Red panda bear in tree

15 incredible wild animals of Bhutan

Jan 12, 2024
Reading time: 12 minutes

From tigers and rhinos to red pandas and blue sheep, Bhutan is one of those small countries with an outsized punch when it comes to hosting some truly remarkable and diverse wildlife! Here are just 15 of the incredible wild animals to try spot Bhutan.

1. Takin

grazing takin in a forest in thimphu in bhutan


  • Scientific name: Budorcus taxicolor
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable
  • Best place to see it: Jigme Dorji National Park or Motithang Takin Preserve

The takin is probably one of the least widely known of the world's large mammals. Perhaps that's because it lives only in a stretch of the Himalayas? Yet within Bhutan it has celebrity status – it's their national animal!

The takin, a generally unaggressive herbivore, is the national animal of Bhutan. That seems fitting, as Bhutan is a very peaceful nation.

The takin (also called cattle chamois or gnu goat) is a hoofed animal that sits in the same subfamily as goats and sheep, but it's much larger than those particular relatives. Think of it as a cross between a goat, cow and antelope if that helps.

The takin is rather clumsy-looking, with its bulbous nose, sloped shoulders and backward-pointing horns. Yet it's actually highly nimble, and can be found up steep mountainsides in the country's northern national parks.

Bhutan map


You can also see takins in small forest reserves if you want an assured sighting. Motithang Takin Preserve in Thimphu is where most visitors go to see them. But it's far more exciting to spot wild ones when on a Himalayan trek, in our opinion!

2. Bengal tiger

Bengal tiger


  • Scientific name: Panthera tigris tigris
  • Family: Felidae
  • Conservation status: Endangered
  • Best place to see it: Royal Manas National Park

Bhutan is synonymous with the Himalayas in the minds of many foreigners. So some are surprised when they learn that there are subtropical jungles in the south of the country where you can find the sorts of wild animals more regularly associated with the likes of India.

The Bengal tiger is a case in point.

Did you know that the Bengal tiger has the longest canines of any cat?

There are roughly 100 Bengal tigers in Bhutan, and while they mostly inhabit the subtropical lowlands, they've been known to roam as far north as Jigme Dorji National Park.

Royal Manas National Park in the far south of Bhutan is your best bet for spotting a tiger in the wild in Bhutan. If you choose to google this park, please be aware that there's also a Manas National Park in northern India, which could prove confusing if you're not careful in your search.

3. Himalayan black bear

A young Himalayan black bear cub sitting in a grassy field


  • Scientific name: Ursus thibetanus laniger
  • Family: Ursidae
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable
  • Best place to see it: The orchards around Thimphu city

The Himalayan black bear is one of two subspecies of Asian black bear. And while you can't see it in the picture here, the Himalayan black bear isn't entirely black: it actually has a small white mark on its chest.

Interestingly, fossilised remains of the Asian black bear have been found in France and Germany. But today the bear's habitat is limited mostly to the Himalayas, although it sometimes also ventures as far down in elevation as subtropical pine forests.

As with all bears, the idea of spotting one in the wild evokes mixed feelings! You can't really bank on seeing one in Bhutan. But know that they have actually been spotted in the apple orchards that surround the capital city. Just knowing that they might be there means you should keep your eyes open, and yours wits about you.

4. Indian rhino

A one-horn, or Indian, rhino standing near a jeep track through forest in Nepal


  • Scientific name: Rhinoceros unicornis
  • Family: Rhinocerotidae
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable
  • Best place to see it: Royal Manas National Park

The Indian rhino, or greater one-horned rhino, is the biggest species of rhino, bigger even than the African white rhino.

Fun fact: if you noticed the root word for unicorn in the Indian rhino's scientific name, that's because the Latin word unicornis literally means 'one-horned'.

Apart from the obvious identifying marker of the single horn, Indian rhinos are easy to distinguish from African rhinos thanks to their multiple skin folds. (These kind of make them look really old, right?)

Adult Indian rhinoceros crossing a safari trail at Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India


The greater one-horned rhino was nearly hunted into extinction by the early twentieth century. But concerted conservation efforts proved fruitful and, according to the WWF:

The recovery of the greater one-horned rhino is among the greatest conservation success stories in Asia.

Most greater one-horned rhinos live in India and Nepal, but you can also find them in the lowlands of southern Bhutan, among other places. As is the case with many of the animals on this list, we suggest heading to Royal Manas National Park for the best chance of spotting this incredible wild animal of Bhutan.

5. Himalayan serow (or thar)

Pair of Himalayan serows standing on rock edge and facing camera with tall trees behind


  • Scientific name: Capricornis sumatraensis thar
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable
  • Best place to see it: Motithang Takin Preserve

The Himalayan serow is a type of goat–antelope living in the eastern Himalayas. Their favourite haunt is steep forests above 2,000 m.

