A Top 10 list of the Largest Living Land Carnivores
In order to determine which land carnivores are the largest we must first understand what a carnivore is and what we mean by 'largest'. Does the largest mean the most massive, the longest, the tallest or a combination of all of these? If it is a combination, how do we decide which deserves a greater weighting? Does an animal that is more massive mean it is larger than an animal that is longer than it, but has less mass? These are questions that have never been definitively answered and perhaps never will, so the only way to decide upon such a thing is to vote, with whatever the majorities decision being the accepted interpretation.
So I have cultivated this list of land carnivores and have given their average masses and dimensions leaving the decision up to you. Once enough people have partaken in the voting, I will re order the list to match. Hopefully we will be able to end a much argued debate on what is the largest land carnivore as even amongst scientists the number one spot is still disputed.
Weight: 750 - 1,500 lb
Length: 8 - 10 ft
Shoulder Height: 4.25 - 5.25 ft
As many of you no doubt know, the Polar Bear is native to the Arctic Circle. Although a close descendant of the brown bear it has evolved to become perfectly suited to life around ice, snow and very cold water.
The majority of its food comes from seals and the occasional fish, with no vegetation at all. Clearly this is a carnivore, however, it spends the majority of its life at sea, hunting, so can it really be given the title of a land carnivore?
Ursus arctos middendorffi
Weight: 800 - 1400 lbs
Length: 8 - 10 ft
Shoulder Height: 4 - 5 ft
The Kodiak Bear is native to the archipelago, Kodiak, off the South Coast of Alaska. A sub-species of brown bear, the Kodiak Bear is able to reach a fantastic size thanks to it having a rather unique niche in the food market, similar to the Polar Bear. Living on a small island in the Pacific Ocean it is able to feed on fresh water salmon and whale carcasses that have washed up on shore. It also feeds a great deal on vegetation when meat sources are dry, making it a controversial addition to this list. Is it a carnviore or an omnivore, scientists constantly give it both titles as there is no definitive line between the two.
Here you can join the ongoing debate on which bear is larger, the Polar Bear, or Kodiak Bear. Please note, we are not debating here whether or not these should be classed as land carnivores, although you are welcome to add that to your comment, just please answer which you think deserves the number 1 spot in the largest bear contest. Thanks!
Some additional facts, the heaviest polar bear ever discovered weighed in at 2210 lbs, whilst the largest Kodiak Bear weighed in at 2500 lbs!
Which is Larger?
Weight: 600 - 675 lbs
Length: 9 - 11 ft
Shoulder Height: 3 - 4 ft
The Tiger, the largest species of cat and an unfortunate member of the endangered animals list. The Tiger rarely needs an introduction, nevertheless, it deserves one. Fascinating humans for a millenia the Tiger's most noticeable features are its black stripes that run transversely along the length of its body. That, along with it's beautiful tawny orange fur has made it a prized possession amongst poachers. Thanks to the combination of its beauty and man's love for destruction it has brought this creature to the bridge of extinction.
There are 6 subspecies of Tiger:
- Bengal Tiger: The most common kind of Tiger with around 2500 individuals
- Indochinese Tiger: Around 1500 individuals.
- Malayan Tiger: Around 700 individuals.
- Sumatran Tiger: Around 400 individual, this is the smallest subspecies of Tiger, and one of two Tiger subspecies on the critically endangered list.
- Siberian Tiger: The largest subspecies of Tiger, with around 500 individuals.
- South China Tiger: The most critically endangered Tiger and in the top 10 most endangered animals on the planet. No wild South China Tiger has been seen since 1983 with the possibility that they may already be extinct in the wild, only 58 captive South China Tigers remain.
Weight: 350 - 550 lbs
Length: 6 - 8 ft
Shoulder Height: 3.5 - 4.5 ft
The Lion's most prominent feature is its large shaggy mane on the male of the species. Although no obvious evolutionary advantage it is thought to be used as a sign of dominance over other males, and an attractive characteristic for interested females. Native to Africa and parts of Asia, the Lion is the second largest species of Cat, with only some of the larger species of Tiger beating it. Lions tend to live in packs called a pride, where one male lion and a number of females lions and infants cohabitate. Lions without a pride are usually called nomads and are usually young male adults, or young brothers looking for a pride.
