Little Chef sounds like he is always there for you and looks like a happy little companion. I hate spiders too. That makes the two of us. It is one reason I don’t live far out in the country or near bushy surrounds. I just freak at the sight of them.

      Haha, big sis always knows when to pop out of no where and surprise little sis. Very sweet of you! 2016 is off to a rocky start but I’m sure at some point I will find my feet. Big, big hugs to you ❤

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  13. Here in Wales, the dragon is our national symbol and on our flag, Mabel. However, as they don’t exist anymore (at least I don’t think they do) then it’s the sheep. Watch any rugby game on TV. that involves Wales, and you’ll see quite a few ‘blow-up’ sheep being held up high. 😀

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    • That is very interesting to hear, Hugh. The dragon is one mystical and strong creature. Sheep, another great choice. They always seem so serene and content when they are out grazing in the fields. I’d need to watch rugby games with Wales playing more carefully now. Never seen those blow-up balloon sheep. They sound like a fascinating sight.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Liebe Mabel danke für deinen Link ja hier in Köln ist es wieder mal am regnen wünsche dir einen sonnigen Sonntag mit ganz vielen lieben Grüßen Klaus in Freundschaft

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  15. I associate Australia with kangaroos and koalas 🙂 here maybe the most popular animals are, hm, brown bears and storks 😀 your post reminds me of what we studied in linquistics, that the region you live in actually forms and shapes your language and linguistic ways of expression… thus the Scandinavian countries have idioms with whales, for instance … we do have a lot of fairy tales with bears lol 🙂 and this makes me wonder if there are interesting idiomatic expressions with kangaroos and koalas used in Austraila? 😀

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    • Oooh, brown bears and storks. Haven’t seen those in a while. What an interesting thing to bring up – animals, idioms and metaphors! I hope in many of the fairytales the bears live happily ever after 😀

      We don’t have idioms associated with the kangaroo and koala in Australia, and I think that has got to do with our laid-back nature and we accept them for what they are.

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  16. Hey, while the kangaroo and koala vie for the limelight, they have competition from a elusive beast..the Drop Bear. You can read more here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/dog-claims-drop-bears-ate-missing-boy/
    By the way, although I haven’t deliberating touting Australia’s dangerous wildlife on my blog, the encounters just keep coming. My son attended the Australian Scouting Jamboree and we were advised that Funnel Web Spiders had been found in two packs upon return. our son hadn’t unpacked his bag by this point and it was promptly taken out of his room and dumped at my feet. As if I am going to save him from a Funnel Web?!! Not long after that, we were down at the beach and some fishermen caught a baby shark. That was exciting too..along with snake sightings at at his Aunty’s farm.
    Anyone would think we were chasing trouble!
    xx Rowena

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    • Yes, the Drop Bear! Thanks for the link, lovely to read about it in detail. I’ve never ever seen one…I don’t think I want too 😀

      Sorry to hear about the Funnel Web Spiders experience. I hope your son wasn’t afraid, and from the sounds of it it didn’t bother him too much. The shark does sound exciting – it’s not like you see them every day like you can spiders and snakes in Australia!

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  17. Liebe Mabel aus dem verregneten Köln kommen zu dir ganz liebe Grüße zu dir hier feiern wir am Wochenende Ostern ist das auch bei euch auch so schreibe es doch mal bleib froh und heiter dann ist das Leben leichter Klaus in Freundschaft

    Liked by 1 person

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