15 Animals With the Best Sense of Smell

Animals With the Best Sense of Smell
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If you’re interested in learning about animals with the best sense of smell, keep reading because we’ve compiled a fantastic list of them.

Animals, like people, possess incredible abilities that they use to adapt to their surroundings.

Many species of animals have a keener and more exceptional capacity for smelling than others, and there is a plethora of these animals.

Over the course of thousands of years, animals have developed unique capabilities that far surpass what we, as humans are capable of.

Their keen sense of smell enables them to seek food and warns them of potential threats, making them an interesting and unique species.

The number of scent receptors, also known as sensors, that an animal possesses determines its level of olfactory sensitivity.

There are 400 smell receptors in the human nose. On the other hand, the animals with the best sense of smell have more than a thousand receptors!

This article provides information about animals with the best sense of smell, all of which are significantly superior to humans in this regard. Let’s find out more about the useful applications of their keen sense of smell.

What Makes These Animals Superb Sniffers?

Some animals can communicate with one another through their keen sense of smell and use it to protect themselves from potential threats.

When it comes to sniffing or detecting information, some organisms utilize their noses, while others use another organ that performs a function that is analogous to a nose.

They can use a scent to search for food, communicate with one another, mark their territory, attract a partner, and identify potential threats to their safety.

In addition, several other important characteristics have a role in the degree to which an animal can smell.

For example, the number of olfactory receptors (ORs) in an animal’s nose and their relative sizes.

Similarly, the amount of OR genes present in an individual’s DNA is directly proportional to the degree to which they can utilize their sense of smell.

The better the sniffer, both in terms of size and amount of OR genes, the more there are.

In addition, some of nature’s most remarkable creatures possess the Jacobson’s organ, which gives them the ability to pick up on pheromones (hormones that, when secreted, influence the behavior of other species around them).

In particular, the portion of the brain dedicated to the sense of smell is often more developed in some animals, enabling them to have an exceptional capacity for detecting odors.

Animals With the Best Sense of Smell

When comparing animals based on their sense of smell, you’ll notice that some have a more acute capability than others to pick up on a specific odor.

In contrast, others have the ability to detect that odor more strongly than others. The environment and surroundings in which the animal lives are the primary contributors to the variety.

For instance, some animals have an exceptionally acute sense of smell, which helps them locate their food.

On the other hand, some individuals may have mastered the ability to detect the odor of their enemies from many miles away and conceal themselves accordingly.

Continue reading with us if you are interested in discovering more about the species that are completely devoted to their sense of smell.

1. Elephants

On the list of animals with the best sense of smell, elephants are a serious candidate for first place.

When comparing two plates of food, for instance, the vast majority of us can rapidly discern which of the two meal plates contains a greater quantity of food.

However, we are out of luck if the lights are turned off. Surprisingly, this does not hold true for elephants!

A recent study found that elephants have one of the best and most likely the most acute senses of smell ever documented in a given species.

They are able to identify a wide variety of scents that are present in their environment. This is because they have close to 2,000 different genes dedicated to their sense of smell.

In addition, elephants have a highly developed sense of smell that can detect a wide variety of odors.

As a direct consequence of this, they are able to identify subsurface water from a distance of up to 12 miles.

Studies done in the past have demonstrated that African elephants can differentiate between odor molecules that have exceedingly minute structural differences.

Differences that people and other species are completely unable to distinguish between one another.

Their nostrils, which are at the top of their trunks, are responsible for breathing, sniffing, and gathering water from their environment.

As a result, they take great pride in the fact that they are among the animals with the best sense of smell.

They constantly use the talent bestowed upon them by mother nature in all aspects of life. For instance, they frequently utilize their trunk to pick up novel aromas and distinguish between various odors.

2. Sharks

When it comes to foraging for food, sharks rely mostly on their acute sense of smell, making them one of the best animals with the best sense of smell and the most dangerous predatory fish in existence.

The olfactory bulb in this critter’s brain is so vital to its survival and plays such a significant role in its daily activities that it takes up two-thirds of the brain’s total volume.

