Bite force is an important property of carnivore ecology because these amazing animals need to kill their prey as easily as possible, and the bite force is a vital factor in this context. Here are the top 22 most powerful bites in carnivore land mammals.
The values below are average bite forces at the canine tips
22. Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
338.8 Newton. BFQ, see notes 1: 72.7
The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a big cat in the subfamily Felinae that inhabits most of Africa and parts of Iran. The cheetah can run as fast as 109.4 to 120.7 km/h or 68.0 to 75.0 mph (the fastest properly authenticated cheetah hit 61 mph or 98.1 km/h, though), faster than any other land animal. It covers distances up to 500 m (1,640 ft) in short bursts and can accelerate from 0 to 96 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in three seconds.
Cheetahs are notable for adaptations in the paws as they are one of the few felids with only semi-retractable claws. Cheetahs are also the biggest cats that can “purr”. While the cheetah can not roar but the other big cats can, the latter can not purr but the cheetah can.
Related: 20 amazing cheetah facts
21. Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
351.5 Newton. BFQ: 114.3
The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris or Canis familiaris) is a domesticated canid that has been selectively bred for millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes. Extensive genetic studies undertaken during the 2010s indicate that dogs diverged from an extinct wolf-like canid in Eurasia 40,000 years ago.
Being the oldest domesticated animal, their long association with people has allowed dogs to be uniquely attuned to human behavior, as well as thrive on a starch-rich diet that would be inadequate for other canid species.
Domestic dogs in this study include only large semi-feral or feral specimens; in this case, two Greenland dogs (see notes 2) and three dingos (see notes 3). Some authors (MacDonald and Sillero-Zubiri 2004) consider the dingo to be a separate species.
20. African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)
374.6 Newton. BFQ: 131.1
The African wild dog, African hunting dog, or African painted dog (Lycaon pictus) is a canid native to Sub-Saharan Africa. It is the largest of its family in Africa, and the only member of the genus Lycaon, which is distinguished from Canis by its fewer toes and dentition, which is highly
19. Snow leopard (Panthera uncia)
387.6 Newton. BFQ: 99.9
The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. Snow leopards inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft). In the northern range countries, they also occur at lower elevations.
Snow Leopard is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because, as of 2003, the size of the global population was estimated at 4,080-6,590 adults, of which fewer than 2,500 individuals may reproduce in the wild. Drawing from the latest available data, the Global Snow Leopard and Eco-System Protection Program (GSLEP) uses an estimate of between 3,920 and 6,390 individuals in the wild.
Related: 20 Amazing Snow Leopard Facts
18. Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
414.6 Newton. BFQ: 115.4
The Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is a South American carnivorous mammal, it lives mostly in and along the Amazon River and in the Pantanal. It can reach up to 1.7 meters (5.6 feet).
17. Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
493.5 Newton. BFQ: 127.3
The gray wolf or grey wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf or western wolf is the largest extant member of its family, with males averaging 43-45 kg (95-99 lb), and females 36-38.5 kg (79-85 lb). It is a canid native to the wilderness and remote areas of North America and Eurasia.
16. Cougar (Puma concolor)
497.1 Newton. BFQ: 118.8
The cougar (Puma concolor), also commonly known as the mountain lion, puma, panther, or catamount, is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae native to the Americas. Although large, it is more closely related to smaller felines than to other big cats. It is an ambush predator and pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources are ungulates, particularly deer, but also livestock. It also hunts species as small as insects and rodents.
15. Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena)
507.8 Newton. BFQ: 128.9
The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is the smallest of the true hyenas. It is native to North and East Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Though it has a habit of feigning death when attacked, it has also been known to stand its ground against larger predators such as leopards in disputes over food.
14. Sloth bear (Ursus ursinus)
522.1 Newton. BFQ: 59.9
The sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), also known as the Stickney bear or labiated bear, is a nocturnal insectivorous bear species found wild within the Indian Subcontinent. The sloth bear evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene and shares features found in insect-eating mammals through convergent evolution.
Sloth bears are expert hunters of termites, which they locate by smell. The large canine teeth of sloth bears, relative to both its overall body size and to the size of the canine teeth of other bear species, and the aggressive disposition of sloth bears may be a defense in interactions with large, dangerous species such as tigers, elephants, and rhinoceroses.
