How Fast Can An Alligator Run?



When you think of fast animals, you typically think of long leggy animals like cheetahs, ostriches, and horses. Alligators, on the other hand, have short, stubby legs. They are huge, carnivorous reptiles that like to be idle and hunt smaller prey rather than larger animals. Due to this, alligator attacks are quite infrequent. But how fast can an alligator run if you were to be chased by one?

Generally speaking, alligators can run about 17 kph or 11 mph. This land speed is significantly slower than their swimming speed of approximately 32 kph or 20 mph. Alligators run to hunt or to escape from danger.

Although alligators aren’t leggy, they can give most animals a run for their money during those short, quick bursts of speed. Many may take their speed for granted, especially when watching a gator meandering in its enclosure. 

Here is all to know about the speed of alligators.

American alligator in a swamp

How Fast Can An Alligator Run?

Alligators have a top speed of 30 mph. But this figure comes with a lot of limitations. For starters, this is only for very brief periods. Alligators can move very swiftly over very short distances.

As a result, alligators can be swift and dangerous if they are within 10 feet of you.

While you won’t find any footage of an alligator running at 30 mph, you will be astounded at an alligator’s quick power in close quarters when lunging and capturing prey.

An alligator’s body is a massive lump of solid muscle, enabling them to spring out of the water and up onto a pier or raised walkway with relative ease very quickly.

While their top speed is quite high, their real top speed when running is closer to 11 mph (17 kph).

How Do Gators Run Over A Long Distance?

Alligators tend not to run long distances, but over a distance of approximately 100 feet, they can reach their top running speed of around 11 mph. 

Gators are sedentary animals that have evolved to move quickly and powerfully when prey approaches them. They are not typically active hunters that pursue prey.

The head or nose of an alligator may protrude from the water as it sits motionless below the surface, allowing it to breathe. 

But all that stored energy comes in handy when alligators have to move. Alligators even engage in a sort of hibernation known as brumation in cold weather, where their bodies slow down to endure the freezing conditions.

Is An Alligator’s Speed In Water The Same As On Land?

The peak speed of an alligator can reach 30 mph in extremely brief bursts, while their top speed running is around 11 mph. In the water, alligators can reach a top speed of 20 mph. 

Compared to a human swimmer, this is very fast. We barely exceed two mph on average. 

Alligators do not usually act as active predators. They typically swim at significantly slower speeds than their top speed to conserve energy, but if they need to, they can reach quite an impressive speed faster than their land running speed.

How Do Alligators Swim So Fast?

alligator with webbed feet

Thanks to some amazing evolutionary adaptations, alligators are practically born with the ability to swim.

It also has a long, incredibly muscular, laterally flattened tail that can break both of your legs that propels it through the water.

When swimming swiftly, the limbs of an alligator are folded alongside the body. The back feet are large and webbed, acting as paddles to advance gradually. 

All four are extended to regulate thrust and direction when moving closer to prey or simply hovering to observe what’s happening.

Why Do Alligators Run?

As mentioned above, alligators are quite lazy. They typically only chase when they feel territorial, threatened, are protecting their nest, or have spotted prey nearby.

Most alligator attacks have been known to happen past dusk, and even then, they will happen near the water’s edge. They tend to attack when they are hungry or hunting.

This typically happens at night time.

Do Alligators Run After People?

Alligators have been known to chase people on land and in the water. Alligator attacks are rare, and most take place close to shorelines. 

An alligator rarely pursues a person on dry land. The alligator’s speed isn’t the issue. It’s how slow humans may be in the alligator’s native habitat, which includes swamps and marshes. 

The ordinary person could easily outpace an alligator, as it can only sprint for a short time at its highest speed of about 11 mph. One just needs to be careful not to get too close. 

They are incredibly powerful, with a bite force of about 2000 psi. Messing with or swimming close to an alligator is never worth the danger. 

Avoid going near any waters where alligators swim or dwell, especially at dusk when they are most active. More often than not, alligators consume small animals like fish, birds, turtles, frogs, and other similar creatures since they are easier prey than humans. 

Be cautious and avoid provoking these incredible but extremely dangerous creatures. 

Can You Outswim An Alligator?

alligator swimming

While humans can outrun alligators, they cannot outswim them. Alligators have a top speed swimming of 20 mph or 536 meters per minute.

In contrast, Frédérick Bousquet, a four-time Olympian from France and swimmer, set the world record for the 50-meter freestyle in 20.94 seconds. His average swimming pace throughout the race was 5.342 mph. 

That is 143 meters per minute and the fastest swimming speed ever recorded for a person. 536 meters per second for an alligator and 143 meters per minute for humans.

The numbers speak for themselves. If the world’s fastest swimmer can’t outswim an alligator, neither can you.

Final Thoughts On The Top Speed Of Alligators

Gators can sprint on land rather quickly, quicker than most people, but only for extremely brief periods, and they don’t enjoy it at all. They only do it when they have no other choice, primarily to escape danger.

They tend to ambush their prey, remaining still until it is sufficiently close before moving quickly for a brief period.

Additionally, they favor hunting in the water because it suits their mobility better. 

Because of a human’s better endurance, an alligator is unlikely to run after you. However, if it does, you should be able to outrun it with a big enough headstart.

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