Top 10 Smelliest Animals in the World

Nature can be extremely tricky when it wants to be. This is evident from the fact that there are almost 12,000 different species of animals, all with their unique quirks and features. Most animals also possess defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators and mark their territory. Some produce loud calls or mark out an entire area using their sharp fangs. 

However, one defence mechanism truly takes the cake, as it involves animals releasing a foul odor to mark their territory, fight off predators or communicate with other members of their species. Now, you might be able to name some of these smelly animals, but we reckon even the most knowledgeable among you won’t be able to distinguish which animals give off the worst odor. 

Hence, we’ve come up with this article that lists the ten smelliest animals in the world based on the odor they release alone. Let’s get straight into the number one entry on our list. 

Top 10 Smelliest Animals in the World

1. Skunk

Probably the most predictable animal on this list, Skunks are arguably the most foul-smelling animals in the world, possessing the ability to spray a liquid from under their skin near the anus. This odor’s primary function is to ward off predators, giving skunks the time to escape after they drop a stink bomb on an unaware predator. 

These smelly creatures are found throughout North and South America, except in some parts of Canada and Chile. Skunks can spray their odor up to 10 feet away, which can be smelled from about a mile. 

However, you should know that skunks don’t only use this order to escape from predators but also to see. Yes, that’s right, all subspecies of skunks are entirely or partially blind but have an incredible sense of smell and hearing. To find their way out in the wild, they first spray their odor for about ten feet and then use their sense of smell to navigate through the forests by following the odor they created. 

This video has everything you want to know about ‘being skunked’.

2. Tasmanian Devil

While skunks are omnivores who use their odor to slink away from their prey undetected, Tasmanian Devils use their foul odor to find and attack their prey. Tasmanian Devils are named after the island of Tasmania in Australia, as they are endemic to the island alone. These devils got their name from the natives of the island after they heard the loud devil-like screams, screeches and grunts they made at night. 

They’re also known as the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world, weighing in at a whopping 12 kilograms (26 pounds). 

Getting back to how they use their odor, these devils are nocturnal and usually hunt at night, which means they typically catch most of their prey unaware. 

They spray their odor at them before they attack to incapacitate them even further. They also possess incredibly sharp and strong jaws allowing them to devour entire animals completely, bones, fur, organs and all. Add to that their fierce temperament and aggressive nature while defending their territory, and you’ve got one ferocious predator you do not want to encounter. 

3. Vulture

The one and only bird on our list that’s also one of the smelliest animals in the world is the Vulture. This is a scavenging bird that feeds on the dead carcasses of animals. Unlike some of the other animals on this list, Vultures don’t spray a foul-smelling odor but are foul-smelling themselves, mainly due to their diet of carrion. 

Their stomachs contain bacteria that help to break down and digest the decaying flesh, which produces a distinct and often unpleasant odor. Also, they might occasionally defecate or vomit on themselves, adding to their unpleasant smell. 

There are primarily two types of vultures in the world: old-world vultures in Europe, Africa and Asia, and new-world vultures in the United States. As disgusting as these creatures are, they do play an important role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem as they clean up dead animals, which helps prevent the spread of disease. 

Sadly, only a few of them are left in the world as they’ve been listed as critically endangered due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat. 

4. Stink Bug

Small insects can also be incredibly stinky, as evident from the existence of Stink Bugs. These herbivorous creatures mostly munch on plants, crops and fruit trees. They use a piercing and sucking mouthpart to suck the nectar out of fruits and the sap from plants. 

They spray their unpleasant odor purely as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened or disturbed. Their odor can travel quite far, so they’re considered quite a menace in Asia, their native continent. Their odor has continued to cause severe damage to the crops and gardens in the area. 

The only relief farmers get from these pests is during the winter when they move away from crops and enter protected areas, like under trees and inside buildings, to hibernate. 

5. Musk Ox

Musk Ox has an unpleasant, musky odor that comes out from the sweat gland in their face, near their eyes. Even though they don’t excrete this odor, they use it to attract mates and communicate with other members of their herd. Each herd can consist of over 100 Musk Oxen, making them well-equipped to deal with any predators. 

