18 Extraordinary Types of Monkeys (2024)

There are nearly 200 different species of monkeys found around the world. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the adorable four-ounce pygmy marmoset to the massive 119-pound mandrill—and everything in between.

To keep it all straight, monkeys are separated into two major categories: New World monkeys that live in Mexico, Central America, and South America, and Old World monkeys from Africa and Asia. There are a few notable differences; Old World monkeys, for example, don’t have prehensile (gripping) tails, but some are born with special pouches in their cheeks designed for storing food.

Whether it's the howler’s call that can be heard from 3 miles away or the bald uakari’s crimson head that reflects health levels, there’s something special about each and every one of these intelligent primates. Here are 18 of the most extraordinary monkeys on Earth.


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Olive Baboon

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The olive baboon (papio anubis) is an Old World monkey that can boast the most widely distributed habitat in the baboon family, ranging throughout 25 countries from Africa to the Arabian Peninsula.

Even though they do not have a prehensile tail, they are still good climbers if the occasion calls for it, like when they’re being chased by a leopard. These baboons also have powerful jaws and sharp canine teeth for eating a variety of plants and small animals.


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Brown Capuchin

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If a monkey is one of the actors in your favorite movie or TV show, chances are it's either a white or brown capuchin (cebus apella). These playful monkeys are known for their intelligence and curiosity, which makes them much easier to train than other small primates. Plus, they can live up to 45 years in captivity.

Brown capuchins have even been observed playing with objects placed in their enclosures, and according to the University of Michigan, they are the only neotropical primates (endemic to South and Central America) that do so.


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Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey

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The blue-faced golden snub-nosed monkey (rhinopithecus roxellana) is found in mountain forests at elevations ranging from 1,600 to 4,000 meters above sea level. The species is listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

These monkeys are highly social and display a group behavior that is uncommon in primates in which group sizes are formed depending on the season. Summer troops reach as many as 600 individuals, which is considered quite large in the primate world, but as colder weather sets in the groups break into subgroups of 60 to 70 only to merge up again in the spring.

It’s believed that their grouping behavior has to do with human disturbance or food availability; however, the elusiveness of golden snub-nosed monkeys makes them difficult to study.


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Pygmy Marmoset

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As the name suggests, the pygmy marmoset (callithrix pygmaea) is small—the smallest monkey on Earth, in fact.

A New World monkey endemic to the western Amazon Basin, pygmy marmosets weigh just 0.4 to 0.5 ounces at birth. It doesn’t get much better from there, since they only reach 3-5 ounces and 4.7-6.3 inches long by adulthood. A pygmy marmoset’s tail, on the other hand, often grows to be longer than its body, anywhere from 6.6-9 inches.

Due to their small size, pygmy marmosets live in dense rainforests with plenty of hiding places and have a home range of no more than half an acre.


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On the other side of the spectrum, the mandrill (mandrillus sphinx) is the largest monkey in the world. Native to the forests of west-central Africa, the mandril is considered vulnerable by the IUCN and its population is decreasing.

Found in tropical rainforest habitats throughout equatorial Africa, these primates are shy and reclusive despite their massive size. Males reach heights of about 31 inches and can weigh up to 119 lbs, with brilliantly colored rumps, olive green bodies, and a red stripe down their muzzles.

Contrary to popular belief, mandrills are different from baboons. The easiest way to tell them apart is by their bright colors and longer teeth, which give them the ability to consume tough food like hard-shelled fruits.


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Central American Spider Monkey

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The Central American spider monkey (ateles geoffroyi) also goes by the names black-handed spider monkey and Geoffroy’s spider monkey.

Found from the coasts of Mexico to the northwestern parts of Colombia, these long-limbed monkeys are known as some of the world’s most agile primates. In comparison to their body length, they also have extremely long tails, which they use as a fifth limb for hanging from trees or for picking up fruit.

The loud barking noise they make when threatened and their tendency for shaking tree branches when approached by humans makes them easy targets for poachers, which is one of the reasons why these nimble monkeys are endangered.


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Emperor Tamarin

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It’s not hard to guess what the emperor tamarin (saguinus imperator) is best known for. This species is believed to have been named after German Emperor Wilhelm II, who wore a similar-looking upturned mustache.

Along with the marmosets, emperor tamarins are among the smallest New World monkeys, reaching 9.2-10.4 inches in length and weighing 10.7-14.2 ounces as adults.

This adorable species is found in the Amazon Basin across Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia in a variety of wooded habitats from mountains to forests. Emperor tamarins also have long, red tails, with small spots of gold, white, and red on their primarily-gray bodies.


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Spix's Night Monkey

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The Spix’s night monkey (aotus vociferans) is nocturnal, typically waking up about 15 minutes after sunset and returning to bed before the sun rises. During the day they can be seen resting in trees, occasionally sharing their nests with other mammals. Scientists believe these monkeys evolved to become nocturnal to compete for dwindling resources.

Spix’s night monkeys are also known for being one of the most aggressive New World monkeys, and also for being one of the few monochromat species (meaning they can not perceive any color besides black, white, and gray).

They can be found in primary and secondary forests in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, almost exclusively north of the Amazon River.


