- Found in Arkansas in 2012, the largest alligator measured 13 feet 3 inches and weighed 1,380 pounds.
- The longest confirmed alligator was 15 feet and 9 inches, though there are unconfirmed reports of a gator over 19 feet long.
- In Florida in 2020, a skull was found thought to belong to one of the biggest gators on record. Investigators estimate it may have weighed 1,043 pounds and measured 13 feet 10 inches.
The alligator is part of the Crocodylia family and is closely related to the crocodile. What distinguishes the former is its rounded, wide snout and black color. Also, with its jaw tight, you can only see the alligator’s upper teeth. Plus, it’s unlikely you’ll ever find the alligator and crocodile in the same habitat.
Native to the southeastern United States, the alligator is one of the world’s largest reptiles. And how big it gets is surprising. Typically, alligators grow to between 400lbs – 800lbs and over 8 feet. Their muscular tails make up approximately half of their body length.
#9. The Robert Ammerman Alligator
Noted alligator hunter Robert Ammerman landed this gator in December 2017. Just glancing at the alligator’s head told Ammerman all he needed to know. The catch was so big he couldn’t load it into his boat. The only way to get it on land was by towing it to shore. And this was after the angry gator dragged the boat for 45 minutes! There was another alligator in the area that may have been bigger than Ammerman’s catch. Only no one ever got close to getting their hands on it.
Size: 14 feet 3.5 inches
Weight: 654 pounds
#8. The Tom Grant Alligator
Tom Grant is a famous alligator explorer. In 2012 he and his team actually went mano-a-mano with a gator that would end up in the record books as one of the largest. After a tussle, they finally wrestled the beast to shore. One of the team hunters, Kenny Winter, said the gator broke the boat’s winch. The venture took a total hour and a half. The team ended up with a massive reptile with a measured belly girth of 65 inches. This catch was definitely a find as alligators of that length weren’t common in the Mississippi Delta.
Size: 13 feet 1.5 inches
Weight: 697.5 pounds
#7. The Blake Godwin and Lee Lightsey Alligator
This alligator drew attention by leaving the remains of missing cattle in the water around the area. They found it in a nearby cattle pond at Outwest Farms when Lee Lightsey spotted it. He owned the property. The Okeechobee, Florida, locals had to use a farm tractor to pull the animal out of the water. Blake Godwin, one of Lightsey’s guides, was there for the measuring. After he said, “It is hard to believe that something this big exists in the wild.” The two hunters gave the meat to charity and taxidermied the rest of the carcass.
Size: 15 feet
Weight: 800 pounds
#6. Big Tex
This alligator actually had a name as he roamed the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. Big Tex apparently stopped fearing humans. This created serious issues among the populace. He was finally lassoed and relocated. The refuge measured the creature, promptly calling Big Tex the biggest alligator in Texas history caught alive. They transferred Big Tex to an exhibit area in Gator Country. He became a popular attraction at the adventure park/rescue facility. One of his habitat mates is Big Al, another giant at 13 feet 4 inches and 1,000 pounds.
Size: 13 feet 8.5 inches
Weight: 900 pounds
#5. The Lane Stephens Alligator
There was a massive gator roaming the neighborhood, described by local homeowners as a “nuisance.” Local alligator trapper Lane Stephens decided to go after it. He’d legally harvested over two dozen gators that year alone, pulling in four over 11 feet. Stephens snagged the gator with a baited hook, roped it, and ended the battle with a clean kill. In total, he and the gator fought for three and a half hours. Throughout, he marveled at the size of the beast. Neighbors had said it was big, but Stephens didn’t expect the alligator to be a length of 14 feet!
Size: 14 feet
Weight: Around 1,000 pounds
#4. The Apalachicola Giant
Corey Capps dreamt of bringing down the behemoth of an alligator haunting his home in Blountstown. One day he was on a boat ride when he spotted the gator on the bank. Capps got his buddy, Rodney Smith, on the line. Smith had a legal tag for going after the animal. They went out the next day and harpooned the giant. Using a Jon boat, it took almost four hours to move the gator just 100 feet.
