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What is the National Animal of Croatia?

If you’re wondering what the national animal of Croatia is, you’ve come to the right place!

Every single country has national symbols of pride that represent its culture, and Croatia is no different. National symbols serve as visible reminders of a nation’s values, history, and traditions that inspire patriotism. They are important for unifying a country and giving its people a sense of identity and pride (and Croatians are a very proud nation I might add).

From traditional costumes and coats of arms to flora and fauna, the country of Croatia has its own collection of cultural tokens. One of the most notable is its national animal. This symbol of Croatian wildlife can be found on various coins, bank notes, and on the Croatian flag inside the coat of arms.

So what is Croatia’s national animal? I’m glad you asked!

In this post, we’ll discuss the national animal Croatia is so very proud of, where you can spot it, and why it’s so important to the history of this Mediterranean nation.

Croatia National Animal: What is it?

The national animal of Croatia is the European pine marten, also called the kuna zlatica in Croatian.

The pine marten (Martes martes) is a carnivorous mammal and a member of the Mustelidae family. Some of its more common relatives include mink, weasels, otters, polecats and badgers. This elusive species can usually be found nestled in coniferous or deciduous forests stretching from Europe all the way to parts of the Middle East!

The European pine marten is an endangered species and is strictly protected. (Photo: Mustelidaes Are Cool)

The European pine marten is well adapted to life in the forest. They are exceptionally skilled climbers, displaying an impeccable sense of precision as they launch themselves from one branch to the next. These critters often make homes in tree hollows and other high places. Although a rare, the European pine marten can be spotted in Croatia deep in the woods of Plitvice Lakes National Park, Papuk Nature Park, and even on the island of Brac.

If you’ve never seen a marten before, you should know that they are beautiful and majestic. Petite and slender, pine martens are not much bigger than a domestic cat. Martens have a characteristic brown coat with white patches on their throats and chests, and they are easily recognizable by their large bushy tails. Centuries ago, these mammals were prized for their silky soft and elegant fur which contributed to their endangered status (but more on that later).

Although endearingly cute at first glance, don’t let the charming appearance of this forest dweller deceive you. Martens have a fierce side and are often known to be aggressive predators. When night falls, this nocturnal creature descends from the treetops to hunt for food. Equipped with partially retractable razor-sharp claws, they can pounce upon their victims at lightning speed and make dinner out of any small mammal unfortunate enough to cross its path.

While primarily enjoy feasting on squirrels, rabbits, and small birds, they are also known to forage for berries, eggs, and even insects. Luckily though, martens usually do not pose a threat to humans as they prefer to stay away from heavily populated areas.

They are also most active in the early morning and late evening, when they are least likely to come into contact with humans in the wilderness. You may, however, be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of their presence through tiny footprints and lost fur.

Why Is this Croatian National Animal So Important?

Unlike other animals, the European pine marten (kuna) has earned its status as one of the most important symbols of Croatia thanks to the significant role it played in Croatian monetary history.

The former official currency of Croatia, the kuna, was named after the marten. You see, during the Middle Ages in the medieval Kingdom of Croatia, marten pelts were a common method of payment. Serfs would use the pelts as compensation to pay for their use of manorial land. At that time, this type of payment was known as kunovina.

After declaring its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Croatia proudly established the kuna as its national currency on May 30th 1994. This monetary icon has served a fundamental purpose by helping to define and express Croatian culture, identity, and patriotism. As such, it represents not only an important practical milestone for the country but also a symbol of their journey toward true liberation.

On January 1, 2023, Croatia entered the Eurozone and adopted the Euro as its official currency. However, the country preserved the original symbol of the marten that has been such an integral part of Croatia’s history. The celebrated kuna can now be seen depicted on the national 1 euro coin of Croatia.

Croatian national symbol, the marten (or kuna), depicted on Croatia's national Euro coin.
Photo: HNB (Croatian National Bank)

Conclusion: National Animal of Croatia

The European pine marten, or kuna zlatica in Croatian, is one of the most important Croatia national symbols of culture and history. Not only is the marten a beautiful creature that can be spotted in parts of Croatia, but it has also served as the currency of choice for centuries. From its use in medieval times to its inclusion on modern euro coins, the marten is a reminder of Croatia’s journey to independence and its proud past. It will remain an iconic symbol of Croatian identity for many years to come.

By celebrating this national animal, Croatia ensures that its unique culture and heritage are kept alive for generations upon generations. The European pine marten is truly a treasure of Croatia.

Curious about what other animals in Croatia you might find? Sharks in Croatia should be on your radar!

Frequently Asked Questions

What animals are on the Croatian flag?
There are three golden lions under the crest of Dalmatia, a goat under the crest of Istria, and a marten under the crest of Slavonia.

What represents Croatia?
The national animal of Croatia is the European pine marten, also known as the kuna.

What does the Croatian coat of arms represent?
The Croatian coat of arms represents the five historical regions of Croatia. The marten, or kuna, can be seen depicted under the Slavonia region.

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