Grabbing, digging, climbing… animals use claws for a lot of different purposes. For most of them, it’s an indispensable tool, and life would be very difficult without them.
In this article, we’ll be listing down 19 animals with claws:
- Big Cats (e.g. Tigers, Lions, Jaguars, Cheetahs, Leopards)
- Boa Constrictors
- African Clawed Frogs
- (Some) Monkeys
- African Civets
- Common Genets
- Giant Anteaters
1. Big Cats
Scientific name (genus): Panthera
Since tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, and cougars all have the same type of claw and they all use it for the same things – it’s best to think of them as a group.
They’re one of the few animals with retracting claws, as most species lost the ability to pull their claws back into their toes. You’ll also see this ability with domesticated cats!
Claws are essential to big cats – most importantly, they use them to catch prey. After latching onto a target with its claws, a big cat will jump and finish the job with its powerful bite.
They also use it to climb trees, which is another important quality for big cats, as they hide prey from other animals that way. Even though there’s no sure way to determine that, big cats probably have the sharpest claws in the world.
Scientific name (order): Crocodilia
All crocodilians have claws, but they’re actually very short in comparison to other species. Having webbed feet is great for swimming, but it’s not as nearly as good for claw usage.
They’re mostly used for digging, as female crocodiles have to dig up a nest in which they lay their eggs. Given that they’re semiaquatic animals, they’re the only water animal with claws.
Scientific name (class): Aves
All birds have claws, with birds of prey using them to catch, kill and butcher prey, while other birds use them for defense and climbing. Claws are particularly important to birds of prey as they would be helpless without them.
The claws of birds are usually very sharp, and some of them are fearfully dangerous. Cassowaries, for example, have actually disemboweled people in defense. They have some of the longest claws amongst birds, reaching 5 inches in length!
4. Boa Constrictors
Scientific name: Boa constrictor
Yes, believe it or not, there are a few snakes with claws. A single claw, to be exact. This claw is also sometimes documented in green and yellow anacondas.
It’s a remnant of hind limbs that snakes gave up once they started to burrow under the ground. It often emerges during mating, when males use it as a spur to incite the female to mate.
Scientific name (order): Squamata
Most lizard species have claws, with some of them developing extremely strong and useful claws. The best example behind this is the Komodo dragon, which can use its claws to climb trees, catch and kill prey, and dig burrows.
This lizard with long claws showcases one of the most diversified usages of claws in the animal kingdom, as they’re just as important to his survival as his tail and his powerful mouth.
Smaller lizards usually use their claws for climbing and nothing else.
6. African Clawed Frog
Scientific name: Xenopus laevis
This is the only amphibian with claws, and obviously the only frog with claws. They’re only found on the back feet of the frog, and they use them to rip apart food and scare away predators when under attack.
They’re also useful for digging, as they’ll often dig into the ground to find worms and other small animals they can eat.
Scientific name (family): Ursidae
These mammals with claws; used for digging, climbing, catching and killing prey, as well as tearing food up, are some of the largest clawed animals. What’s most interesting about them is their climbing purpose.
Bears are obviously much heavier than big cats, but they can still climb trees (admittedly, not as dexterously). This is a great example of just how strong their claws are, as they can hold a half-ton bear above ground with ease.
8. (Some) Monkeys
Scientific name (family): Callitrichidae
This family of monkeys is known for having claws on almost all of their toes. They usually use them for grooming, climbing, and for digging under the tree bark to find food.
They’re one of the few monkeys with claws, though, as most primates got rid of them through evolution.
9. African Civets
Scientific name: Civettictis civetta
These small animals with claws are one of the few species (other than cats) that can retract their claws. They mostly use them for hunting – catching and killing prey, as well as dismembering their food.
Interestingly, they’re one of the few animals known to kill and eat venomous snakes (mostly spitting cobras), and they use their claws to subdue the animal before killing it with a bite.
10. Common Genets
Scientific name: Genetta genetta
Another related to both civets and cats, no wonder this small animal with sharp claws can retract them. Genets are found not only in Africa, but also in Portugal, Spain, and parts of France.
