Do You Know: How Fast Can An Elephant Run? Fun Facts For Kids

Chong Lhungdim
Agu 31, 2023 By Chong Lhungdim
Originally Published on Nov 03, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
African Elephant running
Age: 3-18
Read time: 12.0 Min

Have you ever wondered how fast an elephant can run?

Elephants are known as the largest living land mammals. They have massive body structures, great trunks, huge ears, and a great running speed considering their size.

There are two types of elephants whose running speed has been recorded. African elephants are larger in size than Asian elephants and can run at a speed of 24.85 mph (40 kph). It is very difficult to tame an African elephant and therefore they have not been tamed and that's why their actual speed is not measured. When African elephants feel threatened, they run at a speed of 12.43-24.85 mph (20-40 kph) and can cover short distances by running at an average speed. They also run faster in the wild and measure the same speed. Elephants are the largest land animals with a weight of around 6 tons (5443 kg) and an African male elephant has a weight of 15,000 lb (6803.88 kg). Because of their heavyweight, it makes it difficult for them to run fast for long durations of time and cover a long distance. However, they can cover a distance of 164.04 ft (50 m) but at a slow pace for less than 1 mi (1.6 km).

Elephants, especially African elephants, can cover at least 15.5 mi (25 km) every day because they are always on move. Elephants normally cover both short and long distances but on average, it has been measured by scientists that some elephants can cover 124 mi (200 km) in a single day. In these giant animals, running and walking are distinguished by the footfall pattern because running includes feet off the ground and walking is at a slower pace. Some four-legged giant animals walk at a fast speed. While an elephant adds a stick bounce to its steps while running or walking, an elephant's center of mass is decreased by up to two-thirds and reaches a maximum speed. Sometimes elephants switch their speed from a pendulum-like gait to a bouncing gait and it fits in the biomechanical definition for running, without leaving the ground.

Compared to other four-legged animals (quadrupeds), elephants follow the same footfall pattern during walking and running whatever they are doing at that particular point of time. While walking, elephants also use the same footfall pattern in which the left hind foot moves first followed a brief pause and then the front foot moves on the left side. According to the biomechanical definition, there are many animals that do not even lift their feet off the ground when walking and running. It is still a doubt for many and researchers are still doing research on how elephants change the footfall pattern from a walking gait to a bouncing gait.

For more similar content, you can also visit these how fast can an alligator run and how fast can a shark swim.

How fast can an African elephant run?

African elephants are mostly found in Sub-Saharan Africa with a height of 125.98 in (320 cm) and weight at least 6 tons (6000 kg). They are also known as Savannah elephants and they are the largest species of elephants. They eat around 350 lb (158.75 kg) of vegetation to keep themselves energetic. The center of mass decreases, and the footfall pattern remains the same. Elephants run at a speed of 15-40 mph (24.14-64.37 kph), the biomechanical definition for elephants walking and running is mainly concerned about the changing pattern or style. Scientists also watch whether their feet leave the ground and show an aerial phase where the faster pendulum-like gait does not completely meet the requirements of running as one of their feet always remains on the ground. Both processes can be defined separately whether their feet do not leave the ground to fulfill the requirement of the classical definition of walking and whether their bouncing meets the need of biomechanical definition.

Even if elephants run at 15 mph (24.14 kph), it is very rare for humans to outrun an elephant. They will run so fast if they feel threatened by you. An elephant's step is so big compared to humans. An elephant's step is 10 times bigger than a human, therefore it is completely impossible to outrun an elephant's run.

An elephant's average walking speed is 15.53 mph (25 kph). Give the elephants their space and do not target or make loud noises like clapping hands. If you see any footprints that you think belong to an elephant's run, do not go any closer to them until you are sure there is no elephant near you. Fresh footmarks mean they are somewhere nearby and if you come face to face to an elephant, there is not much space to run. Also, it is tricky for a human to outrun an elephant so you should look for cover and hide behind a tree.

If their speeds are compared to other animals in the Savannah, hippos can run at a maximum speed of 18.64 mph (30 kph) on land, rhinos run at a speed of 34.17 mph (55 kph) on land in the wild, but their speed starts decreasing at around 18.64 mph (30 kph). African elephants that reside in Africa run at a speed of 24.85 (40 kph) on land in the wild without even trotting, which is quite a great speed for such a heavy animal. The Chobe National Park in Botswana has the largest population of elephants species in the world and Africa is the best place where they can live.

How fast can an Asian elephant run?

Asian elephants, also known as the Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus) are known for their top speed among elephant species. They could run at an average speed of 15 mph (24.14 kph), with a weight of 14,000 lb (6,350 kg), and can walk at an average speed of 4.5 mph (7.2 kph). These elephants are mostly found in Southeast Asia and even in the Indian Subcontinent. They weigh around 11,000 lb (4990 kg). In a biomechanical study, it is clearly described that elephants switch from running to walking when they get tired. They change from fast speeds to slow speeds. According to scientists, the speed of an Asian elephant has been calculated on the basis of its 100 ft (30.4 m) course. Elephants of the same species are also found in West Africa and the Congo Basin, living in forest-covered environments and African forest elephants are the smallest species found in the elephant family and weigh around 4000-10000 lb (1814.37-4535.93 kg). Their heavyweight means they can only run at a certain maximum speed. Asian elephants could run much faster than humans in a race and therefore it is said that humans could not outrun a fast-moving elephant.

