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12 Examples of Animals With Sharp Claws (Pictures)

Some animals have evolved to have very sharp claws used for different things. For example, some animals use their claws for digging, while others for hunting.

Birds of prey, or raptors, have talons that grip their prey. Some of the largest predatory birds in the world have the largest claws in the world.

Claws vs Talons: What’s the Difference

In short, birds have talons and other animals have claws. They serve the same purpose though, to capture prey or to simply help them survive and defend themselves.

Many animals use claws for climbing because they are sharp and allow the animal to latch onto surfaces. Some birds of prey, or raptors, also have sharp claws called talons.

If you remember the square-rectangle theory, it is easy to differentiate ‘talons’ and ‘claws.’ The theory states that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.

Claws are pointed and curved nails on the toes or hands of animals; talons are sharp, hooked claws found on the feet of birds of prey. All talons are claws, but not all claws are talons.

The primary purpose of claws and talons is to allow an animal to grasp and hold onto objects or food. Claws and talons on predators are also used for slashing and tearing prey.

12 Animals with Sharp Claws

Not all animals with claws are vicious predators and carnivorous. Some are small and non-threatening, like the mole. In this article, we learn about 12 animals with sharp claws.

1. Armadillo

Scientific name: Dasypodidae

The armadillo is a small but sturdy animal. This mammal has a hard shell on its back and sharp claws on its front feet. Their claws and armor help the armadillo protect itself from predators.

Armadillos feed on plants, insects, and other small animals. They use their claws to dig up underground food. Armadillos also dig burrows for shelter with their claws.

2. Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bear claws
Grizzly bear claws | image by Scott Calleja via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis

Grizzly bears are large predators in North America. Grizzlies have evolved to have sharp claws on each of their front paws that help them climb trees and hunt large prey.

Like all bears, grizzlies are omnivores that eat a variety of food. Unfortunately, they have been known to attack humans. Grizzlies are deadly to humans and prey alike between their teeth and claws.

3. Bald Eagle

A bald eagle swoops in to the water to catch a fish.

Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

The bald eagle is probably the most well-known raptor. Raptors are birds of prey with talons that use their sharp claws to defend themselves against intruders, grip tree branches, and to for catching their prey.

Bald eagles specifically will use their talons for grabbing fish from the water, as that is their primary food. Their talons grip their prey, preventing them from dropping it in flight.

4. Sloth

Scientific name: Folivora

The sloth is a slow-moving mammal that spends most of its time in the trees. Sloths have clawed hands and feet that are perfect for clinging to tree branches.

Sloths spend most of their time in trees. Their long claws allow sloths to grip and hang from branches above the forest floor. Sloth offspring cling to their mothers using their claws.

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5. Star-nosed Mole

Image credit: Gordonramsaysubmissions / flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Condylura cristata

The star-nosed mole is a small mammal with some of the animal kingdom’s sharpest claws. The mole spends its life underground, so it uses its claws to burrow.

Moles eat insects and catch food with their claws. In addition, their claws help the mole dig and uncover its underground prey. They also use their claws to dig tunnels and dens for nesting.

6. Mountain Lion

mountain lion
Image: USFWS Mountain-Prairie | CC BY 2.0 | flickr

Scientific name: Puma concolor

The mountain lion is one of the most powerful predators in North America. With razor-sharp claws, this big cat can take down prey much larger than itself.

Mountain lions are solitary animals that use their claws for hunting and climbing. Mountain lions climb trees while carrying prey, so they need strong, sharp claws to carry the weight.

7. Great Horned Owl

Scientific name: Bubo virginianus

The great horned owl has the most powerful talons of any raptor in America. With a pressure of 500 pounds per square inch, these talons can pierce through human skin.

Great horned owls use their talons to catch food, like rodents. The force with which it closes its claws is 28.7 pounds (13 kg) – equaling that of a German shepherd bite force.

8. Alligators

Alligator claws
Alligator claws | image by Shannon Kringen via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Alligator mississippiensis

Alligators are some of the most feared reptiles in the world. Mainly because of their massive jaws, but also because they have sharp claws used for digging and feeding.

Alligators don’t use their claws for hunting, but may also use their claws to help grab food to tear pieces. They also use their sharp front claws for digging into embankments to bury eggs.

9. American Black Bear

black bear
black bear claws | Image by SeaReeds from Pixabay

Scientific name: Ursus americanus

The American Black Bear is a large bear found in North America. Bear claws are not just a sweet pastry. With its sharp claws, black bears can swiftly climb trees and easily consume various foods.

Black bears use their claws to kill prey and grab plant-materials, as they are omnivorous. Their long claws make them deadly predators and dangerous for humans.

10. American Badger

photo by Derek Keats via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Taxidea taxus

The American badger is one of the world’s most formidable and fearless animals. With its sharp claws, it can defend itself from predators.

Badgers also use their claws for hunting and digging. They burrow underground, and their sharp claws help them dig out their dens and burrows.

11. Harpy Eagle

giant claws of a harpy eagle next to a human's hand
Harpy eagle claws | image by rulenumberone2 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Harpia harpyja

Like the bald eagle, the harpy eagle is an extremely large raptor with huge, sharp talons. However, the harpy eagle is one of the largest birds in the world and uses its talons to grip tree branches and carry prey.

The male harpy’s talon is about 3.4 inches in length, and the female’s is about 4.8 inches long. Harpy eagles have larger talons than any other eagle, even bigger than a grizzly bear’s talons.

12. House Cat

cat claws out
Image by rihaij from Pixabay

Scientific name: Felis silvestris catus

House cats have evolved to have sharp claws because they are predators. Their claws are retractable, allowing them to climb things like furniture and curtains.

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Cats also use their claws for hunting and killing prey. They climb trees effortlessly with sharp claws and will injure people and animals with razor-sharp retractable claws. While they may have tiny claws compared to most animals on this list, they are quite sharp as any cat owner can tell you.