Himalayan serows are very dark save for their sandy-coloured legs, and they have short, annulated (ringed) horns.

They aren't easy to spot, as they're wary of humans while also being adept climbers and swimmers. They also live solitarily or in small groups.

That said, they're far from being the most elusive of creatures. They live throughout Bhutan except for the extreme south. Also, there's a population living in Thimphu's Motithang Takin Preserve, so your chances of spotting one or more if you visit the preserve are relatively high.



6. Snow leopard

snow leopard


  • Scientific name: Panthera uncia
  • Family: Felidae
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable
  • Best place to see it: National parks of northern Bhutan

As the name indicates, snow leopards live above the snow line of the Himalayas. In Bhutan, this means they're in the far north of the country.

Your chances of actually seeing a snow leopard (also called an ounce) while in Bhutan are extremely slim. But sometimes even just knowing a snow leopard could be somewhere in the same mountains as you can be a bit thrilling!

While it's essentially impossible to direct a visitor to where to find snow leopards, what we can say is that there've been confirmed sightings of these elusive beauties in Bhutan's Jigme Dorje National Park, Wangchuk National Park and Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. (You can learn more in the Snow Leopard Blog.)

7. Gee's golden langur

Gee's golden langur lying on a tree branch


  • Scientific name: Trachypithecus geei
  • Family: Primate
  • Conservation status: Endangered
  • Best place to see it: Royal Manas National Park

Gee’s golden langurs, also known as golden leaf monkeys or just golden langurs, are striking primates thanks to their beautifully orangey coat. That said, their coats can vary quite a bit in colour, ranging from cream to golden; they're also lighter and more silvery in females and juveniles, and can change with the season.

The only places to find Gee's golden langurs in the wild are Bhutan and northeastern India. So very few foreigners ever have the opportunity to see them. They do, however, have an unusually impressive range for primates, being able to live in various types of forests anywhere from sea level up to 3,000 m.

8. Indian elephant

Asian elephant herd against a backdrop of flowering trees in Terai Forest, Nepal, during spring season


  • Scientific name: Elephas maximus indicus
  • Family: Elephantidae
  • Conservation status: Endangered
  • Best place to see it: Royal Manas National Park

The Indian elephant is one of three Asian subspecies of elephant (which together comprise the Asian elephant genus), and the only one you'll find on mainland Asia.

Did you know that Asian elephants are noticeably smaller than African elephants? They also have smaller tusks. In fact, around half of all female Asian elephants (and even a few males) have tusks so small they look more like teeth – and these are more accurately called tushes.

If you're keen to see Bhutan's subtropical animals like elephants, rhinos and tigers, you need to head to Royal Manas National Park in the southeast of the country.

9. Blue sheep (bharal)

Pur. Bharal, Himalayan blue sheep (1)


  • Scientific name: Pseudois nayaur
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Conservation status: Least concern
  • Best place to see it: Anywhere in the Himalayas of northern Bhutan

The blue sheep is another member of the 'goat-meets-antelope' subfamily Caprinae which we introduced when talking about the takin. Animals in this subfamily are called caprids, and they're all stocky, sure-footed ungulates.

And yes, the blue sheep actually does sometimes have a bluish sheen to its wool! That said, note that the wool of blue sheep can vary quite a bit, and some look simply brown.

Excitingly, there's a very good chance you'll see bharal on mountainsides and ridges if you go trekking in the Himalayas of Bhutan.

Female bharal (blue sheep) in snowy landscape


Male blue sheep are easy to identify as they have large (and sometime very large) horns that look like an upside-down handlebar moustache. The females have shorter, straight horns that seem far more in proportion to their size.

10. Red panda

A Red Panda or Lesser Panda walking along a branch of a tree


  • Scientific name: Ailurus fulgens
  • Family: Ailuridae
  • Conservation status: Endangered
  • Best place to see it: Sakteng and Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuaries in eastern Bhutan

Red pandas (also called red cat-bears) are impossibly adorable omnivores that are only distantly related to giant pandas. The similarity between the two pandas is simply that they both have false thumbs used for gripping bamboo, their primary food source. This 'thumb' is actually an elongated wrist bone!

In terms of the type of mammal it is, the red panda is most closely aligned with the raccoon, weasel and skunk.

The Bhutanese associate spotting a red panda in the wild with good luck!

Red pandas live in rainy, high-altitude forests and can be found in national parks across the width of Bhutan. They spend most of their time in trees, living solitary lives, so they're not an easy spot. Their beautiful reddish coats do, however, help you to spot them.

