Could an Unarmed Human Beat a Gorilla?

Big silverback male Western lowland gorilla
© Andreas Rose/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: October 11, 2023

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Could an unarmed human beat a gorilla? While gorilla attacks on humans are rare, they do happen. These rare events are generally the result of human provocation, like being overtly aggressive or doing something that the gorilla interprets as being aggressive. While a human armed with the right weapons can take down the primate, would an unarmed human survive a fight with a gorilla?

Read on to learn what methods each creature uses to attack when they lack weapons, and which primate would survive such an interaction!

ful frame portrait of a gorilla. The gorilla is looking off the the right. It is mostly dark colors with light fur around its brow and cheeks. Indistinct wavy green and yellow background.

Though gorillas can weigh 300 percent more than humans, they are gentle giants who will only attack when threatened.

©Kit Korzun/Shutterstock.com

Comparing an Unarmed Human and a Gorilla

Unarmed HumanGorilla
SizeWeight: 130 to 199 pounds
Height: 5 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 9 inches
Weight: between 220 and 440 pounds
Height: from 4.4 feet to 5.1 feet tall
Speed– 6.5 to 8 mph
– 27.5 mph at top speed for a very short time
– 25 mph top speed
– Can move swiftly with knucklewalking
– Slow walking speed
Defenses– Intelligence
– Ability to hide and maneuver into safer areas
– Good senses of sight and hearing
– Threat display scares away many foes
– Large, muscled bodies protect them from blunt attacks
– Human-like senses with an exceptional sense of smell
Offensive Capabilities– Average human may be able to lift their body weight in a bench press and squat 1.5 times their body weight
– Can deliver punches and kicks – Humans can grapple foes
– Weak bite force of 120 and 160 PSI with small canine teeth
– Capable of lifting upwards of 1,800 pounds, several times their body weight
– Powerful punches that are somewhat open-handed
Bite force of 1,300 PSI
– 2 inch fangs that can tear flesh
– Can easily drag a struggling human being
Predatory Behavior– Ambush predators
– Cursorial predators
– Herbivores that lack a predatory drive except for insects, mostly
– Can react violently to maintain their status in a group or to eliminate a threat

What Are Key Differences Between an Unarmed Human and a Gorilla?

The most pronounced differences between an unarmed human and a gorilla are related to strength, size, speed, offensive power, and predatory behavior.

Gorillas, though typically shorter in stature, can weigh up to 300 percent more than humans.

Incredibly strong in comparison to their human cousins, gorillas have the ability to lift 10 times their body weight, whereas humans can lift only the equivalent of their body weight with their arms, or 1.5 times that amount when performing squats.

A female presenting human doing squat with a barbell with weights on each end across the back of her shoulders. She's is dressed in black leisyre attire, on knee resting a red track with a vertical white line running through the center.

At most, humans are capable of lifting 1.5 times their weight, and then only when performing squats.

©UfaBizPhoto/Shutterstock.com

Achieving speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, for short distances, gorillas are much faster than their human counterparts, whose top speed is 8 mph.

In terms of offensive power, humans are at a complete disadvantage, lacking the strength and unmitigated power of the gorilla.

Humans, however, have the edge when factoring in predatory behavior, as gorillas are gentle giants who will only attack when feeling threatened or provoked.

These differences will greatly impact the fight, but we need to get more information before we declare a winner.

Unarmed Human vs Gorilla: Size

The average gorilla is larger than a human being. Gorillas weigh between 220 and 440 pounds on average, and they can stand anywhere from 4 to 5.1 feet tall. Humans weigh about 130 to 199 pounds on average, and they stand between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 9 inches on average.

On the left, a human Skelton, on the right a gorilla Skelton. Three walls (L-r, brown,yellow,blue) are behind the display which appears to be in a museum. On the yellow wall is a poster with a photograph of a male presenting human in a business suit (jacket, trousers,tie) carrying a brief case in his right hand,, with indecipherable verbiage underneath. The blue wall has raised white letters that spell MAN AND THE - rest out of frame. A paragraph of white letters below with information regarding the display.

Gorillas, though typically shorter in stature, can weigh up to 300 percent more than humans.

©Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Gorillas have a size advantage in this fight.

Unarmed Human vs Gorilla: Speed

The fastest human being on record, reached a speed of 27.5 mph for a short distance, however, the average person cannot move nearly that quickly. Even the most physically fit humans top out at speeds of between 6.5 and 8 mph. Gorillas are much faster, reaching speeds of 25 mph using knucklewalking. They can reach their top speed quickly, too.

Two humans jogging on pavement passed a series of natural wooden benches with black metal armrests in park-like setting with many leafy trees and grass.

Even physically fit humans top out at speeds of between 6.5 and 8 mph.

©Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Gorillas have a speed advantage over human beings.

Unarmed Human vs Gorilla: Defenses

The defenses of an unarmed human are no match for those of a gorilla. The human body is quite fragile, and barring any sort of weapon to fend off a larger assailant, humans must rely on their wits to elude a confrontation in which they would be risking life and limb. On the other hand, gorillas have larger bodies that are thick, muscled, and built for power. They can absorb blunt damage and continue fighting. Some gorillas have taken damage from spears, slashing blades, and even bullets, and have still been able to keep fighting.

