You cannot outrun an alligator. They may look sluggish and heavy, but they are extremely fast over short distances. On average, an alligator can run at a speed of 35 miles per hour or 56 kilometers per hour, which is faster than even the fastest human.
Disclaimer: This is information for entertainment and educational purposes only. Do not approach a wild animal and keep your distance. Only professionals should handle wild animals. Seek professional help immediately if you have been bitten or otherwise harmed. Consult your local wildlife authority for the right advice for your situation and locality.
Humans can run as fast as 44 kilometers per hour, which is equal to 27.5 miles per hour. Of course, only professional runners can do this. On average, a human can only run 10 kilometres per hour.
What to do in an Alligator Encounter
The best thing to do if you encounter an alligator in the wild is to back away. Move out of the alligator’s way and give it space. Alligators are usually fearful of humans but may act aggressively during mating season or if there is a nest nearby.
Alligators are opportunistic hunters, which means they may try to attack smaller humans including children.
Crocodiles, on the other hand, evolved to survive in areas where there is scarcity of food. They will take down prey much larger than themselves and do not have the same fear of humans that alligators have.
If you can, avoid venturing into areas where alligators are present. Although they are not as dangerous as crocodiles, they are still dangerous and there are plenty of documented attacks every year.
Alligators are likely to be more aggressive if they are protecting their eggs or nest.
Can a Human Out-swim an Alligator?
A human cannot out-swim an alligator. The human body did not evolve to live in water, and every species of alligator can swim faster than even the top olympic swimmers.
Although alligators cannot live and breathe underwater, they can hold their breath for a long time.
Unlike humans, alligators have tails they use to propel themselves underwater. Humans have feet, but these feet evolved for walking, not swimming. Alligators have long and flat tails that are muscular to move them forward underwater.
Alligators have webbed feet which help propel them quickly through the water. Although alligators run on all-fours, when they swim they tuck their limbs close to their bodies to reduce drag and can switch direction easily by using their limbs and tail in tandem.
Alligators are also faster than a human paddling a canoe, and most canoes are not strong enough to withstand an alligator attack.
Related Article: Do Alligators Make Hissing Sounds?
Does Running in Zig-Zags Help to Outrun an Alligator?
Running in a zig-zag to outrun an alligator is a pervasive myth. Alligators are fast over short distances but tire easily, so the best idea is just to get as far away from them as fast as possible.
Alligators only run short bursts. Despite the ability to run fast, they cannot keep this momentum or pace. They easily get tired, and they would rather conserve their energy for an easier meal.
From a speed perspective alone, a human cannot outrun an alligator, even if the human runs on a zig-zag pattern. However, in real life, it is possible, provided that the human is strong, and that the alligator gives up the chase.
However, people should not make the mistake to challenge gators. Even the fastest runner could still end up as alligator lunch if they aren’t careful.
When alligators lunge, it happens so fast that a human may not have the time to see it, much less react. Gators have lots of muscles that are essential for their survival.
Alligators are fast animals. With millions of muscles and a high-functioning respiratory system, a human is no match for a gator for anything but intelligence and agility.
A human cannot outrun nor outswim an alligator. Alligators have way more power physically than humans do. The only catch is that alligators only run and swim fast in short bursts, which may give a human a chance to escape an encounter.
Still, the wisest thing to do is never get near an alligator. It is much safer this way than taking the risk of an alligator attack. Once an alligator succeeds in biting a prey’s limb, the fight is over.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.