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Fatwah / September 12, 2009
By Eileen Jones


It was in the news the other day that a cheetah had achieved the fastest recorded cheetah-time, running 100 meters in just over 6 seconds, which is about 36 mph.

What the hell? That’s the fastest recorded cheetah time? Are we only clocking old cheetahs, lame cheetahs, cheetahs who aren’t feeling well? Every right-thinking child knows that cheetahs are the fastest land animals and can hit speeds of 60 – 70 mph, if properly motivated. This cheetah they clocked at 36 mph—named Sarah, if it matters—got dropped out of the back of a van and was merely loping after a target.

Then this bogus news story generates the inevitable question: can Usain Bolt beat a cheetah?


People always ask these kinds of questions out of sheer, raving-mad human vanity. We can’t relate to anything unless it’s put into competition with us; we can’t just look at a cheetah and know it could run us down anytime, anywhere, and revere the animal properly. No, we have to ponder whether our fastest guy could beat it.

Seriously, there are whole internet discussion sites devoted to these questions. People come up with wild scenarios in which humans outrun cheetahs, humans fight gorillas and win, humans bite great white sharks to death. You can see why Tarzan has remained a popular fantasy figure for generations.


The short answer is, of course, no goddamn way. The fastest human alive, which is currently Jamaican runner Usain Bolt, or “Insane Bolt” in honor of his demented speed, has clocked in a record 100 meters in just over 9 seconds, which roughs out to 23 mph. Fastest human time ever is supposedly 27 mph, but that’s in dispute. Doesn’t matter, though. 23 – 27 mph doesn’t even get close to Sarah the cheetah’s relaxed jog though the brush.

Then people say, okay, but could Usain Bolt beat a racehorse?



Let’s consult the hard-earned knowledge of a man who used to race against thoroughbreds, shall we? Jesse Owens, the track and field titan who ruined Adolf Hitler’s 1936 Olympics by winning four gold medals, used to make a living in traveling exhibitions, running against almost anything that moved fast. He appeared to beat racehorses.


This is how he did it:

The secret is, first, get a thoroughbred horse because they are the most nervous animals on earth. Then get the biggest gun you can find and make sure the starter fires that big gun right by the nervous thoroughbred’s ear.

So the thoroughbred shies and gets off to a bad start, and Owens, who never got a bad start even if you shot guns near him all day, appears to be faster. But his final verdict is unequivocal: “No man could beat a racehorse, not even for a hundred yards.”

But check out “Horse vs. Human, Who Would Win?” or some site like that, and the follow-up question is, “What if it was a quarterhorse?”

Whenever we have an undisputed heavyweight champion—and Mike Tyson is really the last one everyone agreed on or cared about—somebody asks, “But could he beat a gorilla in a fight?”


And you’ll always find some idiot who thinks our best human fighter could pummel a silverback into submission if he really wanted to:

I think Mike Tyson would probably win. A bare-knuckle punch from him would do an insane amount of soft-tissue damage and a gorilla’s face is a pretty compact target. One or two punches would blind and disorient it.

When you’re finished laughing, you have to wonder what the hell is wrong with us. Are we as delusional as all that? Are animals so unreal to us? Can we not see them? Can we not imagine a man going up to a silverback and trying to punch it in the face, and what would happen?


Figure that a chimpanzee has five times our upper body strength, then take a gander at the gorilla’s far greater body mass, even longer knuckle-walking reach, and terrifying shoulder development, and be thankful gorillas have such essentially pleasant dispositions. As for the gorilla’s face making a “pretty compact target” highly susceptible to soft-tissue damage from human fists, I don’t know what animal this genius is talking about, the Soft Passive Tiny-faced Lowland Gorilla?


Some sane person in the discussion says the only way a human beats a gorilla in a fight is if he brings a gun. Then we get into the earnest clarifying:

Like I’m talking about human vs. a gorilla, no weapons, no nothing, just ur fists and body, could even fighters or NFL players even beat the daylights out of a male silverback?

A sunny optimist suggests that a human could always kick a gorilla in the testicles, which “will take down any male of any species.”

