The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 03-23-2004, 01:43 PM
Gone4Subs Gone4Subs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Humans are the fastest land animals on distances longer than about 100 km?

I once read that humans are the fastest land animals on distances longer than about 100 km. I this really true?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 03-23-2004, 01:57 PM
FatBaldGuy FatBaldGuy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: SLC, USA
Posts: 4,052
Well, if you let them use their cars and/or airplanes, I'm sure they are. Don't know about running, though. It seems to me that other animals would be faster, even over long distances.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03-23-2004, 01:59 PM
FatBaldGuy FatBaldGuy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: SLC, USA
Posts: 4,052
Upon further contemplation (like right after I pushed the submit button), I thought of things like the Pony Express. If humans are faster runners than horses, why didn't they just have the mail delivered by people?
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 03-23-2004, 02:10 PM
dinoboy dinoboy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
I give you... The Pronghorn.
__________________
"As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame; I craved factual certainty; and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life - so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls." -- Matt Cartmill
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 03-23-2004, 02:30 PM
Bromley Bromley is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
The relevant section of that (strangely uncopyable) link is:
Quote:
Pronghorn are considered by many to be the fastest land animal over long distances as they can easily sustain speeds of 35-40 miles per hour over long distances.
Note that it does not say that a pronghorn will run for 100 miles. I very much doubt that it would, as it would need to frequently stop to eat all that grass.

Humans on the other hand can kill and smoke a couple of the pronghorn and then walk the 100 miles. So I maintain that, if only because other land animals have to stop all the time for food and because they have no reason to move further than the next good source of food, we win by default. Go human!
__________________
. . . "meatotomy" (that's mee ah TOT ah mee, not "meat" like salami "-otomy.")
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 03-23-2004, 02:33 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Near the GT eeehhhh...
Posts: 26,631
Well, with the Pony Express, they were able to change horses. But I bet a trained human could run down a single horse over a distance of a hundred km.

There was an article in Analog science-fiction magazine in 1984 proposing that humans are 'cursorial' hunters: we don't sprint, but we can keep going and going and going far past when most other animals would have to rest... at which point we catch up to them. Boom. Antelope steaks.

The article claimed that our extensive sweating, our upright stance, our big leg muscles, were all adaptations to sustained effort over a long period of time: hours or days, rather than the five-minute sprints and pounces of other animals.

Quote:
Pronghorn are considered by many to be the world's fastest land animal over long distances as they can easily sustain speeds of 35-40 miles per hour over long distances.
How long a distance? When they're comparing pronghorns to cheetahs, they might mean 5 or 10 km instead of 100. But I bet a human could catch up to an isolated pronghorn if the pronghorn couldn't sustain those high speeds for more than a few kilometres, and if he gave it no chance to rest.
__________________
Rigardu, kaj vi ekvidos.
Look, and you will begin to see.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 03-23-2004, 02:43 PM
lieu lieu is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Bedrock
Posts: 24,970
I'd sure hate to have to keep up with a coyote or a caribou over that distance as I've seen both lope on effortlessly for incredible distances.

Also, we're probably talking about an effort by your average member of some species as opposed to an extraordinary human.
__________________
I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: "No good in a bed, but fine against a wall." - Eleanor Roosevelt
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 03-23-2004, 03:13 PM
dinoboy dinoboy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Quote:
Note that it does not say that a pronghorn will run for 100 miles.
Ahhh, but neither did the OP ask about 100 miles - he said 100 kilometers (or about 60 miles).

But a small point, this.

Are you suggesting that a pronghorn could not run, rest, run, rest..., for a longer distance than a human?

Hmmm, actually, I don't really know either since I've never heard of it - I don't see how anyone could easily test this - chase a pronghorn in an enclosed tunnel or such I guess. (I would figure that your average pronghorn may not want to run 60 miles without substantial motivation, )

...and in lieu of Lieu's statment (couldn't resist ) , I agree that some humans have great stamina (the Zulu warriors for example would keep up with British cavalry movements) but I would think even them sorely pressed to keep up with cavalry that is trying to avoid (or chase) them.
__________________
"As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame; I craved factual certainty; and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life - so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls." -- Matt Cartmill
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 03-23-2004, 04:41 PM
Gone4Subs Gone4Subs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Sorry,"Is this ..." Couldn't find the original statement, but here is another one ...