Musk Oxen have a unique defense mechanism against predators, forming a circle around their young and using their horns to protect them. 

These creatures are also herbivores and usually exist in the arctic regions of North America and Greenland. Their thick, brown woolly coat helps them brave the cold in these regions. Sadly, Musk Oxen have been hunted for several years for their meat, hide and fur, which has caused a significant decline in their population over the years. 

6. Bombardier Beetle

Returning to smelly insects, we have one of the oldest and most dangerous insects to roam the planet, the Bombardier Beetle. These flying insects have roamed the world for over 30 million years, with fossils dating back to the Oligocene period. 

But we’re more interested in the chemicals they spray when they feel threatened or disturbed. Their unique defense mechanism involves spraying hot, noxious chemicals from their abdomen to evade predators. 

What’s really crazy is that they can actually control the temperature and force of the spray, which can reach up to 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit) and be shot up to 20 times per second. 

The spray is made up of toxic chemicals like hydroquinone, hydrogen peroxide, and enzymes that can react explosively when combined, making bombardier beetles a more lethal weapon than an insect. Despite their lethal nature, Bombardier Beetles are often the prey of various animals, including birds, spiders and other larger insects. 

7. Sloth

Belonging to the Primates family, Sloths might be the most chill animals in the world. However, that does erase the fact that they too have a mean odor that is pretty difficult for humans to breathe. 

This odor is a product of the symbiotic algae bacteria that live in its fur. Sloths have a very slow metabolism and move very little, so their fur can accumulate dirt and debris over time, contributing to their odor. Although they are incredibly slow most of the time, they can pick up the pace occasionally, especially when they feel threatened by predators or hunters. 

However, their main defense mechanism is to stay incredibly still and blend in with their surroundings which we have to say, considering their growing population, has worked out pretty well for them so far. 

8. Hognose Snake

Ever met a completely docile snake that doesn’t mind you petting it? Well, allow us to introduce to you the Hognose Snake. These snakes are fitted with distinctive upturned snouts to dig through the ground for prey, such as frogs and toads. 

Their original odor is not so bad and can’t be classified as smelly. But when they feel threatened, they’ll occasionally roll over on their back and play dead, opening their mouths to show predators they have no life. During this process, they also release a foul-smelling odor meant to deter predators and distract them while they try to escape. 

These snakes are not venomous, but they can still use their bid sharp teeth to puncture their prey and swallow them whole. Their unique set of behaviors and adaptations have made them supremely popular among reptile enthusiasts. 

9. Hyena 

The second scavenging animal on this list, Hyenas, always smells bad, mostly because of the dead or injured animals they consume. They also have a strong sense of smell, allowing them to detect carrion from miles away. Hyenas are social animals that prefer living and hunting in packs, which can range from 10 to 50. 

Despite their reputation as scavengers and scavengers only, hyenas are skilled hunters and can take down prey as large as wildebeests and zebras. In fact, popular nature documentaries have even shown hyenas taking on lions and other giant predators using their patented pack attacks. 

However, the only way they can be goaded into going after such a large predator is if the predator is already injured in the first place. Hyenas, like Vultures, play an important role in their ecosystems by scavenging and helping prevent disease spread.

10. Ferret

The last entry on our list is a popular domesticated animal that’s been kept as a pet by humans for generations now, the Ferret. Ferrets have a unique, natural musky odor from their skin glands. 

After keeping them as pets for hundreds of years, humans have devised a way to eliminate this smell by spaying or neutering their pet ferrets and keeping their living areas clean. 

These cute furry creatures love playing around with their owners. Their favorite pastime is stealing small objects and hiding them in their stash. They’ve also long been used for hunting rodents and rabbits. 

Keep your pet ferret from smelling bad using the top tips in this video!

Wrap up

Animals don’t mind if they smell awful; it’s better if the foul smell deters hungry predators or curious humans. Thankfully, most of these are wild animals you can’t keep as pets. Let us know your thoughts about these animals and if you can identify more foul-smelling animals in the comments! 

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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