Perhaps my all-time favorite television show is 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland. The show is an action thriller featuring a character named Jack Bauer (played by Sutherland) who works for a Federal Agency called CTU (Counter-Terrorism Unit). Jack Bauer is constantly doing 24-hour stints in foiling terrorist plots, although he himself is occasionally captured by the very terrorists he is hunting. One scene I recall that was particularly grizzly involved a captured Bauer tied up in a chair, and then, after faking some sort of seizure, once a guard got too close to him, Bauer suddenly lunged at the guard, bit into the guard’s throat, tearing open an artery, and spitting the flesh from the guard’s neck onto the floor while the hapless guard went into shock and bled out.
I know, lovely stuff, right?
As a result of that scene, I started thinking about the kind of bite force we humans have, which is about 120 to 160 pounds per square inch (PSI). In pondering that, I thought about the fact that, as of this writing, in my bench press workouts, I am lifting 165 pounds, which to me feels quite heavy. So that is only slightly above the upper end of an average man’s bite force. Thus, a human’s bite force sounds pretty powerful to me.
That got me thinking about the bite force of other animals. In doing some basic research, I was shocked to realize that we humans have a stronger bite force than one of the fiercest wild animals in nature: the Wolverine. A wolverine only has a bite force of about 50 PSI. We are about triple that number! Think of it: an animal that is so fierce and formable that it is not intimidated by much larger, stronger animals such as a Moose or a Bear only has a bite force about one-third of a human’s bite force. I mean, your house Cat has a stronger bite force at 70 PSI. (Don’t assume you can handle a wolverine, however; its claws are powerful and deadly!)
Other wild animals have a much stronger bite force. Take the Cougar, also known as the Puma or Mountain Lion. The Cougar has a bite force of 400 PSI, only slighter less than the Cheetah, another big cat, in fact, the fastest of the big cats. The Cheetah’s bite force comes in at 475 PSI. Then there’s the Leopard, which only weighs between 154 pounds and 220 pounds. Pound-for-pound, the Leopard is the strongest of the big cats, capable of carrying around 220 pounds of weight up a tree! Their bite force has been measured at 550 PSI.
When we look at the male African Lion, which has the loudest roar of the big cats (114 decibels, which can be heard from a distance of 5 miles), and which, at a top speed of 50 MPH, can outrun a Bengal Tiger, has a bite force of 650 PSI. That’s powerful! But while the Tiger is a slower sprinter than a Lion (which is usually clocked at about 40 MPH) the Bengal Tiger has a bite force of 1050 PSI. The Bengal Tiger has other advantages over the male African Lion: the Tiger has more muscle mass than the Lion, is a better climber and swimmer than a Lion, is a more experienced fighter, and has faster reflexes.
In comparing the bite force of both the Lion (650 PSI) and the Tiger (1050 PSI) with other ferocious predators, we find the Grizzly Bear has a bite force of 975 PSI while the much larger Kodiak Bear, which weighs 1500 pounds (vs. the Grizzly which weighs 595 pounds) has a bite force of 1100 PSI. Yet it is the Polar Bear, weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 990 to 1300 pounds, that has a bite force of 1200 PSI. That’s extraordinary force!
But for the strongest bite force of any of the big cats, we look past the lion, the tiger, the leopard, the cheetah, and the Cougar. It is the Jaguar that has the deadliest bite force of the big cats: somewhere between 1350 PSI and 2000 PSI! It can easily get its entire mouth over your head and crush your skull. In fact, a Jaguar can crush a bowling ball! It wins the prize for the strongest bite force of any big cat (or any bear for that matter).
Of course, the Saltwater Crocodile, were it able to read this article, would be either laughing or yawning. The bite force of this modern-day dinosaur has been measured to exceed 3700 PSI! Only the Great White Shark, at 4,000 PSI is greater.
Actually, that’s not quite true. While no one has found a way to accurately measure it, the bite force of a Killer Whale (also known as an Orca) is estimated to be around 19,000 PSI – significantly more powerful than the Great White Shark.
So the next time you are tempted to be dismissive of someone or something and are about to say the snarky phrase, “Bite me,” just make sure you aren’t saying it to a Cougar, a Cheetah, a Leopard, a male African Lion, a Bengal Tiger, a Grizzly, Kodiak, or a Polar Bear, a Jaguar, a Salt Walter Crocodile, a Great White Shark, or a Killer Whale.
And don’t say it to Jack Bauer, either.
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