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How much would it hurt if someone bit you as hard as they could? A lot, right? They’d probably break skin, draw blood, and do relatively serious damage. Now imagine how it would feel to be bitten by an animal whose bite is 25 times more powerful than a human’s. Yikes! Check out 12 animals with the strongest bites in the world.
(Note: Numbers are based on evidence, estimates and extrapolations. Bite force among animals will always vary from subject to subject.)
12. Dog (325 pounds per square inch)
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they’re not to be messed with when on the attack. Dogs turn their powerful jaws on millions of Americans every year, and a small handful of those on the receiving end of dog bites even die as a result. But with the vast amount of physical variation among breeds, there’s also not a consistent degree of bite strength in the species. In other words, you’ll probably walk away in better shape from a Yorkshire Terrier’s bite than a bite from, say, a snarling Rottweiler. The breed that is considered to have the strongest bite of all dogs is the Mastiff, with some estimates putting its bite at more than 500 psi. German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls also have notably strong bites. Letter carriers beware.
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11. Great White Shark (625 psi)
It may surprise you to see the villain from "Jaws" positioned so low on this list. After all, shark attacks stand for many of us as the quintessential deadly animal attack. And even if you don't have a particular fear of sharks, meeting a Great White while taking a dip in the ocean is the most likely the very last animal encounter you’d ever wish for. Indeed, don’t let this ranking dissuade you from the notion that Great Whites are as deadly as you’ve always thought. But it’s mainly the size and shape of the sharks’ teeth that make them so dangerous. With mouths full of huge razors, they simply don’t need an excess of force in order to tear through you like a knife through warm butter. That’s not to say that 625 psi of chomping power is anything to sneeze at. We’re still talking about the 11th most forceful bite on the planet.
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10. Lion (650 psi)
He may be king of the jungle, but the lion isn’t king of this list, even among felines (as you’ll see). At approximately 650 pounds per square inch, the lion’s bite is relatively weak compared to that of other big cats. In our nightmares, being attacked by a lion may be all about being pounced on and torn to ribbons with flying claws and rending teeth. But the way most cats take down their prey is more subtle than that. When a lion attacks a wildebeest or buffalo, it clamps its jaws down on its victims throat, crushing the trachea. Once the prey is dead from suffocation, the pride feasts. Even though a lion’s bite is “weak” (although still six times that of a human), their jaws are only one weapon in their arsenal, so don’t start thinking it’s a smart idea to go out and poke a lion with a stick.
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9. Bear (975 psi)
Bears are only No. 9 on this list, but they win the prize for most adorable. Not that there’s much cute about an angry, 800-pound grizzly, but between teddy bears, Winnie the Pooh and other pop-culture bear icons, humanity seems to have a long-standing wish to see these beasts as mere pot-bellied, sunny-dispositioned cuties that want nothing more out of life than honey and hugs. If you see one in the wild, though, don’t dare try rubbing its tummy. A bear’s 975-psi bite is enough to crush a bowling ball. And bear attacks aren’t particularly rare, either. If you plan on hiking or camping anywhere there are bears (i.e., basically any place for hiking or camping), you’d better know ahead of time what to do in case you encounter one. A bear is liable to attack you if it perceives you as any kind of a threat to its territory, food or family. Or it may just be hungry, and you look delicious. Don’t end up like these folks.
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8. Alligator Snapping Turtle (1,000 psi)
If you ever went freshwater swimming as a kid, you might have had a friend or a sibling who teased you about dangerous snapping turtles waiting to bite off your fingers and toes. If we’re talking about the common snapping turtle, which are fairly docile and harmless, you probably had nothing to worry about. But if you happened upon an alligator snapping turtle, you might actually have been in danger of losing a digit or two. Though it is the smallest animal on this list, the alligator snapping turtle’s bite packs enough of a punch to slice through finger bones with ease. Granted, that kind of trauma is very rare because these turtles are uncommon and not particularly aggressive, but amputated fingers are not completely unheard of. Plus, alligator snapping turtles can live to be around 100 years old, and you know how cranky the elderly can be sometimes. Just watch where you step the next time you take a dip in the creek.
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7. Tiger (1,050 psi)
Of the big cats, tigers have been the deadliest to humans, although this is due mostly to tigers living closely with us in India and other parts of Asia. But it remains true that they are among nature’s finest predators. They are the largest big cat, and with a bite force of around 1,050 psi, they bite almost twice as hard as lions do. Perhaps that’s why lions hunt in packs to take down their prey, while tigers are perfectly content — and efficient — flying solo. No teamwork needed, not with jaws like that. Even a trained tiger who’s “just playing” can do some serious damage. For example, Roy Horn of Seigfried and Roy was the victim of the most famous tiger attack when his show tiger, Montecore, attacked him during a performance. Some experts claim that after Horn tripped accidentally, Montecore was only trying to help by using his maw to grip the entertainer by the throat and drag him off-stage. The tiger’s “assistance” ended Horn’s career and almost claimed his life.
