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What wild animal is red?

What wild animal is red?

There are a few wild animals that have red coloration. Determining which wild animals are truly red requires looking at the reasons behind their coloration. Some red color in animals comes from pigments, while other reds are structural colors. Additionally, the shade of red can vary greatly, from bright scarlet to a more muted ruddy brown-red. With these factors in mind, here are some of the wild animals that exhibit true red coloration and the reasons behind their crimson hues.

Red Pandas

Perhaps the most iconic red-furred animal is the aptly named red panda. This small, arboreal mammal is native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. Their fur is a vivid rusty red color with some white markings on the face, ears, and legs.

The red panda’s bright red fur provides effective camouflage in the mossy, lichen-covered trees in which it lives. The lush forests of bamboo and conifers where red pandas dwell contain plenty of reddish and brown tones which allow the panda to blend in. When sleeping in a tree, curled up into a ball, the red panda becomes practically invisible.

The production of the red pigment comes from pigments called phaeomelanins which are also found in humans with red hair. These pigments are deposited in the fur during growth to give it that rich red hue.


Several species of squirrels around the world exhibit reddish coloration in their fur. In North America, the common eastern fox squirrel can have reddish brown fur. The eastern grey squirrel also occasionally has reddish morphs.

In Europe and Siberia, the Eurasian red squirrel’s coat ranges from dark red to a more brownish red grey. The Japanese squirrel has reddish-brown fur on its back and white on the underside.

For most squirrels, the reddish tones come from a combination of pigments called phaeomelanins and eumelanins. More phaeomelanin results in redder fur. The environment and genetics influence the proportions of these pigments. Tree squirrels tend to have more red tones to their fur compared to ground squirrels. The reddish hue likely helps tree squirrels blend in with the bark and woody debris in their arboreal habitats.

Red Fox

The red fox is named for its reddish-orange fur. It has a whitish underbelly, black ears and legs, and a bushy tail with a white tip. The red coloration comes from phaeomelanin pigments. This pigment helps camouflage the fox against the russet colors of dirt and vegetation in its environment.

The red fox displays regional variation in the shade and intensity of the red coat. In the taiga or boreal forest, the coat is a deeper, richer red. In arid areas like deserts, the fur is often a lighter, pale red. Red foxes found in the Northern Hemisphere tend to have more saturated red tones compared to those in Australia which are often a lighter reddish-grey.


The Bornean and Sumatran orangutan species have red-orange fur covering their bodies. As apes, the orangutan’s red hair is made up of fine strands called hairs rather than quills or fur. The red coloration comes from a high concentration of phaeomelanin in their hair.

Unlike some other red mammals, the orangutan’s coloration is not for camouflage. Since they spend most of their time in trees, the red hair stands out against the green forest backdrop.

One theory for the purpose of the bright coloration suggests it helps adult male orangutans assert their dominance and attract mates. The more intense the red tones, the more dominant the male appears. Individuals with paler orange hair tend to be juveniles or females.


The cougar, also known as the mountain lion, puma, catamount, or panther, has light to dark tawny fur. This reddish-brown pigment aids the big cat in blending into its habitat of wooded and rocky areas. When hiding amongst dried vegetation, tree trunks, or boulders, the cougar’s camouflage allows it to stealthily stalk prey without being seen.

Unlike some spotted cats, the cougar has a uniform solid coloration. The fur is mostly one shade without stripes, spots, or other markings. Some black cougars have been documented which owe their color to excess melanin. But typical cougars display red hues which can range from grayish or silvery to a more golden reddish-brown.

Red Kangaroos

The largest marsupial in the world, the red kangaroo lives in the arid, interior regions of Australia. As their name suggests, they have a rusty red coat. Their fur is quite thick and provides insulation from hot daytime temperatures and chilly nights in the desert climate.

Newborn red kangaroo joeys have darker fur. But as they mature, the fur lightens to the distinctive red coloration. The red provides camouflage with the reddish sandy soils and grasses of Australia’s scrubland and desert environments where they thrive.

Red Deer

Red deer have a reddish-brown coat in summer which grays in winter. The red color comes from a pigment called phaeomelanin which is also found in humans with red hair. The amount of phaeomelanin compared to another pigment called eumelanin determines the intensity of the red hue.

During winter, the hairs become paler with less phaeomelanin so the coats take on a gray color. This seasonal shift in color provides camouflage that adapts to the environment. In summer, the rich red hue blends in with vegetation in the forests and parks they inhabit. In winter, the gray makes them less visible against snowy backdrops and dried grasses.