Tigers typically hunt sloth bears by waiting for them near termite mounds, then creeping behind them and seizing them by the back of their necks and forcing them to the ground with their weight. Asian elephants also apparently do not tolerate sloth bears in their vicinity. The reason for this is unknown, as individual elephants known to maintain their composure near tigers have been reported to charge bears. The Indian rhinoceros has a similar intolerance for sloth bears and will charge at them.
13. Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea)
560.1 Newton. BFQ: 135.9
The brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea, formerly Parahyaena brunnea) is is currently the rarest species of hyena. It is found in Namibia, Botswana, western and southern Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, and South Africa. They are primarily scavengers the bulk of whose diet consists of carcasses killed by larger predators, but they may supplement their diet with rodents, insects, eggs, fruit, and fungi (the desert truffle Kalaharituber pfeilii). They are however poor hunters.
12. Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)
565.7 Newton. BFQ: 99.6
The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), also known as the laughing hyena, is a species of hyena, currently classed as the sole member of the genus Crocuta, native to Sub-Saharan Africa. The spotted hyena is the most social of the Carnivora in that it has the largest group sizes and most complex social behaviors. It is primarily a hunter but may also scavenge, with the capacity to eat and digest skin, bone, and other animal waste.
They prefer prey with a body mass range of 56-182 kg (123-401 lb), with a mode of 102 kg (225 lb). They hunt in groups, the numbers in these groups vary according to the prey’s size (up to 25 – typical zebra hunting groups consist of 10–25 hyenas).
The species has a largely negative reputation in both Western culture and African folklore. In the former, the species is mostly regarded as ugly and cowardly, while in the latter, it is viewed as greedy, gluttonous, stupid, and foolish, yet powerful and potentially dangerous. In fact, these reputations are unjust, since they are highly social and amazing hunters.
11. Leopard (Panthera pardus)
621.1 Newton. BFQ: 119.8
The leopard (Panthera pardus) is one of the five “big cats” (Tiger, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard, and Snow Leopard) in the genus Panthera. Compared to other members of Felidae, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but is smaller and more lightly built. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard’s rosettes are smaller and more densely packed and do not usually have central spots as the jaguars do. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers.
The leopard’s success in the wild is due to its well-camouflaged fur; its opportunistic hunting behavior, broad diet, and strength to move heavy carcasses into trees; its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe and including arid and montane areas; and to run at speeds up to 58 kilometers per hour (36 mph).
They feed on a greater diversity of prey than other members of the genus Panthera and are reported to eat anything from dung beetles to common elands, though medium-sized prey species in the 20-80 kg (44-176 lb) range are usually taken. The largest prey reported killed by a leopard was a 900 kg (2,000 lb) male eland (an antelope found in East and Southern Africa), although leopards generally do not prey on such large animals.
Related: 20 amazing leopard facts
10. American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
744.3 Newton. BFQ: 77.2
The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a medium-sized bear native to North America (the continent’s smallest and most widely distributed bear species).
Black bears have assured scavengers that can intimidate, using their large size and considerable strength, and if necessary dominate other predators in confrontations over carcasses. However, on occasions where they encounter the Kodiak or the grizzly bears, the larger two brown sub-species dominate them. Black bears tend to escape competition from brown bears by being more active in the daytime and living in more densely forested areas.
Black bears do compete with cougars over carcasses. Like brown bears, they will sometimes steal kills from cougars. One study found that both bear species visited 24% of cougar kills in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, usurping 10% of carcasses. Fights between the two species are rare, though they can be violent. Cougars occasionally kill adult bears, a behavior reportedly witnessed in the 19th century.
There are also 19th and early 20th century records of bears killing a cougar, either in defense or in territorial disputes, and occasional fights, which ended in both combatants fatally wounded.
Although an adult bear is quite capable of killing a human, American black bears typically avoid confronting humans when possible and aggressive encounters with black bears rarely lead to serious injury. Unlike grizzly bears, which became a subject of fearsome legend among the European settlers of North America, black bears were rarely considered overly dangerous, even though they lived in areas where the pioneers had settled.
