The Fastest Among Us

part III

But so can we.  We can outrun, endurance-wise, almost any animal.  We are familiar with panting, that mechanism animals use to stay cool when exerting themselves.  Humans sweat.  Much more efficient, and it’s what allows us to maintain exercise levels of performance for long periods of time.  We are just about the only animals (the thoroughbred racehorse is an exception) that can run a marathon.  We have the ability to cover 26.2 miles at one effort.  Take that, all you speed demons.  Ha!

So okay, we can outlast most animals.  But do you think they will leisurely pace us before they attack, y’know, hanging back, reading the paper, sipping a margarita?

When it comes down to it, who can we outrun?  What kind of head start do we need to get away from a big cat, or even a little bear?  After all, we are quite tasty, to them.

could you outrun a rattlesnake

Don’t step on it, just run away.  They clock in at about 3 mph.

how about an alligator?

These guys can motor at 11 mph.  Get a short head start and you’ll be okay.   Oh, and that business about running in a zigzag?  Don’t waste your time, just get your sorry ass in gear.

a tiger?

Scary as this might be — 35 mph, and serious teeth — just outrun it for a few moments and it will probably lose interest.  They tend to ambush rather than run down.  Probably.

a lion

Just a tad slower than tigers, but more persistent, and they will hunt you in packs.  You’ve got to outrun the lead who, by virtue of being in the lead, is the fastest.  Good luck.

when is the last time you were chased by an elephant?

Top speed will be about 20 miles per hour.  While running?  Hmm…  maybe.  There is some discussion about whether elephants actually “run” since there is no aerial phase to their locomotion, which is to say, there is no moment when all fours are off the ground at the same time.  If this gargantuan beast is chasing you, does this really matter?  Hoof it out of there, baby!

what about a chimpanzee?  can you outrun this ancestor of ours?  (not really an ancestor, although we share an ancestral line)

Have you ever been chased by a chimpanzee?  Can you even imagine being chased by a chimpanzee?  Anyway, they can outrun us.  And then what?

killer bees

Now this is bad.  While we can outrun these little MFs, they still seem to be able to catch us.  And we really don’t want that to happen.  Let me rephrase that:  we really don’t want that to happen.


The fastest human run will occur immediately after stirring up a nest of killer bees.

deer, fox and raccoon

Fear not.

your ex

You’re on your own here.


Depending on the breed, a rhinoceros may weight anywhere from 1500 to 5100 pounds.  It my be able to ambulate at 35 mph.  Rhinos have a nervous temperament and tend to attack anyone who annoys them and they are capable of ambush.  You’d better run your sorry ass off.


If you had the choice between surprising a rhinoceroses and surprising a hippopotamus, go with the…

N’wait.  What a dumb hypothetical situation.  You get to choose getting run over by a rhinoceroses or a hippopotamus?  That’s ridiculous.

Anyway, go with the hippo.  They are vegetarians and slightly slower than the rhino.

daddy long legs

By any name, how fast can a harvestmen or shepherd spider run?  We have no idea.  They don’t run much.  Usually they will come out from under wherever they were, hang out, do a few pushups and then go back to under wherever they were before, or somewhere else.  That’s about it.

You don’t need to outrun them.  They don’t care.


At 2000 pounds, these babies are the heaviest land animal in North America.  They can run at horse speeds.  They can jump about the same as the old world record in the high jump.  Six feet up.  Six feet up!

Should you run away?  Look at the tail.  If it’s standing straight up, get your sorry ass out of there;  it may be preparing to charge.  And if you pray, throw that into the mix.


Caterpillars can…  what is it that they do? — undulate?  squiggle? — at a rate of 6.2 feet per minute, or 2.1 feet per minute, depending on whether it’s before or after dinner.

In human terms, this is not fast.  We can dust them.


Many years ago, I encountered a moose on the hiking trail in the remote wilderness of Maine.  I had no idea what to do.  I knew nothing of the habits and inclinations of moose.  More recently I asked Lisa’s dad, Earl, about moose.  He has spent his entire life as a resident of Maine so I figured he might know a thing or two (which he usually does.)

“So Earl, I once encountered a moose on the trail.  What would have been the best thing for me to do?  Try to hide?  Run away?  Stand my ground and make noise?”

He considered for a moment, got a little grin on his face and said, “I don’t know.”


“No one knows.  Moose are unpredictable.  They may come at you, they may ignore you.  Can’t tell from one moose to another.”

Don’t moose with me.


Now we’re getting to the sexy animals.  Cheetahs are beautiful cats.  Just be careful that if you see one running, 1) you don’t get mesmerized by its grace, and 2) it’s not running toward you.


Some say a cow can run at 25 mph.  Perhaps this is a little surprising for an animal that chews sideways and farts more than Uncle Izzy.  It is however, a milk factory.  That’s worth something.


According to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History here in Pittsburgh, the butterfly is able to get it on up to 37 miles per hour.  I don’t know if that means much considering how vicious butterfly attacks aren’t, and the fact that they change directions so often it seems that their flight, while it isn’t, is pointless.  No danger here.



polar bear

These cuties have a nasty reputation.  While they could easily rip all your limbs off, they would actually rather avoid a confrontation.  Whatever, get a good head start and keep running until you get south of Canada.

wild boar

These critters are not known as “wild” for their party habits.  They are very fast, even at 200 pounds, and will chase you down.  Watch out for their sharp tusks.


They can outrun you.  Better to focus on how cute they are.


Even though they are known as Mexican walking fish, axolotls do not run.  They are fish.

No, they’re not.  They are amphibians.  This is important.  To the axolotl.


You cannot outrun a bear.  You cannot out-climb a bear.  You cannot hide from a bear.  You cannot out-eat a bear.  You are much weaker than a bear.

You cannot out-bear a bear, and they are good at all these things:  running, climbing, hiding, eating, fighting.  You might be smarter than a bear, but you two won’t be having a debate.

sorry ass

I’ve certainly referred to your sorry ass enough times here, so let’s see what we’ve got.

Ass:  15 mph

Your sorry ass:  10 mph

You lose.

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