Size: 13 feet
Weight: 1,008 pounds
#3. The Mandy Stokes Alligator
Currently, the Stokes gator remains the biggest verified alligator in the world. Mandy Stokes was a hunter of boars and deer but never planned to go one-on-one with a gator. But one day she and her family did go on a gator hunt.
On that fateful first trip, she bagged this giant. Wearing perfume and pearls, Stokes had the withdrawal to take on the gator for almost a full day.
The battle took place at a tributary of the Alabama River. The Stokes family was on a 17-foot aluminum vessel. The battle went on from night into the next morning. After setting the first hook, they struggled to hold onto the beast. It wasn’t until the following morning Stokes got a clear shot.
The Stokes clan had to figure out how to get the capture back. They failed to get it into the boat. The family eventually lashed it to the hull. With the boat on the verge of tipping, everyone stayed on the opposite gunwale, the way sailors do to counter strong winds.
The animal broke the winch locals used to weigh gators. A sight to see, the Stokes alligator is on display in Camden at the Millers Ferry Powerhouse.
Size: 15 feet 9 inches
Weight: 1,011.5 pounds
#2. The Alligator Skull
Found in Florida, a discovered alligator skull likely belonged to one of the largest alligators on record. It remains one of the largest skulls found in the state. Using the 29 1/2 inch length of the skull, investigators were able to determine the beast was 13 feet 10 inches. At the time, that put the animal in the biggest top five. It likely weighed 1,043 pounds.
Size: 13 feet 10 inches
Weight: 1,043 pounds
#1. The Mike Cottingham Alligator
During an outing with a private hunting club, Mike Cottingham immediately recognized this monster as large. The head by itself weighed close to 300 pounds. The reptile was so huge five people had to lift it into the boat. After examining the alligator, a local herpetologist estimated the animal to be nearly 36 years old. The proud hunter said he planned to mount the head and use the rest of the alligator to make himself a fine pair of boots.
Size: 13 feet 3 inches
Weight: 1,380 pounds
BONUS: The 19-Foot Legend & More Tales of Giants
Of course, there are legends of freakishly huge gators.
Biggest (Unconfirmed) Gator Ever
There is the unconfirmed tale of a trusted environmentalist discovering the largest alligator of all time. If you do a search, you’ll come across the story of the alligator coming in at 19 feet 2 inches.
Ned McIlhenny was, at the time, the most famous (and one of the first) environmentalists. He knew his Crocodylia.
In 1890, McIlhenny shot a sizable gator dying of exposure. He measured the gator using his gun barrel. With the 30-inch barrel, he established the alligator was an amazing 19 feet 2 inches.
But for reasons we’ll never know, McIlhenny did nothing more except take the tale home with him. The scientific community accepted the story based solely on McIlhenny’s reputation.
McIlhenny’s family has their share of gator adventures as well. It’s said his uncle captured the largest alligator of all time in 1886. To show off the catch, John put the gator on a ship bound for Philadephia.
Sadly, during the voyage, a seaman poured paint on the gator’s head. The creatures likely suffocated (not that it’s on record, but they died). The crew decided it was a waste to travel with a dead gator. They threw it overboard.
Louisiana’s Marsh Island Gator
In the 19th Century, game warden Max Touchet allegedly took on a large alligator on Louisiana’s Marsh Island. He and a colleague lassoed the animal and pulled it out of a gator hole. Unfortunately, they were several miles from land and couldn’t move the struggling beast. They killed and skinned it. After, they brought back the skin. Examining the skin, they determined the gator measured 17 feet 10 inches and likely weighed around 1,000 pounds. And that’s likely an inaccurate number because removed alligator skins shrink!
In 2017, a Lochness-type video taken in Florida’s Polk County Discovery Center appears to be of a monstrous gator. Conservationists and biologists believe the video’s real and the alligator is at least 14 feet long.
