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How Fast Can a Crocodile Run? (And Why You Don’t Need to Be Scared)

Posted in: Uganda Animals

So you're going on a trip. And you've been warned about crocodiles. Just how fast can a crocodile run? In this post, you'll learn about the speeds and habits of different crocodile species. We'll dispel some myths and common fears. Wondering if you can outrun a crocodile? Yeah, we cover that too!

how fast can a crocodile run

How Fast Can a Crocodile Run?

Large crocodiles can run between 15 to 22 mph (24-35 km/h). These fast crocodiles include Nile, saltwater and American crocodiles – some of the largest species on the planet.

And in case you're wondering, an average human runs between 10-15 mph (16-24 km/h).

At first glance, it might appear that a croc could easily outrun a human. But things are seldom that simple. Crocs don't run on land for more than a few body lengths. They just don't hunt or travel this way.

Asking how fact a crocodile can run is a hypothetical discussion. Because we'll never get a croc to agree to a timed sprint in ideal conditions. In some ways, it's like asking how strong is a gorilla? Sure, there is an answer, but it will never be completely accurate. Crocodile sprints and gorilla bench presses will just never occur (unfortunately).

Why Crocodile Speed Doesn't Really Matter

The data appears to give crocs the upper hand in a foot race with a human. But this isn't the whole story.

It is unlikely that a crocodile would ever chase you across dry land. In fact, according to crocodile expert Adam Britton:

“The truth is, if you see a crocodile running towards you then it's easy enough to evade. It's when you don't see it coming that you're in danger! A crocodile's greatest strength is not its endurance and stamina on land, but it's ability to launch a surprise attack when you're least expecting it.” ~ Crocodilian.com

Crocodiles have been seen to travel 65-100 ft (20-30 meters) in a sprint, and then quickly tire. So while you can't be nonchalant about the risk a crocodile poses, you don't have to worry that they'll hunt you down by running after you through the jungle.

How Crocodiles Hunt

Crocodiles are ambush predators. They launch a surprise attack, almost exclusively from the water or on the waters edge.

If you can see the crocodile, the odds are in your favor. Running speeds aren't that big of a factor. You're more at risk when you can't see the croc.

And while it's true that crocodiles occasionally hunt humans, it is almost always from the water.

How fast can a crocodile run on land

Of course, you should still be very careful where ever there are crocodiles. For me, I would choose a long zoom lens over a close encounter. Here's how to choose the best camera for safari

Crocodile Running Speeds: 4 Species

So how fast are crocodiles? This question is actually more complex than it first appears.

There are 15 living species of crocodiles (American, Orinoco, Freshwater, Philippine, Morelet's, Nile, New Guinea, Mugger, Saltwater, Cuban, Siamese, West African, Dwarf , West African slender-snouted, and the Central African slender-snouted crocodile) across 5 continents (Africa, Asia, North America, South American, and Australia).

It's worth taking their size into account as well. These 15 species range in size from the Dwarf crocodile at 4.9 ft (1.5 m) to the humongous Nile and Saltwater crocodile that can both reach up to 20 ft (6.1 m). Obviously, the Dwarf and the Nile crocodiles are going to run at different speeds.

And when you consider that a Nile crocodile can weight more than 20 times the weight of a dwarf croc, it becomes clear that the question needs to be more specific.

  • Dwarf crocodile weight: 40 to 71 lb (18 to 32 kg)
  • Nile crocodile weight: 500 to 1,650 lb (225 to 750 kg)

Here are the running speeds of four of the most well-known species.

  • Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus): 19-22 mph (30-35 km/h)
  • American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus): 20 mph (32 km/h)
  • Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus): 15-18 mph (24-29 km/h)
  • Dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis): 11 mph (17 kh/h)

Crocodiles Have 3 Gaits

As horses have different gaits (walk, trot, gallop, canter, and pace) crocodiles also have different ways they move about on land. They include:

  • Belly Crawl: This is an efficient way to push across and down the mud. He drags his belly and slides along while pushing with his feet. This is usually used to leave an area – not in hunting.
  • High Walk: This gait is effective for clearing rocks and branches, but also takes the most energy because of the effort needed to lift his huge body off the ground.
  • Galloping: Similar to a horse gallop, the crocodile brings his two hind legs forward at the same time, then lifts with his two front legs. It looks like he is bounding, albeit quite awkward. In most species, like the Nile and American crocodile, this gait is used to escape danger. It can also serve a similar purpose to the high walk – allowing him to clear obstacles quickly.

Generally speaking, these three methods of locomotion are used to escape danger and not to hunt. Even when Cuban crocodiles and Australian freshwater crocodiles use galloping to confront a threat, they typically are acting in self-defense, not as hunters.

crocodile speed

Learn more about animals in Uganda.

Can a Crocodile Outrun a Human on Land?

Not really. If we're talking about a footrace, for more than a few body lengths (65 to 100 feet), the croc isn't going to do well. Not to mention, that this just isn't how crocodiles hunt or defend.

Watch on YouTube

Average Human Running Speed

How fast can humans run? The average running speed of a healthy adult human is around 10-15 mph (16-24 km/h)

There are exceptions, like Usain Bolt (the fastest human ever recorded). Usain Bolt has been recorded at an average speed of 23 mph (37 km/h) and a top speed of 27.8 mph (44.72 km/h).

Watch on YouTube

Should I Run in a Zigzag if a Crocodile is Chasing Me?

No. This is a myth and would actually make you easier to catch – if that was how crocodiles hunted.

So, how fast can a crocodile run? It depends on the crocodile – the species, the terrain, and its motivation (fear or lunch). But most large crocs can run between 15 to 22 mph (24-35 km/h).

Can a human outrun a crocodile? In most cases, yes. In fact, there are limited instances where a crocodile would ever chase a human.

To stay safe, here are six ways to survive a crocodile encounter.

Crocodile running

Your Turn

Have an opinion or stat to share? Or maybe you've seen a crocodile run? Let me know in the comments.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is co-editor of Uganda365 - and is working to make it the best source of information about Uganda travel. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with Bryan and Dena.

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