The American Kennel Club recognizes 195 dog breeds. The French equivalent, the Federation Cynologique Internationale, recognizes 360. So it’s safe to say, no matter whose guidelines you follow, there are a lot of dogs in the world. And that’s just dogs. There are anywhere from 40 to 70 breeds of cats, depending on who you ask. There are more than 3,000 species of snakes, and 14,000 kinds of ants. And while the vast majority of these different breeds and species are kind of mundane, there are always a few standouts, a few extremely unusual ones that we never see even when their more common cousins are hanging out around us all the time. Let’s take a look at 10 of the most unusual breeds of fairly common creatures.
10. The Manx Loaghtan Sheep Have Multiple Horns
If you’re not up to speed on the wool or lamb industries, it’s forgivable to not be all that well versed in sheep variants. Most of us know sheep and maybe longhorn sheep. But it turns out there are actually over 200 breeds of sheep in the world.
Of all the breeds out there, few make as much of a visual impact as the Manx Loaghtan sheep. You can find these little guys on the Isle of Man. The breed nearly went extinct in the 1950s but breeders have managed to build those numbers back up somewhat.
The most significant feature of a Manx Loaghtan is, of course, the horns. Unlike most sheep where the females may have no horns at all and the rams might have a pair of curled horns, the Loaghtan breed typically all have four horns. Some may only have two, but some may have as many as six, and they stick out fairly dramatically like a crown from their heads.
9. Kharai Camels Thrive in the Water
Most people are aware that there are a couple of kinds of camels, the most famous being dromedary and bactrian. But those are species of camels and there are still breeds among them. There are nine breeds of dromedary camels recognized in India, and one of those is the Kharai camel.
While we typically associate camels with dry deserts, there’s nothing about the animal specifically that demands arid climates, they just adapt well to them. The Kharai is the exact opposite of those desert-dwellers as it’s chiefly known for being highly aquatic. They’ll swim as far as three kilometers, or about 1.9 miles, to find suitable mangroves for grazing.
They feed on mangrove and other plants that grow near the saltwater in which they swim, and their numbers are fairly small. In 2010 it’s estimated there were 10,000 of the camels. That was down to 4,500 by 2020 thanks to habitat loss.
8. Danish Protest Pigs Were Bred to Protest Prussian Rule
Americans eat over 66 pounds of pork per capita per year. If you don’t eat 70 pounds of pork per year, trust that someone else is taking up the slack for you. It’s the most widely consumed meat in the world and we produce tens of millions of tons of it globally, every year. Though few breeds are used for meat, there are apparently as many as 500 different breeds out there.
Undoubtedly many of those breeds are quirky and unique but only the Danish protest pig exists as a political statement. These little white-banded pigs were bred specifically to resemble the Danish flag as a snub against the Prussians during a border dispute.
After two wars, the Prussians took over the disputed lands and were quick to squash anything remotely Danish. That included the Danish flag. But the land they took over was full of Danish people, so to protest this new rule banning their own identity they bred their own walking, snorting little flags in the form of the Danish protest pig whose markings feature a clearing white band on an orange background.
Admittedly, the pigs don’t look a whole lot like the Danish flag which is red with a white cross set towards the left side, but hey, it’s a living pig, it’s close enough.
7. Ayam Cemani Chickens are Black Inside and Out
Estimates suggest that there are 25.9 billion chickens in the world right now. That’s a heck of a lot of clucking. Over 600 breeds of chickens are recognized worldwide with some of them looking remarkably exotic and even beautiful. But the Ayam Cemani chicken may take the prize for being the most truly unusual chicken and, if we’re being honest, just one of the strangest creatures in the world, period.
Thanks to a very unusual mutation, the Ayam Cemani breed is black through and through. Black eyes, black claws, black skin and black feathers. Even its tongue is black. But if that’s not dramatic enough for you, you can go deeper. The bones of this chicken are also black, as is the meat.
The chickens come from Indonesia and demonstrate something called dermal hyperpigmentation as a result of fibromelanosis. Along with three other breeds of chickens that also have pigmented flesh, the mutation that links them seems to come from one single chicken that probably lived thousands of years ago; their common, dusky ancestor.
6. The Blue Calamintha Bee Is an Extremely Rare Blue Bee
Along with the buzzing sound, the most easily recognizable feature of any bee is the black and yellow striping. The blue calamintha really marches to the beat of its own buzzing drum though and is actually blue in color instead of the traditional yellow and black. While that sounds a little surprising, it’s worth noting that there are over 20,000 species of bees in the world and 4,000 of them can be found in the United States alone. Seems like at least one should have evolved to have a more fun color scheme.
