Most humans cannot outrun a crocodile at close range because crocodiles can run at 17km/h (11mph) for short distances. Over longer distances on land, crocodiles are clumsy and can not maintain this speed.
However, crocodiles can only run in short bursts. They cannot sustain this speed. As such, a human with fast reflexes can outrun a crocodile.
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.
How do Crocodiles Run?
Crocodiles have three types of locomotion on land. These are the high walk, the belly crawl, and then the gallop.
1. High Walk
The high walk is the most common type of gait observed in crocodiles. In this locomotion, their bellies are not touching the ground. They are elevated, and they walk on all four limbs. This locomotion is slow. Typically, they move between two to four kilometers per hour in this gait.
2. Belly Crawl
The second type of movement on land is the belly crawl. They usually do this if they are sliding from an elevated land down to the water. In some cases, they use it to give a little chase. They slide their bodies as snakes do, and they thrash from side to side.
The last is the gallop, which is something that people see rarely. In a gallop, they jump from the back limbs, land on the front limbs, then as their hind legs land, they immediately jump. One can think of how horses and frogs jump and gallop—it is similar to what crocodiles do.
Crocodiles gallop to get over rocks or logs blocking their way. During this gait, the tail tens to move up and down, not side to side. It is the gallop that is fearsome, as the crocodile can reach speeds of 18 kilometres per hour.
Even if you could outrun a crocodile on land, you wouldn’t get far. As soon as you arrived at the water’s edge, the crocodile gets all the advantage back. Although crocodiles can’t breathe underwater, they are extremely fast and agile swimmers, and their sharp teeth and long tongues are perfectly suited to hunting prey in the water.
How Soon Does a Crocodile Tire?
Crocodile experts agree that they tire easily. In a full gallop, they can burst for only 100 meters, and then give up.
Crocodiles are huge animals. It is not unusual for them to weigh at least 1,000 pounds. The largest crocodile ever weighed was Lolong—it weighed 2,370 pounds.
A child or a frail elderly person cannot outrun a crocodile. At 18 kilometres an hour with a maximum distance of 100 meters, a human is not likely to win.
Runners, on the other hand, have a fighting chance. Humans can run faster than 18 kilometres per hour and certainly go past 100 meters.
Will Running in a Zig-Zag Help Outrun a Crocodile?
Running in a zig-zag pattern will not help a human outrun a crocodile. It is a myth.
Crocodiles run only in bursts. Some crocodiles actively hunt humans, like the Nile and the Saltwater crocs, but one must not forget that they rarely hunt by chasing down prey on land. On most occasions, they will not even run 100 meters and prefer to hunt in the water, where they are much more agile.
Crocodiles would run and attack a human or prey, but not as tigers, lions, and other big cats do. In short, crocs are ambush predators—they lie in wait and snap the unsuspecting prey.
As such, it is easier to outrun a crocodile in a straight line. A human that runs in zig-zags is likely to trip and fall and then break an ankle.
What to do in a Crocodile Encounter
Crocodiles are dangerous. The best approach is to stay away at a safe distance. In case of an accidental encounter, the only thing to do is to back off and run.
Humans have no business messing around with crocs. While experts like Steve Irwin showed unparalleled courage in facing these animals, ordinary humans should keep their distance.
Crocodiles are also most active at night. People must never venture in the dark where crocodiles live. The crocs can easily hide and ambush a human being, and they are large enough to cause serious or fatal injuries.
Some crocodiles have even been known to hunt and eat humans.
Do Crocs Run and Attack Humans on Land?
About 8.5% of crocodile attacks on humans happen on land. These attacks include attacks on tents where campers have unwittingly pitched their camp near a crocodile nest.
Despite these attacks, crocs usually become aggressive when in water. 81% of attacks happened when people had activities that involved water, such as swimming, wading, or just staying at the water’s edge.
Read More: Can Crocodiles Smell Blood?
Crocodiles also attack boats. One scary incident was when a crocodile, about 5.1 meters long, attacked a boat and toppled the people in the water. Curiously, the crocodile did not attack the people that fell. It only attacked the boat.
Experts say that the crocodile may have thought the boat was another croc encroaching on its territory. The sound of the propellers may have disturbed the crocodile, and it is what caused it to attack.
Why do Crocodiles Chase Humans?
Crocodiles may chase humans as a form of self-defense. If they feel any kind of threat, they will chase after a human to scare them away, especially when they are protecting a nest or their young.
Crocodiles also protect their territory. It is not unusual for crocs to attack boats or swimmers, not because they view the humans as food but as competition. Their instinct, of course, is to drive humans out of their territory.
Despite their appearance, female crocodiles do take care of their young. They also hate predators that eat their eggs. A human being who happens to be close enough to a crocodile’s nest may pose a threat to her eggs, causing the mother crocodile to attack.
Humans can outrun crocodiles, but it requires more than an average human to do this. Crocodiles are fast on land and in water. On land, they can run at speeds of 18 kilometres per hour.
Crocodiles should never be trifled with. Between crocs and gators, crocs are much more aggressive to humans. Some of them, like the Nile and Saltwater crocodiles, consider humans as prey.
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.