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What is the greatest fictional animal companion of all time?

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Gizmo

Mar 20, 2015
Gizmo

Although some may assert that gremlins are not animals, there’s something decidedly pet-like about the pint-sized and huggable Gizmo. Known for his resonant singing abilities, his piano-playing skill, and his odd purring noises, he became the most desirable fictional pet for any children of the 1980s. Despite being a member of the gremlin species, he was also crucial in defeating the mastermind of the “evil” gremlins, since he was clever enough to engineer a pulley system and operate kitchen devices. Gizmo’s charm is perhaps the most memorable thing about the character, transcending his animatronic design to deliver a believable and lovable performance. And if ticket sales aren’t enough to prove the popularity of this mogwai, then one must only look at the sheer volume of plush toys and dolls made in Gizmo’s likeness.

Origin: Gremlins | First Appearance: June 8, 1984 | Physical Description: A small, fur-covered creature with pronounced ears and mammalian features. | Why They Mattered: Saved Billy (and by extension, the nearby town) from the wrath of rogue gremlins. | Human Companion: Billy Peltzer | Fun Fact: Howie Mandel, most recently known for his hosting role on Deal or No Deal, was the voice of Gizmo.

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Pikachu

Mar 20, 2015
Pikachu

Whether you played the Gameboy titles, traded the cards, or watched the animated series, there’s little doubt that you haven’t encountered this yellow ball of static at least once in your life. Pikachu was one of the most adored and sought-after Pokemon in the entire series, likely due to his famous bond with the trainer Ash. Children of the 1990s will have no trouble remembering the squeaks and pips of Pikachu, and as most can tell you, the character’s appeal only grew as Pikachu expanded into other media forms. Video games featured the yellow brawler as their cover, films turned Pikachu into a hero in their own right, and waves of holographic cards cemented the character’s legacy as an adorable but powerful asset in any player’s deck. To this day, no reboots of the Pokemon television series have been bold enough to cut out this fan favorite.

Origin: Pokemon Red and Blue | First Appearance: February 27, 1996 | Physical Description: A vaguely rodent-like creature with yellow skin, rosy cheeks, and a xigzag tail, often wreathed in electrical power. | Why They Mattered: Accompanied the Pokemon trainer Ash throughout his entire career as a duelist, and often served as the trainer's frontline warrior. | Human Companion: Ash Ketchum | Fun Fact: Pikchu's name combines two onomatopoeic Japanese words: "pika," which describes electrical fizzing, and "chu," resembling a mouse's squeaking.

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Kazooie

Mar 20, 2015
Kazooie

It’s easy to see how Kazooie could have been a forgettable tool for Rare Limited’s game developers. Many platform-based N64 titles relied on pets as little more than transportation methods, and a few featured them as even less-involved plot elements without any dialogue or emotion. Banjo Kazooie was one of the first titles to combine the rider and mount into a single entity, expecting the birdlike Kazooie to work in tandem with the bearlike Banjo in every one of its levels. Kazooie was more than an attack and movement partner, however. She was a source of comedic relief, a counter to Banjo’s innocent personality, and a contortionist capable of squeezing into the world’s smallest backpack. Although Kazooie never spoke – not in a human language, anyway – she was one of the most expressive characters in the N64 lineup.

Origin: Banjo Kazooie | First Appearance: June 29, 1998 | Physical Description: A red and yellow bird with long, thin legs, a head crest, and plumage resembling a mythical phoenix. | Why They Mattered: Assisted Banjo in his rescue efforts and enabled him to overcome impossible barriers, often by increasing his companion's speed and jumping abilities. | Human Companion: Banjo | Fun Fact: Despite being named after the kazoo, a real-world instrument, Kazooie is only shown playing an instrument which resembles a bugle.

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Brian

Mar 20, 2015
Brian

In most media depictions, a dog is a loyalty and steadfast companion, eager to provide love and comfort in any situation. In Seth Macfarlane’s animated hit Family Guy, however, the dog is an atheist cynic with relationship and drinking problems. Brian lent the show a sense of realness and witty commentary, even if the rest of the Griffin family was designed to be a panel of oddities and over-the-top humor. His mishaps with Stewie formed some of the show’s most legendary plot arcs, and also created one of the strangest (but most effective) dog-and-human relationships in modern entertainment. Whether it’s his sarcastic delivery, his love of Frank Sinatra, or his closeness to Seth Macfarlane’s true personality, Brian is one of the most beloved and adoption-worthy characters in animated comedy.

Origin: Family Guy | First Appearance: January 31, 1999 | Physical Description: A white-haired, bipedal dog with a red collar and flopping ears. | Why They Mattered: Provided a voice of reason and logic to an otherwise nonsensical family, typically by offering financial or moral advice. | Human Companion: Stewie Griffin | Fun Fact: Brian was the first Family Guy character to make an appearance in Seth Macfarlane's other animated project, American Dad.

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Blood

Mar 20, 2015
Blood

Harlan Ellison’s vision of a post-apocalyptic world is curious and bleak, but most of all, it’s bizarre beyond measure. Blood, a telepathic Australian sheepdog with a constant need for food, was the perfect match for his woman-craving owner, Vic. In A Boy and his Dog, the pair roamed across a devastated world, trading human faculties for canine senses in a bid to survive the wasteland and mutually profit. Blood was a level-headed, rational creature with a critical eye for his master’s habits, and proved instrumental in finding and seeking out an underground utopia. While Blood and Vic’s bond may have seemed like a superficial relationship to outsiders, the depth of connection was later revealed in one of cinema’s most absurdly comedic scenes of cannibalism. Blood’s role as a scavenger and survivor was lauded by both readers of the original stories and viewers of the film, and the fascination can be explained with Vic’s final words in the novella: “A boy loves his dog.”