11. Ussuri dhole

Asiatic wild dog or dhole


  • Scientific name: Cuon alpinus
  • Family: Canidae
  • Conservation status: Endangered
  • Best place to see it: We'd all like to know!

The Ussuri dhole is a beautiful, reddish wild dog. Living in the Himalayas, its coat thickens and its mane grows in winter. In summer, its fur is coarser and leaner.

The dhole is sadly endangered, and in many countries its numbers are hard to pin down. According to the Canid Specialist Group, dholes have disappeared from most of their historical range.

So one of the tricky things with placing the Ussuri dhole on this list is the uncertainty within the scientific community if any dholes actually remain in Bhutan. That said, there's reason to hope (you can learn more here.) So if you spot a dhole in the wild in Bhutan, please try to take a photo as it could prove to be invaluable evidence of their existence there!

12. Assam macaque

Assamese Macaque seated on ground at edge of forest/trees


  • Scientific name: Macaca assamensis
  • Family: Cercopithecidae
  • Conservation status: Near threatened
  • Best place to see it: Anywhere in Bhutan

Now here's a wild animal of Bhutan that you stand a good chance of seeing while visiting the country! In fact, the Assam macaque is the most abundant of all Bhutan's primates.

The Assam (or Assamese) macaque is a brown, medium-sized monkey with a long face and short tail. In fact, the tail length varies by individual, and they're called vestigial tales because they're so short.

Look for Assam macaques on the ground and in trees while in Bhutan. They live in large troops that can number 30 plus, so your chances of spotting (or hearing) them are pretty good.

13. Musk deer

Portrait of beautiful Musk deer, taken in late afternoon on the way to Namche bazaar, Nepal


  • Scientific name: Moschus chrysogaster and Moschus leucogaster
  • Family: Moschidae
  • Conservation status: Endangered
  • Best place to see it: The forest around Dochu La

What's perhaps most noticeable about these small and unusual deer is that they have long canines that rest outside of the mouth. Yet they are herbivores, eating the likes of grasses, lichens, mosses and the leaves and twigs of shrubs.

You can see white-bellied (or Himalayan) musk deer in Bhutan's Himalayan foothills, while at higher elevations you can find the alpine musk deer. Although neither subspecies is easy to spot. Firstly, this is because they're solitary animals, so you're trying to spot a solo deer. Secondly, musk deer are sadly endangered, in large part because they're poached for their musk, which is used in cosmetics and perfumes.

Your best (and easiest) chance of spotting a musk deer is if you go for a hike in the forest alongside Dochu La, a mountain pass you cross when driving between the cities of Thimphu to Punakha. We travel this spectacular pass on all of our different Bhutan itineraries.

Other species of beautiful deer to look for while in Bhutan include the sambar, muntjac, chital and hog.

14. Black-necked crane

Close up of a black-necked crane in the outdoors, Bhutan bird


  • Scientific name: Grus nigricollis
  • Family: Gruidae
  • Conservation status: Near threatened
  • Best place to see it: Phobjikha Valley

Black-necked cranes are a big deal in Bhutan, where their protection is taken very seriously. There's even an annual festival in their honour. This is in contrast to the twentieth century, when they were hunted to the point of dangerously low numbers.

Black-necked cranes forage in groups on the ground, usually with one bird standing sentinel.

There are various places across the north of the country to see black-necked cranes. But the best place to see these birds is Phobjikha Valley in central Bhutan. Not only does this valley fall within the Phobjikha Conservation Area, which aims to protect the cranes as well as several other bird species, but you can attend the annual Crane Festival held on 11 November in Gangteng Monastery!

Note that black-necked cranes only winter in Bhutan (they head north to the Tibetan Plateau when the weather thaws). So if you're serious about seeing the cranes in the wild in Bhutan, you need to plan your visit between late October and mid February.

15. White-bellied heron

A white-bellied heron in Bhutan, rare bird safari


  • Scientific name: Ardea insignis
  • Family: Ardeidae
  • Conservation status: Critically endangered
  • Best place to see it: Puna Tsang River near Wangdue Phodrang

The white-bellied (or imperial) heron is a large heron (the world's second largest, in fact) that lives in the wetlands of the Himalayan foothills in Bhutan, India and Myanmar. Being critically endangered, it's an extremely hard find, and only the most avid birders are likely to make the concerted effort necessary to spot one.

To find white-bellied herons in the wild in Bhutan, head to the town of Wangdue Phodrang in the centre of the country and visit the Puna Tsang River basin and its tributaries.

What about you? Have you spotted any of the wild animals of Bhutan mentioned in our list? We'd love to hear about it! And if you have any tips on where or how to find them, we'd be grateful to hear that too! Please drop us a line so that we can nerd out about Bhutan's incredible wildlife together. :)