Animals with thick skin use their skin mostly to protect themselves in their environment. Sometimes their skin has to be thick to hold together their large bodies. However, the size of the animal doesn’t necessarily determine how thick their skin is. Additionally, it can be easy to assume that thick skin means tough, insensitive skin – you’ll be surprised to find out this isn’t always the case!
Read on to learn more about the interesting facts surrounding 12 animals with thick skins.
12 animals with thick skin
Here is a list of 12 animals with thick skin and not all of them are insensitive or large!
1. Honey badger
Scientific name: Mellivora capensis
For their size, honey badgers have very thick skin of around 0.25 inches. It’s thicker than some animals, such as buffalos that are 50 times larger than them. Their skin is also rubbery, adding to the toughness known to be unaffected by arrows and spears as well as not cutting all the way through from a machete blow.
Their thick skin mainly protects them from predators’ teeth. It’s also quite loose, allowing them movement within their skin so they can wriggle around to get free or attack back when they are in the clutches of predators.
Scientific genus: Loxodonta
Elephants can have skin as thick as 1.5 inches in certain areas on their bodies. Their skin helps hold together their large mass and is loosely fitting and wrinkly. The wrinkles and cracks in their skin help retain 10 times more moisture and dirt than flat skin does. This allows them to keep cool and protect themselves from the sun.
The top layer of their skin is also very tough. It doesn’t shed easily and has more keratin (what our fingernails are made of) to make it durable.
Scientific family: Rhinocerotidae
Rhinos have skin up to 2 inches thick and are made from layers of collagen in a crisscrossed structure. The thickness of their skin helps protect them from any serious injuries or complications. However, their skin is also surprisingly sensitive and can easily get sunburnt. You can often see rhinos rolling in mud to create a layer once it dries and protect them from the sun and insects.
Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius
Although hippos have a thin layer of fat, their outer skin is almost hairless and very thick at 2 inches providing them a lot of protection, especially on their flanks. Their skin is actually so thick they are almost bulletproof to small-caliber bullets. They can take pain pretty well and will keep going at you even after you shoot them.
Another interesting thing about these animals’ skin is they don’t have any sweat glands. Instead, they use the mud or water in their habitat to keep cool.
Scientific genus: Camelus
Since camels live in very hot desert habitats, they have thick skin in various parts of their bodies for protection, especially from the sun’s heat. The hardened, thick skin on their knees and chests also protect them from the hot sand when they rest on the ground.
6. Grizzly bear
Scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis
Bears are known to be aggressive animals when threatened and hard to kill. One of the reasons is because of their thick skin and bulky bodies. Many small guns can’t even shoot bullets that penetrate the bear’s hide or fur to reach the fat underneath.
7. Polar bear
Scientific name: Ursus maritimus
Another bear with thick skin is the polar bear. While their fur looks white, their skin is actually black underneath to help absorb heat from the sun and warm them. These bears have a dense underfur on top of their skin and another outer layer of guard hairs. They also have a 4-inch thick layer of fat to further keep them warm.
Scientific family: Crocodylidae
Crocodile skin is thick and durable and is known as one of the finest leathers in the fashion industry. Since they are powerful predators coined to have “armored skin,” it’s surprising that crocodiles actually have touch sensors dotting all over their skin. These sensors are more sensitive to vibration and pressure than human fingertips!
9. Sperm whale
Scientific name: Physeter macrocephalus
Growing up to 60 feet long, the sperm whale is the largest toothed mammal and toothed predator on earth. They also have the thickest skin, with the skin on their head and back up to 14 inches thick. Their records in the animal kingdom don’t stop here, with these whales being the deepest diving mammal (around 7,200 feet) and having the largest brain, weighing 15 to 20 pounds.
Underneath their already thick, lumpy skin is a layer of blubber that helps these whales survive in multiple ways. It acts as insulation from cold waters, helps store energy, and provides buoyancy so they don’t have to worry about sinking in the ocean.
10. Blue whale
Scientific name: Balaenoptera musculus
The largest mammal on earth is the blue whale. These toothless whales have a thick layer of skin and a dense layer of blubber that take up around 27 percent of their entire body mass. Like sperm whales, the blubber helps insulate them and supports buoyancy. Typically, their skin is thickest near their blowhole, which is used for holding their breath underwater for long periods.
11. Whale shark
Scientific name: Rhincodon typus
While talking about large animals, the whale shark is the largest shark and fish. These sharks are considered “gentle giants” and, similar to whales, eat mostly plankton.
Their skin has a texture like strong rubber and is around 4 inches thick. It helps protect them against predators such as great white sharks, killer whales, and tiger sharks. The unique pattern of spots on their skin is actually like fingerprints that provide identification to individual sharks.
Scientific genus: Trichechus
Manatees, also called sea cows, are large marine mammals that can grow around 9 to 10 feet long. These animals have thick, wrinkled, and leathery-looking skin with algae often growing on their backs and tails, giving them a greenish or brown look. The thickness of their skin is a good protective measure since manatees are slow-moving.
Their skin has the ability to flake continuously in order to keep algae and barnacles from accumulating on their bodies. Their skin also has bristly hairs that act as sensors to help them navigate their environments.