Origin: A Boy and His Dog | First Appearance: April, 1969 | Physical Description: A long-haired, white Australian sheepdog with barely-visible eyes | Why They Mattered: Possessed the extraordinary gift of telepathy, enabling him to join his human companion in post-apocalyptic scavenging and philosophical debates | Human Companion: Vic | Fun Fact: The dog actor who played Blood entered the film world on The Brady Bunch, where he played the family's dog (Tiger).

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Sam

Mar 20, 2015
Sam

Simply mentioning an animal companion in a film is enough to make a grown man cry, provided they’ve seen I am Legend. Many post-apocalyptic films and novels feature a dog as the protagonist’s sidekick, but few were able to create the bond shared by Will Smith’s character and his canine confidant. For the first half of the film, the audience grew attached to Sam by watching their daily routine, including treadmill exercise alongside Dr. Neville and tinned tomato products. Even without speaking, Sam became an integral part of the story, and Neville’s last connection to a lost family and civilization. Years after the film’s release, most people have probably forgotten the details of the plot – but no dog lover will ever Will Smith singing a final song to Sam.

Origin: I Am Legend | First Appearance: December 14, 2007 | Physical Description: A dark-haired German shepherd with cropped ears and a muscular frame. | Why They Mattered: Served as Dr. Neville's only confidant and fellow living creature after the outbreak of a crippling disease. | Human Companion: Robert Neville | Fun Fact: While Sam is a significant part of I Am Legend's film adaptation, the dog found in Richard Matheson's original novel appears, becomes infected, and dies within the span of a few chapters.

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Cheshire Cat

Mar 20, 2015
Cheshire Cat

In most modern tales, anything with piercing eyes, massive fangs, and a penchant for tree-slinking is likely to be a murderous creature. But for Lewis Carroll, the Cheshire Cat was a fond and riddle-loving introduction to the world of Wonderland, greeting Alice and accompanying her through her strange journey as a sort of ever-present guide. The Cheshire Cat’s trademark stripes and haunting grin have been immortalized in various film interpretations, as well as American McGee’s Alice, a series of video games which take Wonderland in a sinister new direction. As one might imagine, the Cheshire Cat and its devilish smile require little tweaking to exist in such a story. Whether viewed as a light-hearted trickster or a nightmare-inducing predator, the Cheshire Cat is one of the most famous animal characters to ever emerge from British literature.

Origin: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland | First Appearance: November 26, 1865 | Physical Description: A long, striped cat with a wide, toothy grin, commonly paired with expressive (and crazed) eyes. | Why They Mattered: Guided Alice through her various tribulations and riddles in Wonderland, often taunting or seeking to aid the girl. | Human Companion: Alice | Fun Fact: Although Lewis Carroll popularized the Cheshire Cat, there are a large number of cultural references and art pieces predating Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

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Argos

Mar 20, 2015
Argos

Everlasting dedication is one of the traits most commonly desired in a dog, and Argos was the originator of this ideal in literature. His owner, Odysseus, left for a 20 year adventure around the world, which left the dog to a life of neglect and starvation. After Odysseus’ home was filled with suitors for his mother, Argos was further shut away from everyday life, but refused to abandon hope of his master’s return. When Odysseus finally appeared at the palace incognito, he shared a final and heartbreaking moment of recognition with Argos, which allowed the dog to finally die after decades of faithful waiting. An updated homage to Argos marked a rare moment of seriousness on the animated show Futurama, where a dog waited decades – without success – for the return of its master. While these dogs may be fictional, their determination and commitment live on in society’s image of the “ideal companion.”

Origin: The Odyssey | First Appearance: 7th Century BC | Physical Description: Never recorded, aside from basic canine features. | Why They Mattered: Demonstrated exceptional loyalty to his master, remaining alive and vigilant for decades after Odysseus' disappearance. | Human Companion: Odysseus | Fun Fact: While the dog's exact age was never revealed, the length of Odysseus' disappearance makes Argos well over 20 years old.

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Garfield

Mar 20, 2015
Garfield

One does not need to be a cat lover to enjoy the Garfield section in the Sunday paper. In fact, those who despise cats are an equally valid audience for these comic strips. Garfield is one of the most cynical and blunt animal characters in comedy, and his passionless humor – which often stuck out in sharp contrast to his dog companion, Odie – was ultimately what drove his success. Despite the outward appearance of apathy from the lasagna-addicted cat, there were many layers to Garfield’s personality and disposition, and it often came out through a deep love of food. Garfield has another reason to be the centerfold of every cat fan’s calendar: he was one of the progenitors of “intelligent” cats in animation and media. In fact, according to creator Jim Davis, he was conceived to offer competition to a slew of canine counterparts.

Origin: Garfield | First Appearance: June 19, 1978 | Physical Description: An orange-haired tabby cat with a round figure and oversized paws. | Why They Mattered: Brought a sense of cynical and deadpan humor to comic strips and animated TV. | Human Companion: Jon Arbuckle | Fun Fact: Garfield's sardonic personality was modeled after creator Jim Davis' grandfather, James Garfield.

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Lassie

Mar 20, 2015
Lassie

This collie is, without a doubt, one of the most well-known and idolized dogs in fiction. With a legacy spanning books, radio plays, films, and television programs, Lassie was the quintessential rescue dog, and performed so many heroic duties that she practically became a trope. While a great number of children were saved from the bottoms of wells due to this dog’s heroism, several films explored Lassie’s more “eclectic” side, including battlefield forays and experiences with the legal system. Lassie also represented one of the first superstars to emerge from the world of animal companions, proving that readers and viewers were willing to watch an animal-centered show as long as its characters and plots were compelling enough. Lassie’s fame endures in the world of dog naming, where millions of collie owners reach for the name out of tradition alone.

