The most popular African animals

Kenya is a world attraction for its rich abundance of wildlife, most of which can be found in its national parks and reserves.

Popular Kenya animals include the lionleopardelephantbuffalo and rhino. These are collectively referred to as the “Big Five”.

Still, the lion remains Kenya’s most sought after tourist attraction on the country’s many African wildlife safaris.

The “Big Five” – African Animals found in Kenya


As the largest of Africa’s big cats, the lion is highly regarded by man. Its massive size, majestic walk, power and hunting prowess make it very fascinating to watch.

It’s no wonder that the lion draws so many people to Kenya. Lions are ferocious hunters, but are not normally dangerous to man unless they are wounded or cornered.

Unlike the other big cats, lions are social animals, living in prides of 20-30 members. Each pride may have one to three males. You are guaranteed to see Kenyan lions on a Kenya safari tour to the Masai Mara National Reserve.


The African elephant is the world’s largest land mammal. Due to its gigantic stature, the elephant has no predators apart from men who hunt it for its tusks. However, elephant hunting and ivory trade are prohibited in Kenya.

Elephants have a sharp sense of smell and are highly intelligent. They are reputed to be the only animals that recognize one another, even after death. Kenya wildlife is scattered in various wildlife parks throughout the country. Amboseli National Park is home to most elephants and is the best place to see them.

The elephants in Tsavo National Park have a distinct reddish-brown color that they obtain from the red volcanic soil in Tsavo. Elephants in other parks are grayish in color.


Famed for its boiling temper, the buffalo is one of the most feared animals. It is not only feared by humans but also by some of the most daring predators in the wild.

The mighty lion rarely ever hunts a buffalo. Most lions that try end up dead or badly injured. Lions and hyenas are only known to hunt solitary aging buffalos that are either too weak to fight or greatly outnumbered.

The buffalo resembles the typical cow but has a distinct grayish black color. It also has up-curving horns with bases that meet across the forehead. This gives it a very dangerous look. The male horns are usually thicker and more profound than the female horns.

Buffalo live in herds of several hundred led by one dominant bull. Old, defeated buffalo bulls are the most dangerous. They either live alone or with other bulls. They often lie in wait to ambush people.

To enjoy a view of the buffalo and other Kenya animals, go on an African safari tour to the Masai Mara. The Masai Mara is home to the largest buffalo herds.


There are two species of rhinoceros found in Kenya: white and black rhinos. Both are endangered species. The white rhino derives its name from the Dutch word Weid meaning broad.

White rhinos have a broad, wide mouth adapted for grazing. They often hang out in large groups.

The biggest white rhino population in Kenya is found in Lake Nakuru National Park. The black rhino has a pointed upper lip adapted for browsing. It feeds on dry bush and thorny scrub, especially acacia.

Black rhinos have a sharp sense of smell and hearing but very poor eyesight. They lead a solitary life and are the more dangerous of the two species. Masai Mara National Reserve has the largest population of black rhinos, along with many other Kenya animals.


Dubbed the “Silent Hunter”, the leopard is a very elusive animal with a gorgeous skin.

It is nocturnal, hunting at night and spending its day resting in trees. The leopard lives a solitary life and only pairs up during the mating season.

Leopards hunt on the ground but take their “kill” up into the trees, out of the reach of scavengers such as hyenas.

Most people fail to draw the distinction between Leopards and Cheetahs, but they are two very different animals.

  • A leopard is stouter while a Cheetah is slender
  • The Leopard has a shorter body length while the Cheetah has a longer body length
  • The Cheetah has black tear marks running down its eyes while a Leopard doesn’t
  • Although both have golden yellow fur, a leopard has black rings while a Cheetah has black spots on their fur.
About author

Mabel Petty is a veteran journalist who has spent the last 20 years working with newspapers, magazines and websites covering marketing, business, technology, financial services and a variety of other topics.
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