Animals - Field Museum

This section is an overall guide to the exhibits that focus on animals (primarily ones that are not extinct); these exhibits make up much of the West side of the main level. Although I have separate pages for some of the more interesting exhibits, they are similar enough that it’s helpful to think about them collectively, and focus on the ones you’d be most interested in.

Although there are exceptions, most of the exhibits display taxidermied animals, sometimes in small diorama scenes. I’ll mention my favorites, but it’s generally best to seek out whatever animals your kids are most interested in. I’ve been surprised how much little kids enjoy being up close to the animals and dioramas, but keep an eye on your kids and the time; be ready to head elsewhere when interest starts to wane.

A popular choice for everyone is the Lions of Tsavo, two male man-eating lions that young kids will be happily horrified by. It is part of the very open Rice Gallery, with space for kids to run around a little.

My other favorites are the three mammals sections: World of Mammals, Mammals of Asia, and Mammals of Africa. World of Mammals is more animals packed together, rather than dioramas, and focuses more on teaching (for example, how groups of mammals are separated into more cat-like and dog-like categories) so I like it better for older kids. Mammals of Asia and Mammals of Africa are staged dioramas that will entertain younger kids especially.


These aren’t exhaustive lists, but I think it’s helpful to get a sense of what types of animal are in each exhibit, or if there’s additional information to know about the exhibit. Exhibits are listed from North to South:

Hall of Birds

Every kind of bird you can imagine, including ducks and swans, ostriches, puffins, hawks, eagles, etc. Primarily taxidermied animals, on display rather than in dioramas. Some educational content, often explaining how animals are related (or how similar-looking animals are not related).

World of Mammals

Cheetah, apes like the baboon and monkeys like the howler and colobus, elephants, whales, zebras, rabbits, chinchillas, porcupines, koalas, kangaroos, armadillos, lions, jaguars, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, mongooses, wolverines, otters, skunks, sea lions, seals, bears, pandas, raccoons, foxes, wolves, jackals. Mostly taxidermied, but some skeletons. Generally on display rather than in dioramas, with less information about each animal specifically, but often more information about the groups of animals, with related animals often displayed together. Are particularly good section divides up cat relatives from dog relatives, and explains why animals are placed into either category. This also has a large black right whale skelton hanging from the ceiling, and the huge lower jaw of a sperm whale nearby it.

Messages from the Wilderness

Moose, elk, bears, bison, caribou (reindeer), deer, anteaters, cougars, beavers, jaguars. Taxidermied in dioramas, this exhibit highlights animals from all over the world, as long as they live in a wilderness. A small amount of information is included with each animal.

Mammals of Asia

Apes like orangutans and gibbons, antelope, water buffalo, mountain goats, hyenas, leopards, sloth bears, giant pandas, deer, tigers, rhinos. Taxidermied in dioramas. Each animal has a fair amount of interesting information included with them.

Lions of Tsavo

The famous Lions of Tsave, two man-eating lions in the open Rice Gallery, with space for kids to run around a little.

Mammals of Africa

Giraffes, rhinos, zebras, wildebeest and other antelopes, baboon, colobus monkey, lesser kudu, hyena, African buffalo, and hogs like the warthog. Taxidermied in dioramas. Each animal includes nice information, as well as a map of Africa showing what area the animal lives in. The information also notes if an animal is endangered.

Bird Habitats and Reptiles and Amphibians

Technically separate exhibits, but they run together in the same large room. Bird habitats are primarily on one side, along the outside, with taxidermied animals in dioramas showing their habitats. Even the middle of that side has reptiles, and the other side is all reptiles. Includes alligators and crocodiles, snakes, lizards and turtles. This is not a great room, but has some interesting information, including showing which reptiles live in Illinois.

Animal Biology

This is a small exhibit, with more skeletons than taxidermied animals. It’s fine, although it’s not immediately clear when you enter that you’ve left What is an Animal.

What Is an Animal?

This section is less about display animals, although there are a few dioramas. It focuses on answering the question what do all animals have in common? This may sound simple, but I think older kids can really enjoy the question and think about how to draw the line to define what is and is not an animal, especially thinking about unusual animals like coral or plants like the venus flytrap. It is divided into sections which discuss different ways various animals approach things like moving, reproducing, feeding, avoiding being eaten, etc.