However, a more tentative fellow has his doubts: “I wonder though how you would kick a gorilla in the nuts? They don’t stand upright like humans do…”

Nonsense! Everybody knows that kicking the larger primates in the nuts, that’s pretty much how Tarzan kept the apes in line.



Add your own

  • 1. Geofrey  |  September 12th, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I can beat a gorilla… if we play chess

  • 2. az  |  September 12th, 2009 at 11:41 am

    eXiledOnline: the best.

  • 3. Anders  |  September 12th, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Oh god… I’ve read idiotic crap like this on a million message boards across the internet. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read about how Bruce Lee could take down a gorilla just by being quicker than the animal. Amazing how some people have no idea whasoever what a gorilla, or any wild animal really, actually is. Like some mystical Kung Fu bullshit could ever make up for our us humans sucking by nature at every form of physical activity.

  • 4. Expat in BY  |  September 12th, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    As they used to say in Alaska about the case where two hikers are running away from a bear, the thing to remember is that you don’t have to outrun the bear (or cheetah for that matter), you just have to outrun the other hiker. In that case 23-27 mph would be just the right speed to get away from whatever it was you were running from.

  • 5. Geoduck  |  September 12th, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I’ll never forget the day I was at the zoo and some human yokels were tapping on the plexiglass(?) at the gorilla exhibit. One of the gorillas finally got annoyed, wandered over, and idly punched his/her side of the glass. It sounded like a shotgun blast going off. (Well, a movie-shotgun, anyway..) Those suckers are -strong-.

  • 6. Jay  |  September 12th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Actually, the human body seems to have evolved for distance running. Our feet, our legs, and especially our Achilles’ tendons conserve energy over long runs. There’s no damn way a human could outsprint a cheetah, but in a marathon it might be a different story.

    A gorilla’s feet evolved for climbing trees. Nearly any human can outrun a gorilla, and should.

  • 7. aleke  |  September 12th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    The only thing humans are good at, physically, is running. Not sprinting, but long-distance. Humans, I mean actual humans in their natural environment, can outrun a horse over long distances. We’re the fastest most durable animal when it comes to running for miles.

    Ain’t gonna do much to counter a vengeful cheetah one hundred yards away though. Especially since we don’t train like Zulu warriors anymore. Eesspecially Americans. Imagine them running 50 miles in one day and you’ll see how many modern humans can beat animals at anything.

  • 8. GiveMeABreak  |  September 12th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Man, I wonder who fucks uglier females: me or that gorilla? I’d say that I fuck uglier chicks, but then I haven’t gotten laid in years and spend my time masturbating to eXiled articles. Thank you.

  • 9. Daar  |  September 12th, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Good, much better than the usual. I can see the other exiled writers have influenced you.

  • 10. scooter  |  September 12th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    If the cheetah was clocked from a dead start, 0 to 36 mph in a hundred meters is hauling ass.

  • 11. adolphhitler  |  September 12th, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    @7…i’ll tell you who fucks uglier chicks…i do.

  • 12. jimmy james  |  September 12th, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I don’t know what prompted this article, but between it and the comments this is the feel-good eXile of the year.

  • 13. rick  |  September 12th, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    I sent the eXile guys a story a while back about how a motivated 9 year old literally put an attacking pit bull in a Brazilian Jui-Jitsu choke hold for 20 minutes, saving his little girlfriend, until authorities arrived. That kid was cool! They buried the story since they don’t want Cletus to give that a try next time his daughter’s getting mauled.

    But seriously, best not to think of humans individually, whatever individual delusions may be. Like it’s helpful to think of individual “ants” as merely one organism (colony) with many limbs. Fact: there’s nothing scarier, whether you’re a gorilla, Cheetah or bear, than running into six crazy humans, shrieking their godforsaken “language” NFL fucking audibles and waving their spears around.

  • 14. Like yah!  |  September 12th, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Tit for tat Evolutionary paths. we went into the alley of using spears and bows and arrows and slingshots and all sort of projectiles. Therefore we lost body mass favoring command and control advantages in weapopns and platoon-company coordination. The big animals in Africa sort of co-existed with humans long enough that they became cautious and kept a respectful distance from the human packs. A single naked unarmed human is as typical as a fangless clawless lion.

