Animal Species of China

December 17th, 2018


The nation of China is as biodiverse as it is large. If you count fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, China has over 7,000 species. Compared to other countries, China has the third-highest number of mammal species, and one sixth of those species are endemic to the country, which means they live nowhere else on the planet.

This article selects just five animals out of China's thousands. There's a bamboo-eating bear, a snow-loving monkey, and a bird with gorgeous plumage. We wrap up with a fluffy dog, and one seldom-seen cat.

Read on to discover five of China's most fascinating animals!

Giant Panda

These black and white bears are native to south central China and are a national symbol of China. Sometimes they're called panda bears, or just pandas. The name "giant panda" is applied to differentiate them from the unrelated red panda, which lives in the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China.

Giant pandas live in a small number of mountain ranges in central China. They used to inhabit lowland areas as well, but they were evicted by development such as farming and deforestation.

An adult panda weighs up to 220 lbs, stands about 2 to 3 ft tall at the shoulder, and can live approximately 20 years in the wild. While they will eat grasses, tubers, and meat, a giant panda's normal diet is made up of over 99 percent bamboo.

The giant panda is a solitary animal, and they carefully guard their territory, interacting with one another mostly during the short mating season.

Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey

Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey

The golden snub-nosed monkey lives in only one place in the world, a small region in the temperate mountain forests of central and Southwest China.

An adult golden snub-nosed monkey weighs about 30 lbs and measures 2.1 ft from nose to tail. Their diet changes with the seasons, consisting of available plant matter like lichens, leaves, fruits, seeds, bark, and flowers.

Golden snub-nosed monkeys are arboreal, spending around 97 percent of their time in the tree canopy. They form groups with five to ten members, and then combine groups to form large bands that contain as many as 600 individuals.

Males remain largely solitary; adult females will socialize with each other, but not with males or juveniles. If there is a conflict with another band of monkeys, males and females will work together to guard their territory and protect their young.

The golden snub-nosed monkey is one of the few monkeys that can handle really cold weather. It tolerates colder temperatures than all but one primate species—only humans can deal with more frigid weather!

Chinese Pheasant

Chinese Golden Pheasant

Also known as the golden pheasant, the Chinese pheasant is native to the mountain forests of western China. The species has traveled far and wide, with non-native populations being established all over North and South America, Europe, and Australia.

An adult male Chinese pheasant is about 40 in long, but most of that is tail—its plumage accounts for two-thirds of the bird's length.

They're not great at flying, so Chinese pheasants spend a lot of time running around on the forest floor. These birds forage during the day, picking up grain, seeds, bugs, and grubs off the ground, but they retire to the trees at night.

Chow Chow

The Chow Chow, or sometimes just Chow, is an ancient dog breed that came from northern China. The Chinese name for the dog is Songshi Quan, which translates to "puffy-lion dog."

An adult male Chow Chow can weigh as much as 70 lbs and stand 20 in high. Some specimens have a thick, reddish or cinnamon colored coat, some are cream colored, and others are dark, with blueish-black fur.

Some say the Chow Chow was first bred in China as early as 2,000 years ago, while others claim that the breed has been around for 3,000 years and is really from Arctic Asia.

One old story about this breed is that it was the model for the original teddy bear. Apparently, Queen Victoria had a Chow Chow puppy that she took everywhere. Her associates felt that a dog was not an appropriate companion for a Queen, so they commissioned a stuffed animal be made to substitute for the dog in public.

Chinese Mountain Cat

After looking at a dog as cute as the Chow Chow, we'd better give cats equal time! Our next and final animal is the Chinese mountain cat. It is a species of wild cat that's endemic to western China, making its home on the north-eastern boundary of the Tibetan Plateau.

These beautiful cats have tan fur with dark highlights, long black-tipped ears, and a bushy tail with black rings. A large specimen measures 33 in long, not counting the typically 14 in tail, and they can weigh as much as 20 lbs.

Chinese mountain cats hunt only at night, looking for rodents and birds. These are very shy animals—there were no photographs of wild Chinese mountain cats until 2007, and those had to be taken using automated cameras left out in the snow. The Chinese mountain cat has been listed as a threated species since 2002, with a wild population of mature breeding animals that may be as low as 10,000.