Meet the world's 8 tallest land animals
Our world is designed around average heights. Female humans average about 5 feet 4 inches (1.6 meters) while males stand at around 5 feet 9 inches tall. Cabinets, vehicles, thresholds — they’re all designed with those averages in mind.
Nature, however, isn’t designed for the averages. Species of all types of evolved over the centuries to be just the right height for their needs. So whether it’s a giraffe or a brown bear, these animals stand just as tall as they need to.
And these are just land animals that stand on four legs on land. Obviously, some other mammals, like the blue whale, which are about 88.5 feet long, are “taller,” but since they’re more about being horizontal than vertical, they’re not included in this list.
Most of giraffes’ height comes from their necks. (Photo: StanislavBeloglazov/Shutterstock)
No other land mammal has quite the view like the giraffe. Standing between 14 and 19 feet, giraffes are the tallest land mammals in the world. Sure, most of their height is in the neck, up to 8 feet of it, but their legs can also average about 6 feet in height.
Their increased height is a major advantage. Between the height, their good eyesight and strong kicks, giraffes aren’t often brought down, even by lions. They can live for between 10 and 15 years in the wild as a result.
Still, giraffes face threats from humans. The animals are poached for their skin and meat, and habitat destruction has wiped out the ranges the animals rely on to survive. While some populations thrive, giraffes in western Africa have seen their numbers decline.
Elephants are plenty big and pretty tall, too. (Photo: Peter Fodor/Shutterstock)
Coming up behind the giraffe in the height competition is the elephant, specifically the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana). Males of the species have a shoulder height of 10.5 feet to 13 feet. The bush elephant’s nearest relative, the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), reaches between 7 and 8 feet in shoulder height.
Given the overall size if bush elephants — they weigh about 13,448 pounds (6,100 kilograms) — they’re even more difficult to prey on than giraffes. Lions try their best by picking off younger elephants, but even they don’t have much success. Still, the species is considered vulnerable due to poaching and the transformation of habitats into agricultural land.
Ostriches aren’t Big Bird from ‘Sesame Street’ tall, but they’re tall. (Photo: paula french/Shutterstock)
The ostrich is among the most recognizable of birds. Their long necks are matched by their long legs, and this gives them an average height of 6.6 feet, but some males can reach up to 9 feet in height. With their legs, they can reach up to 40 mph (64 kmh), which is fast enough to run away from almost all predators. Only cheetahs are fast enough to keep up with the big birds.
These birds have a reputation for sticking their heads in the sand, but that’s a myth. Ostriches dig holes in the dirt to bury their eggs, and they have to lower their necks to turn the eggs with their beaks, and so, from far away, it can look like they’re putting their heads in the sand.
If you think bears are intimidating on all fours, wait until they stand upright. (Photo: NancyS/Shutterstock)
Brown bears (Ursus arctos) are a variable lot, with a number of subspecies. That said, brown bears, also sometimes called grizzly bears, are among the largest carnivores on the planet. Foot to shoulder, they’re about 5 feet, but once they’re up on their hind legs, they’re standing at 8 to 9 feet tall, depending on the bear.
Given the number of subspecies and the range of habitats — you can find brown bears in North America and Eurasia — the brown bear is generally considered an animal of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but some pockets of the species struggle, mostly due to habitat destruction and poaching.
Moose are the largest of the deer species. (Photo: David Drake/Shutterstock)
The American moose (Alces americanus) are mighty herbivores of northern North America. Males reach 7.5 feet in height, and that’s before you add their antlers, which add a few inches.
Moose need to consume about 44 pounds of food a day, but they can consume up to 70 pounds. They munch on twigs, bark, roots and a number of aquatic plants that they need to maintain a steady amount of sodium. As a result of their need for water plants, moose are also excellent swimmers.
Stand tall in the desert, camels. (Photo: Wolfgang Zwanzger/Shutterstock)
One-humped camels, called Arabian or dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius), are the tallest of the camel species. Males reach about 5.9-6.6 feet. And even though they have only a single hump, that hump stores 80 pounds of fat — not water! — for when the camel needs additional sustenance.
Despite their impressive stature, dromedary camels are extinct, at least in the wild, and have been for almost 2,000 years. Today, this camel is semi-domesticated, meaning it can wander in the wild, but usually under the watchful eye of a herdsman.
Shire horses are the tallest horses. (Photo: Marina Kondratenko/Shutterstock)
Horses, despite their generally gentle nature, can be intimidating due to their size. This is especially true for the Shire horse. This horse breed descended from the English great horse, a breed that was used by men in full armor hundreds of years ago. So, yes, it’s a sturdy, powerful breed.
The Shire horse averages about about 17 hands or 5 feet 7 inches tall at the withers, which is the ridge between the shoulder blades. When you add the neck and head, which will vary in size, you have one tall animal.
Bison are roughly the height of tall humans. (Photo: Jack Dykinga/Wikimedia Commons)
Rounding out the list of tallest land mammals is the American bison (Bison bison). Males of this brown, shaggy-haired species stands between 5 feet 5 inches and 6 feet 1 inch at the shoulders.
The American bison used to roam North American in large herds, but a combination of hunting, slaughter and bovine viruses led to their near-extinction in the 19th century. Today, the species is considered near-threatened, with its roughly 31,000 individuals kept in U.S. national parks or preserves.