Man VS. Beast

Strength and speed comparisons of humans versus animals

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As the Olympics begin tonight, think about the fact that the fastest man alive could outsprint a camel. But the camel could pace a man and go 10 miles per hour for 18 hours straight.

A recent report compared the fastest, strongest and highest jumping humans and animals in the world. Findings showed that each was designed to be great at something.

"Check out the 2012 Olympic Games starting July 27th!"

Craig Sharp, PhD, from the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University in London, compared speeds of the world’s fastest animals to human speeds.

Currently, the fastest man alive is Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt. Bolt may be the fastest man, but when compared to racing animals—he lags a few steps behind.

Bolt has run 100 meters in 9.58 seconds. A cheetah has run 100 meters in 5.8 seconds.

Bolt ran 200 meters in 19.19 seconds. Cheetahs have been clocked at 6.9 seconds per 200 meters. Greyhounds have been clocked at 11.2 seconds and a racehorse at 9.98 seconds for 200 meters.

The maximum speed recorded for a human is 23.4 miles per hour.

To put that into perspective, Sharp compares fast humans to just a bit swifter than the dromedary camel. The dromedary camel's max speed is around 22 miles per hour.

The cheetah is unbeatable with a top speed of 64 miles per hour. Even the pronghorn antelope can’t catch (or evade) a cheetah at its top speed of 55 miles per hour.

The fastest racehorse in history hit 55 miles per hour, making it neck and neck with the antelope, but faster than the 43 mile per hour greyhound dog.

If birds of flight entered the competition there would be no contest. The peregrine falcon can go 161 miles per hour. Even the average ducks and geese in flight can go as fast as a cheetah.

In a strength competition, who could beat an elephant? Nobody! The African elephant can lift 661 pounds with its trunk and carry 1,807 pounds. That’s nearly a whole ton!

Sharp documents that grizzly bears can lift around 1,000 pounds and gorillas can lift nearly twice as much.

What about endurance? Humans were built for endurance. Dr. Sharp notes that the human cooling system of sweat glands is unequaled in nature, except perhaps by horses.

Long legs, sense of balance, lack of fur, neck muscles to shock absorb the head, shoulders that move independently from the neck (unlike apes), foot arches and many more physical attributes make humans suitable for marathon running.

Even with the well-crafted human design, there is no competing with camels that can go 10 miles per hour for more than 18 hours straight. Or with Siberian huskies, which can travel 114 miles in a single day.

Dr. Sharp wrote, “Citius, Altius, Fortius [Faster, Higher, Stronger] is the Olympic motto, but if we allowed the rest of the animal kingdom into the Games, and it was to select the peregrine falcon (161 moh), Ruppel’s vulture (37,000 feet) and the 190 ton blue whale as its representatives, we could not offer much competition.”

“Or even if restricted to terrestrial animals, we could be up against the cheetah (65 mph), the red kangaroo (3.1 meters) and the 12 ton bull African elephant—worth a thought when viewing the adulation given to our species’ Olympic outliers in July.”

Nature has created some fantastical wonders of strength and agility. And even though humans aren’t as fast, strong or able to jump as high as many animals, the combination of human strengths can be breathtaking.

This study was published in the July issue of Veterinary Record. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 27, 2012
Last Updated:
February 18, 2013