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Orangutans (Pongo spp.) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

Attribute Male Female
Body Weight 87 kg (192 lbs) 37 kg (82 lbs)
Body Length 970 mm (38 in.) 780 mm (31 in.)
Standing Height 1366 mm (54 in.) 1149 mm (45 in.)

General Appearance

  • Skin dark gray
  • Arms about twice as long as trunk
  • Legs are short, a little more than half the length of the arms
  • Cheek teeth bunodont (low, rounded)
  • Pelage
    • Long, flowing, reddish pelage
    • Face of males and females sparsely covered, but may have beard and moustache.

Sexual Dimorphism

  • Highly dimorphic; large males may have a body mass more than twice that of females (Delgado & Schaik 2000)
  • Males that are sexually mature have two distinct body types: one larger and dominant, one smaller but still breeds (Utami et al. 2002)
  • Hanging throat sac present in both sexes, but much larger in males
  • Very large cheek pads in males
  • Males are larger and heavier than females
  • Males have larger canines and first lower premolars
  • Males have more pronounced beard and moustache
  • Little dimorphism is displayed at birth, making sex identification difficult

Other Characteristics

Sub-specific Differences: May be due to individual rather than sub specific differences

  • Bornean orangutans (P. p. pygmaeus)
    • male facial flanges curved forward
    • male gular (throat) sacs larger and pendulous
    • darker color of hair and face
    • hair shorter and less dense
  • Sumatran orangutans (P.p. abelii)
    • male facial flanges lie flat
    • male gular (throat) sac smaller
    • lighter color of hair and face
    • hair longer, thicker, more wooly


an orangutan

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Delgado and van Shaik, (2000)
Groves, (1971)
Utami et al. (2002)

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