Origin: The Half-brothers (short story) | First Appearance: 1859 | Physical Description: A rough collie with a white mane and similarly-colored paws. | Why They Mattered: Rescued countless children from the bottoms of wells, the freezing cold, and even Nazi-occupied territory. | Human Companion: Varying, most famously Joe Carraclough | Fun Fact: After the death of Lassie's original actor, Pal, new actors were found among the collie's children and grandchildren.

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Epona

Mar 20, 2015
Epona

Although Epona falls into the video game category of “animal companion as transportation,” the Legend of Zelda was clever in how it presented Link’s treasured horse. In her earliest forms, Epona was a simple and often nameless horse. The N64’s Ocarina of Time, however, was quick to change that dynamic. Rather than having the player purchase Epona as a nameless and forgettable method of swift travel, the game forced the player to compete in a series of trials to simply win the horse, creating an automatic bond through the shared gauntlet. Epona came equipped with a rich and detailed backstory, which could be assembled and understood by Zelda fans which had played multiple titles in the series. Epona was also one of the earliest examples of a persistent animal companion in the 3D world of gaming, making her feel more alive and realistic than creatures like Yoshi.

Origin: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time | First Appearance: November 21, 1998 | Physical Description: A chestnut-colored horse with a set of grayish hooves and a white mane, usually depicted with an affixed saddle. | Why They Mattered: Assumed the role of Link's closest friend, and also acted as his trustworthy steed in battle and peacetime. | Human Companion: Link | Fun Fact: Epona, a goddess within the Gaulish pantheon (and found in Roman circles), represented horses, mules, donkeys, and fertility.


GOAT Staff Score - Animal Companion

The candidates have been assigned a raw score across a range of criteria. The raw scores have been weighted to reflect the impact that each individual criterion has on the 'Final GOAT Score'. Only weighted scores are displayed in this table. -->TURN DEVICE SIDEWAYS TO VIEW ON MOBILE-->
 Loyalty (25%)Uniqueness (20%)Interactions with Companion (20%)Charisma (20%)Desirability as Real-World Pet (15%)Raw ScoreFinal GOAT Score
Gizmo511971143830
Pikachu 810410941815
Kazooie 67391035680
Brian 36811331620
Blood4866731605
Sam10173829590
Cheshire Cat19108129580
Argos11351525530
Garfield24115224480
Lassie9224623475
Epona7512419395

GOAT Verdict:

Gizmo is the greatest fictional animal companion of all time
You can’t feed him after midnight. You can’t offer him water. You can’t expose him to bright light. There were a host of rules accompanying the possession of a mogwai – in this case, Gizmo – but it’s a simple price to pay for owning one of these creatures. Viewers around the world were heartbroken to discover the fictional nature of the mogwai, and despite improvements with the latest science and technology, we’re no closer to creating one of these fur-covered friends than we were in 1984. Gizmo represented the height of filmmaking magic, and was popular enough to spawn a sequel to the original film, turning Gizmo from a potentially gimmicky character into a whimsical and essential ingredient for the series. Some of Gizmo’s greatest attributes were his resourcefulness, his cute factor, and his model’s physical design, which also allowed him to participate in the film’s more chaotic scenes as more than a puppet cowering behind cover. Regardless of all of the rules and impracticalities of ownership, Gizmo is the greatest animal companion of all time.

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What is the greatest extinct animal of all time?

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Tyrannosaurus

Feb 17, 2015
Tyrannosaurus
The tyrannosaurus, known by many names – including tyrannosaurus rex and T-Rex – was one of the largest and most powerful predators in the prehistoric world. This beast has been immortalized in a variety of films and novels, most notably Jurassic Park, and is perhaps the most well-known carnivorous dinosaur. The tyrannosaurus was an apex predator on the food chain, consuming almost anything it could catch and kill. This dinosaur moved using its impressive hind legs, but also possessed strong forearms, despite their limited reach. It was also able to bring enormous force to bear using its jaws, which were able to crunch through bone and other hard organic material to allow for unrestricted feeding. Considering the speed, size, and deadliness of these hunters, it’s a wonder that any other land-dwelling dinosaurs were able to survive.

Scientific Name: Tyrannosaurus rex | Physical Description: A massive and bipedal dinosaur with a prominent skull, thick hind legs and a tail for balance, and undersized forearms. | Went Extinct: 65,000,000 years ago

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: North America, Mongolia | Closest Living Relative: Chickens | Fun Fact: With just one bite of its prey, the tyrannosaurus could consume an estimated 500 pounds of meat.
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Woolly Mammoth

Feb 17, 2015
Woolly Mammoth
For many people, the woolly mammoth is the everlasting symbol of extinction in the animal kingdom. Its frequent appearance in natural history exhibits, typically paired with a band of spear-wielding hunters, is indicative of the impact that these giants had on the development of the human species. The meat from one of these creatures could likely sustain an entire group of ancient humans for several days or weeks, considering their six-ton weight. The woolly mammoth was a common presence throughout many of the world’s colder regions, and over the years, researchers have been able to locate, identify, and analyze a massive amount of remains, leading to a complete and detailed picture of the mammoth. Regardless of what other creatures rise and fall over the eons, the mammoth and its intimidating tusks will always have a place in pop culture history (and wax museums).

