Geek Trivia

The Mammal With The Best Sense Of Smell Is The?

Bloodhound
Pigmy Shrew
African Elephant
Wild Boar
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Answer: African Elephant

We have long valued the domestic canine for its keen sense of smell–from hunting dogs to bomb-detecting dogs, their ability to sniff out even the faintest whiff of their target has proven invaluable. But despite how revered the canine sense of smell is (and how strong it is compared to our own sense of smell), it has absolutely nothing on the African elephant’s incredible olfactory abilities.

While we have long known that African elephants had a very good sense of smell, it was only recently that researchers actually mapped it out. The African elephant has an astounding 2,000 genes related directly to the olfactory system, which is more than twice as many as domestic dogs have and five times as many as humans have.

How sensitive is their nose? Behavioral studies revealed that the elephants’ sense of smell was so fine-tuned that they could distinguish between members of African tribal (ethnic) groups at a distance based just on smell. The elephants would avoid men from the Maasai tribe (who hunt elephants) and they show little fear of men from the Kamba tribe (an agriculturally oriented tribe that doesn’t hunt the elephants).

Although we still don’t fully understand why African elephants have such hyper-sensitive noses, it’s a safe bet to assume it has something to do with their rather poor eye sight. When your nose is so sensitive that you can smell predators up to half a mile away, it’s easy to move out of harm’s way.

Image courtesy of Muhammad Mahdi Karim.