The logic behind the running of elephants and the idea of taking their feet off the ground was defined by biomechanists about 30 years ago. These scientists also described the back and forth movement in which the limb of the elephant stays in a straight line and then again moves in a back and forth direction. Asian elephants move slightly towards their joints to move in a smooth way across the ground. The feet of other wild animals and birds also do not leave the ground completely when running. Elephants sync the footfall and the limb to maintain the same speed range while they walk or run. An Asian elephant's speed is up to 15 mph (24.1 kph) in the wild and they are very smart when it comes to targeting other animals, a human or even other elephants. Some people claim that they have not seen animals running just because of the fact that all 4 ft (1.2 m) is not off the ground at the same time or else they would not be considered in a running position. Asian elephants and African elephants fall under the largest species of top speed fast-moving elephants with a speed of around 15 mph (22.4 kph) for Asian elephants and 25 mph (40 kph) for African elephants, also known as the fastest giant animals of the savannah.

A large elephant running on a dry field

How fast can an elephant run in mph?

These giant animals have an average running speed of 15 mph (24.14 kph) and they walk at an average speed of 4.5 mph (7.24 kph). Elephants are very heavy in weight and still can manage to run and walk at fast speeds by moving their legs in a fast motion and at a fast pace. An elephant's weight is the heaviest compared to any other giant land animal, not even hippos and rhinos are this heavy. They move in a pattern where the left hind moves first and then they take a pause after which it is followed by the left front foot and then the elephants take a long pause compared to the first one and then the same process repeats again. Elephants are the largest wild animal of Africa, mostly found in Sub-Saharan Africa with huge legs, limbs, feet, and very heavy. Their running speeds are calculated by scientists in mph (kph). Elephants are dangerous animals and it is quite impossible to escape from a mad elephant. It advised us not to target or trigger an elephant.

The actual top speed of an elephant is still not defined by any researcher because it has been disputed. There are three elephant species that all have different speeds. An African bush elephant has a top speed of 25 mph (40.23 kph) and they currently reside in countries like Uganda and Kenya and have survived in different surroundings, from deserts to wetlands and woodlands and they weigh around 8000-14000 lb (3628.74-6350.29 kg). The second type is African forest elephants, which are quite slow with speeds of 24 mph (38.62 kph). They generally reside in West Africa and the Congo Basin and like to be surrounded by forest environments that are clear. This elephant is the smallest elephant species weighing around 4000-10000 lb (1814.37-4535.93 kg) and the third elephant category is the Asian elephant with an average speed of 15 mph (24 kph). They reside in Southeast Asia and across the Indian subcontinent. They weigh around 11000 lb (4989.5 kg).

There are very limited studies done on the running speed of these animals because African elephants are much harder to tame compared to Asian ones. It is also said that the fast movement made by this animal cannot be marked as running but it could be said that they are walking at a fast speed. This is because not all four feet of the animal are off the ground. Another reason is because of their weight and they are not able to run too fast.

How fast can an elephant slow down from a run?

Elephants run, and if not actually run, they move very quickly that it appears like running and their maximum speed at which they run is 25 mph ( 40.23 kph). Many people think that it is easy for this heavy animal to gain speed from slow to fast but how could they reduce their speed from fast to slow?

In the case of elephants, it is quite easy for them because while running or walking fast, the footfall pattern remains the same and they also match the sequence with their limb so that the speed becomes and remains in range. African elephants are the ones with a top speed of 15.53 mph (25 kph), and whenever they are running their one foot always remains on the ground which helps them to increase and reduce their speeds. Some studies have also been made on Asian elephants of Thailand regarding measuring their speeds. Those elephants which you see during Safari and in wildlife sanctuaries are also dangerous and you should not get too close to them. Don't put yourself in danger if you see footprints that look like an elephant paw. Be careful and always take cover and hide behind a tree, rather than running away. When you see that the hind feet are both off the ground, this gait is preferred compared to the hind legs followed by the front legs which means they are turning and running. If you are near an elephant and see this happening, make sure to seek cover immediately.

They make use of their left front leg which is followed by the left back leg to slow down the speed from a run. It is the same as in humans, like the technique that we use to slow down from a run or to end a run. We slow the pace automatically but do not change the positions like we have started running in a zigzag pattern same with the elephants. They do not apply any other pattern and stick to the same footfall pattern. Humans are suggested to run in a straight line if they are being chased by an elephant because moving a zigzag will slower your speed and will make the elephant madder at you. In case there is a situation where you think running is not an option, simply go and hide behind a tree because if you get caught by an elephant, you are considered a threat. Make sure to hide because they are the world's largest land animals found in Africa. They can walk and run very fast compared to humans or any other land animal. They are even faster than a hippo or a rhino. Even though they weigh a lot and are one of the heaviest animals in the world, they are still able to run at a very quick speed and chase humans, other animals, and also elephants too. However, it does become difficult for them to run and cover long distances because of their heavyweight that slows and tires them down.

There are some species of elephants that start slowing themselves down at a speed of 18.64 mph (30 kph), despite having an average speed of 34.17 mph (55 kph). Elephants keep moving and can move at a speed of at least 15.53 mph (25 kph) in a single day. Despite having so much weight, elephants can run and cover long distances within hours.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Do you know: How fast can an elephant run? then why not take a look at Knowing the difference: are truffles mushrooms? what's so unique about them? or Cute baby farm animals names and pictures for nursery kids facts pages.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Chong Lhungdim

Bachelor's degree specializing in Economics, Master's degree specializing in Public Policy

Chong Lhungdim picture

Chong LhungdimBachelor's degree specializing in Economics, Master's degree specializing in Public Policy

With extensive knowledge in economics, public policy, and finance, Chong is a highly qualified professional with a Bachelor's degree in Economics St Andrew's College of Arts, Science and Commerce and a Postgraduate degree in Public Policy from the University of Mumbai. Her enthusiasm for research and content writing has led her to develop expertise in various fields of economic and public policy analysis. Chong has experience in research, data analysis, and producing high-quality content.

Read full bio >