Monkeys symbolize fun, wit, and intelligence to many of us. But there are types of monkeys much different than you thought. Not to mention some monkey species have striking looks and extraordinary capabilities.

Below are 10 of the most famous monkey breeds, described in terms of appearance, natural habitat, personality, and nutritional needs. Plus, you’ll learn how the term “monkey business” came to be due to the enigmatic nature of these animals.

Two Major Groups of Monkey Breeds

Currently, there are around 267 monkey species on the planet. Generally, monkeys are social and arboreal animals with high intelligence. 

It was thought that apes and monkeys were the same species until researchers established a clear distinction between primates. Since then, everyone knows that monkeys are the first link in the evolution of humans.

Monkeys are divided into two major groups — Old and New World monkeys.

Old World Monkeys

The Old World monkeys inhabit Asia, Africa, and Europe. Compared to the new world monkeys, they are larger with downward-pointing noses and spend most of their time on the ground. Also, their tails are shorter, and they have opposable thumbs.

New World Monkeys

All New World monkeys come from South and Central America. They’re distinct from their old-world pals, having smaller bodies and long tails. Also, they spend most of their time in the trees and occasionally come to the ground looking for food or shelter.

The Most Popular Monkey Breeds

Among many kinds of monkeys, we selected the 10 most popular worldwide, all with different looks, personalities, and habitats. 

Let’s learn more.

The Baboon

The Baboon origin dates back to the Egyptian era, meaning they’ve been around for quite a long time. Ironically, they’re extinct in Egypt, and a large population of this fluffy monkey breed is in Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. 

Baboons are among the largest monkey species, having five subspecies: 

  • Yellow Baboon
  • Olive Baboon
  • Chacma Baboon
  • Sacred Baboon
  • Guinea Baboon

Baboons have great silver manes, fluffy fur, and pink faces, contributing to their unique appearance. They belong to big types of monkeys that are omnivores, and their diet usually consists of fruit, insects, small animals, birds, and fish.

Their lifespan is 30–45 years, and they’re capable of learning many skills and can even learn to recognize words.

Used to living in packs, Baboons have aggressive and self-centered personalities. Their sharp teeth and dog-like muzzle give them a scary and serious appearance that can intimidate people.

Some statistics about victims of animal abuse show that many Baboons are intentionally killed because they’re considered a pest species.

Rhesus Macaques

The Macaque

Rhesus Macaques, or Rhesus monkeys, as they are colloquially called, are monkey species primarily found in the Northern parts of India, as well as in Thailand, Vietnam, and South China. There are 22 subspecies of Macaque monkeys, the most famous being:

  • Rhesus Macaque
  • Crab-eating Macaque
  • Bonnet Macaque
  • Japanese Macaque
  • Lion-Tailed Macaque 

Their geographical location is the largest of any primate in the world. In addition to living in arid areas, they also enjoy living in wooded areas since they can survive in many environments.

They belong to the family of Old World monkeys and are recognizable for their pink faces and furless bodies. Rhesus monkeys can be brown or gray and have a long tail that helps keep them balanced.

Rhesus Macaques are among the small monkey breeds that are constantly active and love to swim. Even baby monkeys, only a few days old, can have amazing swimming skills. They usually live in groups of around 40, in which females are more dominant than males.

They consume pine needles, roots, small insects, and leaves as part of their diet. Also, Rhesus Macaques can store food in their cheeks and often steal food from humans. They have an excellent memory, and if a Rhesus monkey steals food from your home, they’ll remember your house and likely be back for more.

The Proboscis 

Also known as the long-nosed monkey, the Proboscis monkey belongs to the Old World monkey species. In Egyptian culture, these monkeys were worshiped as unique animals and believed to be special to the gods.

This weird-looking monkey has very distinct features. Its red and brown coat, large body, and funny-looking nose will make you stop and stare and wonder if this is a monkey or Alf from Melmac. Not to mention that they have huge stomachs too.

The island of Borneo is home to the Proboscis monkey, and the species can be spotted in the lower parts of the forests and around the swamplands. Proboscis monkeys are sociable and can live in multiple packs, unlike other monkey breeds. Usually, males are dominant and have more than one female for mating. You see, it’s not always about looks!

The Proboscis is monkey representative species with a very short lifespan, around 13 years in the wild and 30 in captivity. 

vervet monkey among leaves

The Vervet

The Vervet monkey is an Old World pal, found in Africa, Somalia, and Ethiopia. They’re highly adaptable and can live in savannahs, woodlands, and mountains. 

Vervet monkeys are monkeys with long tails and medium-sized bodies. They have a black-tipped tail that’s usually longer than their bodies. 