Rufous Sengi

The rufous sengi, also called the rufous elephant shrew, is a small mammal found in East Africa. They are so named because of their elongated trunk-like snout and swift jumping movements. As their name suggests, the fur of the rufous sengi is rufous or reddish-brown in color. This is thought to provide camouflage with leaf litter and woody debris in its tropical forest habitat.

Red Mushroom Cap Coral

In the ocean, some corals and sponges exhibit a reddish hue. One example is the red mushroom cap coral found in shallow reef environments of the Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic Ocean. This round coral has a solid red cap which contrasts with its pale column.

The vibrant red coloration comes from colony-forming algae called zooxanthellae that live symbiotically within the coral’s tissue. These algae contain photosynthetic pigments that lend the intense red color. Having red pigments allows the algae to absorb certain wavelengths of light best suited for photosynthesis.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Among birds, the red-bellied woodpecker displays red plumage on its lower belly. Despite the misleading name, the belly patch is more pink-orange than scarlet red.

The crimson coloring extends to the head in males. Females have gray rather than red heads. Like in many bird species, the bold red hues help attract mates and establish territories. The gray plumage on the rest of the body helps this woodpecker blend into the bark of trees.

Scarlet Ibis

The scarlet ibis is a tropical wading bird that gets its name from its vivid red plumage. Adults have scarlet red feathers covering their entire body except for the black wingtips. Even their bill and legs are reddish.

Their natural habitat includes mangrove swamps, marshes, and mudflats in South America. The bright red coloration contrasts dramatically with the greens and blues of their wetland environment. When seen in mass groups, the swaths of red birds present a striking spectacle.

The red comes from carotenoid pigments obtained from the crustaceans and other food items they eat. Unlike some pigments, carotenoids cannot be produced by the bird’s body and must be derived from the diet.

Red River Hog

The red river hog is a wild member of the pig family living in western and central Africa. They get their name from the reddish to chestnut brown fur covering their body. As a species of wild pig, they are hairy with thick, bristly fur compared to domesticated pigs. The color provides camouflage in their habitats near rivers and floodplains.

Summary of Red Wild Animals

Here is a summary of some of the major red-coated wild animals around the world and how they get their crimson coloration:

Animal Region Purpose of Red Color Source of Redness
Red panda South Asia Camouflage Phaeomelanin pigments
Red squirrels North America, Europe, Asia Camouflage Phaeomelanin pigments
Red fox Northern hemisphere Camouflage Phaeomelanin pigments
Orangutans Southeast Asia Dominance and mating Phaeomelanin in hair
Cougars Americas Camouflage Pheomelanin pigments
Red kangaroos Australia Camouflage Pheomelanin pigments
Red deer Europe, Asia, Americas Camouflage Pheomelanin pigments
Rufous sengi Africa Camouflage Pheomelanin pigments
Red mushroom coral Atlantic and Caribbean oceans Light absorption for algae symbionts Pigments from algae
Scarlet ibis South America Species recognition Carotenoid pigments from diet
Red river hog Africa Camouflage Pheomelanin pigments

Why Red Coloration Occurs

After examining some of the major red-coated animals around the world, we can make some general conclusions about why red coloration occurs in nature:

  • Camouflage – Blending into the environment. Red allows animals like foxes, deer, and kangaroos to match the colors of the landscape.
  • Species recognition – Allows animals of the same species to recognize each other. Vivid red colors help birds attract mates.
  • Dominance and attraction – Bright red signals strength in some mammals like orangutans.
  • Symbiosis – In corals and other marine creatures, red pigments aid symbiotic relationships.

The source of the red color depends on the type of animal:

  • Mammals – Specialized phaeomelanin pigments deposited in fur and hair.
  • Birds – Carotenoid pigments obtained from foods.
  • Marine animals – Pigments from symbiotic algae.

By understanding the reason behind the coloration, we gain insight into the ecology and biology of various red-coated creatures and appreciate the beauty of nature’s palette.


Red coloration has evolved in numerous wild animals across diverse habitats. Ranging from vivid scarlet to more muted russet tones, the red hues serve purposes like camouflage, species recognition, and symbiotic relationships. Through specialized pigments in fur, feathers, or algal partners, red helps animals survive and thrive in nature. So next time you see a flash of russet red in the woods, take a moment to consider how and why that animal flaunts its flamboyant colors.