Black bears rarely attack when confronted by humans, and usually limit themselves to making mock charges, emitting blowing noises and swatting the ground with their forepaws. The number of black bear attacks on humans is higher than those of the brown bear in North America, though this is largely because the black species considerably outnumbers the brown rather than greater aggressiveness.
9. Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus)
795.1 Newton. BFQ: 103.1
The spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), also known as the Andean bear or Andean short-faced bear and locally as jukumari (Aymara), ukumari (Quechua) or ukuku, is the last remaining short-faced bear (subfamily Tremarctinae) and the only surviving species of bear native to South America.
They are only one of two extant bear species that are habitually arboreal (they move their prey’s bodies upon trees, like leopards), alongside the American (Ursus americanus) and Asian black bears (U. thibetanus), and the sun bears (Helarctos malayanus). They can climb even the tallest trees of the Andes. Once up a tree, they may often build a platform, perhaps to aid in concealment, as well as to rest and store food on.
They are more herbivorous than most other bears; normally about 5 to 7% of their diets are meat.
8. Asian Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus)
858.3 Newton. BFQ: 95.6
The Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus, previously known as Selenarctos thibetanus) is also known as moon bear and white-chested bear. It is a medium-sized bear species and largely adapted to arboreal life. It lives in the Himalayas, in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, Korea, northeastern China, the Russian Far East, the Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan, and Taiwan.
They appear to be more carnivorous than most other bears, including American black bears, and will kill ungulates with some regularity, including domestic livestock. Wild ungulate prey can include muntjacs, serow, takin, wild boar, and adult water buffaloes, which they kill by breaking their necks.
On average, adult Asian black bears are slightly smaller than American black bears.
7. Malayan Sun Bear (Ursus malayanus)
883.2 Newton. BFQ: 160.5
The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), also known as the “honey bear” is a bear found in tropical forest habitats of Southeast Asia. It is the smallest of the bears, but its jaw is extremely powerful. Adults are about 120–150 cm (47–59 in) long and weigh 27–80 kg (60–176 lb). Males are 10–20% larger than females. They are omnivores, feeding primarily on termites, ants, beetle larvae, bee larvae, and a large variety of fruit species, especially figs when available.
6. Jaguar (Panthera onca)
887.0 Newton. BFQ: 118.6
The jaguar (Panthera onca) is a big cat (the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion – and the largest in the Americas), a feline in the Panthera genus, and is the only extant Panthera species native to the Americas. The jaguar’s present range extends from the Southwestern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Apart from a known and possibly breeding population in Arizona (southeast of Tucson) and the bootheel of New Mexico, the cat has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century.
The word “jaguar” comes to English from one of the Tupi–Guarani languages, presumably the Amazonian trade language Tupinambá, via Portuguese jaguar. The Tupian word, yaguara “beast”, is sometimes translated as “dog”. The specific word for jaguar is yaguareté, with the suffix -eté meaning “real” or “true”. The jaguar has featured prominently in the mythology of numerous indigenous American cultures, including those of the Maya and Aztec.
It is a compact and well-muscled animal. Size and weight vary considerably: weights are normally in the range of 56–96 kg (124–211 lb). Larger males have been recorded to weigh as much as 158 kg (348 lb) (roughly matching a tigress or lioness; however note this animal was weighed with a full stomach). Females are typically 10–20 percent smaller than males. The length, from the nose to the base of the tail, of the cats, varies from 1.12 to 1.85 m (3.7 to 6.1 ft).
Their tails are the shortest of any big cat, at 45 to 75 cm (18 to 30 in) in length. Their legs are also short, considerably shorter when compared to a small tiger or lion in a similar weight range, but are thick and powerful. The jaguar stands 63 to 76 cm (25 to 30 in) tall at the shoulders. Compared to the similarly colored Old World leopard, the jaguar is bigger, heavier, and relatively stocky in build.
A short and stocky limb structure makes the jaguar adept at climbing, crawling, and swimming. The head is robust and the jaw extremely powerful, it has the third-highest bite force of all felids, after the lion and tiger. This strength adaptation allows the jaguar to pierce turtle shells.