The olive and gray fur give them that exotic look, with the coat being lighter on the underbody. The Vervet monkey is different because of its black hands, feet, face, and ears. Also, a white stripe runs over its face with white cheek tufts on the sides.

Vervet monkeys can live in big groups of up to 40, and their pecking order helps them establish social order and hierarchy within the group. When it comes to food, they’ll snack on pretty much anything. You’ll see them eating fruits, figs, leaves, and flowers, as well as bird eggs and young chicks they steal from nests.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Vervets were famous monkeys, but unfortunately, for the wrong cause. They were often used as lab animals for psychology experiments.

The Capuchin

Capuchin monkeys are the most intelligent of all breeds belonging to the New World classification, and as a consequence, they’re often part of lab experiments. Most of these monkeys are located in South and North America.

They’re small monkeys living in trees and are most active during the daytime. Capuchin monkeys have dark-colored arms, legs, and tails, while the rest of their bodies are cream or white coats. They’re cool-looking monkeys, weighing around two pounds when fully grown. They’re also known under the name of Tufted Capuchin.

Capuchin monkeys can be very lazy, sleeping all day and hanging out in small groups. They can also be aggressive and selfish regarding their territory and use their urine to mark their space. The males are dominant in the group and may fight among themselves for leadership and mating opportunities. So, they often change their pack’s leader.

These monkeys aren’t picky eaters at all. Capuchin monkeys eat more types of food than any other monkey. Their diet includes:

  • Bugs
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
  • Leaves

Capuchins who live near water can eat crabs too. They use rocks to crack the shells, indicating they’re intelligent and capable of problem-solving.

It’s important to note that capuchins are almost extinct monkeys, with the Panamanian White-Faced Capuchin being the most endangered.

The Golden Lion Tamarin

The Golden Lion Tamarin is an endangered primate that lives along the Atlantic coast of Brazil. Many monkey species’ names indicate something, and the Golden Lion Tamarin has a magnificent ring of hair that shines in the sun, resembling a lion’s mane.

The Golden Lion Tamarin is one of the four species of tamarin monkeys and is a famous character from many stories and legends. 

These cute types of monkeys have long, thin tails and weigh less than a pound. The golden mane surrounding their face gives them an exotic and noticeable appearance. Also, some types have white whiskers that look like a mustache, giving them a human-like look.

Because of logging, tamarins now live in isolated areas with high canopies that give them a sense of security. You can find a large population of these monkeys in the Amazon rainforest, always hiding in the trees and looking for food. Golden Lion Tamarins make tree nests as a shelter and always move around so predators can’t recognize their scent.

Their diet mainly includes fruit, insects, lizards, and small amphibians. Fortunately, they don’t need much food because it can take them hours to find it. 

Due to the massive destruction of tropical rainforests, the Golden Lion Tamarin is an endangered species.

A fun fact is that a subspecies of this monkey breed, Emperor Tamarin, was named for its resemblance to the German Emperor Wilhelm II or, more specifically, his mustache. 

spider monkey climbing down a pipe

The Spider Monkey 

There are seven types of Spider monkeys, and they all belong to the class of New World monkeys. The remaining fossils from these monkeys prove that they once lived in Spain and Cuba before they came to the New World. After migrating, their bodies underwent some changes that still puzzle the researchers. 

They’re called Spider monkeys because of their long limbs, making them look like spiders. Another interesting thing about these monkeys is their ability to pick and hold things with their long tails, and they’re among the few types of monkeys with no thumbs. 

The Spider monkey’s coat color depends on where they live and to which subspecies they belong. They can be found in:

  • Black
  • White
  • Gold
  • Orange
  • Brown
  • Red

They live in groups of 35, with a female leader who decides pretty much everything. Spider monkeys are very vocal in their everyday communication, which helps alarm others about approaching danger.

The Spider monkey is a fast and agile species, with thick fur covering most of its body except the face. They’re known as types of dangerous monkeys, and many legends exist about Spider monkeys being evil. Experts think people were just afraid of this strange animal because of its physical appearance.

Thanks to their acrobatic capabilities, Spider monkeys are often one of the types of monkeys in the zoo. 

The Blue Monkey

The Blue monkey, or the Diademed monkey, belongs to the Old World classification, and a couple of subspecies have been discovered. 

They can be found among the types of monkeys in Africa since they prefer living in evergreen forests. Also, humid areas with plenty of canopy covers are their happy place. They spend most of their time in the trees and only come to the ground to find food.

