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How Fast Can Alligators Swim?

Alligators can swim up to 20 miles per hour. However, the rate by how fast they can swim depends on the species. The American alligator can swim up to 32 kilometers per hour

Alligator in a river
Alligator in a river

Alligators have flat tails. Despite being flat on end, the tails are muscular. The tail is the tool that the alligator uses to propel itself.

Can a Human Swim Faster Than Alligators?

Humans do not and cannot swim faster than alligators. While there is no official record of who the fastest human swimmer is, one can surmise that Michael Phelps swam a 200-meter freestyle event in only 1.4 minutes.

The speed of Michael Phelps for that record was is 4.7 miles per hour or 7.6 kilometers per hour. This speed is not even a third of how fast an alligator can swim.

There is no official record of the fastest swimmer because humans race in different lengths in pools. They also use different strokes like freestyle, backstroke, and others.

In Olympic records, the events are typically measured by the time it takes a human to finish a course, not the speed.

Who Swims Faster: Crocodiles or Alligators?

Alligators can swim slightly faster than crocodiles, with crocodiles being able to swim at around 18mph (29km/h) and alligators being able to swim at around 20mph (32km/h).

Here is a comparison: 

  • Alligator: 20 miles per hour
  • Crocodile: 18 miles per hour

From here, it is clear that the alligator wins. While it may seem like two miles does not make much difference, it really does. In an imaginary chase, the crocodile can have a headstart, and the alligator could still catch up to it. 

Crocodile Swimming
Crocodiles can’t swim as fast as Alligators, but they are still quick swimmers

Are Alligators Faster than Humans?

Alligators are three times faster than humans in the water. There is no way a human can outswim an alligator. Movies that show humans swimming away from alligators is nothing more than Hollywood fantasy.

In reality, humans are in great danger in alligator-infested waters. If the alligators are hungry, the human becomes food. 

Alligators are typically not aggressive towards humans, but there certainly are instances where they attack. There was a news report of an alligator in Florida attacking a 2-year-old boy and dragging the poor child into a lagoon in Disney park.

Alligator Speed on Land vs Water

On land, alligators can run at speeds up up to aroud 11mph (18km/h). Alligators can swim much faster than this, reaching speeds of up to 20mph (32km/h).

The fastest human on earth is Usain Bolt. He can run 37 kilometres per hour or 23 miles per hour, easily enough to outrun the slow alligator.

Alligators run in a zig-zag motion, which slows them down considerably on land.

Most humans could outrun an alligator on land, but would not be able to escape in the water.

Alligator running on land
Alligators can swim faster than they can run

How Long can an Alligator Swim Underwater?

Alligators can stay out of the water for as long as they want. They have lungs but not gills. An alligator can stay underwater for up to two hours. 

According to a study, the alligator has some special physiological processes to do this. The alligator’s heart slows down to only two to three beats per minute when underwater. The hypothesis is that it is the only organ that receives oxygen underwater. 

The study also shows that half of the alligator’s oxygen supply gets depleted in the first 20 minutes. Before the oxygen goes out, the alligator goes back to the surface to breathe. 

Summary: How Fast Can Alligators Swim?

Alligators are fast swimmers. They can swim as fast as 32 kilometers per hour, faster than crocodiles. Unfortunately, no human can outswim an alligator. A human being chased by an alligator has zero chance of outswimming it. 

Despite the alligator’s size, it does have a powerful tail. This tail is what propels the animal forward. In the wild and captivity, they rarely attack humans. They want prey that is easy to handle. If they attack, it is probably because they felt threatened. 

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