Because they can pinpoint the location of a wounded marine species or even a wounded human prey from a great distance, sharks are terrifying predators. Humans are also fair game for sharks.

Sharks perceive odors via currents. Because of this, it would be some time before the odor reached their nostrils, given the distance between them.

The movement of the ocean can transport molecules that carry odors. Because of this, the amount of mobility will determine how quickly the odor will reach them.

Therefore, if you ever expose your flesh while swimming in open waters, you should consider acting fast to reach the shore in order to protect yourself from becoming a delectable meal for a shark that appears to be hungry.

The nostrils of these animals are on the sides of their mouths and at the bottom of their snouts.

They can hear exceptionally well and have an exceptional sense of smell thanks to the constant flow of water that passes over their nose, which is made possible by their incredible abilities and the peculiar form of their bodies.

Their acutely developed sense of smell enables them to pick up the scent of a single drop of blood in a volume of water that is roughly equivalent to one hundred liters.

3. Bears

Bears are well-known for possessing a highly developed sense of smell, which enables them to detect food from considerable distances.

Their enormous noses consist of several thousand olfactory receptors that are one hundred times more sensitive than those found in human noses.

In fact, they are able to recognize the aroma of food made by people deep in the forest, especially if it is food that bears find to their liking.

In addition, it is general knowledge that polar bears and silvertip grizzlies have unusually acute senses of smell.

This is a fact that has been documented time and time again. They are able to do this thanks to their amazing talents and an acute sense of smell, which allows them to locate a dead animal up to 20 kilometers away.

When compared to the sense of smell possessed by other animals on the earth, grizzlies stand out as having the most acute capacity.

This should not come as a surprise, given that the surface area of their olfactory bulbs is five times larger than that of the typical individual.

Because of this characteristic, bears are a species that may be both fascinating and terrifying at the same time.

4. Dogs

It is no surprise that Dogs are on the list of animals with the best sense of smell. Dogs are yet another animal with a highly developed sense of smell. These species are drawn to smells that are strange, exotic, and intriguing to them.

Bloodhounds are a kind of dog famous for their extraordinary sense of scent, which is 300 times more intense than humans.

They have the ability to identify odors that are more than two weeks old. Also, they can easily follow smell trails across distances greater than one hundred kilometers.

The police make regular use of them because of their unique skills, which enable them to investigate crime scenes, look for missing persons, and track down criminals.

In addition, dogs belonging to the Basset Hound subspecies are typically quite small and have long, drooping ears.

These dogs use their ears to run down the ground and pick up odors that way. Because of the folds found on their face and neck, they can store odors and keep track of them while following a trail.

Because dogs have such a strong sense of smell, humans often use them in bomb and drug detection due to their extensive training in this area.

They can also find corpses and locate people based on the scent of the clothing they are wearing.

In point of fact, they are primarily accustomed to the smells of human individuals because of the speed with which they develop a fondness for a scent that they are accustomed to inhaling on a daily basis.

5. Snakes

Snakes are among the many animal species that have an acute capacity for detecting odors.

They rely heavily on their keen sense of smell, which makes up for the fact that they have a limited capacity for hearing and poor vision.

Even though they have a nose for detecting odors, their sensitivity to smell is thanks to a collection of organs found on the top of their mouths. These organs are known as Jacobson’s (vomeronasal) organs.

They then react in accordance with the scents they detect in the surrounding environment after opening their lips wide and flicking their tongues out to study the odors.

Their tongues are forked, so they have two prongs on each side that can attract odor molecules from the surrounding air.

Their brains analyze this scent very quickly so that they may swiftly locate the scent of their prey.

The keen instincts that snakes possess make them very dangerous creatures that people fear worldwide.

Similar to how sharks use their acute sense of smell to stay aware of their environment and avoid predation, snakes rely on this sense to help them stay alive. 

6. Kiwis

Kiwis are unusual birds that cannot fly and have a distinctive beak that allows them to do their specialized role of smelling.

Because of the length of their beaks, even though they have limited vision, they have a highly developed sense of smell.

The beaks of these birds include sensory openings, which allow them to locate prey burrowing underground.

