Largest Safari Animals in the World
Seeing a giant St. Bernard dog is enough to make most of us think, "Wow, that's big." But the biggest safari animals in the world make a St. Bernard look like a teacup poodle. The biggest of the biggest can weigh up to seven tons.
Strangely, the largest safari animals on record aren't necessarily the most dangerous. Which one of these huge kings of the jungle would you be the least nervous to meet?
Max weight: 165 pounds
Bottom line: Leopards are shorter than cheetahs, but they're slightly heavier. The African leopard is a subspecies of leopard that lives exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite their comparatively small size, they're strong enough to drag prey weighing as much as three times their own weight up a tree. That's like a 120-pound woman being able to throw a 360-pound bodybuilder over her shoulder, then scale a building. Even crossfitters would be stunned.
Leopards are solitary and nocturnal, so spotting one is tough. If you do luck out on a safari, you'll probably spot a leopard lounging on a tree branch waiting for dusk to fall before they turn on their hunting skills.
Max weight: 320 pounds
Bottom line: You wouldn't ordinarily think of a bird as a giant animal, but this one is bigger than most people. Ostriches are the largest species of bird in the world. They're known for living in Australia, but they also live in Africa, roaming open savannas and arid plains on long, muscular legs.
There are several species of ostrich in Africa, and all of them live surprisingly long lives. If they're lucky enough not to become a lion's lunch, ostriches can live up to 35 years.
Max weight: 330 pounds
Bottom line: Oh, hi, Pumba. Fancy meeting you here. Warthogs aren't the prettiest creature, but they're tough enough to live just about anywhere. They spend their days foraging in grasslands, marshes and woodland regions, nibbling on any roots, tubers and berries they can find.
Warthog groups are matriarchal, with large groups of females living together for life. The males, called boars, prefer to lead more solitary lives. No one tell Simba and Timon.
Max weight: 550 pounds
Bottom line: Lions are commonly seen in zoos, but it's a completely different experience to see one in its natural habitat. Lions are the largest cats in Africa, and seeing one on the prowl is awe-inspiring and bone-chilling at the same time.
Visitors are unlikely to witness a lion take down a gazelle, however, as lions behave exactly like the large cats they are.
Much like an oversized house cat, lions snooze away for up to 20 hours of the day. They prefer to hunt at dawn and dusk, so take an early evening tour if you want the best chance of seeing a lion in action.
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Max weight: 600 pounds
Bottom line: Wildebeests are like a cross between a horse, a buffalo and a zebra, at least in appearance. Both blue and black wildebeest species reside in Africa, and massive herds of wildebeests can be seen running across the savanna during their annual migration from Kenya to Serengeti.
Wildebeests are actually a type of antelope, and they're impressively large. While their horns are intimidating, they're gentle grazers, and the biggest risk of a run-in with a herd of wildebeests is getting trampled by mistake.
We'll stay in the Jeep just to be on the safe side.
10. Greater Kudu
Max weight: 690 pounds
Bottom line: Who you callin' a kudu? Considering kudu are miles more attractive than wildebeests or warthogs (sorry, Pumba), calling someone a kudu isn't much of an insult.
Greater kudus are much larger than lesser kudus, but both are athletic and graceful. The greater kudu has striking white stripes and spots, with a delicately patterned face.
They're most easily identified from other antelope species by their lengthy horns. Only males have them, but they're impossible to miss, reaching up to six feet in older adults.
Males tend to be solitary, but female kudu live in small herds. If they were people, they would definitely be the type to visit restaurant bathrooms in tandem.
Max weight: 990 pounds
Bottom line: Zebras aren't mysterious, and they're still incredible to see in person. There are three different species of zebra in Africa, including the rare Grevy's zebra, the mountain zebra, and the more common plains zebra.
They look a lot like striped horses, but they're pretty unique. They can't be tamed like horses can, and their stripes function like fingerprints. No two zebras look exactly alike.
During the annual great migration, zebras tend to travel with wildebeests, forming a mutually beneficial, hopefully stampede-free relationship.
Max weight: 1,920 pounds
Bottom line: African buffalo look distinctly different from the ones we know and love in American history textbooks. They look more like cattle, only with sharply curled horns and a solid, brown coat.