Gorillas have superior defenses compared to humans.

Unarmed Human vs Gorilla: Offensive Capabilities

An unarmed human is not helpless, but they’re not in a good position. The offensive power of human beings comes from their intellect and ability to make weapons. In this fight, they’re severely disadvantaged by their lack of access to weapons.

Humans can punch, kick, and grapple. They can only bite with a force of between 120 and 160 PSI, and human teeth are too small and blunt to be a threat to a gorilla.  

Compared to many animals, humans are not that strong, at least when considering strength relative to body weight. Though a physically fit human is capable of lifting the equivalent of their body weight, that is nothing compared to the strength of the gorilla.

Gorillas are unfathomably strong, with some capable of lifting as much as 1,800 pounds. Their 1,300 PSI bite is practically 10 times stronger than a human’s, and their 2-inch fangs can rip apart flesh and puncture skulls.

Headshot of Snowflake the albino gorilla displaying his incisors

Gorillas have fangs that are capable of ripping apart human flesh.

©iStock.com/slowmotiongli

Gorillas have a significant offensive advantage in this battle!

Unarmed Human vs Gorilla: Predatory Behavior

Humans tend to attack using a variety of predatory methods. They will pursue prey until it’s too tired to fight back. They may also ambush their prey and try to kill it with a quick strike.

Gorillas don’t have a prey drive since they are primarily herbivorous. They prefer to eat plants and some insects rather than hunt down animals. When they confront most new creatures, including humans, they’re more curious than anything else. Their capacity for terrifying attacks doesn’t come to the forefront unless the animal triggers it first.  

portrait of a gorilla eating fruits and vegetables. The gorilla is actively eating apiece of fruit , which it holds in its right hand. The gorilla is cradling leafy greens and the other 1/2 of the fruit in its left arm.  green background of grasses and vegetation.

Gorillas prefer to eat plants and some insects rather than hunting prey.

©iStock.com/miroslav_1

Humans have an advantage in predatory behaviors.

Would an Unarmed Human Beat a Gorilla in a Fight?

No, an unarmed human being could not beat a gorilla in a fight. Simply put, gorillas are far too strong for human beings to overcome. If the human sees the gorilla first, the best the human could hope for is to find a nearby place to hide.

When threatened, gorillas have viciously thrashed and mauled humans. They used a combination of beating, bites, and dragging in these attacks, one of which has resulted in death for the human.

Gorillas are certainly capable of killing a human, and it would be a brutal, bloody affair. Not that it needs to be said, but if the opportunity ever presents itself, do not ever try to attack a gorilla or any other primate. Even the strongest human beings have no chance against these animals.  

What Animal Is Capable of Taking a Gorilla Down?

leopard

Leopards are known to prey on gorillas in the wild and rely on a combination of stealth and explosive attack speed

©iStock.com/UrmasPhotoCom

The one creature the world’s largest primate has to remain on the lookout for in the wild: the leopard. Gifted with exceptional agility, the spotted feline is also incredibly powerful in spite of being somewhat slightly built compared to lions, jaguars, and tigers. On the other hand, gorillas are far heavier and capable of weighing 440 lbs compared to the leopard’s maximum weight potential of 167 lbs. They also come with 2-inch fangs, not to mention a bite force twice a lion‘s at 1,300 psi and over four times a leopard’s at 310 psi.

However, leopards come with excellent offensive capabilities of their own in the form of fangs the same length as gorillas’, as well as paws tipped with 1-inch claws. They also have exceptional night vision, keen hearing, an acute sense of smell, and incredible agility. And thanks to their rosette-covered coat, they are also capable of blending into their surroundings. These qualities are essential to enabling them to strike unseen and take full advantage of the element of surprise, and to battle effectively at any time of the day.

There is also the fact that leopards are actually considered the strongest felines of all, relative to their weight, and are capable of dragging prey which is three times their size. A leopard would typically pounce on an unsuspecting primate, lock its jaws onto its neck, and deliver a crushingly deadly bite. An effective method that would enable it to earn a meal unscathed if all goes according to plan.

What Wild Animals Can a Human Defeat Barehanded?

Grizzly in Water

In polls, the general consensus is that humans feel the least confident in fighting a grizzly bear barehanded.

©Jack Nevitt/Shutterstock.com

We’ve ruled out the gorilla as a foe a human could take on successfully. But what wild animals could a human triumph over in hand-to-hand (or paw) combat? People don’t like to purposely put themselves in harm’s way, as our instinct, just like wild animals, is survival. While gladiators put themselves in jeopardy by battling wild animals, we modern-day folks can only imagine what animals we think we could beat out.

An interesting poll was taken of Americans by YouGov asking them what animals they believed they could beat in a fight. The results were as follows:

As you can see, gorillas are low on the list, with the lowest being grizzly bears. The number one animal most Americans think they can defeat in a fight is a rat! Ha! “House cat” is an interesting label, as it leaves out feral cats. Those poor kitties!

While people, especially men, enjoy imagining what wild animals they could kill barehanded, we’d like to give props to Travis Kaufman, a Colorado jogger who was attacked by a mountain lion while jogging and actually killed the animal with his bare hands! The attack happened in 2019, and his battle made national news. We now know that it is possible for a human to kill a mountain lion with his bare hands. Amazing!


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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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