  • 15. Captain Swing  |  September 12th, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Oh man, there used to be the stupidest debates about this kind of thing on rec.martial-arts. Could Royce Gracie beat Bruce Lee, could Royce Grace beat a tiger etc. Finally collapsing into absurdity with questions like: Top Cat vs. Homer Simpson, who would win?

  • 16. LOLZORG  |  September 13th, 2009 at 12:00 am

    I have a solution: anyone who thinks they can beat a gorilla, should be asked to wrestle one. If the human wins, he or she gets $1,000,000. If the gorilla wins – hey, lunch is provided. That way we will get rid of all the low IQ people, and save on food. Everybody wins!

  • 17. Allen  |  September 13th, 2009 at 12:36 am

    I think the correct answer is who is “we”, exactly? Any sane person knows a silverback gorilla would tear Mike Tyson or any other human to shreds in ten seconds flat. And I’m also reasonably sure a race horse would trounce any human in a “race” between the two.

    The internet has just lowered our collective opinion of our fellow man because it provides a false veneer of anonymous sameness. I mean, I might have thought Bolt could out run a Cheetah too, when I was twelve … (well, not really *shrug*).

  • 18. FOARP  |  September 13th, 2009 at 1:41 am

    “Top Cat vs. Homer Simpson”

    Top Cat for speed, Simpson for stamina. Homey has a reach advantage as well

  • 19. Tarik  |  September 13th, 2009 at 7:00 am

    “Alphabet of Manliness” , the cover.

  • 20. Grimgrin  |  September 13th, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Fox did a fairly decent special about this. “Man vs. Nature” or something. I think the finale was an elephant vs 40 midgets to see who could pull a jumbo jet the fastest. The only time the humans did even a little bit well was when the animals had no idea what they were supposed to do.

    And can I just say, fucking Christ I love living in an utterly decadent and depraved culture some time.

  • 21. adolphhitler  |  September 13th, 2009 at 7:16 am

    @9…oh yasha,…you crack me up

  • 22. Neil  |  September 13th, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Can an Aikido Master beat a grizzley bear?

  • 23. nador  |  September 13th, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Humans are indeed rather bad at any physical activity. Though, as some commenter mentioned above we are not bad at endurance running.
    If anyone is interested in a scientific article on it, should follow the link.

  • 24. joe  |  September 13th, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Who would win in a fight a rottweiler or its weight in chihuahuas?

  • 25. tam  |  September 13th, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Here’s my contribution to the ‘really stupid comparison’ debate…

    How many Five Year Olds Could You Take in a Fight?

  • 26. The Dark Avenger  |  September 13th, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Who would win in a fight a rottweiler or its weight in chihuahuas?

    Seeing as the rottie would have the possibility of getting hamstrung while going after one or two of the little critters by three or four of them behind him……..

    Consider this:

    SAGE, Riverside County — A woman got the surprise of her life when she walked into her garage to see why her dogs were barking. She found a full-grown mountain lion.

    Ana Lee Spray, 23, says her three toy chihuahuas were barking so loudly that it woke her up Saturday morning. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and got up to check on the dogs. When she saw the animals standing guard at the opening of the garage, Spray investigated further.

    She ran into her daughter’s bedroom, which has a window that looks into the garage, and quickly got the answer staring back at her.

    The chihuahuas, which weigh about three pounds each, had cornered the mountain lion. She says the big cat appeared to be angry and began hissing at her and foaming at the mouth.

    Spray quickly called 911 and then grabbed her video camera to record a few pictures of the cornered cougar.

    The pint-sized puppies refused to back off, and kept barking for about 45 minutes until two Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at Spray’s home in the 3900 block of San Ignacio Road.,0,224308.story

  • 27. Tarik  |  September 13th, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Reminds me of a type of show that’s somewhat popular in my country. They call it Fightbull or whatever

    bare hands, man versus beast, how exciting. better yet, men versus beast. better yet, several men versus severely injured bull. brave people etc

  • 28. wengler  |  September 13th, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    A human with an AK-47 plus a full clip of ammo will do fine against almost any animal.

