The world is full of huge animals, and many of the largest animals on earth are also some of the rarest. While large ocean animals are aided by buoyancy in the water, these land animals have to rely on their muscles and bone structure to support their weight. It may surprise you to find out that many of the biggest land animals eat only plants!
11 Biggest Land Animals
While you have probably already guessed that elephants will show up on this list, we also included a bird and lizard species to show that large size isn’t restricted to just one category of animal. Let’s dive into 11 of the biggest land animals and learn a little about them.
1. African Bush Elephant
Scientific name: Loxodonta africana
13 feet tall and weighing over 10 tons, the African Bush Elephant (also known as the African savanna elephant) is the heaviest land animal in the world. They are one of two living elephant species found in Africa. They live throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, preferring open forests and savannah to densely wooded areas. These huge animals are herbivores, eating mainly grasses which they pull from the ground with their trunks.
They’re an endangered species now, as illegal hunting has dramatically reduced their population. Bull elephants are hunted extensively for their tusks, which yield high quality ivory that sells for very high prices.
2. Asian Elephant
Scientific name: Elephas maximus
At 9 feet tall and weighing over 4 tons, these elephants are much smaller than their African cousins, and yet they are still one of the biggest land animals in the world. They have darker skin and smaller ears than African elephants, and are more easily tamed and trained.
Asian elephants once lived from Mesopotamia through India and Southeast Asia and most of China. Today they’ve been reduced to a few isolated populations in Southern India, the foothills of the Himayalas, and isolated pockets of Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Habitat loss and poaching for ivory has led to the rapid decline of this species.
3. White Rhinoceros
Scientific name: Ceratotherium simum
Weighing in at over 5,000 pounds, this is the largest living species of rhino. There are two subspecies: the southern white rhino, of which there are about 20,000 living individuals left in the wild, and the northern white rhino, of which there are only two alive in the entire world.
These rhinos have been hunted to near extinction for their horns, which are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. Despite their size and fearsome reputation, white rhinos are actually very docile, non-aggressive creatures with poor eyesight, and so they’re extremely vulnerable to poaching. The northern white rhino is now doomed to extinction, as the only two surviving specimens are female.
4. Indian Rhinoceros
Scientific name: Rhinoceros unicornis
Living only in northern India, this rhinoceros grows to a weight of 4,850 pounds. Smaller than the white rhino, but still pretty huge. They eat grasses, shrubs, trees, and fruits. Males are usually solitary, but females generally form small social groups.
Poaching is a huge threat to this species, as their horn is used in traditional Asian medicine. Extensive conservation and protection efforts in India and Nepal have prevented the Indian rhino from being hunted as severely as the white rhino, and the species is not endangered yet.
Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius
Hippos may spend a lot of their time in the water, but they come out onto dry land every night to eat. They only spend the day in the water to stay cool and prevent sunburn. Each night they gorge themselves on grass. An adult hippo can eat 150 pounds of grass in one night.
Hippos are actually the most dangerous animal in Africa, killing more people each year than the Nile crocodile. This is because hippos are an aggressive species that are quick to attack anything they perceive as a threat. While they’re strict herbivores, they have razor sharp tusks and powerful jaws, which they use in self-defense.
Scientific name: Giraffa
There are several species and subspecies of giraffe, but they’re all about the same size. They grow to a maximum height of 18.7 feet tall, and males can weigh as much as 2,628 pounds. They use their height and long necks to feed on trees that most other herbivores can’t reach.
Their height and their excellent eyesight enable them to spot predators more easily than many other herbivores, and this, combined with their size and powerful kicks, means that they are hard for most predators to successfully hunt. Only lions will regularly target adult giraffe, and even then they prefer to avoid the fully grown adults.
7. Gaur (Indian Bison)
Scientific name: Bos gaurus
Sometimes called the Indian bison, this is the largest wild bovine species. Guar’s are native to South Asia. Bulls usually weigh well over 3,300 pounds, while females may only be half as heavy. As a result, even the tigers with which they share their natural habitat rarely hunt them.
Only tigers and saltwater crocodiles have ever been recorded killing an adult gaur, and that’s a rare occurrence. The biggest threat has been hunting from humans, both for sale on the black market and for home consumption.
8. American Bison
Scientific name: Bison bison
The heaviest bison ever recorded was 2,800 pounds, but it’s estimated that bulls weighing over 3,000 pounds were once common. Bison used to range over all of North America, in every kind of environment from wide open prairie to dense woodlands. Rampant overhunting nearly exterminated them, and the largest wild population remaining is in Canada.
Reintroduction efforts are underway in many parts of the Continental US, and bison are now raised extensively on ranches as well.
9. Cape Buffalo
Scientific name: Syncerus caffer
One of Africa’s most dangerous animals, the cape buffalo is a large bovine that lives in huge herds. Males can often weigh close to 2,000 pounds, and lions are the only predators known to successfully hunt adult buffalo.
Cape buffalo kill over 200 people each year. They’ll defend themselves aggressively, and their huge size and large horns make them capable of killing most predators that could threaten them, including lions.
10. Komodo Dragon
Scientific name: Varanus komodoensis
The world’s largest lizard grows to 10 feet long and weighs in at 150 pounds. It lives only on two small islands in Indonesia, where it is the apex predator, hunting and killing even large animals like the water buffalo.
Although it’s widely believed they have a poisonous bite because of deadly bacteria in their saliva, this is a myth. After careful observation, researchers now believe that after being bitten, many prey animals such as water buffalo, run into the water to hide or attempt escape. Bacteria in the stagnant water infect the bite wounds and kill them. Most often komodo dragons kill their prey in a half hour or less, using razor sharp teeth to sever major blood vessels and inflict massive wounds.
11. Common Ostrich
Scientific name: Struthio camelus
The largest bird in the world can be 9 feet tall and weigh up to 320 pounds, although most adults are a bit smaller than that. They can run at 43 miles per hour, and they have powerful legs tipped with sharp claws that can easily kill with a single kick.
In the wild, cheetahs are their most common predators, but all predators, even lions, tend to avoid full grown ostriches, since they can aggressively and successfully defend themselves if cornered.