These Smelly Animals Will Have You Holding Your Nose
We have many foul-smelling creatures on the planet. But their distinct odors serve a purpose.
Some smelly animals spray noxious fluid at enemies. Others use stinky secretions to mark territory or guard food from scavengers. A few critters even regurgitate, defecate and urinate on themselves or intruders for protection.
These are the smelliest animals in the animal kingdom. So be prepared to hold your nose if you encounter any of these creatures in the wild.
25. Stinkbird (Hoatzin)
Height: 25.6 inches long
Weight: 1.78-2.2 pounds
Longevity: 14-15 years (in the wild), 29-30 (in captivity)
Location: South America
What Makes the Stinkbird So Smelly
The stinkbird is the national bird of Guyana, living in multiple countries in South America. It's a colorful bird known for its unpleasant smell and its clumsiness, noisy behavior and unusual digestion method.
A herbivore, the hoatzin's smell comes from food in its lower esophagus and crop, where bacteria fermentation helps break down their meal for absorption. Unfortunately, this type of foregut digestion produces chemicals that smell like dung.
24. Big Bull Elephant
Height: 12-14 feet
Weight: 12,000-14,000 pounds
Longevity: Up to 70 years
What Makes the Big Bull Elephant So Smelly
These massive animals from Africa are not stinky year-round, but there are a few weeks during mating season when the Bull Elephant's testosterone levels rise by 60 percent.
Their pores excrete unpleasant-smelling hormones during this time, and even worse, 80 gallons of concentrated urine seeps through their skin daily, covering them with a pungent odor.
Bull Elephant in Action
Height: 16-25 inches long
Weight: 1.5-4 pounds
Longevity: 1-3 years
Location: North America
What Makes the Muskrat So Smelly
The muskrat is a semi-aquatic rodent named for its musky smell and rat-like appearance. They are wetland-dwelling mammals with webbed hind feet for swimming and small front feet for digging.
During mating season, the glands near the base of the muskrat's tail give off an awful musky odor, which is what makes them so smelly.
Height: About 1 inch long
Longevity: 1 year
Location: All over the world except Antarctica
What Makes the Earwig So Smelly
Known as "pincher bugs," for the two long pinchers at the end of their body, the earwig is an antisocial bug that sleeps during the day and hunts for food at night. Their unique pinchers are used for attacking predators or catching prey.
Although not poisonous, this insect emits a foul stench when threatened by releasing a stinky liquid from its abdomen.
21. King Rat Snake
Height: Up to 7.9 feet long
Weight: 1.1-4.9 pounds
Longevity: 10-15 years
Location: China, Japan and Taiwan
What Makes the King Rat Snake So Smelly
Also called the Taiwan stink snake, this species is a large, predatory snake that eats insects, birds, rodents, small animals and other snakes — even the venomous ones!
The unpleasant odor attributed to the king ratsnake comes from its post-anal glands, which empty whenever the snake is picked up.
King Rat Snake in Action
Height: 6-8 inches
Weight: 2-5 ounces
Longevity: 2 years
Location: Great Britain
What Makes the Weasel So Smelly
A member of the Mustela genus, the weasel is closely related to ermine, ferrets, polecats and minks and are in the same family as badgers, wolverines and otters.
The weasel is a nocturnal animal that spends its waking hours hunting for food. When threatened, they release a stinky secretion from their anal glands, earning them the reputation of being such smelly animals.
Height: 1-2 feet
Weight: 3.5-70 pounds
Longevity: Up to 20 years
Location: Asia and Africa
What Makes the Pangolin So Smelly
Pangolins are insect-eating mammals that resemble an anteater but have a body covered in hard, overlapping scales. Poaching and habitat loss has made them one of the most threatened mammals in the world.
They deter predators in various ways — hissing, puffing, lashing their sharp-edged tails and curling up into a ball. What makes them so smelly, though, is how they mark their territory with urine and secretions from their glands. That and, ya know, scattering their feces everywhere.
Height: 1-10.5 inches
Longevity: Up to 7 years
What Makes the Millipede So Smelly
Although some people refer to these critters as "thousand leggers," the millipede usually has less than 100 legs (the highest recorded is 750). They don't bite or sting, but they have stink glands that emit an unpleasant smell and bad taste to ward off predators.
If handled by a human, the chemicals from the millipede's emissions can blister the skin.
Height: 2-25 feet
Weight: 8-17 pounds
Longevity: Up to 20 years
Location: South America and Central America
What Makes the Sloth So Smelly
Sloths are tree dwellers that sleep roughly 15 to 20 hours a day and spend 90 percent of their lives upside down. Due to the slowness of their movement, algae actually grows on their fur and leaves a smell similar to the trees in which they live.
