Top 10 Extinct Animals

We have been blessed with thousands of species of unique animals and birds all around us. They have been on our planet for millions of years, but sadly, some species have officially vanished forever. Extinction is a natural phenomenon, and scientists estimate we lose several species in a year due to natural as well as man-made factors.

In the past centuries, about 1,000 species have become extinct. The West Virginian woodland bison, Arizona’s Merriam’s Elk, the Rocky Mountain grasshopper, Passenger pigeon, and Puerto Rico’s Culebra parrot are all animals of the past now. The population of several animals has become endangered, while some are nearing extinction, allowing to changes and reduction in natural habitat, loss of forest cover, industrialization, hunting, and poaching. Let us go through the top 10 extinct animals that once walked the surface of our earth, but have now said their final goodbyes.

Extinct Animals

1. Dodo

The dodo was a flightless bird that was native to Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. The life for the dodo came to an abrupt end in the 1600s, when European explorers landed on Mauritius, and the Dutch sailors ate the beast to extinction. The dodo was a large and heavy bird that had wings but was unable to swim or fly. The bird grew up to about three feet tall, with downy grey feathers and a white plume. Dodos had a pale yellow or green, curved beak that was their only defence.


Image Source: Wikimedia

 2. Quagga

The Quagga is a mammal closely related to modern horses and zebras. It was a species that looked like a cross between a horse and a zebra. Its body had stripes on its head and neck that faded as they went down on the animal’s brown body. The Quagga inhabited the desert areas of South Africa until it was hunted to extinction in the 1870s. Ruthless hunting and planned extermination by colonists lead to the Quagga’s extinction. Sadly enough, the last captive Quagga died in Europe in the 1880s.


Image Source: Wikimedia

3. African Black Rhino

The Western Black Rhino was the rarest of the black rhino subspecies. It was commonly found in several African countries, including Kenya, Rwanda, and Zambia. They were big and bulky but could run up to 55 km/hour and quickly change direction. They had a hooked upper lip that distinguished them from other rhinos. However, widespread sports hunting in the early 20th century resulted in a rapid decline of this rhino species. The loss of habitat due to industrial agriculture further resulted in their species becoming extinct.

African Black Rhino

Image Source: cuatrok77(Flickr)

4. Passenger Pigeon

The Passenger pigeon or the Wild pigeon is an extinct species of pigeon that was native to North America. It got its name due to the migratory habits of the species. They were bigger than normal pigeons and the male pigeons had a pinkish body and blue-grey head. The extinction of the passenger pigeon happened in just the last 50 years. Passenger pigeons were rapidly wiped out due to merciless hunting, deforestation and other factors.  From an astounding 3 to 5 billion population when the first Europeans arrived in America, it became zero-till 1914, when even the last known bird became dead.

Passenger Pigeon

Image Source: Wikipedia

5. The Great Auk

The Great Auk was a flightless bird that much resembled the modern-day penguin. It was a great swimmer, stored fat for warmth, nestled in dense colonies, and mated for life. It also had a heavy hooked beak. Beginning in the 16th century, Europeans hunted the Great Auk for down feathers, which were easy to catch since they could not fly. Once the species became rare, most of them were collected by museums and collectors for specimens.  This finally forced the bird to extinction in 1852.

The Great Auk

Image Source: Wikimedia

6. Wooly Mammoth

The Woolly Mammoth inhabited the arctic tundra regions of the northern hemisphere in the early Holocene period. These massive herbivores could reach 11 feet in height and weighed six tonnes, and resembled the African elephants. However, they had bodies covered in brown, black, and ginger fur. The Woolly Mammoth had long tusks for fighting. Hunting and climate change expedited their extinction at the end of the last glacial period. 

Wooly Mammoth

Image Source: Wikimedia

7. Irish Elk

From Ireland to Siberia, Irish Elk populated much of northern Europe at the end of the last glacial period. They had the largest antlers of any deer species, that reached 12 feet in width. These elks could grow up to seven feet tall and were heavy animals with 700kg weight. Irish Elks evolved around 400,000 years ago and died out 5,000 years ago, most probably due to extensive hunting by humans.

Irish Elk

Image Source: Dave Foord

8. Caspian Tiger

The Caspian Tiger resided just south of the Caspian Sea and in central Asia. These tigers were the biggest cats on the planet. They had legs much longer than other members of the tiger family. Human contacts conflicted with nature to bring about their extinction. Rapid hunting and loss of their habitat due to human settlement led to a drastic reduction in their numbers. The species of the Caspian tiger was officially declared extinct in the 1970s.

Caspian Tiger

Image Source: Wikimedia

9. Giant Moa

The Moa or the Dinornis, was an ostrich-like heavy bird that became extinct. It was native to New Zealand. The name “moa” comes from the Polynesian word for “fowl”. These flightless ducks from the Hawaiian Islands, known as Moa Nalo, grew to be as large as geese. They had a small head with small eyes, and a long neck and a hefty body, supported by thick legs. They had a broad flattened beak, and fed on fruit and twigs, and swallowed stones to grind up the food in the gizzard. They were fiercely hunted down by the Maori tribes of New Zealand for food, meat, and their bones when they became extinct by the 17th century.

Giant Moa

Image Source: Wikimedia

10. Golden Toad

The golden toad is an extinct species of true toads that were once abundant in a small, high-altitude region of Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica. These toads were of a brilliant burnt-yellow and spent most of their life underground. They emerged only for a few days at the end of the dry season to mate. Pollution, global warming, and chytrid skin infections led to the extinction of this species of the Golden toad. The last individual sighting was in 1989 and 2004, the toad was stated as extinct.

Golden Toad

Image Source: Wikimedia

These are the top 10 extinct animals that have become extinct over the last century. As of today, here are several species of unique animals that are nearing extinction. The tiny vaquita porpoise, which is less than 30 left in the world, will likely go extinct in the next few years. The Culebra Parrot, also known as the Puerto Rican parrot, has a current estimated wild population of 34-40 parrots, is also close to extinction.

Written by Mahima Shah

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