Scientific Name: Mammuthus primigenius | Physical Description: Towering elephant-like creatures with tusks, a sizeable subcutaneous fat layer, and a thick coating of long, brown hair. | Went Extinct: 3,600 years ago

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: Global, excluding South America and Australia | Closest Living Relative: Asian Elephants | Fun Fact: Much like the process used to discern the age of a tree, it is possible to count the rings in a woolly mammoth's tusks to estimate the specimen's age.
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Megalodon

Feb 17, 2015
Megalodon
Long before the age of Jaws, a much larger and more terrifying shark roamed the waters. Inhabiting a large portion of the world’s saltwater bodies and built like a swimming tank, megalodon followed the prehistoric trend of being a monstrous version of its extant relative, the great white shark. This ancient size increase, however, was reflected across all tiers of the food chain. At nearly 50 tons and 70 feet long, the amount of meat required to sustain one of these beasts had to be enormous. Researchers have speculated that megalodons consumed whales, dolphins, squids, and even their own kind, if the food became scarce enough. While it may have been fascinating to see one of these creatures in person, the majority of the world should be thankful that megalodon no longer lurks beneath the waves.

Scientific Name: Carcharodon megalodon | Physical Description: An enormous ancestor of the shark, growing well over 60 feet and possessing serrated rows of teeth. | Went Extinct: 2,600,000 years ago

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: Unknown, likely able to survive in any ocean due to warmer temperatures | Closest Living Relative: Great White Sharks | Fun Fact: Scientists estimate that megalodon's jaws could generate as much biting force as three lions combined.
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Smilodon

Feb 17, 2015
Smilodon
Smilodon, which is more popularly (and erroneously) known as the saber-tooth tiger, has become a favorite among extinct species due to its ferocious appearance and media-popularized connection with early humans. While scientists were not always sure about the coexistence of the two species, recent remains from Germany – dating over 300,000 years old – present a smilodon skeleton on the same excavated layer as wooden spears, which suggests convergence and also a hunting-based relationship. The smilodons were expert and agile hunters, and their enormous pairs of canines helped to carve out their place as predators – literally. The smilodon was, in actuality, an apex predator, and capable of hunting anything from horses to mammoths. While today’s domesticated cats may have little in common with the smilodon, anybody who dangles a strand of yarn can still see a trace of the killer instinct.

Scientific Name: Smilodon gracilis | Physical Description: A low-lying, short-haired feline with pronounced teeth and powerful forelimbs. | Went Extinct: 500,000 years ago

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: North and South America | Closest Living Relative: Leopards | Fun Fact: According to the most recent fossil examinations, smilodons were likely susceptible to excessive amounts of drooling.
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Sarcosuchus

Feb 17, 2015
Sarcosuchus
The world’s marshes and delta areas have always been a breeding ground for predators, but sarcosuchus – the flesh crocodile – turned these wetlands into a personal feeding trough. Sarcosuchus is the 40-foot relative of the modern crocodile, equipped with thick outer scales, razor-sharp teeth, and an enormous set of jaws. Analysis of the creature’s skull led researchers to the conclusion that sarcosuchus was unable to perform the infamous death roll maneuver, but a simple examination of the creature’s size is enough to demonstrate that it was an exceptional hunter. In fact, sarcosuchus was probably one of the top predators in habitat, capable of hunting big game using stealth and swift ambushes. Much of the creature’s traits were passed down to its far smaller relative, the Nile crocodile, but its full length and weight will never be matched by a modern day reptile.

Scientific Name: Sarcosuchus imperator | Physical Description: An aquatic reptile with thick, armored scales, webbed feet, and a protruding set of jaws, typically growing up to 40 feet long. | Went Extinct: 112,000,000 years ago

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: The Sahara, Brazil | Closest Living Relative: Nile Crocodiles | Fun Fact: Some experts have concluded that this giant crocodile continued to enlarge throughout its lifespan, and required 50 to 60 years to be considered fully grown.
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Aurochs

Feb 17, 2015
Aurochs
For humans living just a few thousand years ago, the aurochs was a critical source of food and leather. For humans today, it’s a virtually unknown species, despite its obvious similarities with common cattle. The aurochs stood at almost six feet, and could weigh well over a ton. Because of this, earlier humans often sought to domesticate the aurochs. Research is still being performed on the success of these initiatives, but DNA has pointed to a divergence of species, with one of the animal’s extant relatives being the bull. Most of these massive cattle died off in their wild form by the 13th or 14th century, with the last herds existing throughout Eastern Europe. By the time of severe endangerment, the aurochs were restricted to private grounds maintained by nobility, and they would eventually become extinct in the 17th century.

Scientific Name: Bos primigenius | Physical Description: A breed of large and horned cattle, usually covered in a coat of black or brownish hair. | Went Extinct: 388 years

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: Various locations throughout Europe, North Africa, and Asia | Closest Living Relative: Cattle | Fun Fact: Aurochs are some of the most prominent symbols in European Paleolithic artwork, including the famous Lascaux Cave paintings.
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Titanoboa

Feb 17, 2015
Titanoboa
The modern day boa constrictor is able to use its powerful muscles, long body, and crushing weight to break the bones of its victims. Titanoboa, its prehistoric counterpart, used the same process – but with more than three times the length, and 20 times the weight. The remains of titanoboa, which have been identified as nearly 58 million years old, have only been found in Colombia. Its love of a warm climate and ample hunting camouflage likely prevented the spread of the snake into surrounding countries and regions, but it was certainly powerful enough to have made a mark on its local habitat. Some biomechanics experts, in fact, have theorized that the snake’s own metabolic processes were powerful enough to heat it by four to six degrees Fahrenheit.

