15 Places With Adorable Animal Ambassadors
A certain location can bring to mind any number of things — a particular monument, a beach, a person, an attitude. Even animals have the power to evoke a country or destination. Here are 15 creatures that are inextricably linked to a place.
Rabbits on Okunoshima, JapanDuring World War II, Japan used the island of Okunoshima for producing chemical weapons. Now, it’s a much happier place that’s better known as Rabbit Island, because it is home to hundreds of wild bunnies. The adorable inhabitants of this popular tourist destination hop up to visitors in search of scratches and snacks. 960 1280
Pigs on Big Major Cay, BahamasBet you never thought of swimming with pigs as an adventure on your next vacation in the Bahamas. But that’s just what visitors can do on Big Major Cay, aka Pig Beach, in the Exuma archipelago. There are several theories on how the growing colony of 20 or so pigs landed on the island, but with 1 snort from those adorable sandy snouts, you won’t even care. 960 1280
Lemurs in MadagascarThere are about 100 species and subspecies of these primates, and all of them are native only to the African island of Madagascar, one of the most biodiverse destinations in the world. Some are as small as a mouse; others can be the size of a big house cat. Conservation efforts have continued to grow, as many of the lemur populations are in danger of extinction. 960 1280
6-Toed Cats in Key WestThe official term is polydactyl, meaning "many digits," but they’re also called Hemingway cats. That’s because a ship captain gave Ernest Hemingway a cat with this genetic abnormality. The author was fascinated and began collecting and breeding others. Forty or 50 cats — about half of them polydactyl — still live at the Hemingway Home in Key West, and the small island has a higher-than-normal percentage of 6-toed felines. 960 1280
Red Crabs on Christmas IslandTens of millions of red crabs live on the 52 square miles of Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. Every year at the beginning of the rainy season, usually in November or December, they migrate from the forests to the coast to breed, creating a bright red parade that shuts down roads on the island. 960 1280
Giant Pandas in ChinaA symbol of the country, these critically endangered bears are now found only in a small section of mountain forests in central China; by last count, there were fewer than 2,000 left in the wild. Beyond that, almost all of the pandas in captivity elsewhere in the world still technically belong to China and are being "leased" to other countries. 960 1280
Giant Tortoises on the Galapagos Islands, EcuadorThe islands made famous by Charles Darwin’s study of evolution have a number of unique animal species, but the 1 that most often comes to mind is the giant tortoise. In fact, its official name is the Galapagos tortoise. These vertebrates live to be an average of at least 100 years old in the wild and can grow to be more than 600 pounds. 960 1280
Wild Ponies on Assateague Island, MD/VAMore than 300 wild horses live on the Assateague Island National Seashore, half in Virginia and half in Maryland. Visitors who take a boat ride along the inland waterway can often see groups of the animals grazing among the grasses of the salt marsh. Every July, thousands of spectators gather on neighboring Chincoteague Island to watch the traditional Pony Swim. 960 1280
Cape Fur Seals on Seal Island, South AfricaThere are 60,000 seals living (and lounging) on this island in False Bay. Oddly enough, the destination may be just as famous for the great white sharks that patrol the surrounding waters and feed on the island’s namesake inhabitants. Visitors can catch one of many boats from the mainland in hopes of witnessing the unbelievable sight of a predator jumping out of the water to devour its prey. 960 1280
Corgis in EnglandEven though these short-legged dogs are a Welsh breed, they’re most often associated with England, thanks to Queen Elizabeth II, who has owned more than 30 of them. London even used one in an adorable promotional campaign. The queen declared in 2015 that she wouldn’t be getting any more new corgis, but luckily, you can see them outside the United Kingdom, too! 960 1280
Koalas in AustraliaSure, Australia has a number of endemic species, including kangaroos and emus. But no trip Down Under is complete without getting your photo taken with a fuzzy little koala. Because of habitat destruction, these marsupials (they’re not bears!) are now found in the wild only in eastern Australia. 960 1280
Mountain Gorillas in RwandaThe estimated 800 remaining mountain gorillas actually live in 3 countries in central Africa, but the population in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is the most famous, thanks to Dian Fossey, who studied it for nearly 20 years and wrote about her experiences in Gorillas in the Mist. Even Breaking Borders hosts Michael Voltaggio and Mariana van Zeller stopped for a glimpse of these giant primates, which live in groups led by a dominant male called a silverback. 960 1280
Bengal Tigers in IndiaBengal tigers are the most common kind of tiger — relatively speaking, of course, considering that all 6 of the remaining tiger subspecies are endangered. The biggest population lives in India, whose Ranthambore National Park is known as the best place to still see these majestic cats in the wild. 960 1280
Penguins in AntarcticaPenguins crowded on a barren, white expanse of snow and ice — that’s what many people imagine Antarctica to look like. About a third of penguin species live and/or breed on the southernmost continent, including the largest, emperor penguins. The flightless birds’ waterproof coats, fatty insulation and amazing swimming skills come in handy in this harsh environment. 960 1280
Komodo Dragons in IndonesiaThey may not be as cute as koalas or lemurs, but Komodo dragons, which are found only on a few Indonesian islands, are just as fascinating. Weighing as much as 300 pounds or more, they are the largest living lizards. Their size, combined with an acute sense of smell, powerful claws, serrated teeth and a venomous bite, makes them ferocious predators. 960 1280
National Finals RodeoA cowboy casts a cool look during the National Finals Rodeo, popularly known as the “Super Bowl of rodeo.” The 10-day event, held each year in Las Vegas, determines the world champ in 7 main events, including bareback riding, steer wrestling and team roping.
