Humans aren’t the only animals with big foreheads! In fact, we share this quality with some of the biggest (literally) names in the animal kingdom.
Whether they use it to protect the brain or to establish dominance, here are the 14 animals with big foreheads:
- Giant Pandas
- Beluga Whales
- Sperm Whale
- American Bison
- Flowerhorn Cichlids
- Bottlenose Dolphins
- Green Humphead Parrotfish
- Wild Yak
- Bald Uakaris
- Blunthead Tree Snake
1. Giant Pandas
Scientific name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca
Even though they’re not the largest bears (polar bears and brown bears share that title), pandas are bears with the largest forehead. The growth of their cheeks and forehead is actually proof of evolution.
After switching to bamboo as their primary food, pandas had to grow a larger head to fit large biting muscles in their cheeks. After the growing of the cheeks, the rest of the head followed, including the forehead.
According to one study, pandas have one of the strongest bites (relative to their own size) out of all herbivores.
Scientific name: Gorilla gorilla
The largest living primates have what is called a high-domed head. Their forehead is somewhat hanging over their eyes, with the temple being very wide.
If you take a look at a gorilla’s side profile, you’ll see that the forehead steeply grows into the top of the head. This makes their foreheads very long, but they’re also much thicker than the foreheads of other primates.
In fact, their foreheads are so long that they take up more space on their heads than their faces do! This makes gorillas primates with the largest forehead.
Scientific name (subfamily): Elephantinae
The largest terrestrial mammal is also the terrestrial mammal with the largest forehead (to the surprise of no one). The forehead of an elephant is long and proportional to the rest of its head.
An elephant’s head is large and thick, enabling them to withstand head-to-head collisions with other animals (including other elephants).
Even though the elephant’s brain is larger than a human’s (about three times), it’s proportionally smaller, leaving more space for bone growth.
4. Beluga Whales
Scientific name: Delphinapterus leucas
Growing up to 18 feet in length, beluga whales are massive sea mammals. Their melon (which is what the foreheads of whales and dolphins are called) is extremely large in comparison to the rest of its body.
This is because they contain an organ that generates high and low-frequency sounds. In fact, their foreheads are squishy and you can actually see them change shape as they produce those sounds.
This makes the beluga whale one of the animals with the most interesting foreheads.
5. Sperm Whales
Scientific name: Physeter macrocephalus
Not only are they the largest living toothed predator, they also have the largest brain of any living or extinct animal. With their brains weighing up to 20 pounds, five times more than a human’s brain, they need a large forehead to protect them.
The sperm whale is the animal with the largest forehead, but that’s not only because of its brain size. Male sperm whales will ram one another when competing for females, using their foreheads as a weapon!
Scientific name (genus): Pongo
Male orangutans often have noticeably smaller foreheads than females, at least at first glance. However, because only males have wide cheeks, some orangutans with large foreheads appear to have smaller foreheads because of an optical illusion.
Large heads correlate with dominance in their culture, as males that grow a large head won’t tolerate other males in their territory. The forehead simply grows with the rest of the orangutan’s head.
Because of their circular shape, orangutans have some of the weirdest foreheads on the planet.
Scientific name (family): Rhinocerotidae
Rhinos are some of the most endangered animals in the world, and they also have some of the largest foreheads in the world. The forehead of a black rhino is the easiest one to spot, as it’s usually protruding outwards.
Their foreheads are very thick, as they need to be able to withstand ramming forces. Rhinos often use their horns for defense, and ramming into other animals at great speeds puts a lot of pressure on their nose and their foreheads.
8. American Bison
Scientific name: Bison bison
The bison has some of the largest bovine foreheads, which they use to battle within the herd (to establish dominance) and defend themselves. Their foreheads are covered with a thick mat of hair to protect them from impact.
When provoked, a bison will charge at another bison (or even people, in some instances) with their forehead. They can even grow 2 feet-long horns, which they use to attack.
9. Flowerhorn Cichlids
Scientific name (genus): Amphilophus
These fish, with a lot of species within the genus, all share one distinct quality – they have a massive forehead. The forehead, professionally known as the nuchal hump, was actually created by selective breeding.
Flowerhorn cichlids were firstly bred for aquarium hobbyists before being released into the wild. They’re currently considered an invasive pest animal, while they’re even completely banned in some places, like Australia.
Their breeding is an unethical practice, as their forehead is actually an anatomical deformation – a hump. They are, however, animals with the roundest foreheads.
10. Bottlenose Dolphins
Scientific name: Tursiops truncatus
One of the few animals to have a brain larger than a human’s, bottlenose dolphins have very large melons. Just like with beluga whales, their melons play an important role in echolocation.
The melon is usually full of fat, which allows them to use echolocation to orient themselves. Because of this innate ability and their intelligence, dolphins were once used by the military to find underwater mines and enemy divers.
This makes them the smartest sea animals with big foreheads.
11. Green Humphead Parrotfish
Scientific name: Bolbometopon muricatum
The largest of all parrotfish is also one of the fishes with the largest forehead (given that dolphins and whales aren’t actually fish). They usually develop a bulb-like forehead as adults, which can take a long time as they live for up to 40 years.
The forehead isn’t without its purpose – green humphead parrotfish use it to ram corals and facilitate feeding! They can actually break off pieces of coral and speed up the eating process.
12. Wild Yak
Scientific name: Bos mutus
A cousin of the American bison, the wild yak is one of the largest bovines in the world. It is also one of the animals with the widest foreheads, as their horns grow out the side of their head.
Just like the bison, the yak will use its forehead and its horns to defend itself, but they’re very friendly (even in the wild) and easily domesticated. Today, we can only find the wild yak in Tibet and parts of China.
13. Bald Uakaris
Scientific name: Cacajao calvus
This species of New World monkey is well known for only one thing – its large forehead. As you can see from the photos, their fur only starts to grow at the back of their head, revealing a large forehead, the top of their head, and their ears.
They have the most exposed foreheads out of all the animals on this list as they’re, quite literally, bald.
14. Blunthead Tree Snake
Scientific name: Imantodes cenchoa
This arboreal snake is common in Central and South America, and it’s the snake with the largest forehead (relative to its own size). The head of this snake is much wider than the rest of its body, allowing it to prey on larger animals.
They rarely grow past 4 feet and their venom isn’t dangerous to humans. In comparison to its head, this snake’s body is very thin and its eyes are very large, making up 26% of the snake’s head size!