14 Unique Animals With the Best Sense of Smell (Pictures)

Animals have evolved over thousands of years to develop fascinating abilities beyond what humans can achieve. One of their interesting traits is a superb sense of smell to help them locate meals or sense danger. The ability to smell is based on how many scent receptors the animal has, also known as sensors. Humans have 400 scent receptors. However, the animals with the best sense of smell have over 1,000 sensors!

This article has information about 14 animals with an amazing capacity to smell, all significantly better than humans. Let’s learn more about how their sense of smell comes in handy.

14 animals with the best sense of smell

Here is a list of 14 animals with the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom and how they use their abilities.

1. African elephant

African Savanna Elephant | image by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific genus: Loxodonta

While all types of elephants have a great sense of smell, the African elephant is known to have the best sense of smell in the entire animal kingdom. Their nostrils are located at the tip of their trunks and can detect water sources up to 12 miles away. Scientists have also found they can use their sense of smell to identify quantities of food.

Their trunks not only allow them to smell but also breathe, draw up water to their mouth, pick up food, and carry heavy things, such as tree trunks.


2. Great white shark

Scientific name: Carcharodon carcharias

Great white sharks are fierce predators and are featured in plenty of films as scary villains. These sharks have such a great sense of smell they can detect a single drop of blood in the ocean from miles away.

The noses of these cartilaginous fish have nasal sacs filled with sensory cells that give them the name “swimming noses.” Since they breathe with their gills, their noses are meant for smelling only.


3. Cow

Scientific name: Bos taurus

Cows are the female of the species, with males called steers or bulls. Not only do these animals produce milk and provide us with popular meat to eat, but they also have a great sense of smell. Cows can detect smells from up to 6 miles away and use this ability to identify danger in their area.


4. Bloodhound

bloodhound

Scientific name: Canis lupus

Bloodhounds are known as one of the dogs that have the best sense of smell. They are known to scan terrains with their nose and be able to track down scents over 13 days old. These dogs can even stick to a scent trail for over 130 miles. Their abilities make them a species law enforcement relies on to investigate crime scenes, find missing persons, or track criminals.


5. Basset hounds

basset hound

Scientific name: Canis lupus familiaris

Another dog with an excellent sense of smell is the basset hound. These small dogs can lie low on the ground and follow scent trails, making them perform well in scent work and tracking sports. Their long floppy ears help sweep the ground to bring up the scent to their noses. The wrinkles on their neck and face trap smell to keep it close as they follow the trail.

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6. African giant pouched rats

African giant pouched rat | image by derekkeats via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific subfamily: Cricetomyinae

Although the African giant pouched rat has bad vision, their sense of smell makes up for it. These rodents have been trained to use their abilities to sniff out buried explosives and landmines left from wars. Some are also able to identify tuberculosis (TB) from hospital samples.


7. Grizzly bears

Grizzly bears

Scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis

While all bears have a great sense of smell, grizzly bears have one of the best sniffers of them all. The portion of their nose that detects smells is a hundred times bigger than human noses and these animals can detect food from miles away.


8. Kiwi

image: Pixabay.com

Scientific genus: Apteryx

The kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand with an unusual-looking long slender beak that gives them a great sense of smell. Their beaks even have sensory pits that allow them to sense their prey moving underground.


9. Turkey vultures

turkey vulture

Scientific name: Cathartes aura

With their favorite food being dead animals, the turkey vulture can smell out their next meal from a mile away from up in the sky. The chemicals from the dead animals rise into the sky, and these birds fly in circles until they identify the source.


10. Dekay’s brown snake

Dekay’s brown snake | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Scientific name: Storeria dekayi

All snakes have an amazing sense of smell and the longer the forks in their tongues, the more the snake relies on smell to find prey. The Dekay’s brown snake is an example of a snake with a long, deeply forked tongue.

When they stick out their tongue in the air, they are collecting smells in air samples from various directions. They then put the tip of their tongue in a smell organ to identify what smells they picked up.


11. Eastern American mole

Scientific name: Scalopus aquaticus

Since the eastern American mole is blind, they rely heavily on their scent of smell to locate prey and determine their location. These animals have an interesting ability to use what is called “smells in stereo.” This means each nostril can smell independently, allowing their noses to paint a picture of their surroundings.


12. Silkworm moth

silkworm moth

Scientific name: Bombyx mori

Even though they don’t have noses, male silk moths have antennae that help them smell exceptionally well. They have feathery antennae with scent receptors that can detect smells from seven miles away.

They use this ability mostly to find females by locating the smell of hormones. Females will also use a male’s scent to check how fit they are for reproduction.


13. American eel

American eel | image by Clinton & Charles Robertson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Anguilla rostrata

While not as great as sharks, the American eel is a fish with an extremely sharp sense of smell. Since they are nocturnal hunters, they use their sense of smell to find food more than they use their sight. During the day, they hide in burrows to stay safe from predators, such as eagles, gulls, and large fish.


14. Wandering albatross

image: Ed Dunens | Flickr | CC 2.0

Scientific name: Diomedea exulans

The wandering albatross is a large sea bird with a wingspan over 11.5 feet. These birds fly over the open sea and feed on schooling fish and squid. Their sense of smell is so amazing they can smell fish from up in the air and identify their next meal around 12.4 miles away. They will change flying direction towards prey they can’t even see.