Hooded Vulture by Lip Kee Yap

The Ugly Five: Only Their Mums Could Love Them

Africa is home, not only to the Big Five, but also a number of other fascinating animals, birds and insects. Some are famous for their beauty and others, well, they’re infamous for their not-so-beautiful-ness.

Enter the Ugly Five: the marabou stork, hyena, warthog, vulture and buffalo.

So they’re not supermodels… we still love them dearly, and think you will too.

Marabou Stork

Rob BixbyMaribou Stork - Rob Bixby


Known as ‘The Undertaker Bird’ due to its black ‘cloak’ and white underparts and the fact that it’s a scavenger, the marabou stork comes with a reputation for not only being distinctly un-beautiful, but ill-tempered too.

It really does have a face that only a mother could love, with a bald head and neck, huge bill and a pink sac that connects to the left nostril. This is inflatable and is used especially during mating season.

There’s nothing small about them either, the adult bird reaches up to 1.5 metres tall, with a wingspan of nearly 2.5 metres.

LaggedOnUserMarabou Stork - LaggedOnUser


Interesting fact: Maribou stork’s leg and toe bones are hollow, allowing them to fly more easily, even though they’re huge.

Hyena

Tambako The JaguarHyena - Tambako The Jaguar


Made famous as the bad guys in The Lion King, hyenas, with their scowls and sloping backs, laugh in the face of vanity.

They have a bad rap in ancient folklore, too, often being associated with witchcraft, sneakiness and treachery. One Tanzanian tale even has humans transforming into hyenas, or ‘werehyenas’ – Africa’s very own version of werewolves.

Incorrectly thought to only be scavengers, hyenas actually hunt for much of the food that they eat. They’re nocturnal, with incredibly good night vision and hearing and brutally strong jaws, making them very good hunters.

Chris EasonHyena Scuttling - Chris Eason


Interesting fact: Hyenas are genetically more closely related to felines than canines.

Warthog

Chad RosenthalWarthog Family - Chad Rosenthal


Wild pigs that look like they need a good barber and an orthodontist appointment, these creatures are actually quite sweet in their ugliness. There’s nothing quite as cute as a mommy warthog being followed by her babies, all with their characteristic tail-in-the-air trot.

Warthogs are basically the sleeker, hairier, toothier version of domestic pigs. They have an elongated face and two sets of tusk – a bigger, upper set and smaller lower one. These are used for fighting and hunting, as warthogs are omnivorous.

Warthog Face -


Interesting fact: Warthogs sleep in burrows (often made by aardvarks) and reverse into them so they can burst out – frontwards – at any time.

Vulture

Snake3yesVulture Feast - Snake3yes


Another bird that really does look like the avian version of an undertaker, with a bald head, long neck and coat-like body feathers. They’re vital to the healthy running of the ecosystem, though, scavenging and removing potentially harmful pathogens carried in carrion.

There are a large number of different vultures, many of whom are critically endangered so these guys need all the help they can get. Watch this great social media campaign launched by Birdlife to gain support for vulture protection:


Interesting fact: The stomach acid of a vulture is so corrosive that it kills bugs that’d make other scavengers sick, like botulinum toxin.

Buffalo

Sascha WenningerBuffalo - Sascha Wenninger


These huge bovines are not to be trifled with. It is thought that they kill about 200 humans a year, so best you don’t discuss their lack of good looks with them. The Cape Buffalo belongs to two of the ‘fives’ – The Big Five and The Ugly Five.

The main distinguishing factor of the buffalo is its thick horns that start in the middle of their heads and curl outwards and then in, looking a little like some kind of intergalactic alice-band. The horns in an adult male can reach up to a metre in total. Again, a good reason to stay out of the way!


Interesting fact: Buffalo herds protect each other. If a calf cries in distress, not only the mother, but the whole herd will respond.


Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

comments powered by Disqus

Similar & Related Blog Posts

Below you’ll find further reading and articles related or similar to this post.

23 Quirky and Unique Places To Stay in Africa

Mumbo IslandIt's hard to pick favourites when talking accommodation in Africa, but we've made a shortlist of 23 of our best unusual and quirky spots to stay when on safari in southern and East Africa. Read on

How & Where to Buy Souvenirs, Curios & African Art

As we travel and explore the globe, taking a little something home still sits high on the agenda. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of tourists and the consumers’ taste for cheap goods, it’s difficult nowadays to find something truly unusual. Read on

4 of the Best Beach & Wildlife Getaways in Africa

Zanzibar IslandWhether you want to escape the winter chills or simply take a break and enjoy a change of scenery - these top African Safari Destinations are ideal for beach and wildlife holidays that you can afford! Read on

Tippi Degre - African Wildlife Child

Tippi Degré - a real wild child who grew up with African wildlife and the Himba people of Namibia! At first glance these amazing photographs of this little girl and animals appear unbelievable and even wreckless, but the story of Tippi's childhood shows otherwise. Read on

Amazing Facts about Africa’s Big Five

Here are some interesting and amazing facts about lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos - Africa's Big Five. Read on

Big Five Safaris near Cape Town - Budget Travel Options

Garden Route Game ReserveIn this post we explore some of the more affordable and realistic options for budget African Safaris close to Cape Town.  Read on

Cultural Africa: More Than Just The Big Five

Joachim Huber A short list of some of the cultural treasures that Africa holds. We're not just about The Big Five! Read on

Eleven Tiny South African Towns With Big Personalities

FacebookWe list eleven of our favourite small South African towns that have huge personalities. Get off the beaten track and pay these beauties a visit. Read on
Show us some FB Love
Follow @RealAfroSafaris