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Differences Between

Apes and Monkeys

In some countries, the same word is used for both Apes and Monkeys. Often this does not matter, but sometimes there are reasons to separate them in speech. Since the word 'Monkey' is often used in the United States  for both groups, I felt it would be useful to point out some differences.


The most obvious difference is in the tail. Most animals have tails. Some animals that do not have tails are Guineapigs, Manx Cats, Apes and Humans. So Monkeys have tails, and Apes do not. This is generally true, but the 'Barbary Ape' that lives in Algeria, Morocco and Gibraltar is really a nearly tailless Monkey. Actually they have a very short tail although this does not show up in most pictures.

The 'Barbary Ape' would be more correctly called the 'Barbary Macaque'.  A Macaque is a type of monkey. This is the only primate other than Humans that roams free in Europe.


Apes are more intelligent than Monkeys.  In particular, Apes can recognise their own reflection as being themselves.  Monkeys cannot. Apes of at least four species (Oran-utans, Bonobos, Chimpanzees and Gorillas) have been taught to communicate using specially designed keyboards.
Apes generally have bigger brains than Monkeys.



Apes have a similar arrangement of shoulder joint to Humans. Monkeys have a different arrangement. The arm of Apes and Humans is arranged to hang from tree branches and swing from them. Monkeys are also very good at going through trees, but they climb differently. South American monkeys often have prehensile tails that they can swing from.

Genetically, Apes are much closer to Humans than are Monkeys. Apes also appear to be genetically closer to Humans than they are to Monkeys.


In most cases, Apes are bigger than Monkeys, but this is not a great way to tell them apart. The smallest Apesaere the smallest Gibbons which are smaller than the biggest monkeys.