A snarl is an act of growling or hissing while snapping and baring or gnashing the teeth. Animals use snarling to warn others that a bite is impending. It tells other animals or people to back off before the warning becomes a reality. There are several animals that utilize this warning. This article discusses 13 animals that snarl and what it means when they do.
13 Animals That Snarl
1. Domesticated Dogs
Scientific Name: Canis familiaris
Snarling in dogs presents as lip-curling, baring teeth, and a low growling sound. There are several reasons a domesticated dog might growl. Animals can’t speak English, so they have to use body language to communicate their feelings.
A domesticated dog may snarl if it feels threatened. It is a sign that the potential threat should back off before the dog lunges and bites. Another reason a domesticated dog might snarl is when it feels like something it is possessive over is being taken away.
This happens when the dog is possessive over a toy or food. The dog’s snarling is telling the person or animal to back away from that thing before things escalate. It is important to pay attention to these warning signs to avoid injury.
2. Domesticated Cats
Scientific Name: Felis catus
Domesticated cats can be cute and cuddly, but they can also show signs of aggression. When a domesticated cat snarls, it often bares its teeth and makes a hissing sound or a higher-pitched growling sound.
The hairs on the back of the cat may stand on end as well. This snarling is a sign that the cat feels threatened and is a warning that if the threat doesn’t go away, an attack is imminent.
Scientific Name: Leporidae
Rabbits may seem like a surprise addition to this list, but the truth is they make a wide range of noises, including snarling. A rabbit’s snarl is not usually accompanied by baring teeth, but it does include growling, hissing, or snorting.
Rabbits use snarling when they feel threatened or when they feel like an important resource like food is threatened. It is a sign the rabbit is uncomfortable and extremely unhappy with the current situation.
4. American Badgers
Scientific Name: Taxidae taxus
American badgers are solitary animals known for being highly aggressive. While the badger tries to avoid situations where it comes face to face with people or other animals, when it feels threatened, it doesn’t back down.
The badger will bare its extremely sharp teeth and hiss and growl to try to scare the threat away. The snarl is often accompanied by showing its claws or giving off an offputting odor like a skunk.
Scientific Name: Panthera leo
Lions are social creatures that live in groups called prides. The pride is made up of one to four males, several females, and their cubs.
Lions use many sounds to express themselves, including snarling. Lions snarl by baring their teeth and roaring or growling to show dominance.
Male lions can often be seen snarling before mating with a female. Male and female lions snarl to scare off other lions entering their territory or to protect a kill from scavengers like hyenas.
Scientific Name: Panthera tigris
Tigers are the largest of the big cats. These giant striped cats are solitary creatures, only coming together to mate. Tigers use snarling as a defense mechanism and during mating.
When a tiger snarls, it shows its long canine teeth, wrinkles its nose, and hisses or growls. A tiger will snarl at another tiger to warn it before escalating to a fight. During mating, the tiger snarls to show dominance over the female.
Scientific Name: Didelphimorphia
If you have ever come face to face with an opossum digging through your trash, you may already know what their snarl looks and sounds like. These nocturnal marsupials do not want to fight, but they will snarl to appear aggressive when threatened.
When snarling, they bare their sharp teeth, hiss, growl, and sometimes drool. It makes the animal appear rabid, though their low body temperature makes it impossible for the rabies virus to live inside their bodies. If the snarl doesn’t work, the animals will run away or play dead to escape the situation. If pushed, an opossum will bite.
Scientific Name: Canis lupus
Wolves live in family groups called packs. They rely heavily on communication to maintain social stability and convey emotions and intentions.
Wolves have a variety of sounds and body stances they use to communicate. The snarl is reserved for defense and dominance.
When a wolf snarls, it curls its lips back, baring its teeth. The ears flatten against the head, and a low-throaty growl occurs. A wolf will snarl at a potential threat as a warning to stay away or at other members of the pack to establish dominance.
Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Raccoons are very vocal mammals, known for making over 200 different sounds. Racoons can be curious creatures and some people even keep them as pets, but when they feel threatened, they can look vicious.
A snarling raccoon bares its teeth and makes loud growling or hissing sounds. A female raccoon is known to snarl loudly when protecting her babies. Snarling is a sign the raccoon feels threatened, and if the warning is not heeded, the raccoon will bite and scratch to defend itself.
Scientific Name: Panthera pardus
Leopards are large cats known for their light-colored fur, black spots, and rosettes. They are solitary animals that maintain their own territory by marking it with scratches, urine, and feces. They are fast, fierce, and can grow up to 198.4 lbs in weight.
One unique fact about leopards is that they can vary greatly in size and markings, and scientists consider there to be nine different sub-species of leopard. Another unique fact is that the term “black panther” refers to both panthers and leopards that have melanism, a condition causing their coats to be completely black. Leopards are also known for their snarling behavior, which is a warning sign that they are feeling threatened or aggressive.
Scientific Name: Mustela nivalis
Weasels are small carnivorous mammals known for their ferocious and active nature. They have long, slender bodies and short legs, allowing them to move quickly through their environment. Weasels snarl when feeling threatened or aggressive, and may make a “war dance” when pursuing prey.
They have a high metabolism and need to eat frequently, consuming up to half their body weight in food each day. The smallest weasel species, the least weasel, is considered to be the smallest carnivore in the world.
Scientific Name: Mephitidae
The Skunks are nocturnal mammals known for their black and white fur and ability to spray a pungent odor when threatened. They are omnivores and have great night vision. Skunks snarl when feeling threatened or aggressive and will give a warning before spraying.
Scientific Name: Lutrinae
Otters are aquatic mammals known for their sleek bodies and playful behavior. They are carnivores and use tools, such as rocks, to break open the shells of their prey. When otters feel threatened or aggressive, they may snarl, but they are usually not aggressive toward humans. They are social animals and make a variety of vocalizations, including whistles, chirps, and growls.