They’re great climbers and they mostly use their claws for that exact purpose, but they also use them for feeding. A genet’s diet consists of smaller mammals, lizards, birds, amphibians, and large insects. They’ll even eat fruit, which is why climbing is so important to them.
Scientific name (family): Nephropidae
The pincers on lobsters are actually claws, professionally known as chela, and most lobsters have three pairs of claws (on the front-three pairs of legs). Lobsters mostly use their claws for catching food and self-defense.
They’re one of the very few sea animals with claws, with the other species being crabs.
Scientific name (infraorder): Brachyura
Another group of sea animals with claws, crabs mostly use their claws to protect themselves and catch prey. However, there’s a bit more to it. For example, males usually have larger claws.
In fiddler crabs, the male usually has one claw much larger than the other, which he uses for communication and attracting a female. They usually wave their large claw to attract females – proving that they’re a viable partner.
Aside from mating, crabs catch prey with claws, after which they dismember it and consume it.
Scientific name (order): Chiroptera
Except for birds, the only flying animals with claws are bats. Even through there the Onychonycteris genus has claws on all five fingers, modern bats don’t have more than two claws per digit on each hand.
Bats are great climbers, mostly thanks to their claws, but they also use them to catch prey. They can even grab fish right out of the water and carry it to a feeding roost.
Scientific name (order): Cingulata
It’s probably not what you’d expect, but the giant armadillo has the longest claws in the world, on average reaching 8 inches in length. They mostly use their claws for digging to find food and make burros.
However, they’ll also use their claws for self-defense if their hardy armor isn’t enough. Armadillos have claws on both their front (3-5) and hind feet (5), and they’re strong enough to dig into termite mounds.
They can often cause problems to homeowners with their claws, as they easily destroy lawns and gardens.
15. Giant Anteaters
Scientific name: Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Unlike animals with retractable claws, anteaters can’t pull their claws back in. That’s why they have to walk on their knuckles so they don’t break them, as claws are essential to their survival.
They use their claws to dig through the ground, usually into an ant or termite mound, after which they stick out their extremely long tongue to feast. They also use their claws to battle with other ant-eaters, which is often very bloody as they slash each other.
Giant anteaters have extremely long and some of the most dangerous claws in the animal kingdom, capable of killing a jaguar. They can seriously harm people who approach them – they’ve killed three people in the past twenty years, two of which were cases of self-defense.
Their claws can reach up to four inches in length, and they’re often the subject of poaching in Venezuela.
Scientific name (suborder): Folivora
Sloths also have very long claws, but they rarely use them for fighting. Instead, they have the best climbing claws out of all the animals on this list. Forget about big cats – sloths hang off of trees literally their entire lives.
To be able to do that, they have to possess an incredible set of claws – which they do. Their claws are so incredibly strong that they won’t fall from trees, even when shot and killed by poachers!
Because of this evolutionary benefit, sloths hang on trees with almost no effort.
Scientific name (family): Macropodidae
Kangaroos have claws on their front limbs, but they’re some of the shortest claws in the animal kingdom and are almost useless on a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, they use them to defend themselves from predators by scratching.
When it comes to self-defense, kangaroo claws are sharp enough to deal some serious damage, especially to humans, a lesson Australian natives had to learn the hard way.
Scientific name (family): Mustelidae
You might not know this, but the feet of a badger are armed with incredibly strong claws which they use to fend off predators and hunters. Dachshunds were often used to hunt the European badger, and it often ended badly for the dogs.
Not only are they very effective for fighting, but also for digging burrows and finding food under the ground. They can also rip open bee hives, which only proves that they’re some of the sharpest claws in small animals.
Scientific name: Phascolarctos cinereus
Most people don’t remember claws when they think about koalas, but these small bears with claws use them for climbing and grooming. As they spend their entire lives in the trees, koalas need strong claws (just like sloths) to survive.
Additionally, they’re sharp enough to make a cut if they need to defend themselves, which happens more rarely. Behavior that we don’t see as often with other clawed animals is that they use their claws for grooming.