Despite their name, Blue monkeys aren’t blue. Instead, their coat has an olive shade, with black and white parts. The Blue monkey’s coat changes from olive to gray to fit their surroundings. Their faces are hairless, and the top of their head is always black.

Females are always in charge of their social structure, and this species is very territorial and discriminating towards males. These Old World monkeys live in groups of 40, with only a few male monkeys among them, and this kind of social structure prevents interbreeding among them. 

When females reach maturity, they continue living with their native groups, whereas males leave, searching for a new group. But it can take too long for them to find a new group, so some of these males may live alone forever

Their main diet consists of fruits and figs. If they can’t find enough food, Blue monkeys will eat tree bark.

The Gibbon

Gibbons are types of apes and monkeys, often classified in both categories. They’re located in Indonesia, India, and Southern China. Gibbons are fond of tropical and subtropical climates, where they can enjoy warm weather, good food, and secure shelters.

 A Gibbon is a strong monkey with a human-like build, long arms, and no tail. Although they’re ape subspecies, these monkeys have lesser cognitive abilities than apes. 

They’re fast and agile, moving from branch to branch with ease. Gibbon monkeys come in shades of brown, from light to dark, with black and white parts. Their wrist has a ball and socket joint, and they can completely rotate their hand. Also, some species have only two fingers on each hand that can stick together.

As types of monkeys that live in the rainforest, Gibbons are used to dealing with complex and dangerous situations. When it comes to defending their territory, they’re very aggressive and selfish. That’s why they’re known as mean monkeys

Unlike other monkeys, Gibbons don’t build nests and are known to swing among trees. They usually live in small groups and have only one partner until they die. Gibbons are vocal and like to sing, which can work against them as it reveals their location to poachers and predators.

Their diet is mostly fruit, insects, flowers, and leaves. Gibbons move around with great speed, so finding food isn’t a problem. 

The Squirrel Monkey

There are five types of Squirrel monkeys, and the most popular are:

  • Common Squirrel monkey
  • Black-Capped monkey
  • Central American Squirrel monkey

As their name suggests, they’re very similar to squirrels and are part of the New World monkey breeds. They are spotted everywhere, from jungle and rainforests to swamps and savannahs. Squirrel monkeys are common in Venezuela, Bolivia, and South America.

Squirrel monkeys generally share similar physical characteristics and social structures within their family genus. The biggest difference between species is the fur color, which can be olive, grey, white, yellow, or red, depending on their subspecies. 

Squirrel monkeys have the highest brain-to-body mass ratio of all monkeys. This makes them very intelligent and excellent at problem-solving.

When it comes to social structures and organizing, squirrel monkeys are among the top monkey species in the game. They live in large groups of 500, and male monkeys dominate their social structure. Usually, they’re incredibly protective of each other, using their vocal abilities for bonding. 

They’re highly adaptable, and so are their dietary needs. Squirrel monkeys eat pretty much anything, from fruit, leaves, and insects to twigs and bugs.

Capuchin monkey on a branch

Candidates for Pethood

If you set your mind on getting a pet monkey, you need to consider some things first. Monkeys are incredibly difficult to take care of. They require a lot of space, attention, and expensive food. Several types of monkeys can be kept as pets include: 

  • Capuchin monkey
  • Squirrel monkey
  • Silvery marmoset
  • Spider monkey
  • Tamarin
  • Macaque monkey
  • Chimpanzee

These monkey breeds are considered safe and adaptable to domestic life. Still, think twice before deciding on a step like this because monkeys will need more than indestructible squeaky dog toys or short walks in the park.

How Expensive Are Monkeys?

Buying and taking care of a primate will cost you a lot of money. For example, Tamarin monkeys are cheaper than others, costing less than $10,000. In contrast, chimpanzees are among the expensive monkey breeds with a $70,000 price tag.

Is It Illegal to Keep a Monkey as a Pet?

Although 50% of pets in the US are considered exotic, monkeys are a special category that needs thorough research and regulations. Before getting a monkey as a pet, you must know the types of legal monkeys and if having a pet primate is allowed in your state. 

Currently, 17 states do not restrict keeping a monkey as a pet, and all have different regulations and requirements.

Wrap Up

Monkeys are true blessings. This article talked about the 10 most popular monkeys in the world, including the Squirrel monkeys, Tamarins, Baboons, and Macaques. They all differ in appearance and personality and are great entertainers. 

Keeping in mind that 80% of the African gorilla population is extinct, many other types of monkeys are next on the red list. This is definitely something for all of us to be aware of, as we can only find solutions together. 

But one thing is for sure — any monkey can steal our hearts and amaze us with its intelligence and capabilities.

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