Weight: 250 - 500 lbs
Length: 15 - 25 ft
Native to South America, this giant is a non-venomous snake and the heaviest of all known snake species. It captures its prey using a combination of stealth and speed, and kills by constriction (suffocating the animal to death) and then swallows the animal whole. It has been known to feed on a range of different species, including fish, birds and even large mammals such as deer. Myth and Legend have followed this creature for much of its life, with accounts of tree-trunk sized snakes of up to a metre in diameter, and over 40 feet in length, although the largest ever found was a 25 ft specimen. Nevertheless, the habitat in which these snakes are caught are mostly populated regions of South America where only smaller prey is readily available. The dense rainforest where the snake is native, is however, far richer in larger prey indicating that much larger specimens of Anaconda are indeed likely.
Weight: 150 - 300 lbs
Length: 15 - 30 ft
Noted as the longest snake in the world, the reticulated python is native to Southeast Asia. Similar to the Anaconda, it kills its prey by constriction, and then swallowing. The main sources of food are birds and small mammals although near human populations they have been known to kill chickens, dogs and cats, as well as other livestock such as pigs. Like the Anaconda, they are also excellent swimmers, allowing them to migrate across great lengths of water to nearby islands.
Weight: 150 - 300 lbs
Length: 4.5 - 6.5 ft
Shoulder Height: 2 - 2.5 ft
The third largest species of cat, the Jaguar is perhaps the most famous cat in history, with its name being the chosen logo of the famous British Car make. It is native to most of the Americas with its main range being from the south of North America to the north of South America. A solitary animal like most cats, it relies on stealth and surprise to capture its prey and as you can see from its small height yet large weight, this cat is rather short and stocky, as such, it relies on its strength and power to overcome its prey.
Weight: 150 - 200 lbs
Length: 5 - 7 ft
Shoulder Height: 2.5 - 3.5 ft
Although not truly dog or cat like in nature, their appearance leans more towards the canines, whilst their mannerisms more so towards the feline family. They are most notably known as the scavenger of Africa, although over 95% of their intake of food is from what they themselves have caught and killed. Their ability to work together has made them an important and powerful force in Africa, with certain aspects of their communicative abilities shown to be more advanced than in chimpanzees!
Weight: 150 - 200 lbs
Length: 7 - 8.5 ft, including its tail
Shoulder Height: 2.5 - 3.5 ft
Although domestic dogs can grow larger and heavier than the Gray Wolf, I decided to just include the wild species of the Canidae family. Found in many parts of the world the Gray Wolf is a pack hunter consisting usually of a dominant mating pair, their offspring and occasionally some adopted immature wolves. They are known for their spectacular night vision and incredibly strong bite, outmatched only by that of the Hyena.
Too Difficult for one person to decide
Honestly, out of all the animals in this list, the largest animal that I could feel completely confident in saying is both a carnivore and a land animal, is the Tiger. The Polar and Kodiak bears whilst both definitely land animals in terms of physique, hunt for the majority of their meat in water. The Kodiak Bear also has a diet consisting of a lot of vegetation. The Elephant Seal is definitely the largest carnivore that can go on land but you still have to remember that it's seal, and this debate is about the largest land carnivore, so one could argue that it's not a carnivore on land at all, as it never hunts on land. The same argument can be used for the Walrus, Leatherback Sea Turtle and the Saltwater Crocodile. The other bears in this list, whilst part of the order Carnivora, and with teeth and stomach's suited to meat eating, have a diet consisting mostly of plants.
So I am leaving it up to you. Do you think the Elephant Seal classifies as a land carnivore? If so, it deserves your vote. Do you think all the bears belong in this list, or does their carnivorous characteristics have nothing to do with whether they are a carnivore or not? Is it simply based on what they eat? As you can see, I cannot answer this, if I had I would have opened up a debate unintentionally. So instead, I decided to open a debate intentionally.
Below you can vote on which animals you think deserve the number 1-10 spots, and which animals you think should not be in this list at all.
American Black Bear
Weight: 125 - 550 lbs
Length: 5 - 7 ft
Diet: Comination of plants and meat depending on season
Reason for not making the list: Arguably more of an omnivore than a carnivore, although as I said, it's arguable.
Asiatic Black Bear
Weight: 200 - 330 lbs
Length: 4 - 6 ft
Diet: Mainly plants with some animals.
Reason for not making the list: Although more carnivorous than the American Black Bear but are still classed as an omnivore, I think!