A comparative study of bite force adjusted for body size ranked it as the top felid, alongside the clouded leopard and ahead of the lion and tiger. It has been reported that “an individual jaguar can drag an 800 lb (360 kg) bull 25 ft (7.6 m) in its jaws and pulverize the heaviest bones”. The jaguar hunts wild animals weighing up to 300 kg (660 lb) in dense jungle, and its short and sturdy physique is thus an adaptation to its prey and environment.
Related: 20 amazing jaguar facts
5. Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
1298.9 Newton. BFQ: 151.4
Despite the giant panda’s diet being over 99% bamboo, its taxonomic classification as a carnivoran, because it still has the digestive system of a carnivore, as well as carnivore-specific genes, and thus derives little energy and little protein from consumption of bamboo. Its large size and round face, are adaptations to its bamboo diet. The round face is the result of powerful jaw muscles, which attach from the top of the head to the jaw. Large molars crush and grind fibrous plant material.
About the size of an American black bear, adults measure around 1.2 to 1.9 m (4 to 6 ft) long, including a tail of about 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in), and 60 to 90 cm (2.0 to 3.0 ft) tall at the shoulder. Males can weigh up to 160 kg (350 lb). Females (generally 10–20% smaller than males) can weigh as little as 70 kg (150 lb), but can also weigh up to 125 kg (276 lb).
4. Lion (Panthera leo)
1314.7 Newton. BFQ: 123.8
The lion is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. The size of adult lions varies across their range with those from the southern African populations in Zimbabwe, the Kalahari and Kruger Park averaging around 189.6 kg (418 lb) and 126.9 kg (280 lb) in males and females respectively compared to 174.9 kg (386 lb) and 119.5 kg (263 lb) of male and female lions from East Africa.
Reported body measurements in males are head-body lengths ranging from 170 to 250 cm (5 feet 7 inches to 8 feet 2 inches), tail lengths of 90-105 cm (2 ft 11 in-3 ft 5 in). In females, reported head-body lengths are range from 140 to 175 cm (4 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches), tail lengths of 70–100 cm (2 ft 4 in–3 ft 3 in), however, the frequently cited maximum head and body length of 250 cm (8 ft 2 in) fits rather to extinct Pleistocene forms, like the American lion, with even large modern lions measuring several centimeters less in length.
Record measurements from hunting records are supposedly a total length of nearly 3.6 m (12 ft) for a male shot near Mucsso, southern Angola in October 1973 and a weight of 313 kg (690 lb) for a male shot outside Hectorspruit in eastern Transvaal, South Africa in 1936. Another notably outsized male lion, which was shot near Mount Kenya, weighed in at 272 kg (600 lb).
Related: 20 amazing lion facts
3. Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)
1409.7 Newton. BFQ: 99.3
The Brown Bear is the largest terrestrial carnivoran. The largest subspecies, the Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi), rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family. Other subspecies include the Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), Kamchatka brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus), Alaska brown bear (Ursus arctos alascensis), Dall Island brown bear (Ursus arctos dalli), Peninsular brown bear (Ursus arctos gyas), Ursus arctos sitkensis, and Stikine brown bear (Ursus arctos stikeenensis).
The size range for Kodiak bear females (sows) is from 225 to 315 kg (496 to 694 lb) and for males (boars) is 360 to 635 kg (794 to 1,400 lb). Mature males average 480-533 kg (1,058-1,175 lb) over the course of the year and can weigh up to 680 kg (1,500 lb) at peak times. Females are typically about 20% smaller and 30% lighter than males.
Related: Amazing Kodiak bear facts
2. Tiger (Panthera tigris)
1472.1 Newton. BFQ: 130.4
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to 3.38 m (11.1 ft) over curves and exceptionally weighing up to 388.7 kg (857 lb) in the wild. It has also the most powerful jaw of all felids and the second overall of all carnivore land mammals.
The Bengal and Siberian subspecies are the tallest at the shoulder.
In the wild, tigers mostly feed on large and medium-sized animals, preferring native ungulates weighing at least 90 kg (200 lb). They also prey on other predators, including dogs, leopards, pythons, sloth bears, and crocodiles.
