The Top Ten Animals With the Toughest Skin

Written by Emily Wolfel
Updated: September 14, 2022
Image Credit worananphoto/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points

  • Certain animals have tough, thick skin to protect them from predators, the environment, and other factors.
  • Physical characteristics like their hides can tell us a lot about their habitat and daily.
  • Crocodiles have the toughest skin in the animal kingdom, with a hide thick enough to protect them from bullets.

You can learn a lot about an animal by looking at its physical features. Its features can give you clues about its habitat, the type of climate it lives in as well as its predators. Tough skin is one feature many animals have in common.

The following ten animals have the toughest skin in the animal kingdom. Discover the reasons why they have tough skin. Is it connected to their habitat, the climate they live in, or their predators? It may be all of the above!

#10 Hippopotamus

Animals With the Toughest Skin
To stay cool in the blistering African heat, hippos spend most of their day in rivers and lakes.

John Carnemolla/Shutterstock.com

The skin of a hippopotamus is two inches thick all over its body. Its thick hide serves a few purposes. For one, it offers protection from the harsh sunlight in its African grassland habitat. Furthermore, its skin releases a pink ooze that prevents this mammal from getting sunburned. Think of it as a natural sunscreen.

The tough hide of a hippo serves as protection from predators as well. However, there aren’t many predators that will challenge a hippo. Hippos are known to be aggressive and highly territorial. In addition to that, they have strong jaws that can render a deadly bite. This is more than enough reason for many predators to keep their distance!

Look here to find out more about hippos.

#9 Honey Badger

Animals With the Toughest Skin-Honey Badger
Honey Badgers are one of the few non-primate species to use tools.

Pavel Kovaricek/Shutterstock.com

Though honey badgers are small mammals compared to others on this list, they have remarkably tough skin. Honey badgers have black fur with a wide, silver section of hair running over their head and back. These mammals are best known for their fierce fighting abilities. They are strong animals with sharp teeth and claws. But did you know their skin helps to protect them in an encounter with another animal?

The skin of a honey badger is about one-quarter inch thick. This may not seem like thick skin, but it’s considered thick for a small mammal. Its skin is sturdy enough to prevent serious damage from the teeth of a hyena or even a big cat. In addition, this badger’s skin can stretch. So, when it’s grabbed, the honey badger is able to twist around and bite or claw the predator in an effort to escape.

To learn more about honey badgers read this page.

#8 Camel

Animals With the Toughest Skin-Camel
Dromedary or Arabian camel, Camelus dromedarius, in the long golden grass in an Egyptian meadow.

Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

It doesn’t seem like camels belong on a list of animals with the toughest skin. But, they do! Most camels live in the desert where it is extremely hot and arid throughout the day. Furthermore, it can get very cold at night. So, it takes an animal with tough skin to survive and even flourish in these extreme conditions.

If you’ve ever seen a camel resting, you know they sometimes lower themselves onto their knees and tuck their legs beneath them. Take a moment to imagine just how hot the sand in a desert gets especially around the middle of the day. This is why camels have extra thick layers of skin on their knees as well as their chest. They are able to rest in the sand without burning their skin.

The thick hide of a camel along with its dense fur coat combine to keep this large mammal warm on cold nights in the desert.

For more on camels check out this page.

#7 Armadillo

Animals With the Toughest Skin-Armadillo
Nine-banded Armadillo feeding on corn. Armadillos are covered in bony plates that create their ‘armor’.

iStock.com/Rini Kools

An armadillo has a dark or light gray carapace made of bony plates covering its head and back. It features tooth-like formations called scutes. An armadillo’s carapace serves as excellent protection when a coyote, hawk, raccoon, or other predator attacks. This clever animal has a way of getting the most benefit out of its carapace, or suit of armor when a predator approaches.

When an armadillo is threatened or approached by a predator, it jumps into the air and rolls into a ball before landing on the ground. Some species of armadillo can jump as high as three or four feet! There are very few predators patient enough to figure out how to gain access to this animal after it has rolled itself into an armored ball!

To discover more on the armadillo, visit this page.

#6 Whale Shark

Animals With the Toughest Skin-Whale shark
A Whale shark on a blue background. Each whale shark has its own unique pattern of spots, much like human fingerprints.

iStock.com/crisod

Whale sharks can grow to a length of 33 feet! These creatures have gray skin covered in small white spots. A whale shark’s tough skin can measure up to four inches thick. Their thick skin protects them from predators including tiger sharks, great white sharks, and killer whales.

Whale sharks have a layer of denticles on their back. Denticles are scales shaped like teeth. This layer of denticles along with its thick skin is effective protection for this gentle sea creature.

To read more on whale sharks look here.

#5 Bison

Animals
American Bison are the largest mammal in North America.

O.S. Fisher/Shutterstock.com

A bison is best known for the hump on its back. This is a strong mammal with a thick hide and a long coat of fur. Its thick skin serves as insulation against the cold winter weather. In fact, bison skin actually changes with the weather by toughening further as the temperature drops.

In addition, its tough hide protects this big mammal from the bites of horseflies, fleas, and other pests that are constantly swirling around in the warm weather months. Its strong hide is also a defense against predators including mountain lions, wolves, and grizzly bears.