But the odor is a green, earthy scent that helps protect them from predators in the jungle.
16. Turkey Vulture
Height: About 2 feet
Weight: 3.3 pounds
Longevity: Up to 24 years
Location: Canada, North America and South America
What Makes the Turkey Vulture So Smelly
The turkey vulture is related to the stork and has a naked, red head similar to a turkey, hence the name. They are scavenger birds that only eat fresh carrion rather than hunting live prey. They have the largest olfactory system of any bird, which accounts for their extraordinary sense of smell that leads them to carcasses over a mile away.
Turkey vultures help clean up the environment by eating the flesh of dead animals before the meat rots and causes pestilence. However, adult vultures feed their fledglings regurgitated meat in addition to vomiting on predators and defecating on themselves to keep cool.
Turkey Vulture in Action
Height: 15 inches long
Weight: 1.5-4.4 pounds
Longevity: 5-10 years
Location: North America
What Makes the Ferret So Smelly
Ferrets are part of the Mustelidae family and were domesticated roughly 2,500 years ago. During WWII, they were used to protect grain stores from rodents and became popular pets in the 1980s and ’90s.
Ferrets have anal glands that secrete a smelly liquid to mark their territory. They also have a build-up of oil from their skin glands, which gives them a musky odor. An unneutered ferret has the most potent smell of all due to its natural hormones.
14. Bombardier Beetle
Height: About 1 inch
Weight: 3 ounces
Longevity: 2-3 years
Location: Everywhere except Antarctica
What Makes the Bombardier Beetle So Smelly
When the bombardier beetle feels threatened, it ejects a mixed chemical spray (made of hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide) from the tip of its abdomen. This beetle can spray its foul-smelling liquid up to four times its body length to kill predators such as other insects and small creatures.
Unfortunately, the fluid can also be painful if sprayed on human skin.
Bombardier Beetle in Action
13. American Mink
Height: 2 feet long
Weight: 1-3 pounds
Longevity: 10 years
Location: U.S and Canada
What Makes the American Mink So Smelly
Minks live in dense areas near rivers and are carnivores that prey on muskrats, rabbits, mice, chipmunks, frogs, snakes, fish and birds. They are very territorial animals that spray intruders with a pungent liquid from their scent glands.
But unlike the skunk, the mink cannot aim its spray accurately, leaving an unpleasant odor surrounding the entire area sprayed.
American Mink in Action
12. Sea Hare
Height: 3-14 inches
Weight: Up to 30 pounds
Longevity: 1 year
Location: Coastal waters around the U.S.
What Makes the Sea Hare So Smelly
The sea hare is part of the marine snail and sea slug family. They have ear-like structures in their heads and tentacles near their mouths for feeding on algae and seagrass.
What makes them so stinky is the toxic dye and slime they release to defend themselves against predators. The smelly, purple secretion acts as a smokescreen so that the sea hare can escape from intruders.
11. Tasmanian Devil
Height: 20-31 inches
Weight: 9-26 pounds
Longevity: 5 years
Location: Tasmania and New South Wales
What Makes the Tasmanian Devil So Smelly
The largest, carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian devil, is a dog-like animal with red ears, wide jaws and large, sharp teeth. The demonic shrieks they make in the hours after dark are what earned them their name.
But, unfortunately, they smell bad, too. This is due to the scent glands they use to mark their territory, leaving a strong and repulsive odor to humans.
Tasmanian Devil in Action
10. Green Wood Hoopoe
Height: 9-18 inches
Weight: About 2 ounces
Longevity: Up to 10 years
Location: South Africa
What Makes the Green Wood Hoopoe So Smelly
The green wood hoopoe is a non-migratory bird that resides mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, thriving on insects and anthropods.
Whenever this bird feels threatened, it raises its tail and releases a stinky substance containing dimethyl sulfide, which smells like a rotten egg.
Green Wood Hoopoe in Action
Height: 5-6 feet
Weight: Up to 90 pounds
Longevity: 8-9 years
Location: Pacific coasts of Russia, Alaska and the central California coast
What Makes the Otter So Smelly
Another animal that is part of the Mustelidae family, the otter has webbed feet and thick fur that traps air to keep them buoyant in water. These nocturnal critters live in dens near the water and eat marine animals, consuming roughly 25 percent of their weight in food each day.
