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Exotic Animals: Definition & Names

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will define exotic animals for you from a U.S. legal perspective. It will cover some potential other definitions of exotic animals, and it will list some names of exotic animals as well.

What Are Exotic Animals?

What is exotic to you may not be to someone else. You may think that a palm tree is exotic if you live in Alaska, but someone in Florida would never think of that. The same concept applies to the definition of an exotic animal. From a U.S. legal perspective, an exotic animal is any animal that is not part of the definition of an 'animal' under the Code of Federal Regulations and one that is not native to the U.S. Let's explore this definition a bit more to understand it better.

Animal vs. Exotic Animal

Under Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which focuses on animals and animal products, an animal is defined explicitly as 'any live or dead dog, cat, nonhuman primate, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit, or any other warm blooded animal, which is being used, or is intended for use for research, teaching, testing, experimentation, or exhibition purposes, or as a pet.'

Interestingly enough, the definition has some exclusions as to the legal definition of an animal:

  • Birds
  • Rats of the genus Rattus bred for research
  • Mice of the genus Mus bred for research
  • Horses that are not used for research purposes
  • Farm animals, including poultry, which are used for food, fiber (clothing), or in various aspects of agricultural research, such as animal nutrition and breeding.

Please note, while farm animals aren't defined as 'animals,' they are separately defined and referred to as 'farm animals' in the CFR. So long as that farm animal is considered native to the U.S., it is not exotic, but it isn't an 'animal,' either.

Now that you know what an 'animal' is defined as in a legal manner, you can better understand what an exotic animal is by this same legal code. An exotic animal by this legal standard is explicitly stated as being 'any animal not identified in the definition of 'animal' provided in this part that is native to a foreign country or of foreign origin or character, is not native to the United States, or was introduced from abroad.'

The next section will list some examples of these animals. Before we get to that, however, one thing must be made clear. This lesson provides the formal, legal, definition of an exotic animal. More informal definitions of an exotic animal include the following:

  • Any non-domesticated animal. This could even include a hedgehog by that standard.
  • Any animal not commonly found in an area or commonly used by a specific population

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