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6. Hyena (1,100 psi)
Hyenas suffer from a pop-cultural reputation as cowardly scavengers. (Most have us have seen “The Lion King,” right?) It’s mostly undeserved. Although hyenas are indeed scavengers — but hey, so are dogs — they do hunt and kill their own food the majority of the time. With their aggression, and a biting force that rates as one of the most powerful of all mammals on Earth, hyenas have even been known to chase off lions in order to claim prey for themselves. Take that, Mufasa. And whether you’re talking about fresh kills or scavenged caracasses, hynenas are ravenous and leave little behind. When feeding, they routinely shatter and consume bone using their mega-powerful jaws. Shuddering yet? If you plan on camping in hyena territory, beware. They may attack unprovoked. Just this summer, hyenas attacked a sleeping Kenyan family in the middle of the night, killing two children and injuring six other people.
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5. Gorilla (1,300 psi)
Gorillas are the largest of all our primate cousins. With huge, muscular, tree-trunk-like arms and enormous canine teeth biting down at a strength of 1,300 pounds per square inch, a 400-pound silverback (adult male gorilla) certainly cuts an imposing figure. That said, these gentle giants are little threat to people. They are herbivorous, peaceful and generally shy in the presence of humans. But silverback troop leaders will engage in combat should they meet and come into conflict in the wild, and these fights are often to the death. It’s in these situations that the ferocious teeth and formidable bite of the gorilla come into play. Gorilla-on-human attacks are not entirely unheard of, either, although these usually take the form of self-defense or, in the case of a zookeeper in Buffalo, N.Y., who was bitten by a gorilla last spring, “love bites.” Even though reports indicated the bites in this instance were intended to be playful, they sent the keeper to the hospital, and a SWAT team had to be called in to tranquilize the gorilla. Chomp!
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4. Jaguar (1,350 psi)
Are you surprised to find the jaguar listed here at No. 4, beating out lions and tigers when it comes to biting power? It’s no mistake. Jaguars have a more powerful bite than any other cat on the planet, and the second most powerful bite of all mammals. Do you remember when we described the way lions and other cats take down their prey by using their jaws to crush their victims’ throats and suffocate them to death? Jaguars aren’t that subtle. Their jaws are powerful enough to deliver a deadly bite that punctures skull and brain, which is exactly how jaguars kill. They even sometimes feast on turtles, because jaguars enjoy the rare ability to be able to bust through a turtle’s thick shell with their mighty chops. They may not be the biggest, strongest or deadliest killers in the felid family, but when it comes to biting, jaguars take the cake.
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3. Hippopotamus (1,825 psi)
The hippopotamus is widely considered to be the No. 1 most dangerous animal in Africa, which certainly puts it in the running for most dangerous animal in the world. They may look like goofy, awkward oafs, but make no mistake: nearly everything about the hippopotamus is deadly. Enormous at 4,000 pounds (that’s two tons), hippos are among the largest mammals. They are aggressive and, despite appearances, they are relatively fast and able to reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour. And those huge maws! Their mouths are filled with teeth that can reach nearly 2 feet in length, backed by the most powerful bite of any land mammal. And despite the species’ meatless diet, it takes little provocation for a hippo to attack a human. More hippos kill people in Africa than any other animal. A recent theory even posits that King Tut was killed by one. Taming them won’t work either. In South Africa, a farmer named Marius Els raised a pet hippo, Humphrey, from the animal’s infancy. “Humphrey's like a son to me,” Els said. However, Humphrey bit and killed Els last year. In short, a hippo’s bite = death.
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2. Alligator (2,125 psi)
Planning a vacation to Florida, or thinking about retiring there? Keep in mind that you’ll be entering the gator capital of the world. These kings of the Southern American wetlands possess the second strongest bite on Earth, and are faced with no predators of their own. Alligators will eat fish, birds, turtles, and even dogs or the occasional deer. And while they generally aren’t aggressive toward humans, attacks certainly happen. For details, you can see a record of every alligator attack in the state of Florida since 1948, but here are some interesting and disquieting highlights: Alligators killed more Floridians between 2000 and 2007 (12 victims) than the entire '70s, '80s and '90s combined. That number includes three people who were killed within just one week in May 2006. And even if an alligator’s bite doesn’t kill a person, it can still easily amputate a limb, which is what happened to Carol Hough, who lost her arm to a gator in July, and Kaleb Langdale, who suffered the same fate in September.
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1. Crocodile (3,700 psi)
It’s no surprise that the alligator’s close cousin tops our list. With a mind-boggling 3,700 pounds per square inch of bite force, crocodiles boast 1,200 psi more than this list’s runner up, and more than twice as much chomping power than the third-place hippopotamus. When it comes to biting, crocodiles simply leave all their competition in the dust. Saltwater crocodiles are the largest reptiles on the planet, with some specimens measuring more than 20 feet long and weighing more than a ton. Relative to their enormous size, it’s no wonder their large and powerful jaw muscles make crocodiles’ snouts among the world’s deadliest traps. And while they’re typically lazy and able to survive for long periods without food, crocs can and will apply their formidable choppers to just about any prey that is ill-fated enough to enter their territory, including cows, water buffalo, sharks and, yes, humans. Need an example of how quickly and easily a hungry croc can finish you off? In 2009, a crocodile gruesomely took a human head clean off with a snap of its jaws.