This migration might be seen in the light of current insights in the field of "ultrarunning" (running/walking distances further than the marathon) that humans are the fastest land animals on distances longer than about 100 km. The early erectus was even somewhat better a walker and runner than his later descendents, because of his relatively small brain and skull, which allowed for a narrower birth channel and therefore a pelvis that was better suited for walking and running than a wider one. Homo erectus was the ultimate ultrarunner, and therefore good at migration.

Is this really true?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 03-23-2004, 05:15 PM
moriah moriah is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
If you made a horse, camel, or a geyhound run along with you and 'pace them' so that they don't get exhausted, I'd bet they'd outrun a human if you then made them sprint the last click.

The problem is, has anyone actually measured the maximum endurance of animals that can go faster than humans by pacing them rather than letting them run at full speed?

Peace.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 03-23-2004, 05:43 PM
Bromley Bromley is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by dinoboy
Ahhh, but neither did the OP ask about 100 miles - he said 100 kilometers (or about 60 miles).

But a small point, this.
Yeah, I spotted that after I posted. Still, 100 miles is more than 100km .

Quote:
Are you suggesting that a pronghorn could not run, rest, run, rest..., for a longer distance than a human?
Well, I was actually suggesting that what was missing was drive. However, I simply don't know enough about relative energy consumption and usage times to make a judgement on a straight race (say from a slow but steady flood).

If I had to guess, I'd say that it's easier for a human to grab a snack on the hoof (so to speak), so it'd be easier for a human to keep up the pace. Remember, we're not talking about just 100 klicks here, but over distances greater than 100 klicks. Still, I can see the counter argument that says we have to hunt/gather whereas the pronghorn can speed graze as it goes. As I said, I don't know enough to evaluate that.

Regarding lieu's point, I'd like to second that. Of course, you have to bear in mind that an average wild human is more like a marathon runner than us, because we're talking about animals here. So, of course, your average westerner couldn't beat a pronghorn. Your average rural 3rd worlder couldn't either, as even if you strip out the excessive old population, it's still a more sedantry life than a hunter/gatherer lifestyle.

Gone4Subs. I'd say bogus, unless you consider the enegy input and drive elements. I sure wouldn't want to keep up with a herd of wildebeast or buffalo on migration if they didn't have to stop to graze. Again, IMO.
__________________
. . . "meatotomy" (that's mee ah TOT ah mee, not "meat" like salami "-otomy.")
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 03-23-2004, 05:45 PM
Kinthalis Kinthalis is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
The horse is probably the animal we would know most about it's endurance.

Still, no human could walk 100 miles without stopping for food and rest. Normally, given enough time to rest a human could walk 100 miles in about 4 to 5 days. I'm sure a horse could not run all that distance, but it could probably keep a rapid gate for much longer than ahuman, otherwise we wouldn't have used them.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 03-23-2004, 05:45 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Near the GT eeehhhh...
Posts: 26,631
Well, the idea wouldn't be to restrain them from running their full speed, it would be to always catch up with them and allow them as little rest as possible, ideally none.

Let's say that under ideal conditions, animal X can run at, say, 60 km/h, but only over a distance of 5 km. It can therefore only run for 5 minutes. Let's also say that animal X needs an hour to completely rest from that.

In half an hour, a human walking at a fast cruising speed of 10 km/h can cross the 5 km to catch up with animal X. The still-tired animal X might only be able to run at 30 km/h for 5 minutes the next time. The human catches up with it in 15 minutes this time. The even-more-tired animal X can run only a shorter distance. The human catches up again, in less time. Eventually the exhausted nnimal X can't run avay any more, and the human can move in for the kill.

If the human can catch up with an animal in less time than the animal needs to run away and recover fully for another escape, eventually the human will catch the animal.

Unless the human runs into its own limits, of course.

