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Nature’s Bald and Hairless Animals

Pop images of bald guys run the gamut from heroic to hot to hard done-by to hilarious. When it comes to naked noggins, who loves ya, baby? We all do.

In humans we expect a certain amount of hair loss with age—some even beat Mother Nature to it by shaving it all off. There are a number of mammals and birds, however, that we expect to see in full fur and feathers, aside, of course, from the times they molt or shed.

But some animals defy the conventions of their species and go nudist … or at least bald-headed. A little while back we brought you a list of hairless animals, from funky naked mole rats to bare bears. Here are a few additions—some naturally nude, some not—to the bald bestiary.

Red Uakari

Monkeys can be cute, fierce, or majestic, but the red uakari (Cacajao calvus) is downright surreal. These tree-top dwellers of the Amazon River Basin have a coat of longish auburn or white hair topped with a bright-red bald head. They look a bit like a mascot who forgot to put on the head part of his costume before going to work.

uakari picture

The uakari’s head is red due to blood vessels close to the skin. Photograph by Ocean/Corbis

Mark Bowler, postdoctoral fellow at the San Diego Zoo Global Institute for Conservation Research, told National Geographic that while other monkeys have hairless faces, only one other species is bald-headed, the pied tamarin (Saguinis bicolor).

What’s more, the red uakari is the only monkey with a completely red head. Its coloring isn’t a pigment, but rather is due to specialized blood vessels close to the skin. Some have theorized that facial redness is a signal of good health, a theory Bowler is in the process of testing. Hairless faces on monkeys, he said, may aid visual communication.

The uakari’s face certainly is expressive, and it often seems to look worried. Maybe that’s because hunting and habitat loss has caused their numbers to drop by 30 percent in as many years, giving it vulnerable status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Peruvian Inca Orchid

The Peruvian Inca orchid, sometimes nicknamed the PIO, is Peru’s official dog, and it can be hairless or coated. As sighthounds—like greyhounds, whippets, and borzois—the dogs are bred to hunt by sight rather than scent.

Peruvian Inca Orchid picture

The Peruvian Inca orchid is Peru’s national dog. Photograph by Tierfotoagentur/Alamy

The breed has an ancient lineage, having been depicted on pottery from A.D. 750 created by the Moche civilization of northern Peru. The Quechua, descendants of the Inca, preserved this loyal hunting breed, whose name in that language means “dog without vestments.” Their orchid name is said to have come from the Conquistadors, who found them among the orchid blooms in Inca homes.

The breed got a profile boost in 2008 when, upon hearing of then-President-Elect Barack Obama’s promise of a new hypoallergenic puppy for his daughters, the Association of Friends of Hairless Dogs of Peru offered the Obamas a PIO. Alas, the First Family went with a Portuguese water dog.

Skinny Pig

Some might hear the phrase “skinny pig” and think of a farm animal that’s not getting enough food.

hairless guinea pig picture

A hairless guinea pig. Photograph by Robert Eastman/Alamy

Fanciers of hairless pets, however, may already know that the “skinny pig” is a bald version of the fluffy-coated popular pet, the guinea pig, Cavia porcellus (well, nearly bald—it has some fluff on its nose and feet). Skinnies are likely a descendent of the IAF hairless guinea pig, first identified in 1978 at Montreal’s Institut Armand-Frappier. They’re used in dermatological testing (like tattoo research) but also found their way into the market as pets. The pigs’ defective hair shafts are due to a mutation.

The skinny is not to be confused with another, unrelated hairless guinea pig, the Baldwin, which is born with a coat that falls out in adulthood. This video shows a pup who is losing hair—on his nose, it seems—and also sounding like a Hot Wheels car alarm.

Vultures

Do you have to have Addams Family values to think vultures are beautiful?

Cape Vulture picture

A cape vulture in South Africa. Photograph by Winfried Wisniewski/Foto Natura/Minden Pictures

Certainly not when you see a king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) in flight, or consider what a stinky, messy, bacteria-ridden place the world would be if they weren’t around to clean up and chow down on dead animals in town and country.

And it’s that scavenging that has long been thought to be the reason for the vulture’s conspicuously bald head. When you’re sticking your coconut inside corpses all day, bald is definitely better.

There’s another reason for the bird’s baldness: thermoregulation. The bare skin on a vulture’s body or head can help regulate its temperature.

Apes with Alopecia

Some animals are born hairless, and some lose their hair for other reasons. These chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss and also occurs in humans.

Hairless primates Chimpanzee. Oxfordshire, England. Photograph by Mim Friday, Alamy

A hairless chimpanzee in Oxfordshire, England. Photograph by Mim Friday, Alamy

There’s Guru from the Mysore Zoo in India, who was hairless when he was rescued from a circus. Jambo, at the U.K.’s Twycross Zoo, reportedly likes the snow despite not being quite dressed for it. Cinder, a chimp from the St. Louis Zoo who had alopecia universalis, or hair loss over the entire body, died in 2009 after catching a cold (here’s some video of Cinder).

A report in the journal Comparative Medicine says that little is known about hair loss in captive non-human primates because it’s typically thought of as stress-related. According to the report, assessing individual cases for underlying medical causes and monitoring the animal’s behavior are ultimately the best ways to treat it.

Tell us: Have you come across a bald or hairless animal?

Follow Liz Langley on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

  1. julie
    houston,TX
    October 8, 2013, 1:46 pm

    wOOooooooooow

  2. AHMAD NISAR
    LAHORE PAKISTAN
    October 4, 2013, 8:34 am

    it is very nice information for us i appreciate your effords and request you please continue it

  3. Vince
    Belgium
    October 3, 2013, 3:17 pm

    You forgot one hairless animal : humans

  4. Marilyn Snyder
    Las Vegas, NV
    October 2, 2013, 1:11 pm

    Ferrets often develop Alopecia (hair loss) due to Adrenal disease and just old age, becoming completely bald.

  5. ISABELLA
    SAN DIEGO
    October 1, 2013, 10:02 pm

    INTERESTING! I LOVE THOSE ANIMALS

  6. Willson
    October 1, 2013, 4:41 pm

    “…says that little is known about hair loss in captive non-human primates…” — Since when do we call captive animals, “non-human”?

    I have a hairless (almost) rat bought from a pet store for $5 where it was kept mixed in with the common haired variety. It has short, short curly whiskers and short curly hair on it’s head of the “rex” variety. It is a bit more susceptible to injuries without the protection of it’s coat, but gets along fine with the 10 other females it is kept with. She stays warm by cuddling up with her friends. Perhaps we will breed it one day and see what happens.

  7. Nina
    California
    September 27, 2013, 1:28 pm

    Delightful article. Thank you for sharing your knowlegdge about these beautiful creatures. I wish however that no more testing is done on the skinny pigs.

  8. lyana
    September 26, 2013, 8:12 pm

    Thanks once again for posting this well written article. Im using it to do a Current Science report. Good job overall writing it!