In addition, kiwis have one of the largest olfactory bulbs compared to other bird species. Their ability to smell is given such a high priority in their brains that it has its own section.

Because of the particular location of the nostrils on the top of the kiwi’s bill, the bird can detect and identify food sources much more easily than other birds making them one of the top animals with the best sense of smell.

Because they are unable to fly and get most of their food from the ground, their bodies have evolved a remarkable mechanism for smell, which assists them in the hunt for food and ensures that they can survive.

7. Cows

These herbivores with cloven feet have some of the most acute senses of smell of any of the major domesticated animals.

These enormous animals have 1,100 times more olfactory receptor genes than humans do in their bodies.

Because of this, they are the creatures that have the most impressive capacity to detect odors.

Their acute sense of smell enables them to detect odors up to six kilometers distant. In addition, cows have a unique skill, which is the ability to perceive oncoming danger, which can be quite useful in some situations.

Their keen sense of smell is likely the most effective weapon in their arsenal of self-defense strategies.

They can sense odors from several miles away and anticipate their meals even before they hear the tractors come up to the barns.

In addition, cows have not only a highly developed sense of smell but also one of the most acute hearing abilities of any animal.

Because of their exceptional sense of smell, they can perceive their environment and anticipate a variety of events that are about to take place.

8. Turkey Vultures

There are 23 different species of vultures found worldwide, but turkey vultures are the most common.

This is because, compared to practically every other bird species, they have evolved to possess the most acute sense of smell.

These enormous, hairless birds with boomerang-shaped wings use their acute sense of smell to locate their next meal. They have boomerang-shaped wings.

They have a well-developed nasal cavity that is well-established. In addition, the size of the olfactory bulb of a turkey vulture is significantly larger than that of a black vulture.

Even though turkey vultures have a brain that is five times smaller than that of a black vulture, they have twice as many Mitral cells in their bodies.

These cells help the brain receive information about smells by acting as a stand-in for the intensity of their sense of smell, facilitating the transmission of information about smells to the brain.

They can sense the presence of dead animals from a distance of more than a mile away, which is a remarkable feat for a bird, so it is only logical that they make the list of animals with the best sense of smell.

In addition, they can identify sulfurous chemical compounds and streams of diluted gas in the air chamber several hundred feet above the ground.

They have the propensity of going in circles about their environment to locate the source of the aromas they can smell.

9. Silk Moths

If you’re wondering why moths are on this compilation of animals with the best sense of smell, the answer is that they are insects that have one of the most sophisticated processes for the smell.

The male silk moth has a sense of smell that can detect odors more than 13 kilometers away.

Indicative of the animal’s highly developed sense of smell is that male moths have an organ specifically designed to detect the scent given off by female moths.

Even though male silk moths do not have a traditional nose, they have enormous antennae sensitive to smell.

These beings have the ability to identify the pheromone scent of a single pheromone particle from a female from more than seven miles distant.

This is all possible because of the specialized olfactory sensors housed in their large, elaborate, feathery antennae.

Their olfactory capabilities are developing rapidly, yet they can only identify a certain odor. It has specifically adapted through time to distinguish the scent left behind by female moths.

Their antennas can detect female hormone particles in the air even when they are at a great distance.

On the other hand, female moths use the scent left behind by males to determine whether or not they are fertile enough to have offspring.

10. Rats

When compared to mice, rats have a significantly better sense of smell. Their sense of smell is among the most acute of any mammalian species.

These critters have a diet that is more varied and adaptive than that of cats because of the great sniffing ability they possess.

Rats have thousands of genes that code for olfactory receptors, which contributes to their highly developed sense of smell.

A patch of skin on the nape of their neck houses the olfactory receptors, which are positioned in such a way that air may flow past their nose.

When a rat inhales air, the odor molecules it picks up go to its vomeronasal organs, where they are further processed.

In addition, rats use these organs to sense pheromones, which allows them to recognize and differentiate between various individuals that belong to the same rat species.

For example, African Giant Pouched Rats are very small mammals with a limited field of view. On the other hand, they make up for it with an exceptionally acute sense of smell.

