Weird Animals - the Proboscis Monkey

Proboscis monkey
Proboscis monkey
Jimmy Durante
Jimmy Durante
Karl Malden
Karl Malden

Does the Proboscis Monkey remind you of some actor you once saw in a movie?

I am not referring to “Planet of the Apes.” Someone in a movie like Jimmy Durante or Karl Malden? Or maybe I’m the only one who sees a resemblance. Or maybe you're just too young to know those actors.

The word, “proboscis,” means long, flexible snout used for eating and generally refers to the trunk of an elephant. But the word, proboscis, has evolved to mean any nose that is extraordinarily large. This word is very appropriate for the primate also known as the Long-nosed Monkey (Nasalis larvatus).

I saw a Proboscis Monkey in the Singapore Zoo a few years ago and my first thought was this funny-looking monkey is wearing a false nose like the large pink plastic nose attached to black-framed glasses we might wear at Halloween. But no, the nose is genuine – gargantuan, immense and ridiculous looking – but nevertheless genuine.

I come from a long line of long noses.
I come from a long line of long noses.

This animal’s very large, tongue-shaped nose which may hang down over its mouth is one of its most striking appendages and is unlike any other primate nose you will ever see. This unique feature measures from four to seven inches in length and only the males possess it. The female has a much smaller, upturned nose – probably because no female monkey wants to be caught dead with such a monstrosity on the front of her face. Young monkeys have smaller upturned nostrils but their noses are still very prominent.

I refuse to be photo shopped.

Do you think this is my better side?
Do you think this is my better side?

These monkeys are brown to reddish brown in color with the lower parts of the body pale gray or cream-colored. The crown of fur around the top of its head resembles the hairstyle of a monk. The skin covering its face is reddish in adults, and a vivid blue in infants. They have relatively long limbs, furry feet with dark soles, and their second and third hind toes are connected by a web of skin.

The Proboscis Monkey is about two to two and one half feet long, with the tail adding about another two feet. The male can weigh from 44 to 53 pounds; females weigh less – about 22 to 25 pounds.

It is thought that the oversized nose on this male monkey may have something to do with a mating ritual. It may be a form of sexual selection with females preferring males with large noses which enhance their vocalizations.

However, the nose does more than attract potential mates; it also swells with blood when the animal is angry or upset and makes warning calls louder and much more intense than other species. These calls sound like the angry honking of a male goose.

Here I am contemplating my navel.
Here I am contemplating my navel.

An Indonesian nickname for this monkey is “monyet belanda” which means “Dutch monkey.” The reason: the Dutch were among the first to colonize Indonesia and many of the Dutch plantation owners were large men with large red noses and big potbellies. The proboscis monkey has a large red nose and a big belly. You get the picture.

The Proboscis Monkey with its rather large belly together with its obscenely large nose makes the animal look like a slightly besotted and past middle age dude. The large stomach is not the result of overeating but is due to the nature of its diet. Because of what these monkeys eat, their digestive system consists of compartments where bacteria digest cellulose and neutralize the toxins that they ingest from certain foods.

This unique digestive system allows them to remain in the forest canopy and feed on plants that would otherwise make them ill. Because of this unusual digestive system, the contents of the monkey’s stomach make up for a quarter of its weight! One negative however, is that these primates are not able to digest ripe fruit; therefore they eat mostly seeds, leaves, flowers, mangrove shoots and unripe fruits.

Where can you find this fascinating monkey with the grotesque nose? This primate can be found on the island of Borneo in southeast Asia where it lives in the swamps and mangroves or lowland forests. Because of the ongoing loss of their habitat as more and more mangrove swamps are being cleared, and hunting in some areas, only a few thousand are known to still exist in the wild – they are listed as endangered.

This monkey’s lifestyle is both land-based and amphibious. The Proboscis Monkey is comfortable moving through trees on dry land and also at home in shallow water where it likes to wade. When traveling in shallow water it is habitually bipedal – using an upright posture like a human.

Troops of these primates have been filmed continuing to walk upright, in single file, along forest trails when they emerged on land, with the females carrying their infants on their hip. This monkey is one of only three non-human mammals who are known to walk upright for any length of time. (The other two are gibbons and giant pangolins).

Remember the webbed hind toes I mentioned earlier? The Proboscis Monkey is an accomplished swimmer who likes to swim in deep water and often swims from island to island. Some of them have been picked up by fishing boats in the open ocean over a mile from shore. Sometimes they are kept by the fishermen as pets, but more often they are captured for their skins and their flesh which is regarded as something of a delicacy by the natives in Borneo.

