Rigging is a process for creating skeletons used to animate articulated characters. In conventional computer-animation software, this process must be performed manually. Although several automatic rigging algorithms have been proposed, these methods still require user intervention. This paper proposes an automatic algorithm that generates an inverse kinematic skeleton for a character by locating an appropriate template skeleton on the extracted curve skeleton of the input 3D character model. After the curve skeleton is extracted, it is analyzed and classified into an appropriate category. The classification conditions are developed from the characteristics of each kind of real animal. We also develop an algorithm to extract the anatomical meaning of each skeleton segment. On the basis of the classification result, a suitable template skeleton is retrieved from the database. Each bone of the template skeleton can then be located on the appropriate skeleton segment of the input skeleton graph by using the extracted anatomical meanings. In contrast to previous methods, the algorithm does not require the input 3D character models to have certain poses or orientations. Moreover, all processes can be completed without user intervention. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.