The lifespans of different animal species have long fascinated us humans, with writings on the subject dating back to Aristotle.
Keeping track of the world’s oldest animals is important as it enables us to gain an understanding of why some species live longer than others.
Studying them can provide valuable insight into the biological, molecular and genetic mechanisms of ageing. Through learning their tricks, we may even learn how to extend our own existence as a species.
Featuring elderly pets, ancient sea dwellers and a timeworn tortoise, here are the world’s oldest animals.
Oldest land animal (living)
Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise, is the oldest land animal alive in the world. He is believed to have been born in 1832, making him 189 years old in 2021.
Originally from the Seychelles, he is a long-time resident of the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena.
Jonathan’s age has been reliably estimated from the fact that he was fully mature (and hence at least 50 years old) when he arrived on the island in 1882.
Oldest animal ever
The longest-lived animal ever discovered is a quahog clam, estimated to be 507 years old.
It had been living on the seabed off the north coast of Iceland until it was scooped up by researchers in 2006 as part of a climate change study.
Unbeknownst to them, they had just picked up the oldest animal in the world.
After studying annual growth rings in the shell, the clam was initially determined to be between 405 and 410 years old. However, in November 2013, using more sophisticated measuring techniques, this figure was revised up to an extraordinary 507 years.
It was nicknamed Ming after the Chinese dynasty which was in power during the clam’s birth year, 1506. Elsewhere in the same year, Leonardo da Vinci was at work on his Mona Lisa, which holds the record for the highest known insurance valuation for a painting.
Oldest living cat siblings
There is no current holder for the record of oldest cat living, however, the oldest living cat siblings are twins Pika and Zippo (UK, b. 1 March 2000).
The fraternal felines have a combined age of 42 years 354 days, as verified on 25 August 2021.
Pika and Zippo are both black and white domestic shorthairs who have lived with the Teece family in London, UK, for their entire lives.
The oldest cat ever is Creme Puff, a domestic cat who lived to an age of 38 years 3 days.
With the average life expectancy of an indoor cat being 12-14 years, Creme Puff (USA, b. 3 August 1967) was a certified OAP (old-age pussycat).
She lived in Texas, USA with her owner, Jake Perry. He was also the owner of Grandpa Rex Allen, the previous holder of this record.
Jake said Creme Puff’s diet consisted mainly of dry cat food, but also included broccoli, eggs, turkey, and "an eyedropper full of red wine" every two days.
Oldest dog living
The world’s oldest living dog is a miniature dachshund named Funny, aged 21 years 169 days (as verified on 12 November 2020).
The life expectancy of a miniature dachshund is 12-16 years.
Funny lives in Osaka, Japan with his owner Yoshiko Fujimura, who describes Funny as a very sweet and nice dog.
The oldest dog ever reliably recorded was a female Australian cattle-dog named Bluey, who reached the grand age of 29 years 5 months.
Obtained as a puppy in 1910 by Les Hall (Australia), Bluey worked among cattle and sheep for nearly 20 years. She was put to rest on 14 November 1939.
Cookie, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, is not just the oldest parrot ever, he’s also the oldest bird to have ever lived.
He was 83 years 58 days old when he passed away on 27 August 2016.
Cookie’s exact age was unknown when he arrived at Brookfield Zoo. His arrival was documented in a ledger dated May 1934, when he was estimated to be at least one year old, thus he was given a “hatch date” of 30 June 1933.
The average life expectancy of his species is 40-60 years.
Oldest wild bird
A female Laysan albatross, or mōlī, named Wisdom, is the oldest bird observed in the wild.
Incredibly, at the age of 70, she is still producing offspring. Her latest chick hatched on 1 February 2021. She is estimated to have raised more than 35 chicks over her lifetime.
Oldest primate ever
Cheeta the chimpanzee, famed for his appearances in the 1930s and ‘40s Tarzan films, is the oldest primate in history.
He was born in Liberia, West Africa in 1932 and was brought to the USA in April of that same year by Tony Gentry.
After a successful acting career, Cheeta enjoyed his retirement in Palm Springs, USA.
He lived to be 80 years old, passing away in December 2011.
The longest-lived species of mammal is the bowhead whale. It is a toothless species, exclusively native to Arctic and subarctic waters.
A study into amino acids in the eye lenses of bowheads was conducted in 1999, taking samples from whales hunted between 1978 and 1997.
Whilst most were assessed to have been aged 20-60 when killed, a superlative specimen estimated to be 211 years old was also discovered.
Given the accuracy range of this ageing technique, this bowhead could have been anywhere from 177 to 245 years old.
Oldest fish & oldest vertebrate
This species is long in the tooth in more than one way.
Based on findings from a 2016 study, the rarely seen Greenland shark can live for 392 years – and perhaps even longer.
This deep-dwelling predator, which only becomes sexually mature at 150 years old, is widely distributed across the North Atlantic Ocean. These cold waters are thought to contribute to the species’ longevity.
Oldest goldfish ever
Greatly exceeding her species’ average lifespan of 10-15 years, Tish the goldfish lived to be 43 years old.
Tish was won at a fairground stall in 1956 by seven-year-old Peter Hand. Tish was lovingly cared for by the Hand family until she passed away on 6 August 1999.
Oldest horse ever
Old Billy, foaled in 1760, lived to be 62 years old. This is the greatest age reliably recorded for a horse ever.
Bred by Edward Robinson of Woolston, Lancashire, UK, Old Billy lived as a barge horse that pulled barges up and down canals.
The elderly equine passed away on 27 November 1822.
Oldest rabbit ever
The oldest rabbit ever was a wild rabbit named Flopsy, who lived to be at least 18 years 10 months old.
After being caught on 6 August 1964, Flopsy lived the rest of her life at the home of L.B. Walker in Tasmania, Australia.
The average lifespan of a rabbit is 8-12 years.