The world’s most powerful animals, ranked

Strength, in numbers.
Elephant, tiger, kangaroo, ostrich, crocodile, mantis shrimp, and other most power animals
We launched a quick investigation to find the king in the animal kingdom. Sean McCabe

This post has been updated. It was originally published on January 1, 2018.

In a battle royale for Most Powerful Animal, a red kangaroo might take the martial-arts belt, thanks to a bone-shattering kick that delivers 759 pounds of force. ­Evolution has nudged wild creatures to hone their blows, bites, and brute strength for ­survival. For ­humans to even measure up, we must methodically shape our bodies with ­specialized ­practice and diet. But what if you pit all of us brutes against each other? That’s just what we did, ­creating the following four competitions to find out who puts the “king” in animal kingdom.


Degrees a Tasmanian devil can open its jaws to chomp carrion snacks or rivals’ faces. This gives its bite a force 3.6 times its weight.


Muscle units in an Asian elephant’s trunk. Its nose has the strength and flexibility to store and spray a gallon of water—or uproot a tree.


Duration, in milliseconds, of an African secretary bird’s cobra-killing kick. In sub-Saharan regions, these predators help control reptile populations.

Punches and kicks
Graph: Sara Chodosh Sean McCabe

In the ring, a taekwondo master with a black belt—and a 136-mile-per-hour kick that hits opponents with 2,300 pounds of force—could go toe to paw with a kangaroo. But the average human gym rat, who lacks the training to focus his kick, would be McGregored in round one.

Graph: Sara Chodosh Sean McCabe

In 2016, English strongman Eddie Hall set the current world record for a dead lift by hoisting 1,102.3 pounds, more than the weight of a concert grand piano. Asian elephants, by comparison, can shift 770 pounds with their trunks alone. Not bad, humans.

bite force
Graph: Sara Chodosh Sean McCabe

If the saltwater crocodile’s horrific bite doesn’t snap a wild boar’s spinal cord, its underwater death spin will surely take it down. With a literal ton of brute force in its jaw, a croc easily out-crunches its closest competitor, the tiger, with a bite six times as strong.

Strength-to-weight ratio
Graph: Sara Chodosh Sean McCabe

Because big animals weigh more, they’re relatively weak for their size. So tiny critters carry this category: A mantis shrimp’s punch delivers more than 3,000 times its weight, and a mite shorter than a tenth of an inch can bench-press nearly 1,200 of its fellows.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2018 Power issue of Popular Science.