What is the strongest animal in the world?

Let's start with a point of reference. The strongest horse in the world is the Shire, a draft horse that can typically pull a load equal to about twice their own weight. Just to put that into perspective, the BBC says the average Shire horse weighs around 2,200 pounds, which means it can pull about 4,400 pounds. Asian elephants are heavy lifters, too. Asian elephants weigh between 6,000 and 12,000 pounds, and can pull about 1.7 times their weight, or up to around 18,000 pounds. So in terms of actual tonnage, the Asian elephant appears to be the clear winner.

But tonnage isn't actually the whole story. It is quite impressive for an animal to be able to haul 18,000 pounds because no human would ever be able to lift or pull something that heavy. But what's really impressive is when an animal can lift three, four, five, or hundreds of times its own weight, and to find an animal that can do that you have to look down at some of the world's smaller and more humble creatures.

Among insects, one animal is miles ahead of the others, and it's not the ant, although the strongest ants can lift between 10 and 50 times their own body weight. Even more impressive is the lowly dung beetle — 2010 research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society proved that dung beetles can pull up to 1,141 times their own weight. In poop. Let that sink in for a moment.

But even the dung beetle isn't the world's strongest animal. That honor goes to the oribatid mite, which is a microscopic creature that can hold 1,180 times its own weight.

So what's the deal with tiny creatures being able to accomplish such incredible feats of strength? Well, the larger an animal is, the more energy it has to devote to just supporting its own weight and bodily functions like respiration and heartbeat. Smaller animals use up less energy just in basic day-to-day existence, so they can devote what's left to their crazy tough exoskeletons and insane physical prowess. According to the BBC, you couldn't scale an ant up to the size of an elephant and expect it to maintain its super-strength because its super-strength would have to be diverted just to processing air and maintaining its enormous body. So although the idea of giant oribatid mites might be terrifying from a horror movie perspective, in real life they'd actually be pretty wimpy.