People trained these cat-sized rats to identify landmines and concealed bombs in conflict zones because of their amazing sensitivities.

Countries such as Cambodia have already used a good number of them. Some of them have even been trained to look for signs of tuberculosis in samples taken from hospitals.

10. Eastern American Mole

The blind eastern American mole relies primarily on its sense of smell to identify prey and determine its location. This is because the mole lacks eyes.

These animals have a fascinating skill known as “smells in stereo,” which allows them to differentiate between odors.

This implies that each nostril can smell separately, enabling them to form a complete image of their surroundings through their nostrils.

11. American Eel

Even though its sense of smell is less developed than that of a shark, the American eel is a fish with a very keen nose.

They are nocturnal predators. Thus they rely more heavily on their sense of smell than their eyesight when searching for food.

They take refuge in their burrows during the day to avoid getting spotted by potential predators, including eagles, gulls, and large fish.

They are more of an honorary mention on this compilation of animals with the best sense of smell.

12. Wandering Albatross

The wingspan of the wandering albatross is approximately 11.5 feet, making it one of the largest seabirds.

These birds eat schools of fish and squid when they are flying out over the wide ocean.

Their olfactory capabilities are so extraordinary that they can detect the odor of fish from great heights and can pinpoint the location of their next meal up to 12.4 miles away.

They will adjust their flight path to approach prey they cannot even see.

13. Horses

Horses are among the animals with the best sense of smell, and they are also one of the animals that have the highest level of intelligence.

Even if their sense of smell is not quite on par with that of a dog when it comes to detecting odors, it is still significantly superior to that of a human.

As a result of this ability, horses can differentiate between other horses and potential predators, and the structure of their nasal cavity has equipped horses with a comparatively large nasal cavity that they may use to do so.

In addition, the head of the horse is quite massive, resulting in an abnormally high number of receptors in the animal.

Their adaptable nostrils dilate in response to a scent that piques their interest and causes them to become more alert.

It’s like how dogs get to know each other by sniffing each other’s behinds, but horses are less direct in their communication with one another when they’re just getting to know each other for the first time.

14. Opossums

Because of their acute sense of smell, marsupials, of which opossums are a kind, are distinguished from other kinds of mammals.

It is comparable to how kangaroos and koalas mature, where a portion of their development takes place in the mother’s womb, and the remainder of their development takes place in the mother’s pouch.

It has poor vision and hearing, but its sense of smell is good, and its sense of touch is excellent. These senses are more important than vision and hearing.

The total number of olfactory receptor genes in humans is just 396. However, there are significantly higher copies of these genes in the species.

Opossums are fascinating animals with the best sense of smell thanks to their extraordinary number of OR.

These animals frequently engage in illegal scavenging, and people have spotted them numerous times looking for food by sniffing around in gardens and on the grounds.

Opossums can adapt to their circumstances thanks largely to their acute sense of smell, which also helps them thrive in urban settings.

This animal is well known for having an exceptionally strong immune system, which allows it to protect itself against diseases and the toxicity caused by the venom of the snakes that it hunts and eats.

In addition to having incredibly acute olfactory capabilities, this animal also has an exceptionally powerful immune system.

15. Chinese Softshell Turtle

The Chinese softshell turtle, also known as the Asiatic soft-shelled turtle, is a species of reptile that is regarded as having one of the top animals with the best sense of smell.

This particular species is prevalent in a variety of locations across the globe, including China and Hawaii, amongst others.

The 1,137 olfactory receptor genes found in this reptile are approximately identical to the number of genes found in cows, which is one of the reasons why this reptile was able to make it into this list.

The Chinese softshell turtle is a turtle species that is native to Asia but has now made its way to the United States, where it is now an invasive species.

Regardless of a person’s gender, it can reach a maximum height of 13 feet.

Olive in color, these turtles can have dark markings on their bodies and have a snout that appears to be quite lengthy. They reside in the Mediterranean.

This animal relies on its keen sense of smell not just to track down its meal but also to assess whether or not it is in danger from potential threats that may be lurking nearby.

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