But considering things like marathons, and also considering that I'm talking about fast walking here, not outright running, I suspect that the human's limits for this kind of low-speed stern chase are quite high.
__________________
Rigardu, kaj vi ekvidos.
Look, and you will begin to see.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 03-23-2004, 05:49 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Near the GT eeehhhh...
Posts: 26,631
BTW, the Analog article mentioned that the Plains dwellers in North America used to run down and capture horses regularly.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 03-23-2004, 06:23 PM
StarvingButStrong StarvingButStrong is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
I've always that wolves are the true champions where long-distance travel day after day is concerned. They just keep trotting along, hour after hour. After all, they follow along migrating herds and snack off them for hundreds of miles. Lessee... okay:

From "Walker's Mammals of the World On Line", in the article "Caribou (North American term), or Reindeer (European term)" I find:

"Northern populations, however, make extensive spring and fall migrations, sometimes traveling over 1,000 km between the summer range on the tundra and the wintering grounds in timbered areas. The rate of movement during migration is 19-55 km per day (Banfield 1974; Bergerud 1978)."

Okay "55 km per day" isn't OVER 100k, but if that's an average for an entire herd for several weeks at a time, that ain't bad.


Same source, in a article on dog species:


"Canis lupus (gray wolf)."

"The daily distance covered ranges from a few to 200 km (Mech 1970)."

200 km in one day??? I don't think too many humans will be running down wolves.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 03-23-2004, 06:41 PM
wolf_meister wolf_meister is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Where the owls say "Whom"
Posts: 5,403
Darned. I was all set to say a word for my wolf relatives and StarvingButStrong beat me to the punch. Yes I've heard that wolves have incredible running endurance.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 03-23-2004, 07:12 PM
Gone4Subs Gone4Subs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by StarvingButStrong
...
Same source, in a article on dog species:

"Canis lupus (gray wolf)."

"The daily distance covered ranges from a few to 200 km (Mech 1970)."

200 km in one day??? I don't think too many humans will be running down wolves.
Scott and Michael, the runners Modzelewski, completed the 100 mile (160 km) race in 23 hours and 47 minutes, running continuously -- climbing 19,000 feet and descending 24,000 feet over the mountainous course.

Considering the mountainous terrain, I think humans win!
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 03-23-2004, 09:58 PM
GawnFishin' GawnFishin' is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
From here...

Quote:
The beauty of ultramarathons is that anyone can enter and run with the 'greats' - from 82 year old Drew Kettle who has run all over Australia, to the 'gods' including Kouros whose 24hr world mark of 303km is apparently untouchable and Anatoliy Kruglikov, the Russian who ran 100km in 7 hours and 28 minutes for one of the middle stages of the Race of Fire in over 40 degree heat!
__________________
Ignorance is a right! Education is eroding one of the few democratic freedoms remaining to us.
- Christopher Andreae
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 03-23-2004, 10:31 PM
lieu lieu is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Bedrock
Posts: 24,970
Given the variables mentioned; whether the racer stops for sustenance, represents the population as a whole, is compelled by pursuit, the vagaries of relief and terrain possible, a more compelling answer might be reached through a clarification of the original question which, certainly, is a good one.
__________________
I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: "No good in a bed, but fine against a wall." - Eleanor Roosevelt
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 03-23-2004, 10:40 PM
GawnFishin' GawnFishin' is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
The 48 hour record appears to be Yiannis Kouros of Australia 473.797Km run on a track in Surgeres France in 1996.

As for animals from here...

Quote:
The Red Kangaroo is the largest marsupial and can hop as fast as 40 mph (64 km). These animals have large feet, 18 in (45 cm), and a tendon in their leg that acts like a rubber band, allowing them to use less energy as they move faster. The Red Kangaroo usually eats at night.
I can't find a endurance information so maybe TheLoadedDog could help us out but either way looks like the Aussies have us all beat. Anyway I think this demonstrates a Kangaroo is certainly capable of faster speeds.

Kangaroo 100Km approx 93 mins Man approx 500 mins. I don't know though if this answers the OP.
__________________
Ignorance is a right! Education is eroding one of the few democratic freedoms remaining to us.
- Christopher Andreae
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 03-23-2004, 10:44 PM
quothz quothz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bromley
So I maintain that, if only because other land animals have to stop all the time for food and because they have no reason to move further than the next good source of food, we win by default. Go human!
According to Centralpets.com, a camel can travel between 80 and 120 miles in one day, with a rider.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 03-23-2004, 11:05 PM
GawnFishin' GawnFishin' is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
I used the kangaroo because of the fact it expends less energy the faster it travels and it would normally eat at night, although Kangaroos are generally considered nocturnal they can and will travel distances during the day. If a man was chasing a kangaroo over 100Km I think the kangaroo would win easily.
__________________
Ignorance is a right! Education is eroding one of the few democratic freedoms remaining to us.
- Christopher Andreae
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 03-24-2004, 01:22 AM
Blake Blake is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 10,207
Yannis Kouros holds a superlative human record of 303km in 24 hours. Compare this to an average horse result of 250km in 20 hours (http://aera.asn.au/vera/reports/2001elmhurst.html) carrying a rider and with stops for vet checks. And that was over uneven terrain, not on a track. Highly comparable results.