Weight: 250 - 330 lbs
Height: 4 - 6 ft
Diet: 99% bamboo
Reason for not making the list: See it's diet!
I know I'm missing some other large bears such as the Spectacled bear and the Sun Bear but their reasons for not being included are the same, however, if you feel they deserve a place, perhaps for some reason that I have not stated (maybe you're an expert on the Sun Bear), then please leave a comment and I will add it to the list.
Other "Land-ish" Carnivores
The Elephant Seal
Weight: 5000 - 9000 lbs
Length: 14 - 16 ft
Diet: The majority of their diet is made up of fish and squid.
Reason for not making the list: They are a seal, and whilst they spend the majority of their life on land, they hunt in water and their bodies are adapted for water not land. Plus they would make this list a little one sided, they're huge!
Weight: 2000 - 4000 lbs
Length: 7 - 12 ft
Diet: Mainly clams, shrimp and crabs
Reason for not making the list: Same reason as the Elephant Seal
Leatherback Sea Turtle
Weight: 500 - 1500 lbs
Length: 6 - 7 ft
Diet: Almost entirely jellyfish
Reason for not making the list: Well, it's a turtle and renowned for living at sea, although they nest on land, and it's where all baby sea turtles are born.
Weight: 1000 - 2000 lbs
Length: 15 - 20 ft
Diet: Consisting purely of meat taken from any animal that it comes across.
Reason for not making the list: As it spends the majority of its time in water, and most of its kills occur in water, does it really qualify as a land animal?
Please let me know if you like this lens or if you feel I have made an error or am missing any animals that deserve a place in this list.
Tell me what you think
Ecosia on January 17, 2020:
i used ecosia to search this! yay! ive searched a few things now and my counter is up to 13!
Ron Baughman on October 10, 2018:
Have you considered the Komodo dragon for your list? At 10+ feet it might at least make interesting discussion.
Paula Youmell, RN on June 26, 2016:
Thanks for a fun and informative article.
Vivek on February 15, 2015:
I had no idea how to approach this beoefr-now I'm locked and loaded.
anonymous on August 24, 2013:
Salt water crocodile, weighing in at up to a massive 4,400 lbs.....owns it
anonymous on August 08, 2013:
I think grey wolf should be der b4 Spotted Hyena ...as dey look larger (not only bcoz of its thick fur) dan dat of hyena
anonymous on July 27, 2013:
boomerex (author) on June 03, 2013:
@anonymous: The leopard and the cougar were very close to being in my list but as the jaguar, lion and tiger are all bigger I had to choose them first and I didn't want the list totally dominated by bears and cats.
The line between an omnivore and a carnivore is very broad, hence why I included the Kodiak Bear in my list. As such, I didn't feel the need to include Brown Bears as the Kodiak is the largest of them.
Also, whilst cheetahs maybe of a similar height to the hyena, jaguar and grey wolf, their mass is considerably smaller.
anonymous on June 02, 2013:
Cheetah's are actually relatively small and light, since they're built for speed, but grizzly bears could probably fit!
anonymous on May 28, 2013:
You should add Human to this list.
anonymous on March 02, 2013:
i think you should also add cougar
FashionMommy on January 18, 2013:
Very informative lens.
anonymous on November 27, 2012:
Where is the leopard and kodiak bears are omnivores plus how about cougar, cheetah and brown bears
boomerex (author) on October 02, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi Robyn, thanks for commenting!
I was going to put the grizzly bear on the list but figured that I would just go with one brown bear, the Kodiak. Otherwise this list would be dominated entirely by bears! Which isn't a bad thing, I just wanted a bit of variety in the list.
anonymous on October 01, 2012:
The grizzly bear should probably be on this list.
blue22d on September 13, 2012:
Fun and informative lens. Love the Panda and all cats!
KimGiancaterino on November 25, 2011:
I've never encountered any of these magnificent animals in the wild. The closest was being on a California beach with some very large sea lions.
Thomas F. Wuthrich from Michigan on November 13, 2011:
An extremely interest and wellowritten lens! I really enjoyed this one. Great photo of the polar bear family. Looks like countless livingrooms on Sunday afternoons during football season.
anonymous on October 31, 2011:
Beautiful list of animals and awesome photographs! :)
JoshK47 on October 30, 2011:
What wonderful animals these are - some of my favorites, in fact. I love tigers and wolves. :) Blessed by a SquidAngel!