Scientific Name: Titanoboa cerrejonensis | Physical Description: A serpent weighing over a ton and measuring close to 40 feet, but otherwise remarkably similar to extant snake species. | Went Extinct: 60,000,000 years

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: Colombia | Closest Living Relative: Boa Constrictors | Fun Fact: The thickest segment of a titanoboa's body is estimated to have measured three feet.
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Quagga

Feb 17, 2015
Quagga
Upon first inspection, the quagga looks more like a sideshow circus gimmick than an actual animal. The animal’s head and neck had the characteristic stripes of a zebra, while its body was decidedly more equine or donkey-like in nature. In truth, the quagga is actually a type of plains zebra, but marked by a decidedly unique aesthetic. Some illustrations of the quagga feature a tall and powerful-looking specimen, almost resembling a mare, but the majority of pictures – which feature living quaggas from the 19th century – display a shorter and stockier animal. The quagga existed throughout South Africa until its extinction in 1883, when the animal had become a popular attraction in zoos and wildlife conservatories. In contemporary circles, the quagga is remembered as a quirky but endearing cultural gem.

Scientific Name: Equus quagga quagga | Physical Description: A patchwork quadruped with a unique hybrid appearance, seemingly formed from a zebra's head and the body of a donkey or horse. | Went Extinct: 132 years ago

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: South Africa | Closest Living Relative: Plains Zebras | Fun Fact: The quagga had its genetic material studied in a groundbreaking 1984 procedure, making it the first extinct animal to receive DNA analysis.
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Gigantopithecus

Feb 17, 2015
Gigantopithecus
These days, the internet and tabloid media and obsessed with the concept of bigfoot. One possible explanation for the phenomenon, if traced back to its prehistoric roots, may be gigantopithecus, the largest ape in history. These creatures stood nearly 10 feet tall and roamed the forests of Asia, but surprisingly little is known about them. Their date of extinction is not precisely known, and much of the mystery surrounding them can be traced to the use of their remains by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. A variety of Chinese markets and cities have been found in the possession of gigantopithecus remains, which has led researchers to believe that China was also the primary home for these giant apes. While mainstream science asserts that gigantopithecus has vanished from existence, armies of bigfoot hunters are presumably keen on proving otherwise.

Scientific Name: Gigantopithecus giganteus | Physical Description: A primate reaching almost nine feet tall, defined by its sturdy jaws and plant-grinding teeth. | Went Extinct: 100,000 years ago

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: China | Closest Living Relative: Orangutans | Fun Fact: Numerous gigantopithecus fossils have been found in Chinese markets, often sold as traditional medicine in complete pieces or in powdered form.
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Great Auk

Feb 17, 2015
Great Auk
While many extinct species were known for their impressive size and power, the great auk – perhaps due to its relatively recent extinction – is an example of a creature that seemed destined to die out. Slow on land, flightless, and most often a source of food for neighboring species, it was a miracle that the great auk managed to survive into the 19th century. The great auk’s status as a memorable extinct species is not derived from its abilities or its similarities to modern penguins, however. The great auk provided Neanderthals and Native Americans with significant amounts food, feathers, and bone material, making it one of the most useful species for the development of certain human populations. Today, the great auk lives on in their smaller counterpart, auks, which have developed a clumsy method of flight and are also a healthy and sustainable species.

Scientific Name: Pinguinus impennis | Physical Description: A three-foot-tall flightless bird resembling a modern penguin, typically displaying black plumage on its back and white on its stomach. | Went Extinct: 163 years

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: North America, throughout Northwestern Europe | Closest Living Relative: Auks | Fun Fact: While the great auk's extant descendant has developed wings for flight, their short length necessitates rapid flapping to remain airborne.
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Atlas Bear

Feb 17, 2015
Atlas Bear
When most people think of bears, they imagine the wilderness of North America or Siberia, where a thick forest covering and cool mountain streams provide the perfect ursine habitat. The Atlas bear, however, is unique because it flourished far from those comforts. It existed as Africa’s only native bear species, and despite contemporary species migration, no other bear has taken its place. Atlas bears, which had a similar appearance to modern brown bears but lacked a white mark on their nose, were often transported into the Roman Empire for use in entertainment and combat sports. While the actions of the Romans did not directly cause the extinction of the species, it did nothing to help its dwindling population. Today, the Atlas bear is remembered as a relic of Africa’s diverse and often fragile ecosystem.

Scientific Name: Ursus arctos crowtheri | Physical Description: A short, bulky version of the modern bear, distinguished by its dark fur coat and reddish underside. | Went Extinct: 130 years

Observed Habitats of Fossil Sites: Morocco, Libya | Closest Living Relative: Black Bears | Fun Fact: One of the reasons for the Atlas bear's extinction can be found in Roman gladiatorial games, where the bears were used for entertainment and blood sports.

