How Fast Can An Elephant Run?



Elephants are known to weigh anywhere between 5,000-14,000 pounds. Just keeping their weight and size in mind, you wouldn’t expect elephants to be able to run fast, but that’s far from the truth. Elephants are clever animals that can run fast while keeping their heavy bodies balanced. 

While Asian elephants are slower and can only run at a top speed of 24 kph, their bigger cousins from Africa can run at an astonishing speed of 40 kph. Elephants have their unique way of balancing their body while running, which involves always having at least one foot on the ground.

Elephants are nothing short of astounding; their capabilities are contradictory to what humans would expect. Their running capabilities are just another thing about them that’s incredible. 

This article will cover everything from the speed of an elephant to how much land they cover in a day.

Elephant running in the water

Can Elephants Run Faster Than Humans?

If you thought you could outrun an elephant, think again. An average human can run at a top speed of 10.6 kph. This speed, compared to the slower Asian elephants capable of running at a rate of 24 kph, is nothing.

When we bring the African elephants into this equation, the average speed of a human begins to look even more mediocre. 

The African bush elephant can run at a speed of 40 kph. At the same time, an African forest elephant can run at a top speed of 38.6 kph .

Keeping the body in balance is a crucial step to running faster. Elephants manage their balance by planting one of their feet on the ground while running at all times. 

However, being unable to lift all of their feet simultaneously has sparked debate among scientists who dispute that elephants could run at all. 

Traditionally animals lift all their feet while running. Since elephants don’t do that, some scientists aren’t convinced that the move counts as running.

The fact that a running elephant’s footfalls follow the same pattern as an elephant walking is another reason for the skepticism.

Being able to run at 40 kph or being able to walk at 40 kph, whatever it is, it’s pretty fast.

Man and woman running along sunset

How Far Can Elephants Travel?

If you guessed that an elephant wouldn’t be able to run at its top speeds for a long time, you’re right this time. 

An elephant can only maintain their top speed for a little more than 50 meters.

Their immense weight doesn’t allow them to run for longer distances. They can also only maintain their average speed for approximately a mile at best. 

Over centuries, their bodies haven’t adapted to running faster for longer periods. That is because most predators don’t even think about hunting an elephant, and elephants don’t have to run to protect themselves from predation. 

Distance Traveled in a Day

Elephants are agile creatures that can walk great distances in a single day in their search for food and need for foraging. 

They are known to walk an average distance of 25 km per day. However, elephants are sometimes seen roaming close to 195-200 km a day in need of searching for food. 

Walking for elephants is essential to ensure their survival. Their need for food and water is higher than that of other animals.

Being herbivores doesn’t help because they need to eat nearly 149-169 kg of vegetation. 

During winter, when there is a lack of water and vegetation around them, they need to walk a lot in a day in search of food.  

African elephant runs past bushes in grassland

Distance Covered During Migration

Elephants usually migrate at the start of fall or the dry season. 

Since water sources are more prone to drying up in hot, humid, and dry seasons, elephants need to migrate towards bigger water sources to survive.

When the rain arrives, elephants migrate back to their native land. 

Elephants have been migrating for centuries and thus have ancient migration routes that are unfortunately becoming prey to human settlements and urbanization. 

African elephants have been documented to migrate almost 100 km for food and water. At the same time, Asian elephants in India have been observed to migrate nearly 25-50 km during dry seasons. 

Are Elephants Able to Swim?

While elephants can reach great speed on land, it might surprise you that elephants can swim. They not only swim but then snorkel as well with the help of their trunk. 

Elephants are skilled swimmers who can easily cross rivers and lakes. Elephants have also used their trunks to submerge into water and snorkel, giving them an edge in deeper waters. 

Adaptability in elephants is one feature that scientists greatly admire about them. Elephants that live in a swamp are found to have webbed feet that make them even better swimmers than normal elephants. 

Elephants can swim at a top speed of approximately four kph. They can swim for six hours at their average swimming speed of 1.5 kph.

India is where the largest ever recorded elephant swim took place. The elephant herd swam a significant length of 35 km to travel across a river.

Final Thoughts About How Fast an Elephant Can Run

There are a lot of things about elephants that amaze us. Their capability to reach a high speed while running despite their weight and size is another reason to marvel at their magnificence. 

Elephants can run anywhere between 24 to 40 kph (15 to 25 mph). Humans seem to have a tougher time running than elephants.


Why Do Zoo Elephants Walk Less?

Since a captive elephant is provided with food and water, there is no need for an elephant to walk long distances in search of food. Walking less is not that great of a benefit for elephants. Elephants can get overweight and develop some fatal diseases over time.

How Do Human Settlements Disrupt Ancient Migration Routes for Elephants?

As Africa and Asia begin to develop, ancient migration routes have become prey to rapid urbanization, putting elephants at risk due to the potential of human-elephant conflicts. Elephants usually try to reclaim their ancient migration routes, which leads to retaliation from humans. 

Why Do Elephants Run?

If an elephant feels threatened by something, it will resort to running towards the threat and chasing the danger to protect their families and itself. Stampedes also occur at times due to panic that strikes an elephant herd.

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