Aside from their impressive size and incredible strength, gorillas can also cover ground incredibly fast. You may not think that an animal that size would be able to – but how fast can a gorilla run?
Gorillas can reach speeds of up to 25 mph (40 kph). The fastest human speed recorded was Usain Bolt at 27,8 mph (44,72 kph) over 100m, but the average human male can only run at eight mph and female at 6,5 mph – gorillas can run faster than the majority of people.
We will look at how these primates can achieve these speeds and what to do if you are ever faced with a charging gorilla. So let’s head to Central East Africa’s jungles and learn more about how fast gorillas can run.
Is a gorilla faster than a man?
Unless you are a world-class sprinter, gorillas can run faster than humans on average. Another thing to consider when comparing is the terrain these speeds are measured over.
Usain Bolt clocked the world record of 27,8 mph on an athletics track in spiked shoes designed to deliver optimum traction and allow him to propel forward at high speed. Also, the track was flat and had no obstacles en route to the finish line.
If you take the world record in 110m hurdles, that top speed is only 19,22 mph which is eight mph slower than the 100m record. This slower speed is because, in the 110m hurdles, there are obstacles that slow the overall speed, and runners have to slow slightly over the hurdles.
Like humans, gorillas are very fast over short distances, as in the jungles where they live, they are unlikely to encounter a 100m area of cleared flat terrain, so the measured speed we have for gorillas is those achieved in the jungle.
It would be interesting to observe how fast a gorilla could run and what times they could achieve over an even flat piece of ground – they would likely achieve even faster speeds over a flat smooth surface.
Suppose you put Usain Bolt and other top sprint athletes in the jungle and told them to run fast.
In that case, the chances are they would not even come close to the speeds they achieve on the track, and while an Olympic athlete could beat a gorilla in a foot race over even flat terrain, your chances of outrunning one in the jungle are zero.
Are older gorillas faster than younger ones?
While you may think that a younger gorilla would be faster than an older one, it turns out that in this case, the opposite is true, and this will have much to do with the power, strength, and agility that older gorillas have developed.
Proficient human sprinters could outpace a younger gorilla, while they may have trouble outrunning a fully grown adult gorilla, especially over rougher terrain.
How can gorillas run so fast?
The limbs and feet of gorillas are better adapted and conditioned to move through their habitat than humans, and the converse would also be true. While a bare-footed human would barely make a slow walking pace through the jungle, gorillas can move over and trample tough vegetation, which would hamper humans considerably.
This is another reason you would have extreme difficulty running away from a charging gorilla in the jungle, as you simply are not strong enough to penetrate the vegetation.
You don’t have the weight or power to do it, and compared to a gorilla’s leg and upper body strength, humans are quite puny.
Also, remember that gorillas and primates don’t run on two legs, they run using their massive arms as well, and like other four-legged animals, this gives them greater speed than we bipedal’s can generate.
Which are the fastest primates?
While gorillas can run fast, they are not the fastest; that title belongs to the Tapas Monkey, which can reach speeds of 34 mph (55 kph) To put that in perspective, Usain Bolt achieved a speed of 27,8 mph (44.72 kph) at the 2009 World Championships and clocked a time of 9,58 seconds over 100m.
The gibbon is the fastest mover in trees and can reach that same speed of around 34 mph (55 kph) using its long arms to swing from branch to branch. While 34 mph on the ground is impressive, achieving that speed in the trees is even more so.
When looking at running speeds, you also need to remember that the highest speeds are the peak speeds, not the average speed, as runners and primates will have faster speeds at certain periods, with an average overall.
What to do if you are facing a charging gorilla?
In the most unlikely event you find yourself in a situation where an adult silverback is charging you in the jungle, professionals advise you first to stay calm, which is probably far easier said than done.
This is because gorillas react to sudden movement, potentially making them more aggressive.
Remember that these are tremendously strong animals and can lift around 1700 pounds, so even if you are an Olympic weightlifter- you’re still outgunned.
While shouting may work on smaller animals to scare them off, it will not work on an animal that outweighs you by 150-200 lb and can stare you down eye-to-eye.
Gorillas are very territorial, so any attack may be because they feel their territory is under siege or their young are potentially in harm’s way. If you are going into areas where you could encounter gorillas, there are some behavioral tips you can use to make yourself less threatening.
One of the first things you can do is make yourself smaller and avoid eye contact.
Reducing your size by crouching down makes you smaller and less of a threat, and gorillas will take eye contact as a challenge, so best not to do that.
Since you can’t climb trees or outrun them in that environment, your only options are zero resistance and extreme humility.
Final thoughts on the speed of a gorilla
Like humans, gorillas aren’t built for speed, but their phenomenal strength gives them the acceleration over rough ground to reach speeds between 20 mph and 25 mph (32 kph and 40 kph) in short bursts.
Like us, they would be better over longer distances and lower speeds, but the average human could not outrun a gorilla.
It’s incredible to think that an animal of this size can run faster than most well-conditioned sprinters and that over terrain that cross-country athletes would struggle with and reach the kind of speed that most human runners only dream of.