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A close-up of a dog's nose, one of the animals with the best sense of smell

Unique Animals With The Best Sense Of Smell: The Best Sniffers

Most people know that dogs make exceptional sniffers, but what about others in the animal kingdom? From rats who use their scent receptor to sense danger to sharks who use their olfactory system to smell prey, we're listing down unique animals with the best sense of smell. Get ready for a nose showdown with these animals!

Animals With The Best Sense Of Smell: How And Why?

These animals have all developed their keen senses to be able to survive in the wild. Unlike humans, animals base their actions purely on senses, thus the need for highly-functioning ones.

Many animals also use scent receptors in order to communicate with each other. An example of this is how females produce pheromones while mating, which allows the other sex to search them out and reproduce.

While man’s best friends have not been included in this list, even dog shirt wearers can appreciate the diversity of the animal kingdom. Enjoy reading and learning more about these creatures!

African Elephant

The highly developed olfactory sense of these African giants is no joke. A study among these amazing beings found that African elephants have about two thousand functioning olfactory receptor genes.

To compare, this is about four times the number of an average human. So their long noses aren’t just for show, after all.

The results of this study are a shock to many, as it was previously believed that rats, not elephants, were the strongest sniffers in the animal kingdom.

That said, these adorable creatures are sadly in danger of extinction. A report from the Great Elephant Census shows their numbers to decrease an average of eight percent each year.

It doesn't help that many of them were also being held as captive for entertainment purposes, like the iconic Barnum elephants. Thankfully though, these shows  are getting a lot of pressure from the public and many of them have been phased out already.

Take the time to appreciate these sniffy giants and advocate for their preservation today!


A hissing snake on a pile of dried leaves

Next up on the list are the cute slinky snakes! Okay, maybe they’re not cute for everyone, but no one’s going to deny the strength of their ability to smell, not even their competitors for the title.

Interestingly enough though, snakes don't actually sniff, they’re more of a licker. That is, they taste and detect scent particles through the air with their tongue.

But with that said, another question comes to mind. If snakes use their tongue for smelling, what’s their nose for then? I mean, they still have nostrils, right?

The answer is quite simple and obvious: they use it for breathing. Even though they don’t use it to smell, they still quite clearly need this organ for survival.


You might have never heard of moths having a good ability to smell, or any other insects for that matter. The truth, however, is that moths actually have finely-tuned odor receptors, their antennae to be specific, which they use to function every day.

Odor is a very important factor in a moth’s life and affects some of their major behaviors. For example, they find their mates through the detection of pheromones. Females also find a nesting place by smelling plants.

While their method might be quite eccentric, it doesn’t make it any less powerful. However, it does have its weaknesses, primarily it being most suited for scents that are already familiar to moths. For example, while they may be able to sniff out some plants, they probably won’t be able to differentiate between a cheeseburger and a bacon.

Grizzly Bear

Another animal well worth a place on this list is the ferocious grizzly. These wild animals are well-known for their acute olfactory sense, which is necessary for their survival in the wild.

Although their senses are not as exceptional as compared to other canids, such as dogs or hyenas, the grizzly still has a respectable nose on its own. This mostly owes itself to the size of their nose, specifically their nasal mucosa, which is about a hundred times more than that of a human.

Perhaps due to this, the grizzly is able to navigate its way around the environment and track down food. It is also suggested that bears use scent markers in order to communicate with each other.

Great White Shark

A great white shark swimming underwater, one of the best sniffers in the animal kingdom

Another well-known predator, great white sharks, is similar to their terrestrial counterparts in that they need a keen scent sensor in order to sniff out possible prey from miles away. It’s commonly said that they can sense a single drop of blood in ten billion drops of water.

These amazing creatures have evolved specifically to adapt to their environment. In fact, around two-thirds of their brain’s weight is dedicated to processing scent particles, thus emphasizing its importance to their survival.

If you’re wondering where their nostrils are, it’s actually under their snout. It’s also been said that great whites have the largest olfactory bulb among others of their kind, making them very efficient hunters.

Combined this with their supernatural electro-reception, vision, and hearing…they truly are the great hunters of the sea.

African Giant Pouched Rat

Rats are not only some of the best small pets for kids, they're also one of the best sniffers in the animal kingdom. Among these amazing rodents are the African giant pouched rat, an amazing animal native to central Africa.

These rodents are not your average rats, reaching up to the size of a cat. Also, they have extremely bad vision. However, what they lack in sight, they make up for with their extraordinary olfactory sense.

In fact, their oral receptors are too good that they’re actually being trained to work as professional bomb detectors. They are particularly good at detecting landmines, as their light weight is not enough to set off the bombs even if they run over them.

A nonprofit organization named APOPO has specialized in making an army of these bomb sniffers in order to cull out remaining minefields in Africa and other parts of the world. Since its establishment in 1997, they have been able to clear more than thirteen thousand mines all over the globe.


This may come up as a surprise to some, but in fact, cows are some of the best sniffers in the world. They are especially good at detecting food sources or predators, even if these things are six miles away.

It’s also said that they have a stronger olfactory sense than dogs in that they are able to differentiate scent particles from each other. This is particularly helpful when trying to avoid poisonous plants and other things which might harm them.

Their sense is such that it’s generally not advised to wear anything strong when you’re near them. Doing so may overwhelm their noses and cause unnecessary stress to these darlings.

They can even learn to sniff out a specific cow from a herd of a thousand cows (especially helpful for mothers as calves essentially look the same). They’re also reported to have twenty times the number of receptors we have in our nostrils.


What animal has the greatest sense of smell?

It depends on what the measure is. In general, however, and also based on recent studies, it's generally agreed that elephants are genetically the winners. Rats come close at second place, with dogs scoring surprisingly lower than both. 

Why are humans bad at smelling?

It can be explained by simple evolution. Many animals retain high senses because they need it to survive, whereas humans develop their brains more because it's what makes them successful.

Are animals good at smelling?

In general, yes. While some creatures may lack in this area, they are almost always made up for through another extraordinary sensory organ.

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