Scott and Michael Modzelewski completed 160km in 24 hours. Horses have covered 160kms in under 10 hours carrying riders (same reference). Even allowing for the Modzelewskis having rougher terrain that still gives the record clearly to the horse.


So it looks like it’s fairly clear that humans are not the fastest animal over 100km+. But considering that we are tiny in comparison to a horse we make an incredible showing to be in their somewhere near second place. A medium sized bipedal ape manages to stay in the same league as a large ungulate that has legs twice as long.

The horse is probably the animal when it comes to endurance runs. That we are able to mount a credible challenge to it provides a lot of support for the cursorial hunter concept. It’s hard to imagine why else humans would be so over-engineered in this department.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 03-24-2004, 02:37 AM
Ellis Dee Ellis Dee is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Humans are one of (if not the) the best heat-adapted land mammals. Sweat glands, lack of hair, fingers and toes, and whatnot. Crank the heat up and a human will outlast anything. Even a wolf would collapse from heat-stroke.

Hmmm. So what's up with camels? Do they sweat???
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 03-24-2004, 06:08 AM
Princhester Princhester is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 11,509
Quote:
Originally Posted by 12 parsecs from home
The 48 hour record appears to be Yiannis Kouros of Australia 473.797Km run on a track in Surgeres France in 1996.

As for animals from here...



I can't find a endurance information so maybe TheLoadedDog could help us out but either way looks like the Aussies have us all beat. Anyway I think this demonstrates a Kangaroo is certainly capable of faster speeds.

Kangaroo 100Km approx 93 mins Man approx 500 mins. I don't know though if this answers the OP.
I have never heard anything to the effect that roos are good over long distances. I think the quote regarding springiness is only suggesting that they use relatively less energy the faster they go, not absolutely less energy. Roos like all grazing animals are probably basically sprinters, just able to keep it up long enough to get away from predators.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 03-24-2004, 06:38 AM
Blake Blake is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 10,207
Princhester roos are one of the undisputed champions over distance. They are reasonable sprinters, but they are definitely not restricted to sprinting. They are well adapted to arid conditions and can travel for many hours non-stop daily between feeding grounds and water supply, and at speeds that would put a man to shame. I’m not sure they could make better time than a horse over long distance, although it wouldn’t surprise me. They certainly use far less energy than a horse while doing it.

Of course horses are also grazing animals, and are anything but ‘basically sprinters’, as can be seen for the endurance figures I gave above.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 03-24-2004, 06:50 AM
don't ask don't ask is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 16,118
Quote:
The distance record for a horse ls reputed to be 100 miles in 8 hours and 58 minutes; for a racing camel (dromedary): 115 miles in 12 hours.
From this document.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 03-24-2004, 08:13 AM
aahala aahala is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
In the Iditarod dogsled race, the faster teams cover 120 miles a day under severe weather and terrain conditions. Even if these conditions were more suitable to a human, presumably the dogs could run slightly faster as well. I would challenge any human to attempt a foot race with these dogs for one day. And the dog teams don't just cover this distance for one day but 9-10.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 03-24-2004, 08:28 AM
HumptysHamhole HumptysHamhole is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
For the past 22 years in Wales they have held a man vs. horse marathon. Man has yet to have beaten a horse with rider. It is only 36 kilometers though. There is a quite large cash reward for the first person to beat a horse and rider in the race. horse vs. man marathon

Imagine pitting a man running against a man on horse in a New York to L.A. cross country race. Is there any doubt that the horse would come in first?

By the way the homing pigeon can go about 800 kilometers (500 miles) in about 10 hours. I know its not a land animal but that is pretty darn fast.
__________________
I have wept only twice in my life, once when I dropped a truffled turkey into Lake Como, and when I heard Mozart for the first time. - Rossini
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 03-24-2004, 10:26 AM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: NY (Manhattan) NY USA
Posts: 16,302
Kinthalis:
Quote:
Still, no human could walk 100 miles without stopping for food and rest. Normally, given enough time to rest a human could walk 100 miles in about 4 to 5 days.
In 1985 when I was ~26, I walked 46 miles in one afternoon without stopping for food and rest, and I'm a typical Western-civ non-athletic rider of buses and trains.

