Animals come in all shapes, sizes, and types, so when trying to understand the largest animals in the world it’s important to specify exactly how we define “largest”, and which types of animals we’re looking at.
Are we looking at the tallest, longest, heaviest of all animals? Focussing specifically on land animals, living animals only, or including all animals that have ever lived on earth, at any time?
This page focusses on listing and describing the biggest animals by size and by category. The first section lists the largest animals by type, and the second section type lists the 10 largest land animals alive today by weight. We also have this article on the heaviest animals alive today.
So, with this in mind, below are the biggest animals in the world!
The biggest animal in the world (ever):
In terms of absolute size, the blue whale is the largest animal that has ever existed – reaching a length of around 30 meters, and a weight of around 180 tons. Their heart alone can weigh as much as a car, and their tongue as much as an elephant. Newborn blue whales weigh around 3 tons, and the biggest blue whale ever recorded was an astonishing 190 tons!
Biggest land animal in the world, by weight:
African Bush Elephant
The largest living animal on land is the African bush elephant (one of two African elephant species, along with the African forest elephant), which can grow to 4.5 meters tall at the shoulder, six meters long, and weigh up to 6,000 kg. These enormous beasts are currently listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Biggest land animal in the world, by height:
Clocking in at 6 meters tall, the giraffe is the largest land animal by some way if we’re measuring height. Their necks alone can reach close to two meters long. Giraffe calves have a 15 month gestation period, and when they’re born (unusually for a mammal they come out feet first) are already two meters tall.
Biggest bird in the world, by wingspan:
With a wingspan of up to 3.5 meters wide, the wandering albatross is the largest living bird on Earth. (The largest wingspan of a wandering albatross is 3.7 meters). This enormous wingspan allows the albatross to glide for long distances without the need to flap their wings, which in turn helps define their lifestyle as birds which spend most of their lives in flight, landing only to breed and feed.
Biggest bird in the world, by height and weight:
The common ostrich is the tallest and heaviest bird in the world, with an average height of over 2 meters (sometimes as tall as 2.7 meters) and a weight of up to 160 kg. At this size, the ostrich is, of course, flightless, but can outrun plenty of animals with its top speed of 69 km per hour. Their long, powerful legs double up as defensive weapons which pack a powerful kick to would-be predators. Fun ostrich fact – they are able to survive without water for days, generating water internally and extracting water from vegetation.
Biggest carnivore in the world:
Orca are also known as killer whales, though they are actually the largest animal in the Delphinidae family of oceanic dolphins. At 8 meters long and 5,400 kg, an average-sized orca can eat up to 230 kg of food a day. These apex predators have no predators, and hunt in family pods, targetting anything from fish to adult whales. Orcas are found in all of the world’s oceans, with some hunting techniques and vocal communication specific to individual pods, and passed on through the generations.
Biggest land carnivore:
It’s a close call between the Kodiac bear and the polar bear for the title of the world’s biggest carnivore, and in truth, it’s very hard to pick the winner as size-wise they’re so similar… but we’ve gone for the polar bear. Adult males weigh an average of 700 kg and stand around 3 meters tall when standing on their hind legs. Polar bears are born on land but spend most of their life on sea ice, hunting seals on the ice, and in the freezing arctic waters. Due to habitat erosion, the polar bear is one of the most endangered animals on this list.
Biggest fish in the world:
The largest fish in the world is the – somewhat confusingly named – whale shark, which can reach up to 12 meters long, and weigh in at around 19 tons. The whale shark is found in tropical waters around the world, and as with most whales is a filter feeder, eating krill, plankton fish eggs, and small fish.
Biggest reptile in the world:
The largest – and probably scariest – living reptile is the saltwater crocodile. This prehistoric monster can grow to over 7 meters in length and weigh up to half a ton. Their healthy population is distributed around salt and brackish waters in parts of Asia, Australia, and India.
Due to their size (and teeth!), ‘salties’ are apex predators, able to prey on water buffalo, sharks, and pretty much anything else that comes into striking distance. One of the most dangerous animals in the world, the saltwater crocodile is similar to its freshwater cousin in the way it ambushes its prey and drowns it, though often then swallows it whole rather than tearing out chunks.
Biggest snake in the world, by length:
Of all snake species, it’s the reticulated python that is the longest on record, with a Malaysian specimen caught on a building site in 2016 measuring 8 meters in length. These non-venomous, constricting snakes are found across South and South East Asia in rain forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Their diet consists primarily of small and medium-sized mammals, but they’ve been known to eat bears… and humans!
Biggest snake in the world by, weight:
The green anaconda can grow to 7 meters long, and with their 30 cm diameter can weigh up to 250 kg. Slow on land, these giant snakes are built for water, and are found in swamps, marshes, and streams across South America. With their eyes and nose on the top of their heads, anacondas can lie almost completely submerged to wait for prey, and due to their size can comfortably take on wild pigs, deer, and even jaguars.
Biggest rodent in the world:
Have you ever seen an 80 kg rodent? If not, you’ve probably not set eyes on the capibara, the world’s biggest rodent, Native to South America the capibara stands around 60 centimeters high and 1.2 meters long, looking like a guinea pig on steroids. Unlike other rodents, the capibara has no tail and comes with webbed feet to help it get around its favored wetland terrain.
The 10 biggest land animals in the world, by weight:
1. African bush elephant: Up to 6,900 kg
2. Asian elephant: Up to 4,600 kg
3. White rhinoceros: Up to 3,600 kg
4. Indian rhinoceros: Up to 2,132 kg
5. African forest elephant: Up to 2,300 kg
6. Black rhinoceros: Up to 2,900 kg
7. Hippopotamus: Up to 2,000 kg
8. Giraffe: Up to 1,395 kg
9. Cape buffalo: Up to 1,000 kg
10. Gaur: Up to 940 kg
And that’s your lot for the world’s biggest animals. What do you think – did any of these world’s biggest animals surprise you? Or have you met any of these huge animals in the wild? Please do share your experiences in the comments section below!
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