    When any animal gets the element of surprise though a human is going to be toast. This is why hippos kill so many humans every year.

    As for long distance running, I’d say dogs(generally) are likely better than humans at it. And there are any number of animals that can run faster on average than the fastest human(Usain Bolt wouldn’t be able to even beat the whitetail deer around here, how the hell is he going to beat a cheetah?)

  • 29. twentyeight  |  September 13th, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Who can get fatter faster, an American in the Midwest or a Manatee?

  • 30. Beerina  |  September 14th, 2009 at 10:41 am

    > I can beat a gorilla… if we play chess


  • 31. CB  |  September 14th, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    @10: Cheetahs can go from 0 to 100kmh in 3 seconds. They have ridiculous acceleration.

    @23: That Nature article very closely resembles one I read back in the 90’s where they hypothesized that human endurance running was critical to our evolution and to our hunting.

    @28: Actually, if Usian Bolt wanted to have a nice dinner of venison, he probably could pretty easily as long as he started early enough in the day.

    As article linked in #23 states, humans have a pretty efficient jogging gait that is between most prey animal’s trot and gallop. So a human chasing after a deer can stay in his most efficient gait, while the deer would have to periodically speed up to an energy-intensive gallop to stay ahead. Combine this with our natural advantage in heat dissipation, and its only a matter of time before the deer collapses from heat exhaustion. At which point the human can simply walk up to the helpless animal and bash its head with a rock.

    Think about that from the deer’s perspective, and I’m imagining that humans were a pretty terrifying creature even before we started carrying pointy sticks.

    It’s funny you should mention dogs them because wolves are another animal that has an ‘in-between’ gait and are known to use a similar hunting tactic. This could have been a factor in domestication.

  • 32. Slavich  |  September 15th, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Reply to comment #6

    Here’s a video of a guy hunting an antelope by chasing it to exhaustion, on foot. The hunt took over eight hours, but the man prevailed.

  • 33. f  |  September 16th, 2009 at 3:38 am

    Another important advantage that humans have is our ability to chuck things. We have pretty amazing eye-hand co-ordination, not to mention hands and shoulders capable of rotating in just the right way.

    Sure, we can’t beat a gorilla ape-to-ape, but we sure can pelt him to death with heavy, pointy things.

  • 34. Frankenblank  |  September 16th, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Some of you seem to be missing the point of these stupid debates. It’s not ‘Can we beat them because of our weaponry and social cohesion?’, the answer to which is obviously yes, but ‘Can we beat those animals on their own terms?’ That is, can we outrun a cheetah barefoot, instead of in a Ferrari? Can we outfight a gorilla in a brawl, rather than shotgunning it? The answer to the latter type of question is ‘no’. It only even gets asked because people are a bunch of deeply hubristic retards who think that having a really big brain translates into having the fastest legs on earth and the toughest fists. (And in making such an error they prove people are not even very intelligent in the first place.)
    It’s a complete non sequitur to what’s being discussed to turn up here and say, ‘Yeah, but we’re much tougher if you count our technology and gutless habit of ganging up on things.’

  • 35. CB  |  September 16th, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    @34: What you call “gutless”, I call “brilliant”! =D

    I <3 unfair numerical advantages.

    Mike Tyson could beat up a gorilla… if he had 5 heavyweight champion friends with shotguns to help! Not my fault the gorilla didn’t think of gunpowder!

  • 36. The DarkAvenger  |  September 19th, 2009 at 11:42 am

    The one area where we have our fellow fauna beat all hollow is killing other members of our species in new and exciting ways.

    Think about it: The male lion who takes over a new pride, killing and eating all the cubs left over from his predecessor is St. Francis of Assisi compared to what mankind has done to his fellow man on all the worlds continents(except Antarctica, perhaps) if you look at the last 160 years or so, let alone all of our history, from the Sumerians onward.

  • 37. aleke  |  September 20th, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Humans fucking own, I don’t care what kind of bullshit they became after the agricultural revolution. Run that fucking gazelle down to exhaustion!

