Crocodiles and alligators cannot walk on their hind legs. They can not stand on their hind legs because their long tails are heavy and inflexible and would get in the way, and their hip joints are not oriented in such a way that would allow them to walk bipedally.
The modern crocodiles and alligators, and all their cousins, have short legs. They have long tails, and standing is not possible. Their legs are also not positioned properly on their hips for walking.
Why Crocodiles and Alligators Can’t Walk on Two Legs
Crocodiles and alligators have been through millions of years of evolution, and are perfectly adapted to walking on four legs. Even if they could get into an upright position, their long, inflexible tails and their forward-facing hip joints would prevent them from being able to walk.
Evolution has its way of preserving what is best for the species. Even if some crocodile ancestors walked, it was not an ideal thing to do—they were heavy, and walking on land required too much energy. As such, crocodiles and alligators are faster and more efficient on all-fours.
Read More: Could a Human Outrun an Alligator?
There is a saying in evolution that says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t evolve it.” Modern crocodiles evolved to live on all fours because it was efficient. When their ancestors were wiped out, the crocodiles that lived were those that were already semi-aquatic.
As semi-aquatic animals, they did not stand on their hind legs. Instead, they resembled those modern crocodiles that are present today. That shape and form evolved to make the crocodile much more efficient in the water than on land.
In the water, crocodiles and alligators could use their tails for swimming and to help them hunt. However, their legs are much more helpful and functional if tucked as far as swimming is concerned. As such, they no longer need to evolve onto a bipedal.
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Can Crocodiles Stand on Their Hind Legs?
Yes, some can, but not all. There is a documented case of a crocodile that stood on its hind legs to feed. It happened with a Nile crocodile while the villagers were taunting it to feed on a live bird that was held on a stick.
It was a 12-foot crocodile, and the incident happened in Bazoule Village in Burkina Faso. Here, the villagers treat crocodiles as sacred. They feed these beasts. As they dangled the live bird on a stick, the crocodile stood up to reach for it—the crocodile did it on land.
It is like watching a rabbit reaching out for food. While the croc stood up, it did not do so to walk or look around. It stood up to reach an easy meal.
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Did Ancient Crocodiles Walk on Hind Legs?
Yes, it is possible. Scientists say that there is an ancient species of crocodile that walked on its hind legs. It lived about 110 and 120 million years ago—and it walked like dinosaurs.
The ancient crocodile is said to have belonged to a species of crocodylomorph. They are the ancestors of the common crocodile that the world knows today. They are no longer around, but the crocodylomorph used to be the biggest group of reptiles in the world.
The discovery comes from a well-preserved footprint in an excavation south in Asia, specifically in South Korea. At first, they thought that the footprint belonged to a pterosaur. They realized later on, however, that it could not have belonged to a flying reptile.
The footprints measured 24 centimeters. At that size, scientists knew that they belonged to an animal that had legs. So it couldn’t have been made by a flying animal.
A study also shows that the animal moved like a two-legged dinosaur. What’s curious about it was that there was a clear heel impression similar to what modern crocodiles make.
Bipedal Crocodile Ancestors
One popular ancient crocodile that walked on its hind legs is the Carolina Butcher. It is a pre-dinosaur-era crocodile that has sharp teeth.
In the United States, scientists have unearthed fossils that, upon further assessment, lived about 231 million years ago. This ancient predator walked on its hind legs and lived before the first dinosaurs appeared.
Based on fossil records, this crocodile was nine feet long. It lived in the Triassic Period, and it was five feet in height. It had a long skull, and it was a ferocious hunter.
The scientific name of this monster is Carnufex carolinensis, or Carolina Butcher. It is a menacing crocodile that lives on land. Unlike modern crocodiles and alligators, this ancestor was not aquatic at all. It lived in North Carolina during its heydays.
Crocodiles and alligators cannot and do not walk on their hind legs. Some can stand with the support of their tails, but it is something that they cannot sustain. If anything, they only managed to stand up because of a burst—they jumped or lunged.
There were species of crocodiles that were nine or 12 feet in length that were also bipedal. These crocodiles lived 200+ million years ago. Their fossils or footprints are found in certain places in the world. Today, no crocodilian walks because it is not how they evolved.
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.