Meet the World's 8 Tallest Land Animals

group of three elephants with one standing on hind legs to reach tree leaves
Elephants are plenty tall before they stand on their hind legs.

Jez Bennett / Shutterstock

All species evolved to the right height for their needs. These land animals, ranging from the giraffe to the bison, needed extra height.

In some cases, the height seems driven by a need for reaching the protein-rich higher leaves in trees. In others, outrunning predators led to animals evolving to have longer legs. Alternative evolutionary explanations for height include heat dispersal in more tropical climes, room for the efficient digestion of large amounts of vegetation, and more.

of 8


group of three giraffes gazing out at Africa savannah
Most of giraffes' height comes from their necks.

StanislavBeloglazov / Shutterstock

No other land mammal has quite a view like a 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.

The giraffe's size is a significant advantage. Between the giraffe's height, 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.

of 8

African Bush Elephant

elephant with tusks walking in the African savannah
Elephants are plenty big and pretty tall, too.

Peter Fodor / Shutterstock

Next to the giraffe in terms of height is the elephant, specifically the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana). Males of this species have a shoulder height of 10.5 to 13 feet. The bush elephant's nearest relative, the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), is between 7 and 8 feet at the shoulder.

Given the overall size of bush elephants — they weigh about 13,448 pounds (6,100 kilograms) — they're even more difficult to prey on than giraffes. Lions attempt to hunt younger elephants, but they don't have much success. Still, the species is considered vulnerable due to poaching and the transformation of habitats into agricultural land.

of 8


single adult ostrich running in the sand outside
Ostriches aren't Big Bird from "Sesame Street" tall, but they're tall.

paula french / Shutterstock

The ostrich is among the most recognizable birds. With their long necks and legs, an adult ostrich stands between 7 and 10 feet tall. The ostrich's long legs allow it to run at speeds up to 45 mph. Only cheetahs are fast enough to keep up with these big birds.

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.

of 8

Brown Bear

large brown bear standing on hind legs in brown meadow
If you think bears are intimidating on all fours, wait until they stand upright.

NancyS / Shutterstock

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) are a variable lot, with many subspecies. Called grizzly bears in North America, they are among the largest carnivores on the planet. On all fours, brown bears stand about 5 feet at the shoulder, but once they're up on their hind legs, they stand at 8 to 9 feet tall.

Brown bears occupy a range of habitats across North America and Eurasia. Despite extinction in some locales, the brown bear is considered an animal of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Some pockets of the species struggle, mostly due to habitat destruction and poaching.

of 8

Alaskan Moose

American Moose with large horns walks through forested mountain
Moose are the largest of the deer species.

David Drake / Shutterstock

The Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas) is a mighty herbivore of Alaska and the Yukon. Males reach 7.5 feet in height at the shoulder, and that's before you add the neck, head, and antlers.

Moose are vegetarians and can consume up to 70 pounds of food a day. Their height makes grazing on short grasses and plants difficult. Instead, they choose bushes and taller grasses. They're also excellent swimmers because of their need to eat water plants, a source of sodium.

of 8

Dromedary Camel

dromedary camel stands alone in desert sands against a blue sky with clouds
Stand tall in the desert, camels.

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 at shoulder height, a measurement that does not include a good portion of the hump. The size of the hump varies, depending on whether the camel is using the fat reserves contained within for sustenance.

Despite their impressive stature, dromedary camels are extinct in the wild and have been for almost 2,000 years. Today, this camel is semi-domesticated, meaning it may wander in the wild, but usually under the watchful eye of a herdsman.

of 8

Shire Horse

Shire horse standing in grass field with braided mane
Shire horses are the tallest horses.

Marina Kondratenko / Shutterstock

Horses, despite their generally gentle nature, can be intimidating due to their size. This factor is especially true for the Shire horse. This horse breed descended from the English "great horse," a kind of horse that was used by men in full armor hundreds of years ago. It's a sturdy, powerful horse.

The Shire horse averages 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.

of 8

American Bison

Male bison standing in American Prairie grass during spring
Bison are roughly the height of tall humans.

Jack Dykinga, edited by Fir0002 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Rounding out the list of tallest land mammals is the American bison (Bison bison). On all fours males of this brown, shaggy-haired species stand between 5 feet, 6 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.

View Article Sources
  1. DUTOIT, J.T. "Feeding-Height Stratification Among African Browsing Ruminants". African Journal Of Ecology, vol 28, no. 1, 1990, pp. 55-61. Wiley, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2028.1990.tb01136.x

  2. "Giraffa Camelopardalis (Giraffe)". Animal Diversity Web.

  3. "Loxodonta Africana (African Bush Elephant)". Animal Diversity Web.

  4. Smith, Nicola C., et al.  “Ontogenetic Scaling of Locomotor Kinetics and Kinematics of the Ostrich (Struthio Camelus).” Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 213, 2010, pp. 1347-1355., doi:10.1242/jeb.020271

  5. "Ursus Arctos (Brown Bear)". Animal Diversity Web.

  6. "Moose Species Profile, Alaska Department Of Fish And Game". Adfg.Alaska.Gov.

  7. "Camelus Dromedarius (Dromedary)". Animal Diversity Web.

  8. "Bison Bison (American Bison)". Animal Diversity Web.