The 10 Smelliest Animals in the World

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: September 14, 2022
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Key Points

  • It looks like a skunk, but it’s much worse. Possibly the stinkiest animal in the world, the striped polecat’s butt stink can burn its enemies’ eyes and temporarily blind them.
  • Stinkbirds have two-chamber digestive systems like cows, so they excrete a manure-like smell.
  • Bombardier beetles release an awful gas consisting of hydrogen peroxide, enzymes, and hydroquinone.
  • Odor is just one reason you don’t want to be near an African bull elephant around the mating season when its testosterone levels spike 60 percent.

What are the ten smelliest animals in the world? Which animals will make your olfactory system weep? We’ve considered all the candidates and finally came up with a list. So light a scented candle and put on a gas mask. We’re diving into Mother Nature’s pit of stench-challenged animals!

#10 Sea Hare

A sea hare in the ocean.
The sea hare emits an odorous purple ink which acts as a defense mechanism against predators.

valda butterworth/Shutterstock.com

The sea hare is the tenth smelliest animal in the world. It’s Neptune’s skunk that unleashes toxic purple emissions with the power to paralyze nose nerves. But the gas isn’t the soft-shell mollusk’s only line of defense. They also pulse with poison, which, if not properly prepared, can cause severe harm to humans when ingested.

How did sea hares get their name? Two rods on the mollusk’s head resemble hare ears. The similitude is uncanny, and ancient Romans even called them lepus marinus — Latin for “ocean rabbit.”

#9 Big Bull Elephant

An African elephant walking in the dirt.
During mating season, an African elephant produces 60% more testosterone, which emits an unpleasant odor.

Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com

Big bull elephants — aka African elephants — aren’t stink bombs year-round. However, for a few weeks around mating season, the animal’s testosterone levels spike 60 percent, and the accompanying smell could clear a city neighborhood. Not only do their pores excrete unpleasant hormones, but 80 gallons of concentrated urine seep through their skin daily!

Click here to learn more about African elephants, which drink about 50 gallons of water a day!

#8 Musk Ox

A musk ox standing in the grass.
Male Musk oxen secrete a urine-like scent while attempting to attract mates.

Martin Hejzlar/Shutterstock.com

Number six out of the stinkiest animals in the world proves that one person’s oyster delicacy is another person’s death rock. The same goes for musk: some people think it’s splendid, and others find it stomach-turning. Where you fall on the scale will determine your feelings about early-summer male musk oxen who feverishly secrete the stuff to attract partners.

These shaggy bovines live in northern locales, like Greenland, Alaska, and Scandinavia — and their unfortunate nickname is “ugly moose.”

#7 Tasmanian Devil

Close up of a Tasmanian devil.
Tasmanian devils emit an odorous gas to detract predators.

Alizada Studios/Shutterstock.com

If you ever find yourself in Australia near a stressed-out Tasmanian devil, look for the nearest mask! The carnivorous marsupials pass a gnarly gas to detract predators. But don’t worry; few people ever get up close and personal with the nocturnal, screeching animals because they are fiercely solitary and avoid humans at all costs.

Click here to read more about Tasmanian devils, which are some of the sloppiest eaters on Earth.

#6 Bombardier Beetle

A pinned Bombardier Beetle.
Bombardier beetles emit a gaseous mix of hydrogen peroxide, enzymes, and hydroquinone.

Angering a bombardier beetle may result in an evil insect fart of epic proportions, making this bug number four out of the ten stinkiest animals in the world. Their gaseous emissions are a mix of hydrogen peroxide, enzymes, and hydroquinone — and it smells worse than a porta-potty at Burning Man.

According to legend, famed naturalist Charles Darwin once endured a bombardier beetle attack when he popped one in his mouth when trying to free his hands to write down an observation.

Click here to learn more about beetles, of which there are 350,000 types.

#5 Skunk

A skunk walking in the grass near yellow leaves.
Skunks only spray when they feel threatened.

Geoffrey Kuchera/Shutterstock.com

Skunks aren’t the stinkiest animals on the planet, but they are the poster children for effluvium. Everyone is familiar with the piquant liquid fired by the black-and-white mammals. But skunks don’t go around spraying without cause. Instead, they only let loose when threatened.

That said: skunks are more skittish than an INFP wallflower, and getting hit is a genuine possibility. If you are attacked, tomato juice doesn’t kill the skunk scent. Your best bet is a mixture of baking soda, dish-washing soap, and hydrogen peroxide — and that may not even work.

Click here to learn more about skunks, whose smell can waft up to a mile away!

#4 Wolverine

A wolverine with its front paws on a tree branch.
Wolverines emit a pungent glandular odor to mark their territory.

Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

Wolverines have fierce reputations, but they’re actually pretty shy. Notice we said shy, not weak or fearful. In fact, the lethal fighters can take down animals five times their size. In addition to their warrior skills, wolverines emit a pungent glandular stench to mark territory, placing them fourth among the stinkiest animals in the world. The smell is so bad that people call them “skunk bears.”

Click here to learn more about wolverines, which look like small bears but are more closely related to weasels.

#3 Stinkbird

A stinkbird perched on a green plant with large, yellow-speckled leaves.
Stinkbirds have a two-chamber digestive system, which causes them to produce a manure-like odor.

feathercollector/Shutterstock.com

Stinkbirds, also known as hoatzins, have cow-like, two-chamber digestive systems. These birds’ meals ferment in their stomachs. The avians produce a manure-scented odor as a result of the bacterial fermentation process that helps them break down their food.

Indigenous South Americans who still practice hunting-and-gathering leave stinkbirds alone unless necessary. After all, who wants to dine on smelly food!

Odor protection FYI: Hoatzins are vegetarians that consume lots of roughage. In other words, stay clear of a stinkbird relieving itself.

#2 Lesser Anteater

A lesser anteater standing on a tree branch with green leaves.
Lesser anteaters emit a pungent odor from their anal glands which is seven times stronger than a skunk’s scent.

darock/Shutterstock.com

Lesser anteaters — aka southern tamanduas — are funny-looking and stink to high heaven. The long-nosed omnivores emit hideous odors from their anal glands, which are seven times stronger than skunk stench! Lesser anteaters live throughout South and Central America, stick to higher elevations, and sport dragon claws for defense and climbing.

Click here to learn more about anteaters, which can inhale over 35,000 insects a day.

#1 Striped Polecat

A striped polecat against a white background.
A striped polecat’s powerful secretions can temporarily blind targets and burn the eyes.

reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

It looks like a skunk, lives all over Africa, hunts at night, and releases a stink leagues worse than any other animal on Earth. They’re striped polecats, and they take top honors in our smelly animal countdown.

Striped polecats’ powerful and potent secretions can temporarily blind targets and burn the eyes! Some animals mark their territory with urine — but not the striped polecat. Instead, they choose to draw boundaries with feces and anal spray. Pee-yew!

Here is a Summary of the Top 10 Smelliest Animals in the World

RankAnimal
#1Striped Polecat
#2Lesser Anteater
#3Stinkbird
#4Wolverine
#5Skunk
#6Bombardier Beetle
#7Tasmanian Devil
#8Musk Ox
#9Big Bull Elephant
#10Sea Hare

And that’s our list of the most stinky animals on Earth!

Up Next…

The Top 10 Smallest Animals on Earth– A tiny monkey the size of your finger that can jump 15 feet? It’s not a mythical creature, just one of the planet’s smallest animals.

The 10 Highest Jumping Animals in the World– Numbers two and one can jump 100 and 200 times their body length, but you won’t like the looks of them.

Ugliest Animals on Earth– Don’t be too hard on them, it’s really not their fault…

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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