Groups of these monkeys range in size from 10 to 24 individuals, usually based on a harem of one adult male and a number of adult females with their offspring. The “unattached” males live in bachelor groups. The young, with their vivid blue faces, are born singly and gestation is estimated at five to six months.

These groups occupy a home range of less than one square mile. Large troops often feed together, but individuals usually sleep alone in a tree in fairly close proximity to other troop members. Group membership is flexible and these primates are known to move from one group to another quite often.

Here’s a piece of trivia I learned while researching this article. The word,"monkey," is of unknown derivation, but it may come from the old German story of "Reynard the Fox" in which the ape's son was named "Moneke."

Do you enjoy reading about weird animals? Then please visit my other “Weird Animal” hubs.

© Copyright BJ Rakow 2011. All rights reserved.

B. J. Rakow, Ph.D., Author, “Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain’t So." This is a serious book about job search whch readers say is enlightening but also fun to read.

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Comments 20 comments

jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

What an unusual animal, a lovely hub well researched.

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, jayjay40. Remembering your finely honed sense of humor, here's a monkey joke just for you.. A monkey walks into a bar, goes up to the bartender, and says, "Have you got any monkey food?" The bartender says, "This is a bar, we don't serve monkey food." The monkey leaves. Next day, same monkey goes to same bar and asks same bartender, "Do you have any monkey food?" Bartender is now angry and yells at monkey, "I told you yesterday we don't have any monkey food. If you come in here again I'll nail your feet to the floor." The monkey leaves. Third day, the monkey comes in to the bar and asks the bartender, "Do you have any nails?"

The bartender screams, "No! This is a bar! We don't have any nails!" The monkey says, "Do you have any monkey food?"

Kebennett1 profile image

Kebennett1 6 years ago from San Bernardino County, California

drbj, Cool hub. Awesome and strange animal. keep hubbing!

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Thanks for the encouragement, Kebennett1. I enjoy your hubs, too. Just wondering- is there a Kebennett2 or 3 as well?

WOW 6 years ago


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Sorry, WOW, I couldn't get him to put on his underwear.

pedro 6 years ago

aja lookes like u

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Oh, pedro, you are too kind. I see you have noted the resemblance!!!

ACSutliff profile image

ACSutliff 6 years ago


Stopped by on my way to the mole rat. Another good one!

Moving on....

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Thanks for making the stop, AC, the proboscis monkey thanks you, too.

Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

I have run out of nose related compliments. But I wont go all 'sixth-sense' on you and say ' I see a penis!'. although to have a conk longer than a dong ... great hub, drbj.

Here's another monkey related fact:

Someone said that a million monkeys banging on a million keyboards will eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare. Thanks to the internet, now we know it's not true!;-)

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

You didn't run out of nasal comments completely, Docmo, you still managed to create one related to genitalia. Thanks for the kind comment.

Maybe a million monkeys couldn't reproduce Shakespeare's works but I'm willing to bet that it would take only one to match the strategies of our current U.S. leadership (?).

akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

There they are~ Two of my favorite do you write schnaazzz?

You do what they say about guys with big noses....or was that big feet?

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Audrey - I think the accepted spelling is schnozz or the plural, schnozzes. The nickname for Durante used to be "The Schnozz." I can still see him singing one of his most well-known ditties: "Inka Dinka Doo." I saw him in a Las Vegas nightclub years ago and the audience wouldn't let him off the stage. He kept cracking one joke after aother.

And the saying is ... "guys with big noses have ... " and I can attest (don't ask me how) to its truth!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for another interesting article, drbj. This hub is a great companion to your proboscis monkey interview hub!

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, Alicia, for taking the time and effort to hunt down and read this proboscis monkey hub which I wrote prior to my 'Interview with Plato.' My pleasure to share it.

imatellmuva profile image

imatellmuva 4 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

I saw a nature show on the proboscis monkey, and wondered if the they held an opinion on their monstrous appendage.

I felt that the female monkey's nose was turned up because she snobbed the male monkey, until mating time of course, and then it was back to snobbing his monkey @$$!

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, imatellmuva. Thanks for stopping by. Interesting that you ask how do proboscis monkeys feel about their outsize noses? Actually, and I have this information from Plato, the proboscis monkey himself, they are proud of the unique size of their nasal appendage. As well as another appendage which is always at the ready, if you know what I mean. See my subsequent hub: Interview with Proboscis Monkey and learn about the male's sorta monstrous appendage - and I'm not talkin' about his nose, m'dear.

imatellmuva profile image

imatellmuva 4 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

Oh I missed that...but then I again, you just found me, so I have a lot of catching up to do...reading your work!

No ones called me m'dear before...I like it!

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Then we are even, m'dear. I only use that appellation for those whom I like!

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