Related: 20 amazing tiger facts
1. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)
1646.7 Newton. BFQ: 92.3
The Polar bear has the strongest jaw of all carnivore land mammals. It is a very large bear, approximately the same size as the omnivorous Kodiak bear. A boar (adult male) weighs around 350–700 kg (772–1,543 lb), while a sow (adult female) is about half that size. It is the most carnivorous member of the bear family, and throughout most of its range, its diet primarily consists of ringed (Pusa hispida) and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus). They are also scavengers, occasionally feeding the carcasses of the whales.
Unlike grizzly bears, polar bears are not territorial. Although stereotyped as being voraciously aggressive, they are normally cautious in confrontations, and often choose to escape rather than fight. Satiated polar bears rarely attack humans unless severely provoked. However, due to their lack of prior human interaction, hungry polar bears are extremely unpredictable, fearless towards people, and are known to kill and sometimes eat humans.
Many attacks by brown bears are the result of surprising the animal, which is not the case with the polar bear. Polar bears are stealth hunters, and the victim is often unaware of the bear’s presence until the attack is underway. Whereas brown bears often maul a person and then leave, polar bear attacks are more likely to be predatory and are almost always fatal. However, due to the very small human population around the Arctic, such attacks are rare.
Related: 20 amazing Polar Bear facts
Hippopotamus has the most powerful bite force of all land mammals: 8,100 Newton
The hippopotamus is a mostly herbivorous, semiaquatic mammal, so I didn’t include it in the list above. But, in fact, it has the most powerful bite force of all land mammals. They are among the largest living land mammals, being only smaller than elephants and some rhinoceroses. Adult hippos average 1,500 kg (3,310 lb) and 1,300 kg (2,870 lb) for males and females respectively. Very large males can reach 2,000 kg (4,410 lb) and exceptional males weighing 2,660 kg (5,860 lb) and 3,200 kg (7,050 lb) have been reported.
They have exceptionally big and strong jaws, and large, very sharp teeth. The bite force of an adult female has been measured as 8,100 newtons (1,800 lbf). For comparison, lions have an average bite force of 1314.7 newtons. Note that it was a female, male hippos are much more powerful, but they are too aggressive to be tested! Hippos have been recorded to break full-grown crocodiles‘ backs with a single bite.
- Bite force quotient (BFQ) is the regression of the quotient of an animal’s bite force in newtons divided by its body mass in kilograms. “Average” BFQ was set at 100.
- The Greenland Dog (also known as Greenland Husky) is a large breed of a husky-type dog kept as a sled dog and for hunting polar bear and seal. It is an ancient breed, thought to be directly descended from dogs brought to Greenland by the first Inuit settlers.
The dingo (Canis lupus dingo) is a wild dog found in Australia. Its exact ancestry is debated, but dingoes are generally believed to be descended from semi-domesticated dogs from East or South Asia, which returned to a wild lifestyle when introduced to Australia. Both dingo and dog are classified as subspecies of Canis lupus in Mammal Species of the World.
A hypercarnivore is an animal that has a diet that is more than 70% meat, with the balance consisting of non-animal foods such as fungi, fruits, or other plant material. Some examples include felids, dolphins, eagles, snakes, marlin, and most sharks. Every species in the Felidae family, including the domesticated cat, is a hypercarnivore in its natural state.
- Bite forces and evolutionary adaptations to feeding ecology in carnivores (Ecology)
- Bite club: comparative bite force in big biting mammals and the prediction of predatory behaviour in fossil taxa on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Bite force quotient on Wikipedia
- Greenland dog on Wikipedia
- Dog on Wikipedia
- Dingo on Wikipedia
- African wild dog on Wikipedia
- Snow leopard on Wikipedia
- Giant otter on Wikipedia
- Cheetah on Wikipedia
- Gray Wolf on Wikipedia
- Cougar on Wikipedia
- Striped Hyena on Wikipedia
- Brown Hyena on Wikipedia
- Spotted Hyena on Wikipedia
- Leopard on Wikipedia
- American Black Bear on Wikipedia
- Spectacled Bear on Wikipedia
- Asian Black Bear on Wikipedia
- Malayan Sun Bear on Wikipedia
- Sloth bear on Wikipedia
- Jaguar on Wikipedia
- Giant Panda on Wikipedia
- Lion on Wikipedia
- Brown bear on Wikipedia
- Tiger on Wikipedia
- Polar Bear on Wikipedia