How Fast Can a Lion Run? 



Lions are one of nature’s most gifted predators, with huge claws, immense strength, and agility. Lions tend to dominate the environments where they live, and to do so; they need to be quite fast. But how fast can a lion run exactly?

A lion can reach speeds of up to 50 mph (80 kph) when running, making it one of the fastest land animals in Africa. Lions are powerful and agile hunters that rely heavily on their speed and strength to catch their prey. With their large paws and short legs, they can cover great distances in a short amount of time.

In this article, I’ll discuss how fast a lion can run and how long it can run at top speed. I’ll also compare lions with other members of the big cat family, such as tigers and cheetahs, in terms of speed. So, let’s get started.

Lioness running through grassland

Top Speed Of A Lion

When talking about speed, lions don’t need much introduction. They can run fast, so they can catch their prey in no time.  

Lions can reach speeds of nearly 50 mph (80 km/h) but tend to have an average speed or normal running speed of about 35 mph (56 km/h). 

Despite weighing well over 100 kg, lions are naturally designed to run fast. 

Their muscles and tendons are so tightly packed together that it gives a lot of power and allows them to move at such high speeds.

Another secret for their fast speeds is their hind legs. Their hind legs are really like a pressure jack if you observe them.

Due to their massive strength, they can launch themselves suddenly toward their prey and run at high speeds.

How Long Can A Lion Run At Top Speed?

Lions can maintain speeds of up to 50 mph in short bursts and leap as far as 36 feet allowing them to catch their prey quickly and efficiently. 

They cannot maintain this top speed for very long – they can typically only run at full speed for about 4 seconds before needing a break.

After that, they will slow down to a walking pace for a few moments before picking up their speed again.

Even with this short burst of energy and speed, lions can still cover long distances in a very short time. 

Their muscular build, strong legs, and powerful paws give them the ability to run much faster than other land predators.

They can reach their top speed in just a few strides and can still move quickly, even when carrying heavy prey.

African male lion running in the grassland

Lions vs Lionesses: Which Is Faster?

Lionesses run faster than lions. They have a more muscular and lighter build than male lions, are typically more active, and can run faster for longer.

Females also have stronger hind legs, giving them greater speed and agility when running after prey. They also have a higher metabolism, enabling them to run for longer periods with less fatigue. 

That is why when it comes to hunting, lionesses do most of it.

A Comparison of Lion’s Speed With Other Big Cats

Big cats are tremendous predators, and most of them can reach impressive speeds, but how do lions stack up? Let’s take a look.

1. Top Speed of Cheetahs

When compared to other cats, there is a big difference in the speeds between them and lions.

For example, comparing lions and cheetahs shows that a cheetah can run up to 70 mph (112 kph). Which is a significantly higher value than that of the speed of lions. 

2. Top Speed of Tigers

When comparing lions to tigers, we must acknowledge the weight tigers carry. So, while they’re fast, they’re not quite as fast as lions.

Their top speeds reach nearly 35 to 40 mph (56 to 64 kph) and can only be maintained for very short distances. 

It is because they have significantly more weight and can’t hold it for long distances. So, in this case, we see that lions can run faster than tigers.

3. Top Speed of Leopards

Leopards are smaller than lions and tigers, but astonishingly despite their lighter weight, they’re not as fast as a lion. 

Their top speed is between 35 to 40 mph (56 to 64 kph). 

Lions and leopards are both powerful predators, and their speed is an important part of that power. Lions have the edge in raw speed, as they can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour when sprinting.

4. Top Speed of Jaguars

Jaguars have a similar top speed to that of lions, reaching speeds of 50 mph (80 kph).

Jaguars, however, have the advantage of being able to accelerate more quickly than lions. This is due to their muscular hind legs, which allow them to cover more ground in less time.

Both cats also have long strides, which helps them reach faster speeds over a shorter distance. 

While lions can chase down prey with their impressive speed and power, jaguars are better equipped for short bursts of speed and quick turns.

The following table shows the differences in top speeds between lions and other big cats:

AnimalTop Speed
Lion50 mph
Cheetah70 mph
Tiger40 mph
Jaguar50 mph
Leopard40 mph

Can a Human Outrun a Lion?

No, humans can not outrun a lion. While Usain Bolt’s top speed is nearly 27.33 mph (43.99 kph), lions can reach speeds up to 50 mph (80 kph). 

So even the fastest human in the world cannot outrun a lion. Humans are made to endure long distances, but not at such high speeds.

Most people max out at about eight mph (12 kph), which is nothing compared to the speed of lions.

So you have no chance of outrunning a lion, even if you’re an Olympic sprinter.

What To Do If a Lion Starts Chasing You?

If a lion starts chasing you, the most important thing is to remain calm and composed. Here are some tips on what to do if you find yourself in such a situation:

1. Don’t Panic

It’s essential to remain calm and not panic as this will only agitate the lion further and make it more likely to attack. 

2. Don’t Run

Running is not the right thing to do in this situation, as we’ve mentioned, lions are significantly faster than humans and can easily catch up with you.

3. Retreat Slowly

Move away from the lion slowly, making sure that the lion does not feel threatened or provoked.

Keep your movements slow and steady, and back away slowly.

4. Shout Loudly

If you are with a group of people, make sure that everyone shouts loudly and aggressively to scare the lion away. 

The sound of many voices shouting should help to intimidate the lion and make it retreat.

5. Carry Something To Defend Yourself

It’s always best to be prepared and carry a weapon, such as a large stick or rock, to defend yourself in case the lion approaches. 

This could potentially scare the lion away and protect you from attack. 

6. Stay Alert

Make sure that you stay aware of your surroundings and remain vigilant so that you can react quickly if the lion starts to approach again.

This will help ensure you have time to react and take the necessary steps to stay safe. 

By following these tips, you can significantly reduce your chances of being attacked by a lion. Remember, it’s always best to remain calm and alert when in the presence of any potentially dangerous animal.

Final Thoughts On Lions Top Speed

Lions are swift and powerful animals capable of reaching top speeds of 50 mph (80 kph). 

Although this speed may not be as impressive as a cheetah, it’s enough for the lion to catch its prey and dominate its surroundings.

Lions are expert hunters who rely on incredible speed and agility to survive.


Can A Lion Outrun A Car?

No, a lion cannot outrun most vehicles. Lions can reach speeds over 50 mph (80 km/h) in short bursts. However, the average car can easily reach 60-70 mph (100-110 km/h) and maintain these speeds for long distances.

Are Lions Faster Than Tigers?

Yes, lions are generally faster than tigers. In terms of average speed, tigers can reach speeds of up to 40 mph, while the lion’s top speed has been recorded at 50 mph.

Are Horses Or Lions Faster?

Without any doubt, a horse can easily outrun a lion. Horses are designed to run and have amazing stamina, helping them run for longer. Horses have a top speed of approximately 55 mph, whereas lions can only reach 50 mph in short bursts.

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