Animals with the Largest Claws

Animals with the largest claws attract a lot of our attention. Furthermore, they either use them for defense or, as tools for daily tasks. Not surprisingly, these attributes of nature generate the interest of studies and experts around the world.
Animals with the Largest Claws

Last update: 21 March, 2019

Claws are a fundamental part of an animal’s body, and they’re key to their defense, feeding, and survival. While several species have powerful, sharp nails, many animal species stand out. So, what are the animals with the largest claws in nature?

The animals with the largest claws ever are now extinct

Scientific advances and fossil research have helped us to see that the largest claws in history belonged to a dinosaur. In this case, we’re referring to the species Therizinosaurus, who also goes by the name of “scythe lizard,” which means “to reap.”

According to the analysis of their fossils, the claws of the Therizinosaurus could reach up to three feet long. The claws actually protruded from their front legs.

These peculiar animals already lived on the planet during the last phase of the Cretaceous period (about 75 million years ago) in the region where Central Asia is currently located.

We’d probably think that the Therizinosaurus was a powerful hunter thanks to its amazing claws. But nothing could be further from the truth…

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth, in the United Kingdom, suggest that most likely it was a herbivorous species.

So, what were the claws for? Well, mainly to defend themselves from possible predators, and also to hold on to the typical vegetation in their habitat, in order to make it easier to eat.

Did the Therizinosaurus have the largest claws in history?

Everything would indicate that this is the case, but it depends on perspective. If you consider the length of the claws on their own, then there is no other animal that can be compared to this prehistoric specimen.

But, if you consider the relationship between the length of the claws and the size of the animal’s body, then you can’t say that they’re the largest.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet been possible to completely reconstruct a full Therizinosaurus skeleton. Because of that, it’s impossible to establish an exact comparison between the dimensions of their claws in relation to their bones.

So, now we’re going to mention the animals with this particular trait from a proportional point of view. That is to say, the ratio between the size of their claws in comparison to the total length of their body.

Five living species of animals with the largest claws

If we consider the proportion between their long claws and their size, the following animals would be the ones with the largest claws in the world:

Winner of the animals with the largest claws: Giant armadillo

A giant armadillo walking.

The giant armadillo has the largest ratio of body and claws in the entire animal kingdom. The total body length of this species is between 35 and 40 inches, and its claws can measure about 8 inches.

Proportionally, the claws of the giant armadillo are equivalent to 22% of its body. These long claws are mainly used for digging and searching for food. But, of course, if they feel threatened, armadillos won’t hesitate to use them for self-defense.


A sloth posing for the camera.

Sloths are also among the animals with the largest claws in proportion to their body. The three-toed sloths of the tropics have claws of about 4 inches, while their body measures about 22 or 24 inches long. Proportionally, their claws represent 17% of their body size.

The two-toed sloth bears can reach about 28 inches and their claws also reach 4 inches in length. That is, their claws represent 14% of their total body length.

In addition to helping them climb the tall trees of their habitat, these large, thick claws are also great defense tools. Furthermore, because sloths don’t have sharp teeth and aren’t fast animals, their claws are key to ward off predators.

Harpy eagle

Harpy eagle grabbing a branch with its large claws.

The harpy eagle is the bird with the largest claws from a proportional point of view. This beautiful bird doesn’t only live in the US, but also extends throughout Central America and part of South America. Their claws measure about 4 inches long and represent about 7% of their body length.

Star-nosed mole

A star-nosed mole.

The so-called star-nosed moles are excavating mammals whose main feature is their snout, which has a curious star-like shape. This species has the longest claws among all the members of its family. The length represents about 6.5% of their total body size.

Giant anteater

The anteater has no teeth, but their tongues are long enough to catch hundreds of ants and termites at a time.

Additionally, their hind feet have five short claws and their forefeet, three. Furthermore, these are so long that, when they walk, the claws remain on the sides of their paws in order to avoid wear and tear.

Also, this animal uses its large, sharp claws to tear anthills open, after which it’ll put its long snout and efficient tongue to work. Their claws are about 7 inches long and their body length about 7 feet. Proportionally, the claws are about 6% of the anteater’s body length.

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