This list would be amiss without a mention of these precious pachyderms. Expressive from all the way from their tiny trunks to their equally miniature tails, these little ones have offered many a photographer the ultimate shot. Whether they’re exploring the brush, learning to fend off predators, or simply taking a snooze in the safe trunk-embrace of mum, elephant babies are hard to beat contenders in the cutest of the cute category.
Even their name is adorable—despite sounding a little bit like a cleansing wipe. These little ones remain epically out of proportion for the first few months of life, but as some cute experts would argue, this may be precisely what makes them so aww-inducing in the first place. Baby owls are basically giant fluff balls with massive eyes. Just try and resist their draw—especially when they’re sleepy or cuddling with nest mates.
Also known as joeys, these babies enter the world helpless, dependent on mum in just about every way. At birth the critters are only about an inch, with undeveloped features, and are totally blind. Once they hit the air they begin crawling towards their mum’s pouch, where they attach and hang out for the next six months, finishing up their growth. By the time joeys emerge from mum’s pouch, they look more like the furry cuties we all know and love. Just to add to their cuteness, as long as they can still fit some joeys will continue to try to hide in mum’s pouch when frightened or anxious. And they stick around mum for about a year, nursing and hitching rides on her back.
The fact that these bandit-faced babies will likely grow up to be the drifter that knocks over your composting bin for a midnight snack may actually add to their cuteness. People don’t often see these little ones—unless they get in trouble, which, given the fact their species seems to be a tad mischievous by nature, they often do. For the first few weeks of life they stay in the safe confines of their nest, usually in a tree hollow, and don’t come down to ground level to forage with mum for two months of so. But if you were to come across a baby raccoon, you might not recognise it. They’re born without teeth, only weighing about 75g.
Baby House Sparrows
A bonus with these cuties is that as their name implies, you can easily encourage, or if lucky, already have these little ones hanging around your home. House sparrows are one of those (maybe clever) species that’s decided to hedge their bets by sticking close to humans. You won’t find these chicks out in the woods—but rather in towns, cities, suburbs and farms, nesting in walls, eaves and overhangs. And since parents reuse the nest from year to year, once they’ve settled in you’ve likely got a source of yearly cuteness for life. Almost alienesque to start with, once these chicks settle into their giant feet and legs, turn those quill-looking feathers into true plumage, and open their eyes, they’ll lose their clumsiness and become avian acrobats like their parents.
While they may grow up to be one of the scariest animals on earth, as babies, hippos are insanely cute—despite being 100 pounds or so at birth. Females only have young every two years, and spend the first bit of life in groups with other mums and their babies for protection. Young are often seen sucking back their mum’s milk, which they do on land and—by closing their eyes and ears—underwater too.
Like horses, these little ones are mostly one big bundle of legs at birth. But once young camels get on their feet, they look like miniature versions of their parents—minus the hump—or at least one of them depending on the species. Within a few hours of life these youngsters are running about but won’t stray far from mum for several years. Camels don’t fully mature for about seven years. Babies have a sheep like 'baa' (just try to imagine it) and are usually sans-siblings, unless twins are born.
Baby box, puffer and blowfish (especially the Cubicus, aka polka dot or yellow spotted, boxfish)
These species are all definitely cutest as youngsters. For the sake of not going overboard, we’ll stick to discussing baby yellow spotted boxfish. As hatchlings they’re a bright yellow colour with a white belly and perfect black polka dots, but as adults this brighter hue fades in favour of a browner or greenish shade. Though they can reach around 45cm or so in slightly-less cute adult years, babies are typically only a couple of centimetres big, making them that much more squee worthy.
They’re cute sure, and most of the time, pretty peaceful little critters, but once they grow up—watch out. When stressed out boxfish become poisonous, they become capable of releasing a deadly toxin known as ostracitoxin. Don’t worry too much though, this doesn’t occur all to often, luckily for everyone involved. When boxfish do let off this nasty toxin, the fish risk killing themselves alongside everything around them more or less.
Baby striped skunks
With their bristly little whiskers, black button nose, and white, wiry stand-up-straight back fur—it’s surprisingly hard to beat a baby skunk in a cute-off. Their stripes may be a warning to other animals to back off, but they just make babies look even cuddlier. Like raccoons, baby skunks, or kits, are helpless at birth, lacking teeth, fur, and blind. Also like raccoons, most skunk youngsters will pair up with mum and dad for at least the first year to den—entering their homes when things get to chilly and embracing a semi-conscious slumber until warmer temperatures return.
Though many would rather avoid skunks than consider petting one, if the scent glands are defective, or have been removed, skunks make incredible pets. Owners claim they’re loving, loyal and personable—but we’d never recommend removing the glands purely for this purpose.
Considering they’re on their own from birth, these little hatchlings sure are caught smiling a lot. This sounds like a rough way to enter the world, but after one to three months incubating in their eggs (depending on the species and environment), these babies are likely ready to be out and about. From the get-go the hatchlings are essentially tiny adults, able to perform most adult tasks. Some babies retain a yolk sac on their bellies to sustain them until they figure out how to forage on their own, while others have absorbed these maternal snack-packs before they leave their shells.
There’s lots of species to pick from too—there’s thought to be more than 2,000 species of gecko worldwide—some with some pretty unreal colour mixtures. Most of them don’t get a whole lot bigger as adults, but certain species, like New Zealand’s Delcourt’s gecko can reach 60cm in size.
They may look like whacked out zebra-piglets, but baby tapirs are likely more closely related to rhinos and horses. Their stripes are most apparent and elaborate as youngsters, but stay with them for life. Their long, flexible, trunk-like snouts, used to grip yummy branches and leaves, are especially prominent when they’re babies. Tapirs are mostly solitary critters, except as youngsters and of course, during mating season ever other year. Babies stay in their mum’s bellies for a year or so before entering the world and then stick around for up to three years. Tapirs are great swimmers, who usually hang around water sources, both to cool down in and occasionally hunt for aquatic plants. Watching them learn how to swim is especially precious.
Some of nature’s finest also happen to be extraordinarily adorable. Here’s a list of some of the most classic, interesting and overlooked cuties, a lot of which don’t stay all too cuddly looking for long.