When to go: First full week of December 960 1280
Caldwell Night RodeoThe cowboys are the stars at this annual 5-day rodeo event. Held in the Boise metro area, Caldwell Night Rodeo draws crowds of more than 40,000 people, eager to see the big draw: many of the world’s top professional cowboys who make Caldwell Night Rodeo an annual stop on their circuit.
When to go: Mid-August 960 1280
Pendleton Round-UpReady for some bulldogging? A cowboy reaches for a steer’s horns at the Pendleton Round-Up, one of the 10 largest rodeos in the world. Started in 1910, the annual rodeo event draws crowds of 50,000 to Pendleton, OR, where the town’s motto is, “The Real West.”
When to go: Mid-September 960 1280
Dodge City Roundup RodeoWestern heritage -- and big bucks -- draw championship cowboys and cowgirls to the annual Dodge City Roundup. Since its start in 1977, the 10-day event has grown to include a payout of nearly $254,000, alongside an audience of more than 100,000 people.
When to go: Late July to early August 960 1280
Cheyenne Frontier DaysThe granddaddy of rodeo events, Cheyenne Frontier Days has been held in its namesake Wyoming town since 1897. The outdoor rodeo and western celebration features hundreds of horses performing rodeo events and track acts. The annual event draws nearly 200,000 people, with a whopping 100,000 free pancakes served by the local Kiwanis club.
When to go: Last full week of July 960 1280
Ellensburg RodeoAfter more than 75 years, the Ellensburg Rodeo in Washington State has grown from a local competition among ranch hands to a leading rodeo festival: More than 600 contestants vie for prize money in excess of $400,000. In the Pacific Northwest, the rodeo is second in size only to the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada.
When to go: Labor Day weekend 960 1280
Fort Worth Stock Show and RodeoFor 23 heart-pounding days, the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo puts on quite a show at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The annual event, which draws a crowd of 900,000, showcases the world’s original indoor rodeo, with 36 performances of professional rodeo on display, such as calf roping.
When to go: Mid-January to early February 960 1280
Nebraskaland DaysWild West showman Buffalo Bill considered North Platte, NE, his hometown, and went on to found modern-day rodeo in the city. Today, the legacy continues with Nebraskaland Days: The largest rodeo event in western Nebraska showcases parades, art shows, concerts, food events and, of course, rodeos.
When to go: Mid-June 960 1280
Yellowstone RodeoExciting rodeo action mixes with stunning mountain sunsets at the annual Yellowstone Rodeo in southwestern Montana. The annual event showcases the big rodeo draws -- including bareback bronc riding, bull riding, team roping and saddle broc riding -- as well as a “calf scramble” event in which kids can safely compete.
When to go: June through early September 960 1280
National Western Stock ShowNow in its 106th year, the National Western Stock Show in Denver spans 16 days, and a 100-acre show ground home to the second largest rodeo in the United States. Hands-on animal exhibits feature 15,000 head of horses, cattle, sheep, alpacas, llamas and more -- plus, a chance for the little ones to go giddy-up.
When to go: Last 2 weeks in January 960 1280
RodeoHoustonFor the world’s largest live entertainment and livestock show, head to Houston’s Reliant Stadium. In 2012, this massive 1,900,000-square-foot facility hosted the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo -- and a whole lot of animals: 26,305 livestock and horse show exhibitors competed for a shot at a Houston championship.
When to go: Late February to mid-March 960 1280
Reno RodeoBilled as the “wildest, richest rodeo in the West,” the Reno Rodeo spans 10 days and attracts more than 140,000 fans. Events include a Miss Reno Rodeo Queen pageant, cattle drive, carnival rides and the Xtreme Bull Riding Tour stop, featuring 40 of the world’s best pro bull riders.
When to go: Late June 960 1280
Florence Junior ParadaThe world’s oldest continuous junior rodeo finds its home in Florence, AZ. Eighty years since its start, the annual Florence Junior Parada rodeo draws hundreds of future PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assocation) cowboys and cowgirls, ages 5 to 18, to compete in rodeo events such as team roping, breakaway roping and even bull riding.
When to go: Late November 960 1280