The little cerulean insects were only discovered in 2011 and were thought to have actually vanished by 2016. They only feed on a rare plant found in Florida so their habitat was not particularly widespread. But in 2021 a new nest of them was discovered raising hopes that there was a chance for the species to still thrive. They discovered that the bees also have a secondary food source, slightly improving their chances for survival.
5. Bigfin Squid Were First Recorded on Camera in 2020
If you’re a fan of seafood, you’ve probably given calamari a try at least once. While it’s nowhere near as popular as tuna or lobster, it’s still featured in a lot of Asian cuisine and also holds its own as a deep-fried bar food alongside things like popcorn shrimp. And it’s also the fifth largest fishery industry by weight in the US, though most of it gets exported.
A number of squid are caught for food like the Japanese flying squid or the Argentine shortfin. But when it comes down to unusual squid, you can count on the ocean to hold some remarkable secrets. For instance, the Bigfin squid is actually very small in the body. One description likens them to hot dog buns. But those buns have fins that make them look twice as wide as they are long. And, more noticeable, is that they can drag filaments behind them that grow to as much as seven meters, or 22.9 feet in length. That’s a heck of a trail for any hot dog bun.
The living squid were recorded for the first time in 2020. Only three sightings in the southern hemisphere had even been reported before that.
4. Lion-Tailed Macaques Really Look Like Lions
There are 160 species of Old World monkeys and 174 New World monkeys in the world, alongside the apes and other primates which are also often mistaken for monkeys. Only a handful of species are really widely known. One that is often overlooked is the lion-tailed macaque, a monkey that doesn’t just look like a lion from the back but from the front as well.
They have non-prehensile tails with a tuft on the end, hence their name. But they also sport impressive manes around their heads like male lions as well. Their numbers in the wild are very low but they do seem to take well to captive breeding. The result is that there’s about 500 of them in the world now thanks to breeding programs in zoos.
3. Konik Horses Were Bred by Nazis
Like most other animals, there is an absolute plethora of horse breeds in the world. Based on one study that number is up around 784. Horses were not the first animal we domesticated, but they were clearly one of the most important thanks to their use or things like farming, travel and war. And as we’ve bred horses across the generations to serve those purposes, one of the most unusual horse breeds ever came to be – the Konik horse.
Konik horses don’t necessarily look weird, but their history is. A descendant of the Tarpan, a wild ancestor of the modern horse that died out in Neolithic times, the Konik was bred by Nazis in an effort to recreate a sort of prehistoric paradise. How many animals can say that?
The Nazis wanted to reintroduce extinct species, like the Tarpan and the Aurochs, as a strange parallel to their own beliefs about racial purity. They stole many of them from Poland and tried to start their own breeding program. The war squashed those plans, but the breed did manage to survive in Poland.
2. Tentacled Snakes Have Snout Tentacles
For all the species of snakes that exist in the world, from the smallest little garden snakes to the massive pythons and anacondas that could swallow a human, their basic features are all pretty much the same and the species is pretty easy to recognize. They’re basically heads with tails, so it’s not like a snake has a lot of room for variation beyond size, color and pattern.But that doesn’t mean there’s no room and there is one kind of snake that noticeably stands out from the pack. The tentacled snake has two, finger-like projections that extend from its snout.
The snakes live almost exclusively in the water and are actually somewhat helpless on land. In their natural habitat they can remain perfectly stiff and still which, thanks to their shape and coloration, makes them look like branches in the water.
The tentacles on its face can be manipulated like an octopus or other creature might use them to feel around, but they are also full of dense nerve clusters. That allows the snake to use them to essentially see even in the murkiest of water, using signals gleaned from the tentacles to map out the area around them and find prey.
Speaking of, the tentacled snake is highly adept at catching fish thanks to the fact it’s evolved to understand fish instincts. The snake is able to position its tail in a way that makes it seem like a threat, twisting its body into a question mark such that, when its tail startles a fish, the creature will flee in a predictable direction which is where the snake’s mouth is already waiting. It makes its prey run because it’s already waiting along its escape path.
1. The Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hound
We mentioned at the start that there are up to 360 recognized dog breeds in the world, depending on whose breed list you refer to. But, by any accounts, one of the most unusual dogs in the world is the Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hound. It’s a dog with two noses.
There are actually a couple of breeds in the world that have this unusual nose or something similar, like the Tarsus fork-nose dog, for instance. The Andean Tiger Hound, native to regions in South America like Bolivia, is arguably the most famous of these curiously snouted beasts though they aren’t generally recognized as a breed by the AKC, for instance.
If the dogs breed with single-snouted dogs, then the pups can turn out either way. It’s thought that maybe they’ve evolved from hunting dogs brought over with Conquistadors that also had double noses.