GOAT Staff Score - Extinct Animal

The candidates have been assigned a raw score across a range of criteria. The raw scores have been weighted to reflect the impact that each individual criterion has on the 'Final GOAT Score'. Only weighted scores are displayed in this table. -->TURN DEVICE SIDEWAYS TO VIEW ON MOBILE-->
 Survival Capabilities (30%)Unlike Species Today (20%)Total Area Inhabited (20%)Knowledge Advancement (15%)Legacy (15%)Raw ScoreFinal GOAT Score
Tyrannosaurus 911791147930
Woolly Mammoth4101181043810
Megalodon 11692735765
Smilodon 7855934680
Sarcosuchus 10464428620
Aurochs131011833575
Titanoboa8533625535
Quagga29110527485
Gigantopithecus6741220445
Great Auk3187120390
Atlas Bear5226318365

GOAT Verdict:

The Tyrannosaurus is the Greatest Extinct Animal of All Time
This dinosaur’s name alone should prove its dominance. Tyrannosaurus, which already translates to tyrant lizard in Latin, is supplemented by Rex, meaning king. With the perfect storm of prefixes and titles, it’s no wonder that the tyrannosaurus has become the most popular and memorialized extinct animal in history. Every feature of the animal appears to be a refinement of evolutionary predators, from a powerful set of jaws to massive, piston-like hind legs. With small forearms and a balancing tail, the dinosaur was able to maintain a solid posture for standing, running, or eating, and asserted its power through climbing the prehistoric world’s food chain ranks. Whether mechanized in a Spielberg film or on display as a collection of towering skeletal remains in a museum, the tyrannosaurus is a captivating and intimidating icon of a world long gone, where the fight for survival created some of the largest and most ruthless predators in existence. Although it has disappeared from Earth, the tyrannosaurus will always endure in its cultural legacy and media presence. For this reason alone, the tyrannosaurus is the greatest extinct animal of all time.

What is the greatest cryptid of all time?

1

Loch Ness Monster

Dec 11, 2014
Loch Ness Monster

In the world of grainy video footage and still photographs, the Loch Ness Monster (also known as Nessie, to its many fans) is the reigning champion. Although the most famous image of the Loch Ness Monster was revealed to be a hoax just before the death of its photographer, the search for the fabled sea creature has only intensified over time. Throughout the 20th century, teams of scientists and researchers combed the loch multiple times, typically with the aid of sonar equipment and submersibles. The creature even attracted Hollywood producers, and due to several filming mishaps, full-size replicas of the Loch Ness Monster sank to the bottom of the loch (and were never recovered). Numerous theories have emerged in the debate over the creature’s origins and possible survival tactics, and if nothing else, these dialogues signal that the legend of Nessie continues to grow beneath the loch’s waters.

Origins: Debatably identified in 565, when an account by Saint Columba reported an attack by a sea-serpent on the River Ness. | Sighted In: Loch Ness, in Scotland | Appearance: An aquatic and serpentine creature with dark and glossy flesh, typically reported to possess limbs or fins of some sort | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 2,040,000

Encounter Details: A 1970 submersible expedition into the Loch's depths, initiated as a joke, picked up sonar signals from a massive fleeing object. | Strange Fact: In 1933, a motorcyclist claimed to have struck the creature on a shoreline road.

2

Bigfoot

Dec 11, 2014
Bigfoot

There have been so many reported sightings of Bigfoot – alternatively known as a Sasquatch – that the creature itself borders on parody. The creature’s image has become so prevalent that it is, in essence, the epitome of the “monster-hunting” phenomenon, which has branched into mainstream television and internet circles. Driven by the grainy appearance of an ape-like creature in the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film, thousands of determined Bigfoot seekers have combed the forests and mountainous expanses of Canada and North America. Although the majority of these expeditions result in no proof of the beast, and the “evidence” gathered is typically little more than a set of large footprints, the hunt for Bigfoot and his Sasquatch kin is more alive than ever before. So long as the fascination around this forest-dwelling creature remains, the world’s longest-running hide-and-seek match will continue in the hills of North America.

Origins: Unknown, based in legends from the indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest. | Sighted In: Northwestern US, Canada, occasionally Eastern US | Appearance: An apelike creature with a prominent brow and forehead, typically hairy and extremely tall | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 27,100,000

Encounter Details: A 1924 account described a band of apelike creatures (potentially referring to Bigfoot's species) assaulting a mining cabin with rocks and attempted entry. | Strange Fact: In 2012, an attempted hoax ended in tragedy when a ghillie-suited impersonator was struck by a car.

3

Kraken

Dec 11, 2014
Kraken

Since its inception, the Kraken has appeared in the nightmares of sailors around the world. The depth of the ocean can be daunting enough on the high seas, but the prospect of a colossal, tentacle-wielding beast beneath a vessel is horrifying. Centuries after the Kraken’s first appearance in Norse sagas, it was reportedly seen throughout the seas around Scandinavia and the Atlantic, where it was believed to prey on passing crewmen and sink ships with ease. Many contemporary depictions of the Kraken have added especially alien features, including horns or a razor-toothed maw, since its initial shape (which is similar to a giant squid or octopus) has become normalized and less intimidating. If you ever venture across an ocean and try to imagine what waits beneath the waves, however, the Kraken’s original form will be more than enough to haunt your dreams.

Origins: Featured in a 14th-century Norse saga known as Orvar-Oddr, presented under a different name. | Sighted In: Multiple oceans, coasts of Greenland | Appearance: An enormous octopoid creature (or cephalopod) capable of devouring entire ships | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 21,600,000

Encounter Details: A 1781 description of the creature, written by a Swedish author, likened the Kraken to the biblical Leviathan. | Strange Fact: Krake, the Norwegian root of the word Kraken, refers to a sickly or warped animal.

4

Spring-heeled Jack

Dec 11, 2014
Spring-heeled Jack

The stories surrounding Spring-heeled Jack may seem more like urban legends than cryptid reports, but the otherworldly nature of this far-leaping entity suggests something more mysterious and physical than just folklore. Spring-heeled Jack was spotted throughout London, Liverpool, and some surrounding areas, and the number of reports was so staggering that it prompted an official response from community leaders and law enforcement. In some stories, Spring-heeled Jack wore the clothes of a dapper gentleman, but in others, he was dressed in a fisherman’s oilskin coat to disguise his burning red eyes and haunting features. Most of the public (and pop culture) has let Jack slide into obscurity, but the accounts of his reign of terror are still an indelible part of London, and make him one of the most acrobatic cryptids in existence.