Another classic video of a giant alligator took place on the green of Florida’s Buffalo Creek Gold Club. It strolled across the third hole heading leisurely for a lake. Guestimates put the animal at about 15 feet long which would make it well over 1,000 pounds.
Is it Normal for Alligators to Grow Large?
While alligators are known for their size, with some individuals growing to a massive size. You may be wondering if it’s normal for these animals to get extraordinarily large.
It’s important to note that alligators are a certain species of reptile that are just naturally big. The American alligator can be up to 14 feet in length for example and weighs over 1,000 lbs. This is a result of their evolutionary history and origins. With that said, not all alligators will grow to be this big.
Additionally, some alligators may just be genetically predisposed to be bigger or smaller than the next. This can be influenced by factors such as the size of their parents or specific genetic traits that they have inherited.
While alligators are naturally large animals, the size to which they grow can vary based on a variety of factors.
Here is a Summary of the Top 9 Biggest Alligators Ever:
|Mike Cottingham Alligator
|13 feet 3 inches
|13 feet 10 inches
|The Mandy Stokes Alligator
|15 feet 9 inches
|The Apalachicola Giant
|The Lane Stephens Alligator
Around 1,000 pounds
|13 Feet 8.5 inches
|The Blake Godwin and Lee Lightsey Alligator
|The Tom Grant Alligator
|13 feet 1.5 inches
|The Robert Ammerman Alligator
|14 feet 3.5 inches
Bonus: How Can You Tell an Alligator and a Crocodile Apart?
We’ve looked at 9 of the largest alligators on record. Crocodiles are in the same reptilian order as alligators–Crocodylia–but these two animals are in separate families. Crocodiles are members of the Crocodylidae family, while alligators are in the Alligatordae family. These two reptiles favor each other in many ways, to the point that it can be a challenge to tell them apart. If you were in an area where alligators and crocodiles co-existed, would you be able to tell the difference between them?
In terms of physical characteristics, an alligator has a U-shaped snout, webbed feet, a wide upper jaw that hides the lower teeth and overlaps the lower jaw, and roughly 80 teeth. Its teeth measure from 1 inch for its smaller teeth to as much as 2 ½ inches for its largest. In color, alligators are dark gray or black with a cream underbelly.
Crocodiles, by comparison, have V-shaped snouts, feet that are not webbed but possess a jagged fringe, and upper and lower jaws that are roughly the same size, allowing the teeth to interdigitate. Crocodiles possess 60-70 teeth that are slightly curved and conical and protrude when their mouths are closed. Saltwater crocs have 66 teeth, some of which grow as long as 5 inches. Crocodiles’ teeth are not sharp, but are blunt, as they use them to hold prey tight rather than ripping them apart. Crocodiles are mostly olive green or light brown with a mottled pattern.
Alligators can be found in 2 locations–America (the American alligator) and China (the Chinese alligator). Crocodiles can be found in many more places worldwide: Egypt and 25 other countries in Africa (Nile crocodile), Asia, Oceania, South Florida, and South America (American crocodile). Regarding habitat, alligators prefer freshwater areas like swamps, rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands, while crocodiles are able to tolerate salt water, enabling them to inhabit lagoons and islands, as well as rivers, lakes, and mangrove swamps.
As far as prey goes, you’d likely observe either the alligator or crocodile eating the same animals: fish, birds, turtles, and various mammals. They are both apex predators that primarily consume other animals as their sole source of nutrition.
Finally, they differ in size. While alligators weigh from 400 lbs to 800 lbs and range in length from 8.2 feet to 11.2 feet, crocodiles are larger animals, measuring 10 feet to 20 feet long and weighing 300 lbs to 2,000 lbs. So if you are observing one of these reptiles in the wild, you’ll need to take into account its unique characteristics, its size, and the area you are observing it in to determine whether it’s an alligator or a crocodile.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Rod Zadeh/Shutterstock.com
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