What is a Gorilla’s Bite Force?

Written by Emilio Brown
Published: November 23, 2021


Powerful primates and closely related to humans, gorillas are one of the world’s most intriguing animals. Gorillas can only be found in Africa, living in tropical forests, marshes, mountains, and upland habitats.  Yet, with their incredible strength, you might wonder just how strong is a gorilla’s bite force? In the article below, we’ll dig into a gorilla’s bite force and how it compares to humans!

The Background on Gorillas

With large barrel chests, thick necks, muscular arms, and giant hands, gorillas are extremely strong and quite intimidating. Along with great strength, they have shown to have high intelligence, some even able to learn how to communicate with sign language. 

Two species of gorilla exist, divided into four subspecies. The Western lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla are subspecies of the western gorilla. The Eastern species of  gorilla are made up of the eastern lowland gorilla and mountain gorilla subspecies. 

Gorillas can weigh up to 500 lbs and are the world’s largest primates. 96% of these great apes’ DNA is shared with humans, making them among our closest relatives. Similarities can be seen in their hands, feet, body shape and ability to walk upright. 

Gorillas have one of the strongest bite forces in the animal kingdom. Unlike some of the other animals whose bite packs a punch, gorillas stick to a mainly herbivore diet. Their incredible bite force is just one of their many feats of strength that are important in helping them survive in the wild. While similar to humans, their bites are around 8 times stronger than ours. 

What Is A Gorillas Bite Force?

Gorilla staring at the camera
Gorillas use sticks to measure water depth and make a bridge to cross over deep waters.

Producing around 1,300 psi with their bite, gorillas have one of the strongest bite forces in the animal kingdom. Luckily they are gentle giants and will only attack when threatened. Each subspecies will be able to produce a similar amount of force, but the western lowland gorilla is the strongest of them all. Eastern lowland gorillas are the biggest of all species. 

The main differences between gorilla subspecies are:

  • Size
  • Location
  • Noises made to communicate 
  • Fur type

Species diets are similar so they must be able to produce a large bite to accommodate for the things they eat. All gorillas have faced habitat destruction and poaching leaving some species to be considered critically endangered. 

How Gorillas Use Their Bite In The Wild

Gorilla Bite Force - Gorilla Sneering
Would you want to challenge the bite force of this primate?

Gorillas are herbivores sticking mostly to a vegetarian diet. Even though they do not eat meat (predominately, although they’ll enjoy insects), gorillas still have a strong bite force that helps them with their diet. Gorillas eat fruit, leaves, stems, and bamboo shoots. 

Their diet depends on their location and what food is available at the time. At times where fruit and softer foods are unavailable, they will eat bark, seeds, and tough stems. 

Males can eat up to 40lbs of food a day. Their strong jaws are the reason they can eat so much, and bite into all the tough vegetation. Western lowland gorillas have an appetite for ants and termites, which they use their teeth to bite into trees to find. 

Males have large canines like a predator, which are twice as large as females. Canine teeth help cut and tear food, along with their incisors. Males’ gorillas will flash their canine teeth and are used as a display of dominance. When threatened gorillas will rarely bite and will usually attack by charging. A bite from a gorilla can be extremely powerful and deadly, but it is one of the last resources they use for defending themselves. 

The Secret Behind gorillas strength

Gorilla bite force - gorilla resting
A gorilla resting in a zoo

How are gorillas so strong and able to produce such a powerful bite? The secret is in the massive amount of muscles within their necks. Zoo gorillas have a muscle density of 37 percent. The average man has a muscle density of 42 percent but is much smaller than a gorilla. Gorillas are heavier and carry around 200 to 300 lbs of weight more than a human, with more muscle mass and density in their necks. 

Larger apes will be able to produce a stronger bite and will have more muscle on them. Gorillas in captivity and zoos tend to be larger but have fewer muscles due to the limit of exercise they get. Males in captivity can reach up to 600 lbs while the largest males in the wild weigh around 500 lbs.

Along with having one of the strongest bites, gorillas are also around 15 times stronger than humans. The strongest gorilla ever recorded was able to lift and throw around 1800 lbs of weight. On average gorillas can move 900 lbs of weight easily. Watching in captivity and in the wild, we have been able to experience impressive feats of strength like bending metal bars and pulling down banana trees. 

Their lifestyle of knuckle-walking and climbing in the wild, along with mass amounts of muscle and weight makes them some of the strongest animals in the world.

How Do Gorillas Bite Compare To A Humans

Young Silverback Gorilla in front of a white background
An isolated picture of an elderly gorilla

Humans and gorillas are closely related, so how does a human bite compare? Humans are only able to produce around 120 to 200 psi with their bite. Gorillas have more muscles around their neck and jaw but surprisingly humans have one of the most efficient jaws and bite of all primates. A gorilla’s large size and neck muscles give them the strongest bite of any primate.

Scientists have discovered that even though our bites are weaker, we have one of the most effective bites of all primates. With a light skull and fewer neck muscles, humans have evolved to be efficient. . 

Humans are around 40 to 50% more efficient when biting with back teeth and even more with the  front teeth. This means that if a gorilla kept its size and muscles but had a skull designed like a human it would be able to produce much more force with its bite. 

These great apes are very similar but show a power that no human has come close to producing. Even being so powerful they are still vulnerable to extinction and destitution of their habitat caused by man. A gorilla’s bite force is just one impressive thing about this species. As they are our closest ancestors we can learn a lot from them  about how we evolved over thousands of years.