Origins: Victorian-era reports of a ghost or demonic entity stalking the streets of Liverpool and London. | Sighted In: London and Liverpool, in England | Appearance: A thin, well-dressed urban wanderer with red eyes and sharpened nails. | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 430,000

Encounter Details: An 1877 crowd in Lincolnshire supposedly surrounded the creature, which was cloaked in a sheep skin, and forced it to leap away in retreat. | Strange Fact: The Lord Mayor of London addressed the creature in an 1838 hearing, and after an overwhelming response from the public, dispatched policemen to hunt down the responsible entity.

5

Chupacabra

Dec 11, 2014
Chupacabra

The only thing scarier than a vampire is a vampire in the shape of a hairless dog (or a scaly, cold-blooded humanoid, if you ascribe to other reports). The Chupacabra, a blood-sucking and nocturnal hunter originally reported in South America, is one of the most bizarre but frequently-encountered cryptids of all time. Although there have been dozens of reports of this creature, with many occurring in the Southern US, most are simply a misidentified and sickly canine. The Chupacabra’s name refers to sucking the blood of goats, but this creature has been attributed to attacks on livestock of all varieties, including sheep and hens. While there has never been any concrete evidence presented in the search for a Chupacabra specimen (alive or dead), many South American farmers still swear by its existence.

Origins: Reportedly the cause of a 1995 attack on eight sheep in Puerto Rico, which left the livestock with multiple puncture wounds and devoid of blood. | Sighted In: Southern US, numerous South American nations, the Caribbean | Appearance: Ranging from a small, reptillian biped to a hairless and vaguely canine creature | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 994,000

Encounter Details: Multiple Chupacabra sightings, which involve a hairless specimen attacking livestock, have been identified as canines with severe mange. | Strange Fact: Skeptic Benjamin Radford asserts that the Chupacabra's reported sightings were based on descriptions of an alien creature from the film Species.

6

Yeti

Dec 11, 2014
Yeti

As the eastern counterpart to Bigfoot, the Yeti has a web of legends, mysteries, and expeditions around him. Some of the earliest mentions of the Yeti come from pre-Buddhist texts throughout Nepal and Tibet, and although the creature is reportedly most active in these countries, there have been scattered sightings throughout China, Russia, and beyond. The Yeti’s white fur and intimidating build are enough to strike fear into the heart of any mountain climber, but one of its most terrifying aspects is its extensive folklore reputation. The Yeti, to the indigenous peoples of the Himalayas, was a deity of hunting and killing in the frigid mountain ranges. While there may not be any photographs of this albino creature in existence, there are some cases where it’s more comforting to know as little as possible (especially when a creature’s fur is the same color as the snow that surrounds you).

Origins: Component of Lepcha religion, serving as a God of the Hunt and stalking the Himalayas. | Sighted In: Russia, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, China, Mongolia | Appearance: A towering creature with simian features and pale fur | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 48,500,000

Encounter Details: An accomplished trekker spotted a hulking Yeti-like creature in 1832, but later declared it to be an orangutan. | Strange Fact: A 2011 science conference, hosted in Russia, declared 95% certainty of the creature's existence.

7

Mothman

Dec 11, 2014
Mothman

West Virginia, which may seem like a relatively uneventful state, also has the honor of hosting one of the most unsettling cryptids on record. Mothman, which was originally reported as a humanoid creature with wings and glowing eyes, has evolved into a local legend due to its bizarre appearance and wave of activity in 1966. After a few weeks of frequent sightings and contact with the citizens of Point Pleasant, Mothman seemed to drop away from the public eye, and was only mentioned again because of a bridge collapse the following year. Multiple novels and films have expanded upon the Mothman’s reputation and legacy within the sleepy community of Point Pleasant, but for those who lived through the hysteria of 1966 and can still recall tales of its appearance, there’s no need for embellishment.

Origins: A series of 1966 reports from West Virginia | Sighted In: Point Pleasant, in West Virginia | Appearance: A flying, bipedal creature with humanoid limbs and glowing red eyes | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 596,000

Encounter Details: In 1966, a contractor reportedly shined a flashlight into the creature's eyes, only to find that they were eerily reflective. | Strange Fact: Point Pleasant erected a 12-foot statue of Mothman, crafted from metal, in 2003.

8

Jersey Devil

Dec 11, 2014
Jersey Devil

The general appearance of New Jersey may not seem like a breeding ground for cryptid sightings, but in the forested lower portions of the state – known as the Pine Barrens – there are plenty of eerie hiding places. The Jersey Devil is commonly depicted as a winged creature with the head of a goat or a deer, and has reportedly been sighted throughout the Pine Barrens for hundreds of years. Because of the creature’s impressive speed and flight abilities, it has commonly been the subject of close capture attempts and hunting tales, but there has never been tangible proof of its existence (including a body). While the Jersey Devil may not appear in any photographs or brief clips of film, evidence of its legacy can be found in gift shops throughout the state.

Origins: Known as a dragon-like creature to the indigenous Lenni Lenape tribe. | Sighted In: New Jersey's forested coastal plains | Appearance: A winged, incredibly swift creature with claws and a mammalian head | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 6,890,000

Encounter Details: Numerous witnesses claimed to see the Jersey Devil in 1909, and police were reportedly able to fire at the creature (without success). | Strange Fact: One of Napoleon Bonaparte's brothers reported seeing the Jersey Devil on his property in 1820.

