The animal kingdom is an incredible source of unique behaviors and symbolism, foremost of which is strength, a quality that we aspire to as Homo sapiens.
Strength is certainly one of those virtues. Being strong, however, can have thousands of different meanings, and the animal kingdom is a prime example. Let’s look at some of nature’s strongest animals, and whether their strength comes from brute force or the steadfastness of their resolve.
Following is a compilation of animals who show us what it means to be strong.
Ants, tiny as they are, can lift incredible amounts of weight relative to the size of their bodies. The shape and arrangement of their joints and legs make them absolutely astounding machines.
Mechanically speaking, ants are one of nature’s greatest masterpieces when it comes to functionality. Research shows that ants can lift up to 5,000 times their body weight!
Translated to a human scale, a person weighing 200 pounds would be able to lift a million pounds! This would be equivalent to hoisting 40 school buses, the world’s largest passenger jet, or 3 blue whales! In terms of the size-to-strength ratio, ants absolutely are incredible strong, miracles of nature.
Bulls have represented strength for thousands of years. This is, in part, because they were one of the first animals that humans domesticated and utilized for their strength.
Bulls can pull incredible amounts of weight, and the domestication of these animals made them exceptionally useful for farming and the transport of heavy loads. The strength of an bull easily outmatches of humans.
Bulls are still used to pull carts and plow fields. They are also used in sports, from the running of the bulls at Pamplona to bull-riding rodeo cowboys. There’s a reason bull riding has been deemed the most dangerous 8 seconds in sports.
Aside from the bull’s utility and sheer force in the sporting arena, it also looks mythically strong. A lean bull’s musculature is often visible, particularly when it’s leaping and bucking.
You probably weren’t expecting to find beavers on this list!
While they’re not the most visibly strong and resilient animals, beavers have a unique strength. Their industrious nature creates some of the most stable and effective structures of the natural world.
Beavers cut down trees with their teeth and use them to build dams. It’s a simple fact of nature, but it’s an incredible thing when you consider that mature beavers are only about the size of the family pooch, weighing between 24-70 pounds.
Beavers feed on the thin layer of bark and wood, but the wood and brush left over are used in the construction of their dams and homes. If it weren’t enough to cut down their own trees and build their own structures, these structures actually restrict the flow of rivers, some of the most powerful forces on earth, carving and shaping even the strongest stone.
Once the beaver dam is constructed, it plugs the river flowage, allowing only small amounts of water to move through at any given time. The backed-up water builds and spreads out into the surrounding land creating a wetland.
Those wetlands nourish countless plants and animals and are an integral to North American ecosystems. Without the beaver, tens of thousands of species would cease to have suitable living environments.
That isn’t even accounting for the back, legs, and abdominal muscles that allow elephants to pull incredible amounts of weight.
If their sheer size wasn’t enough, they also have denser bones than most mammals, allowing them to put more physical pressure on themselves.
All of these physical descriptions say nothing about the elephant’s mental strength. Elephants famously have great memories, they can understand human pointing, they grieve, they help struggling friends, and they’re incredibly emotional.
These are all signs of intellectual strength, particularly in non-primates. As the land giants of our planet, elephants hold a proportionately large roll in their ecosystems. Each respective type of elephant is keystone species, upon which many life forms depend.
Gorillas have arguably the most deadly combination of brute strength and dexterity in the world. They’re capable of defending themselves in almost any situation, and they’re explosively quick.
Gorillas can apply up to 1,300 pounds of pressure with the force of their bite. That bite force is accompanied by the ability of the gorilla to lift roughly 10 times its own body weight.
Weighing between 200 and 500 pounds on average, this means a 500 pound gorilla would be able to lift 5,000 pounds!
Gorillas are the largest and most powerful of the primates, a diverse order mammals, to which humans also belong.
Gorillas have all of the same parts that humans, just in different proportions. Humans and gorillas have been known to have close friendships.
Gorillas are also protective of their families and do a pretty good job of managing their emotions and withholding the full force of their strength unless it’s necessary for defense. The power of having incredible strength but knowing when to use it makes gorillas even more admirable.
Grizzly bears aren’t necessarily the largest or strongest members of the bear family, but they’re the most iconic. Kodiac bears are larger brown bears who might have more strength on average, and the polar bear is in a category of its own.
That said, there’s something about grizzly bears that makes them one of the perfect symbols of strength in the natural world. Plus, just because grizzlies aren’t the largest bears doesn’t mean they’re not incredibly strong and powerful.
A grizzly bear is the apex predator in whatever environment it’s found unless there are larger bears present.
When someone does encounter one of these massive creatures in the wild, their strength and power are immediately apparent. Most of us would much rather see a bear from a distance rather than encounter one on a hike—and for good reason!
Horses, much like bulls, exude strength. A horse is a beautiful specimen and one that humans have played a role in domesticating.
Horses have shaped the way that human beings travel, live, and work. Animals with such integral relationships to our own species are typically woven into our ideas of various virtues, and the horse is no different.
The horse is a great symbol of strength, but also a symbol of freedom. The image of a wild horse galloping fiercely through a field, turning in circles, and neighing to the heavens is one that screams freedom.
In terms of strength horses are no slouches. The metric for determining an engine’s output is called horsepower, and a workhorse is the person who preforms much of the labor required of a group task.
The massive neck, sturdy abdomen, and the gargantuan rump are indicative of a creature with which you wouldn’t want to mess around.
Tigers are one of the creatures on this planet that strike fear and awe into almost every human being.
A single tiger might have a territory of hundreds of miles, and the introduction of just one other tiger to that space could throw off the balance of the ecosystem, as tigers require a great deal of food. Tigers prey on water buffalo, antelope, and pigs.
Tigers aren’t the largest or strongest animals, but they might be one of the most intimidating. Having the perfect combination of physical strength, intelligence, and ability, makes tigers terrifying.
Although the bald eagle holds a special place in North American lore, eagles are beloved symbols of strength around the world.
The largest and most powerful eagle in the Americas is the Harpy Eagle. Its name comes from the harpies found in Greek mythology. These were beautiful female creatures who had the bodies of birds with human faces.
The Harpy Eagle certainly deserves its place among the characters of Greek mythology. It is a terrifying example of what nature can do. Eagles, in general, are symbols of strength, and play an important role in maintaining the health and balance of their individual territory.
Lions aren’t the strongest animals on the planet, but they’re extremely capable and typically stand tall as the kings of their habitats.
Their massive size in combination with their lack of fear allows lions to dominate their domain.
Lions assess perceived threats confidently, and will not run away from larger animals. Experts believe this behaviors is a result of the lion‘s intuitive belief that it is actually the most threatening animal around.
This attitude is expressed in the way a lion will lie in the sun, casually resting like royalty. Is it any wonder that a group of lions is called a pride?
What’s Up Next?
- Alligator Spirit Animal Symbolism & Meaning
- Butterfly Spirit Animal Symbolism & Meaning
- Turtle Spirit Animal Symbolism & Meaning
- Horse Spirit Animal Symbolism & Meaning
The photo featured at the top of this post is © TFoxFoto/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.
- Entomology Today, Available here: https://entomologytoday.org/2014/02/11/ants-can-lift-up-to-5000-times-their-own-body-weight-new-study-suggests/
- Big Think, Available here: https://bigthink.com/the-past/mystery-of-minoan-bull-leaping/
- Forest Wildlife, Available here: https://www.forestwildlife.org/how-strong-is-a-gorilla-explained/
- Deep Hollow Ranch, Available here: https://www.deephollowranch.com/how-strong-is-a-horse/
- Tigers World, Available here: https://www.tigers-world.com/tiger-habitat/