Discover How Fast Gorillas Can Run: Top Speeds and 7 Interesting Facts!

Written by Tavia Fuller Armstrong
Updated: November 20, 2023
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Gorillas of both the western and eastern species can run up to 25 miles per hour, or approximately 40 kilometers per hour. However, like humans, most individual gorillas do not move at the fastest recorded speeds. Average gorillas reportedly can run at around 20 miles per hour or about 32 kilometers per hour. Let’s learn more about gorillas, where they live, and how fast they can run as compared to other animals.  

Where Do Gorillas Live?

Mountain gorillas in the rainforest. Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. An excellent illustration.

Both eastern and western gorillas live in forested areas in central, equatorial

Africa

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©GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock.com

Gorillas live in central Africa, near the equator. They generally inhabit forested areas where running might be more difficult to accomplish. Two different species of gorillas exist, the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei). These species live roughly 560 miles apart, separated by a dense swath of rainforest in the Congo Basin. Each species has a subspecies that dwells in the lowlands and another that lives in the uplands. The western gorilla species is divided into western lowland gorillas and Cross River gorillas. The eastern gorilla species is represented by mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas.

The chart below shows the common name, the scientific name, and the conservation status, and the location of each gorilla subspecies, as noted by the World Wildlife Fund.

Common NameScientific NameConservation StatusLocation
Western Lowland GorillaGorilla gorilla gorillaCritically EndangeredCameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo
Cross River GorillaGorilla gorilla diehliCritically EndangeredOn the border of Cameroon and Nigeria
Eastern Lowland Gorilla (also known as Grauer’s gorilla)Gorilla beringei graueriCritically EndangeredDemocratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda
Mountain GorillaGorilla beringei beringeiEndangeredDemocratic Republic of Congo

How Big Are Gorillas?

Male gorillas can grow to nearly 6 feet tall, and they can weigh up to about 500 pounds, though the average male is smaller, and females stand around 4.5 feet tall and usually weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. The tallest recorded male gorilla stood about 6.4 feet tall, and the heaviest weighed 589 pounds. Male gorillas have an arm span that stretches up to 8.6 feet.

Human males can grow considerably taller than 6 feet in height. The average height of an NBA basketball player is 6.5 feet. And the tallest recorded human stood 8 feet, 11 inches tall. That equals a full 1.5 feet taller than the tallest gorilla. But what does that mean when it comes to speed?

How Fast Can Gorillas Run as Compared to Humans?

The fastest human being ever recorded, to date, is Usain Bolt. He set a world record in a 100-meter sprint, crossing the finish line in just 9.58 seconds in 2009. His sustained sprint, over that run, was measured at 23.35 miles per hour. But even more amazing, Bolt ran at a blazing top speed of 27.33 miles per hour over a distance of 20 meters. So, at his very fastest, Usain Bolt could outrun the fastest gorillas, which can run 25 miles per hour. But over a distance of 100 meters, the gorillas would best him by a bit.

The fastest gorillas can easily outpace human females. Florence Griffith-Joyner set the top speed for a woman, running a 100-meter sprint in 10.49 seconds in 1988. That speed equates to 21.3 miles per hour. She would probably have outrun female gorillas, though, and would certainly have outrun most human males, whose average sprinting speed equals 19.52 miles per hour.

How Fast Do Gorillas Run Compared to Other Great Apes?

As mentioned before, gorillas of both species can run pretty fast, clocking speeds up to 25 miles per hour. As it happens, both chimpanzees and bonobos, two closely related great apes, also have top speeds of around 25 miles per hour. Orangutans, however, run very slowly over land. They can only manage about 3 miles per hour on foot. However, orangutans do not have bodies built for running. They are designed more for moving through the trees.

Can Gorillas Run Faster Than Their Predators?

Strongest cats - Leopard

The leopard (

Panthera pardus

) is the only natural predator of gorillas.

©Michael Wick/Shutterstock.com

Gorillas have only one natural predator, the leopard (Panthera pardus). Leopards may not readily engage a huge silverback male gorilla in battle, but they do prey on smaller gorillas. Leopards can run up to 36 miles per hour, easily outrunning gorillas, even at their top speed.

How Fast Do Gorillas Run Compared to Other Large Animals?

Gorillas probably don’t spend any of their time racing other large animals in their forest habitats. It can be fun, though, to think about which animal would win if they did pair off. Let’s look at the speeds of a few of the large animals that share habitat with gorillas. The African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) runs approximately 24 miles per hour. The giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour. Both of these animals would be well-matched to gorillas.

The African forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus), also known as the Congo buffalo, can run at speeds exceeding 34 miles per hour. That far outpaces a gorilla.

A Gorilla Runs on All Fours

silverback gorilla running

Despite their large size, gorillas can travel at up to 25 miles per hour and cover long distances

©Michael Verbeek/Shutterstock.com

You may be wondering how gorillas, which stand shorter and weigh much more than many athletic humans, can run so much faster. Unlike humans, who run on just our legs, gorillas use all four limbs when sprinting. Averaging less than 6 feet in height, gorillas have an arm span ranging from 7.7 to 8.6 feet. Even NBA stars like Michael Jordan and renowned swimmers like Michael Phelps don’t have arm spans breaking 7 feet. Gorillas put their long arms and strong knuckles to use, leaning forward and running on all four limbs for maximum speed.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Michael Verbeek/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on birds, mammals, reptiles, and chemistry. Tavia has been researching and writing about animals for approximately 30 years, since she completed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a wildlife emphasis from the University of Central Oklahoma. A resident of Oklahoma, Tavia has worked at the federal, state, and local level to educate hundreds of young people about science, wildlife, and endangered species.

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