Beards are hip and cool, but a man’s beard has nowhere near the capabilities of an animal’s whiskers. Whiskers are modified hairs that animals use to enhance their senses, almost like a superpower. You’ll typically see an animal’s whiskers growing around its nostrils, above the lips, and even above its eyes. Some unique animals have them on their feet, too, and manatees can have them all over their head and body.
In this article, we’ll talk about the top 10 animals with the longest whiskers and even take a look at some exotic animals with whiskers. But first, let’s take a look at how whiskers work.
How Do Whiskers Work?
Whiskers brush over objects, and the irregularities in the surface of the object are translated into motion by the whiskers. Each whisker has nerve sensors at the base of the hair follicle, which relays information about the movement, such as the direction, the duration of the movement, and even the speed of the movement.
An animal’s whiskers can help it understand all sorts of information such as location, texture, size, and other details, according to discoverwildlife.com. They use them to help navigate through small or dark spaces, make minute adjustments for balance, and find prey and avoid predators.
An animal’s whiskers can reveal if they are happy, aggressive, or playful. Whisker is an old world that comes from the early 1600s. It was a word that originally meant wisker or something that whisks or sweeps. According to treehugger.com, it was then used to describe a human beard or mustache, and finally, animal whiskers, according to treehugger.com.
But what animals have the longest whiskers?
Cats are known for their glorious whiskers! Cats have long whiskers. You might notice your cat’s whiskers reach forward when they’re happy. And if a cat is scared or aggressive, you’ll see its whiskers are plastered back against its face.
But those same whiskers also help them to know if they can fit in small spaces. A cat’s whiskers correspond to its body width, so the chubbier the cat, the longer the whiskers. Cats typically have 12 whiskers on each side of their face – symmetry is essential for their sense of balance.
Whiskers can help a cat with balance in order to jump or climb. And those pretty little whiskers can assist your kitty when it hunts its prey.
Maine Coon Cat
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest whiskers on a cat goes to Missi, a Maine Coon from Finland. Missi was born in December of 2001, and in 2005 her whiskers measured an incredible 19 cm (7.5 inches) long. That’s about three times the length of an average house cat’s whiskers!
A larger cat, the mountain lion or cougar, according to wildlifeinformer.com, uses whiskers to capture their prey. They can use their whiskers to help them sense prey even when it is too dark to see. And their whiskers help them to know where to bite, too. Their whiskers are so sensitive that they don’t have to come into contact with their prey to know it’s there. In addition, changes in airflow from the animal’s body can be detected by a mountain lion’s whiskers!
You might be as surprised as I was to discover that mountain lions even have long whiskers on their paws!
The larger the cat, the larger the whiskers, and tigers are no exception. These exotic animals have whiskers that are around 15 cm long. Interestingly, tigers also have whiskers on the backs of the front legs to aid in climbing and catching prey. I certainly wouldn’t want a tiger’s whiskers sweeping over me!
Tiger whiskers were used in ancient traditional medicine to ward off a toothache, and it is said they give courage to whoever wears them. This, of course, is just folklore, so don’t go asking any tigers to hand over their beautiful whiskers!
The most giant of cats has the longest whiskers. Lion whiskers are usually around 30 cm long. And according to Lion Alert, the pattern of every lion’s whiskers are so unique that they can be used to tell lions apart, just like a human fingerprint. Much like a tiger, a lion’s whiskers help him see in the dark and catch prey.
Folklore tells tales of black associated with a tiger’s whiskers. However, according to the Times of India, the ground-up whiskers of a lion can cause internal bleeding when ingested. So I’ll happily stay away from lions and their whiskers!
Ratbehavior.org talks all about a rat’s whiskers. They explain that a rat’s whiskers can be up to 50 mm long! And a rat has five rows of 5 to 9 whiskers on each side of his nose to help him explore his environment.
Baby rats are even born with their whiskers, and if one falls out, a new one grows in its place in about 8 to 11 days.
Rats use their whiskers even more than they use their eyes. So sounds in their environment can vibrate the whiskers, too, acting as another way for rats to hear what’s happening in their environment.
Rats move their whiskers in a whisking motion up to 25 times per minute.
Rabbit whiskers are shorter towards their nose and get longer towards their cheeks. Rabbits use their whiskers to make sure a hole or hiding spot is big enough for them, so they don’t get stuck. They also use them to sense things they can’t see very well. Rabbits also have whiskers above their eyes that serve as extra-long eyelashes that can help protect their eyes. Find out more here.
Rabbits’ eyes don’t have the best depth perception, so their sensitive whiskers help them understand where they are in space. This is essential for avoiding all those predators that want to have them for dinner!
Like other rodents, beavers have whiskers. They use their whiskers to find objects, get through small spaces, and find their way through darker waters. Beavers also have a webbed toe that they can use as a comb to keep their fur from matting. Find out more about beavers here.
It can be difficult for a seal to see in murky waters, but their long whiskers help them hunt even in cloudy waters. Fish leave wave disturbances in the water when they swim. Seals whiskers are deliberately wavy which allows them to track these hydrodynamic trails.
Consequently, their specialized whiskers help them detect changes in the water where another animal is swimming. It helps them find food and avoid predators.
Interesting fact is seals whiskers are so finely tuned they can detect fish 100m away.
The walrus is known for its thick, heavy whiskers that frame its mouth. A walrus can live up to 40 years in the wild and weigh up to 1 and a half tons.
Walruses love shellfish, which are found close to the dark ocean floor. So they use their whiskers to detect shellfish even when it is too dark to be able to see. You can find out more about the walrus and their whiskers at Nationalgeographic.com.
Like the walrus and the seal, sea lions also use their sensitive whiskers to find their fish in the water.
A sea lion’s whiskers are about 30cm long, which is one of the longest of all mammals. So a sea lion can find a fish for dinner just by sweeping his whiskers through the water. Read more here.
Manatees are also called sea cows due to their slow way of moving through the water. What’s funny about manatees is they don’t just have whiskers on their face. They also have them on their heads and all over their bodies. Their whiskers are extremely sensitive and help them find food, feel changes in the water current, and detect other animals, according to wildlifeinformer.com.
Although almost all mammals have whiskers that relay information about their surroundings, there are three that don’t. Echidnas and platypus just don’t have any whiskers.
And although adult men usually have plenty of whiskers that we call beards, they don’t have any sensory organs attached to give them superpowers like the animal kingdom.