Learn more about the bison right here.

#4 Sperm Whale

Animals With the Toughest Skin-sperm whale
A Sperm whale in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius. Sperm whales are the largest of all toothed whales and can grow to a maximum length of 52 feet (15.8 m) and weight of 90,000 pounds (40 metric tons).

wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

An adult sperm whale grows to a length of 40 to 52 feet. Understandably, adult sperm whales have very few predators. But when one does attack, it’s met with a layer of skin on this whale measuring 13.5 inches thick!

While a sperm whale has thick skin on its back, head, and tail, it doesn’t have any on its underbelly. So, when this sea creature sees a predator, it turns its strong, tough back toward the threat.

For more on sperm whales go to this page.

#3 Rhinoceros

Animals With the Toughest Skin-Rhinoceros
An African White Rhinoceros, also known as Square-lipped Rhinoceros, in a South African nature reserve.

iStock.com/Shams

Look at the layers or large sections of skin on a rhinoceros and it’s easy to believe they have some of the toughest skin in the animal world. The skin of a rhinoceros is two inches thick. Its skin consists of layers of collagen. A rhino’s strong hide offers it a high level of protection from predators. However, a rhino’s skin doesn’t protect it from everything.

Have you ever seen a video of a rhinoceros rolling in the mud? They are doing this because their skin is vulnerable to sunburn. The mud on their body dries and this serves as protection from the sun’s rays. In addition, the dried mud helps protect the rhino’s body from insect bites.

To study more on the rhinoceros, check here.

#2 Elephant

Animals With the Toughest Skin-elephant
An elephant in the Okavango delta at Moremi, Botswana.

iStock.com/Ondrej Prosicky

It’s easy to believe an elephant has tough skin. This large animal has skin that is one inch thick over most of its body. It has a thinner layer of skin around its flapping ears. The thickness of its skin is a defense against predators. But the texture of its skin serves another purpose.

One of the most noticeable things about an elephant’s skin is its wrinkles. After an elephant goes through a rainstorm or takes a bath in a lake, water becomes trapped in its wrinkles. Just imagine all of the water a single adult elephant can store in its pouches of wrinkled skin! This moisture helps cool this animal in its hot grassland or savanna habitat.

Elephants take baths in the mud for many of the same reasons as a rhino. A mud bath helps to keep flies, fleas, and other insects away from its skin and offers protection from sunburn.

Read here to learn more about elephants.

#1 Crocodile

Animals With the Toughest Skin-crocodile
An Australian crocodile at the water edge. Crocodiles have the strongest bite of any animal in the world.

Audrey Snider-Bell/Shutterstock.com

Take a look at the back and tail of a crocodile and you’ll see why these creatures are a must-have on a list of animals with the toughest skin. This reptile’s skin has been compared to a suit of armor.

The bony structures on a crocodile’s back, tail, and head are called scutes. Scutes are made of a solid material called keratin. If you see an animal with horns, those horns are probably made of keratin. Beneath a crocodile’s scutes is another layer of bony material called osteoderm. The layer of osteoderm is made up of overlapping sections which makes it even more sturdy.

Though this reptile’s skin has been compared to armor, it has a flexible quality to it. This allows a crocodile to move with agility through the water. Crocodiles need flexibility so they can make quick movements changing direction and submerge in lakes or rivers.

The layers of skin on a crocodile are so strong they can prevent a bullet from making its way into this reptile’s body and injuring its organs. Now that’s some tough skin!

For more on the crocodile, please visit this page.

Animals With the Toughest Skin Summary

Here’s a summary of the ten animals with the toughest skin, ranked in order.

RankAnimalConsiderations
1CrocodileIts hide is tough enough to stop a bullet.
2ElephantIt can store water in its wrinkles.
3RhinocerosIts 2″ thick skin protects from predators but is still vulnerable to the sun.
4Sperm WhaleThe skin on its back, head, and tail is 13.5″ thick.
5BisonIts hide protects it from predators, insect bites, and cold weather.
6Whale SharkIt has 4″ thick skin and sharp fins on its back called denticles.
7ArmadilloThe armored plates on its back (carapace) act like armor when it rolls into a ball.
8CamelIts skin is thicker on its legs and chest to protect it from the hot sand when it lays down.
9Honey BadgerIts skin is stretchy, allowing it to take less damage from predators.
10HippopotamusIts 2″ thick skin deters predators but is prone to sunburn and drying out.

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Animals More Dangerous Than Sharks – Not many animals can boast being more deadly than a shark–see which ones made the list!

Oldest Living Animals On Earth Today – Learn about the oldest animals on earth that are still alive today.

Animals With the Toughest Skin
Animals With the Toughest Skin
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About the Author

Emily is an editor and content marketing specialist of five years. She grew up in rural Pennsylvania where you can regularly encounter anything from elk to black bears to river otters. Over the years, she raised livestock animals, small animals, dogs, cats, and birds, which is where she learned most of what she knows about various animals and what allowed her to work as a dog groomer and manager of a specialty pet store. She now has three rescue cats and two high-needs Pomeranian mixes to take up her love and attention.

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