Animals Earn Our ‘Stamp’ of Approval

On this day 166 years ago, the United States Postal Service issued its first stamp, featuring an image of Benjamin Franklin. All these years later, tens of thousands of commemorative stamps have been released, both here and abroad, to celebrate all sorts of cultural attributes. Of course, the ones that catch our eye the most depict many of the colorful and cherished members of our animal kingdom. From cartoon and TV characters to exotic wildlife and beautiful artwork, our resident philatelists have come across some truly unique animal stamps. Click through the gallery to see our favorites!

Animals Earn Our ‘Stamp’ of Approval

Owney Postal Dog stamp

Credit: U.S. Postal Service

Owney the Postal Dog

It’s easy to see why “Owney” goes down in history as one of the United States Postal Service's most popular stamps. In 1888, staff at the Albany, New York, post office adopted the adorable mixed-breed terrier as their mascot, and he quickly gained notoriety across the country. In 2011, the USPS issued a stamp in Owney’s honor, drawing a huge crowd to the unveiling ceremony at Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Museum. "Owney was extremely popular and, in fact, we sold out," said Mark Saunders, a spokesperson for the USPS stamp program.

Old postage stamp with horse and rider

Credit: Smithsonian National Postal Museum

Hi-Ho! Animal Stamps Debut

The United States Postal Service’s 1869-1870 Pictorial Issues included the first images of animals ever to be seen on a US stamp. They went with all-American classics, a horse and an eagle. Here, the trusty postman atop his steed is on a mission to deliver the mail with utmost urgency, embodying the USPS's unofficial motto: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

Postage stamps with Arubian birds

Credit: Downtown Stamp

Birds of Aruba

These stamps from October 1998 highlight four well-loved birds found on the Caribbean island of Aruba. Clockwise from bottom left are the Tropical Mockingbird, which resembles its U.S. counterpart; the American Kestrel; the Venezuelan Troupial, a striking oriole; and the Bananaquit, whom the locals call by the charming name "chibichibi."

Postage stamps with extinct Irish animals

Credit: Downtown Stamp

Extinct Irish Animals

Issued in 1999, this set of stamps was illustrated by Irish artist Finbarr O’Connor. The series includes stamps depicting a brown bear, giant Irish deer, mammoth and wolf. 

Postage stamps with Soloman Islands birds

Credit: Downtown Stamp

Solomon Islands 'Birds Definitives'

These gorgeous stamps include images of a dozen captivating birds, like the exotic Purple Swamphen and Rainbow Lorikeet, that are found on this South Pacific island chain.

Postage stamp with alligator

Credit: U.S. Postal Service

Wild Wetlands Alligator

Hawaii-based artist John D. Dawson was commissioned to create this striking series of 39-cent stamps highlighting the Southern Florida Wetlands. This scaly fellow is part of the Nature of America series, created to increase appreciation of America’s sensitive plant and animal communities.

Postage stamp with tiger

Credit: Downtown Stamp

Tokelau Tiger

Who wouldn’t be delighted to receive a letter with this handsome cat gracing the envelope? This striking stamp was released in celebration of the 1998 Chinese New Year, the Year of the Tiger, by the New Zealand government, which oversees the tiny South Pacific island group.

Postage stamp with kitten for spay/neuter campaign

Credit: U.S. Postal Service

Help Save Animals

Here’s a message we can all get behind: It’s important to spay or neuter our puppies and kittens! In 2002, the United States Postal Service got on board with that concept, enlisting longtime animal advocate Bob Barker to generate hype for the campaign. During his nationally broadcast game show, The Price is Right, Barker unveiled the adorable stamps — a kitten, seen here, and a fuzzy puppy — urging each of us to do our part to prevent pet overpopulation. The postal service also helps cosponsor National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Garfield the cat stamp

Credit: U.S. Postal Service

Garfield and Odie

Garfield, a crabby tabby who is perhaps the world's most famous cartoon cat, had to share top billing with his canine sidekick, Odie, when the United States Postal Service unveiled its Sunday Funnies stamp series in 2010. Garfield creator Jim Davis attended the dedication of the stamp.

Lassie the dog on a stamp

Credit: U.S. Postal Service

Lassie, Mail it Home

The face of Lassie has become an enduring emblem of canine love and loyalty. The famous Collie’s stamp was issued in 2007 as part of the United States Postal Service’s series on Early TV Memories. According to Mark Saunders, a spokesperson for the USPS, dog stamps like Lassie, Owney and the 2012 Dogs at Work series are among the post office’s most popular issues.

Chinese New Year stamp

Credit: U.S. Postal Service

Year of the Horse

In 2002, this beautiful and artistic paper-cut rendition of a horse designed by Hawaiian artist Clarence Lee was issued as the 10th in a series of colorful animal stamps that marked the start of the Chinese New Year.


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