While some species of buffalo have been successfully tamed, the African buffalo has not. They're aggressive and wild, and they're best observed from afar.
They may look less threatening than a lion, but they're far more likely to attack you.
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7. Nile Crocodile
Max weight: 2,200 pounds
Bottom line: Captain Hook should probably cross "African safari" off his bucket list. Nile crocodiles are the second-largest reptiles in the world, coming right behind the saltwater croc.
The biggest Nile crocodiles are more than 20 feet in length. They look like living dinosaurs, and they're not too far off. Their primitive brains and cold-blooded metabolisms are throwbacks to earlier lifeforms, and they haven't changed much for thousands of years.
They employ surprisingly advanced ambush tactics to catch their prey. If a croc looks your way, run. They can bite down with a force of 3,700 pounds per square inch, more than triple the pressure of a lion bite.
Don't stick your arms out of tour boats, and if it comes down to an attack, go for their eyes. It's just about the only place on their body that isn't covered in armor.
6. Giant Eland
Max weight: 2,650 pounds
Bottom line: The word "antelope" might evoke images of light, long-legged creatures gracefully bounding across the savanna. The giant eland, however, is a type of antelope, and it's not light in the slightest. It's massive, with straight, spiral horns and a powerful leap.
They can clear enormous distances with each stride, but you don't have to wait until one runs into view to know it's coming. Elands have an unusual clicking sound to their run, thanks to their splayed hooves that clack together with each step.
Max weight: 3,000 pounds
Bottom line: If we didn't know giraffes were real, we would think they were made-up creatures from a children's book. Giraffes grow up to 18 feet tall, yet they only have seven vertebrae in their necks. Speaking of oddities, their necks are actually too short for them to reach the ground, so grazing on tree leaves is their only option for takeout.
The funny part? They still occasionally need to drink water, and they have to spread out their legs to try to reach it. They also have giant tongues, up to five times longer than the average human tongue.
Even funnier? They're so bad at squats that they even give birth standing up. Imagine being welcomed to the world by an eight-foot drop. Brutal.
4. Black Rhino
Max weight: 3,080 pounds
Bottom line: The black rhino is the smaller of the two rhino species in Africa, but it remains an imposing figure. Rhinos exclusively eat a vegetarian diet, yet they pack on plenty of muscle. They have very poor eyesight, but superb hearing. Their cone-shaped ears work like swivels, rotating to pick up sound from every direction.
They can live up to 50 years, but black rhinos are critically endangered. They were once hunted for their horns, and while conservation efforts are helping, they're still at risk of extinction.
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3. White Rhino
Max weight: 7,000 pounds
Bottom line: The white rhino, also known as the square-lipped rhino, has a much larger and more stable native population than their smaller cousins. There's actually no color difference between black and white rhinos, but the white rhino has a larger head and a distinctive hump on its back.
Rhinos look almost prehistoric, and their habit of wallowing in the mud emphasizes their ancient, rugged style. It has an important purpose, however. Despite having thick, leathery skin, rhinos can get sunburned.
Rolling in mud helps them stay cool and protect themselves from the sun's harsh rays.
Max weight: 9,920 pounds
Bottom line: Think lions and crocodiles are scary? Or rhinos? If you have to pick between facing off with a rhino or a hippo, pick the rhino.
Rhino attacks are rare, but hippos kill over 500 people a year, making them one of the deadliest animals on the African continent. They can run faster than people, and they don't even want to eat us. They just really, really don't like us.
Hippos don't like much of anything, besides relaxing in the water, sleeping, grazing and fighting. Funnily enough, they can't float. They can hold their breath for up to seven minutes, standing on the river bottom and popping up periodically for air.
Max weight: 15,000 pounds
Bottom line: Big surprise, elephants are the largest safari animals on the planet. They can weigh several tons and easily reach 11 feet tall at the shoulder.
They live in large herds that usually range from 10-100 elephants, but one herd was recorded with around 500. That's the heaviest family we've ever heard of.
Elephants are extremely intelligent, with a large brain and an excellent memory. If you meet one, be nice, because it'll probably remember you if you ever stop by for a visit again.