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Proboscis Monkey

Found only on the Asian island of Borneo, the endangered proboscis monkey (nasalis larvatus) has one of the most unique faces in the Old World family thanks to its massive nose, believed to help it attract mates and amplify mating calls.

As a colobinae monkey, they have developed a specialized stomach to help them digest young leaves and unripe fruit seeds. They are also great swimmers, often seen crossing crocodile-infested rivers within their preferred swampy forest habitats.

Endemic to the island of Borneo, proboscis monkey populations are declining due to habitat destruction, hunting, and forest fires. Since they tend to move slowly, the primates are easy targets for hunters searching for bezoars, stone-like masses found in the monkey's gastrointestinal tract believed to have medicinal powers.


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Bald Uakari

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The feature that helps set the bald uakari monkey (cacajao calvus) apart from the rest is hard to miss.

Its hairless, bright crimson face isn’t just for show, though; it is actually an indicator of the individual monkey's well-being. A pale face is believed to be a sign that the monkey is sick with an illness like malaria.

Bald uakaris are only found in tropical forests in Brazil and Peru, where they are particularly susceptible to habitat loss from deforestation. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN and its population is decreasing at an estimated rate of 30% over 30 years.


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Japanese Macaque

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Also known as snow monkeys, the Japanese macaque (macaca fuscata) is an Old World monkey found on three out of the five main islands of Japan.

They live further north than any other primate and are super adaptable, inhabiting both warm and cold climates; there was even a troop successfully introduced to a sanctuary in Texas.

A volcanic region in Honshu, Japan, is famous for its troop of snow monkeys that frequent the hot springs, attracting tourists from all over the world


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Gelada monkeys (theropithecus gelada) are special in that they only live in the very highest mountains of Ethiopia and are the world’s most terrestrial non-human primates.

Another noteworthy feature is their incredibly flexible opposable fingers and thumbs. Unlike some of their other primate peers, gelada monkeys are very poor tree climbers, instead spending 99% of their time on the ground grazing for food and using rocky cliffs to evade predators.


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Western Red Colobus

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The western red colobus (piliocolobus badius) has a very unique multi-chambered digestive system, similar to a ruminant animal like a cow. This primate is a folivore, meaning it eats mostly leaves, although it may also occasionally feed on seeds, grains, fruits, and flowers.

Another distinctive feature of the western red colobus is that they don't have thumbs and instead have a small bump on the side of their hands, living almost all of their lives in high tree canopies and rarely descending to the forest floor.

These monkeys are found in western Africa and are a primary prey source for local chimpanzees, a factor that (along with hunting and logging) contributes to their endangered status. Sadly, western red colobus monkeys have a mortality rate of 30% within their first six months of life.


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White-Faced Saki

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New World monkeys who occupy most of their time in trees, white-faced sakis (pithecia pithecia) are amazing athletes. They move throughout their South American forest habitats by leaping through the treetops, covering distances as far as 33 feet in a single bound when threatened.

While jumping is their main mode of transportation, they also move quadrupedally on occasion, descending to lower tree limbs and even all the way to the ground in search of fruit.


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Black Snub-Nosed Monkey

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The black snub-nosed monkey (rhinopithecus bieti) lives at altitudes higher than any other non-human primate, up to 4,700 meters above sea level.

These endangered monkeys are only found in the Hengduan Mountains in southwest China and Tibet. Often hunted for food or caught in snares and traps set for other animals, IUCN estimates place their population at 1,000 mature individuals left in the wild. Habitat loss is another major threat, especially as land is cleared for agriculture and logging.

With the exception of when they’re being threatened, black snub-nosed monkeys are extremely quiet, communicating with each other primarily through eye contact and gestures.


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Roloway Monkey

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One of the most endangered monkeys in the world, roloway monkey (cercopithecus roloway) populations have seen a rapid decline in recent years due to habitat degradation and illegal meat poaching.

Roloway monkeys are one of the largest members of the Old World guenon genus. Their unique physical characteristics include an elegant combination of dark gray and crimson coat, with beige fur on their chest and the back of their hind legs. Their tails are longer than their bodies and they also have cheek pouches where they store food.

Endemic to western Africa, roloway monkeys are no longer found in most of their historical range and are now considered Critically Endangered. According to the IUCN's most recent data, populations have decreased over 80% during the last 30 years and are now estimated at fewer than 2,000 mature individuals.


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Black Howler

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Black howler monkeys (alouatta caraya) have an enlarged hyoid bone in their throats that helps release a call that can be heard up to 3 miles away. They’re the largest monkeys in Latin America and often make up the highest percentage of primates in their habitats.

Black howlers aren’t always black, either; they are one of the only monkeys in the world where females are different colors than males (males are black while females are blonde). Out of all New World monkeys, black howler monkeys are also some of the least active, sleeping or resting for up to 70% of the day.


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Barbary Macaque

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Inhabiting the mountains and forests of Morocco, Algeria, and Gibraltar, barbary macaques (macaca sylvanus) are the only wild monkeys found in Europe.

These monkeys are endangered due to habitat loss, which has forced entire populations further up into areas with less food and protection. Even worse, it is estimated that about 300 infant barbary macaques are taken illegally out of Morocco for pet trade each year.

18 Extraordinary Types of Monkeys (2024)
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