Like many other Mustelidae, they produce a disagreeable scent from their anal glands when threatened or to mark their territory. The pungent odor — especially from their feces — is most likely from a steady diet of fish, crab and other sea creatures.
8. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
Height: Less than an inch
Weight: Less than an ounce
Longevity: 6-8 months
Location: China, Japan and Korea
What Makes the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug So Smelly
These shield-shaped insects are one of the most well-known stink bugs around due to their invasive nature. They harm crops such as soybean and peanut and are also known for eating fruit trees.
The brown marmorated stink bug can be found in gardens, orchards and farmlands where they live in swarms worldwide. When threatened or crushed, the insect releases a smelly odor similar to the scent of a skunk's spray.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in Action
7. American Badger
Height: 2-3 feet
Weight: 8-26 pounds
Longevity: 4-5 years (in the wild)
Location: North America, Canada and Northern Mexico
What Makes the American Badger So Smelly
The American Badger builds burrows and dens in open areas like prairies, farmlands and the plains where it can safely sleep, hunt, raise babies and store food. Badgers fight with their sharp teeth and claws to protect their home from invaders.
They are also known for producing an unpleasant odor from their anal glands to drive away predators. The scent gland under the tail is less smelly, and the musky odor is used to communicate by scent-marking.
American Badger in Action
Height: 8-9 inches (not including tail)
Weight: Up to 14 pounds
Longevity: 3 years
Location: The Americas
What Makes the Skunk So Smelly
These notoriously smelly critters can shoot their pungent spray at an intruder 12 feet away and their aim is very accurate! There are two glands at the base of the skunk's tail, and if the animal feels threatened, they give plenty of warning by stamping their front feet, lifting their tail and growling.
The spray they emit is usually aimed at the eyes of his predator, allowing the skunk time to escape. They leave behind an odor that can last for several days on their intended target.
5. Lesser Anteater
Height: 2-3 feet
Weight: 4.5-17 pounds
Longevity: 6-7 years (in the wild), 9-11 (in captivity)
Location: Central America and South America
What Makes the Lesser Anteater So Smelly
Also known as the southern tamandua, the lesser anteater lives in both wet and dry forest areas. They eat ants and termites primarily, consuming roughly 10,000 insects a day.
They're considered one of the smelliest animals on the planet due to the stinky odor they emit from their anal glands, which is seven times stronger than a skunk's scent.
Lesser Anteater in Action
Height: 2.5 feet
Weight: 9-13 pounds
Longevity: 2-4 years
Location: The Americas
What Makes the Opossum So Smelly
A marsupial related to the kangaroo and the koala, the opossum is only native to the U.S. They resemble large rats with long noses and skinny tails. They're known for eating garbage and insects, rats, mice and dead animals.
Opossums are non-aggressive creatures but will use their 50 sharp teeth to defend themselves if necessary. If threatened, they will go into a comatose state and emit a stinky substance from their anus to ward off predators.
Height: 26-36 inches long
Weight: 20-55 pounds
Longevity: 5-13 years
Location: U.S. and Canada
What Makes the Wolverine So Smelly
The wolverine is a muscular animal that looks like a cross between a skunk and a small bear but is actually the largest critter in the Mustelidae family. They have a compact body that helps them conserve heat in the cold and thick fur that repels water. The wolverine's diet consists mainly of carrion, which they fiercely guard while eating.
Like the weasel, the wolverine also has glands that secrete a musky fluid, earning them the nickname "nasty cat." This same smelly liquid is sprayed on their leftover food and then buried to conceal it from other hungry animals.
2. Musk Ox
Height: 3-5 feet
Weight: 400-900 pounds
Longevity: 12-20 years
What Makes the Musk Ox So Smelly
The musk ox is a large, furry mammal with curled horns and long hair that nearly touches the ground. Their thick coat has a coarse, outer layer and short, fine hair underneath to keep them warm in the chilly arctic climate.
What makes the musk ox so smelly is the musky odor from their urine. This is used to mark their territory but often gets matted into their underbelly hair, giving them a distinctive stench.
1. Striped Polecat
Height: 24-28 inches long
Weight: 1.3-2.9 pounds
Longevity: 5-6 years
What Makes the Striped Polecat So Smelly
Also known as the zorilla, the striped polecat is a close relative to the African weasel but has longer fur and unique white dots on their head. Their diet consists of small animal prey that is found while foraging in the soil.
This critter is legendary for the noxious fumes it emits from its anal glands while bravely standing up against larger predators. Nevertheless, it takes top honors when it comes to being the stinkiest animal on earth.
Striped Polecat in Action