  • 38. Eileen Jones Rules  |  September 25th, 2009 at 12:44 am

    I remember when Eileen Jones started out, writing about office life in Putin’s Russia, and I thought it was really boring. Then came the move to Panama, and all these movie reviews, and I had to admit that they could be quite witty and insightful. Now she writes about an apparently endemic subspecies of Internet stupidity I’ve never even noticed, and it’s brilliant, and I don’t even know why! Eileen Jones, I genuflect in your general direction.

  • 39. Antonio Garcia  |  September 26th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    It’s amazing seeing a Cheetah in full speed

  • 40. Kickertisch Martin  |  October 29th, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Mike Tyson had a full force of over a ton with a perfect strike. If you hit a gorilla right on the chin in the right angle with that force he will buckle as any other species too.

  • 41. Hamlet  |  November 7th, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Re. Post #31 You’ve never read Tom Brown’s account of chasing down a deer: Chase the deer for a little while, pretty soon the deer goes into the woods and you loose site of it, then it comes out with a friend or two, then circles around and goes back into the woods, comes out with another friend, goes back in, comes out alone, or, maybe it’s one of his friends, you loose track of which animal you are trying to exhaust, then you give up in futility. ~Humans are an arrogant bunch of fucks as there ever were.

  • 42. Mike Sylvester  |  November 10th, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Well I am a bit if an authority on this so here goes..
    The common sense view (as this site points out) is that a gorilla would pulverise a man in one on one combat.
    However one has to take into consideration motivation. Animals are not vindictive, and once they have vented their frustration or got what they want they calm down pretty quickly.
    In a ‘fight’ with MT even with a huge weight/strength advantage the gorilla may loose or even back down. Sufficiently motivated the gorilla could make short work of a human. In studies gorillas have fled in fear before much smaller animals.
    Incidentaly the notiion that chimps have 5 times human strength is a popular myth. The average human can lift approx. 150 lbs chimps cannot lift 750 lbs. There is much duscussion on this but the fact is that pound for pound a chimp IS stronger than the average human but weaker than a strength athlete.

  • 43. Eric  |  June 7th, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    A full grown Gorilla would rip out your testicles and stuff em down your throat before you had a chance to land one punch.

  • 44. z3  |  October 26th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    haha good article….I think god made us physically weak because we have superior brain power, and that is the king of everything…..we are the rulers of this planet through our brain power….there is no way usain bolt could even dream of beating a horse…..and I bet my 80 pound dog could tear mike tyson to pieces

  • 45. rocket man  |  January 4th, 2011 at 5:27 am

    check out John Wall vs Jet Fighter on Google, here is a 62 year old man running against a Jet Fighter Aircraft and beating it over 60 meters.
    Try that on for size!!!!!!

    and yes He could probably beat a Gorilla Tooo over 5 million meters.

  • 46. Rukaria  |  April 20th, 2011 at 2:47 am

    Thank GOD people hav brains huko nje! Ths Bolt vs Cheetah thing ended me in a 3hr argument wth my pal, WILO n Collo, KU, Bsc Tourism Mngment!! (Yah, I am namin names) Bright fellows, wilo @ least, or so I thot. N 2 thnk they r studin Tourism, whch entails 1 2 hav Knwldge in Wildlife! 2 him, he saw it so it mst hav bn true, ati coz it ws in a documentary!! I mean, CMON!!!! A cheetah?? A CHEETAH!!! Sigh! Thank God 4 this!! Thank GOD!!! Am gona hav a field day wth ths!! Hahahaha!!

  • 47. Chuck Norris  |  June 5th, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Thankfully no one raised my name there. I would like clarify that I am not human, but superhuman.

    Chuck Norris vs Silverback.

  • 48. Chuck Norris is a LOSeR  |  June 5th, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    i m stupid

  • 49. Katy  |  November 1st, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Thanks Eileen, I needed this for my science homework, I’m sure to get a good mark now!

  • 50. usain bolt  |  February 22nd, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    i am the fastest human on earth

  • 51. adeel kashmiri  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    i love speed star you are world champ usain bolt

  • 52. qasim tonali  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    bolt i love you you are fastest champ of the world join our group hp boyz aur hp rockers

  • 53. Sonic the hedgehog  |  November 16th, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    I can outrun a cheetah because I’m sonic!!

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