9

Beast of Bray Road

Dec 11, 2014
Beast of Bray Road

A creature with the appearance of a bipedal bear or werewolf may be an obvious cause for sensation, but the surprising aspect of the Beast of Bray Road is that its legacy has persisted for over fifty years without contemporary reports of the creature. In 1936 the most popular and frequently-cited incident occurred with this man-beast hybrid, and the story was later converted into a newspaper piece and nonfiction book publication. In 2002, the infamous Gable Film emerged, and appeared to depict an attack by the Beast of Bray Road. Although the authenticity of the film was finally refuted by the creators, it served as a powerful reminder of this cryptid’s legacy in small-town Wisconsin, and prompted another generation of potential monster-seekers to take up the search.

Origins: A 1936 report out of Wisconsin. | Sighted In: Rural Wisconsin | Appearance: Either as a hulking, bear-like creature, or a bipedal canine (popularly known as a werewolf in local newspapers) | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 106,000

Encounter Details: A 2002 hoax film recreated the appearance of an old home video, and showed the "Beast" attacking a man on a deserted road. | Strange Fact: In the 1990s, a newspaper reporter and skeptic set out to dismantle witness claims, but later became convinced by the story and published books on the topic.

10

Kelpie

Dec 11, 2014
Kelpie

The Loch Ness Monster, in the worldwide sense, is Scotland’s most famous creature. Within Scotland, however, the Kelpie is a cryptid of equal note, and has its roots in centuries of folklore. The Kelpie follows a trend of culture-specific monsters bound by a theme of mischief and water, and may have found its origins in scaring children away from the water’s edge. The Kelpie’s two main forms were an attractive human and a horse-like body, often outfitted with fins for swimming, or a covering of algae. The Kelpie could lure its victims into the water using its alluring humanoid appearance, where it would then drown the victim. The Kelpie is a constant presence in Scottish tales and literature from previous centuries, and with all the attention focused on Nessie, it may finally find some breathing room in the lochs of Scotland.

Origins: Scottish folklore, which spoke of a water-dwelling demon that appeared in both human and equine forms. | Sighted In: Lochs and ponds throughout Scotland | Appearance: Alternating between a human and horse-like form | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 990,000

Encounter Details: Sir Walter Scott's 1810 poem, The Lady of the Lake, describes a river demon rising from the water. | Strange Fact: Kelpies may have been fabricated as a method of scaring children away from dangerous bodies of water.

11

Kappa

Dec 11, 2014
Kappa

Japanese legends are practically overflowing with oddities and curious creatures. The Kappa, which belongs to an overarching family of tricksters and demonic entities within Japanese folklore and traditional storytelling, is a creature marked by its childish but reptilian appearance, as well as a turtle-like carapace. Its scaly body may create the appearance of aquatic mastery, but the Kappa – according to folklore – is powerless without the reservoir of water in its skull cavity. Japanese children (especially in older generations) are always prepared for a duel with the Kappa, which is prone to anything from tripping villagers to drowning younger victims. Of course, the Kappa is too outlandish and attention-seeking to secretly exist in the modern age, but considering the Kappa’s horrendous “pranks,” perhaps that’s a good thing.

Origins: Japanese folklore, which depicts Kappa as capable of either mischief or outright violence | Sighted In: Japan | Appearance: Youthful and humanoid, but with reptilian skin, a carapace, a beak, and a flattened skull containing water. | Number of Google Results for “Name”: 80,900,000

Encounter Details: Lacking distinct sightings, but in popular legends, Kappa are known for dragging curious visitors underwater and drowning them. | Strange Fact: Friendly Kappa will reportedly irrigate farms and bring fish to their human allies.


GOAT Staff Score - Cryptid

The candidates have been assigned a raw score across a range of criteria. The raw scores have been weighted to reflect the impact that each individual criterion has on the 'Final GOAT Score'. Only weighted scores are displayed in this table. -->TURN DEVICE SIDEWAYS TO VIEW ON MOBILE-->
 Sighting Prevalence (30%)Historical Significance (20%)Eerieness (20%)Realism / Existence Potential (15%)Contemporary Legacy (15%)Raw ScoreFinal GOAT Score
Loch Ness Monster109591144880
Bigfoot1173111042845
Kraken611108742825
Spring-heeled Jack810117137780
Chupacabra9395935720
Yeti58210833620
Mothman7273625525
Jersey Devil4484525495
Beast of Bray Road2176319355
Kelpie3612214290
Kappa1541415285

GOAT Verdict:

The Loch Ness Monster is the Greatest Cryptid of All Time
The Loch Ness Monster’s claim to fame is not necessarily in its veracity, but in the widespread wishful thinking that defines its existence. Thousands of filmmakers, researchers, biologists, and zoologists have descended on Loch Ness over the past centuries, and whether their outlooks are skeptical or accepting of the creature’s presence, the fact remains: Nessie is a cultural phenomenon. Its origins may stretch back to the pre-medieval times, but the expeditions to uncover this sea beast have only grown more involved and more resource-intensive in modern times. Millions of dollars in radar, sonar, and aerial reconnaissance assistance have been poured into the search, and despite the continual failure to unearth any appreciable evidence, the scientific community seems just as interested in settling the mystery as Nessie’s devoted fans. The Loch Ness Monster may be a prehistoric creature that continues to thrive, it may be an elaborate hoax, or it may be a demonic creature lurking beneath the waters of the loch, carefully avoiding all detection. Whatever the true case may be, the Loch Ness Monster is the greatest cryptid of all time.

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