I'm sure if I trained up for it I could do 100 miles nonstop in a single day without food or rest, even now that I'm a couple decades older. I could've gone much farther on the day in question if my feet hadn't hurt so damn much -- this was all on city sidewalks in very new boots that hadn't been fully broken in yet.
__________________
Disable Similes in this Post
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 03-27-2004, 11:24 PM
shijinn shijinn is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
is this thread implying that Man has what it takes physically to outlast other larger land animals like the horse? i don't see how that can be possible?
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 03-28-2004, 10:33 PM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: NY (Manhattan) NY USA
Posts: 16,302
Most creatures run in a fashion that is a long long way from energy-efficient.

A typical quadruped, already in full run, pulls the front two legs forward and jams them down — bam! — the body arches or otherwise reshapes so as to allow the back legs to keep moving forward for a bit and then — bam! — back legs go down and the back, butt, and front leg muscles work to re-stretch the body forward, pushing off from the back legs, pushing those front legs forward, and the cycle repeats itself.

The number of quadrupeds who run that way who could leave us so far in the dust over 50, 100, 250 yards, as to make us look really pathetic is, umm, not small. The cables of their muscles and tendons and the architecture of their bones suit them for this. Watching a big cat (or even a small kitty-cat for that matter) doing the cat-dash thing is watching poetry in motion. But they don't get to save much energy and transfer it from one stride to the next. Those "bams" described above are places where the paws (or hooves) pretty much stop moving with very little elastic body parts taking up some of the energy in such a way as to reimpart it to the next stride. These fast creatures re-accelerate their legs from essentially a standing start over and over and over again. (They do of course benefit from their bodies' ongoing forward momentum, as well as from the perfect angles of their leg joints and whatnot, but the bodies aren't dragging the legs along as passive passengers -- the animals have to yank those legs from back there to up here, they have to accelerate them, and the place they have to accelerate them from is bam! flat on the ground and static motionless).

Our motion is different. Our cabling and architecture is all about rubber-band rebound, conservation of motion in the foot. Our feet bounce us forward as we land on our heels, weight shifts forward as our bodies pass over our ankles in mid-stride, stretching on the achilles tendon, which pulls the heel up, rocks us up onto our toes, from which we push off and lift. Our feet never have that "bam!" moment when they are providing an anchor point for other feet to pivot past or for the body to arch away and push off from -- the foot of a human runner retains forward motion, and its internal workings via heel, ankle, achilles tendon, ball of foot, and toes all enables the transfer of impact and inertia to springing us forward without us having to re-accelerate our own feet with each stride.
__________________
Disable Similes in this Post
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 03-29-2004, 10:04 PM
shijinn shijinn is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
that makes sense. thanks for the reply.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 03-29-2004, 11:47 PM
quothz quothz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3
Most creatures run in a fashion that is a long long way from energy-efficient.
Yes and no. What you say about human sproingyness is Bam! true enough. But surprisingly, it turns out that quadrupeds are Bam! pretty well evolved to do what they do. Quadrupeds have a number of different gaits, and speeds within these gaits, which they'll Bam! (Warning - .pdf) select for best efficiency.
To my own surprise, it appears that the sproingyness we have is Bam! not especially efficient unless you happen to only have two legs to play with. We had to evolve it after standing up.
Note also that most of these cites agree on one thing - quadruped travel mechanics is an underresearched field, and there's a fair bit of disagreement among whoever the hell studies these things.
With regards to the OP, if it comes to a human and an equine, I'll put fifty bucks on the horse, at any distance.
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 03-30-2004, 10:55 AM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: NY (Manhattan) NY USA
Posts: 16,302
Yeah, I'd hate to think I had to run down a damn horse. Wouldn't want to go up against a camel, either.

But in the veldt a tiny pack of us could take off after a herd of gazelles or antelope. We could do what neither the gazelles & antelope nor the cats and wolves and other fast-spring predators could. It was our adaptation.

Quote:
quadrupeds are Bam! pretty well evolved to do what they do. Quadrupeds have a number of different gaits, and speeds within these gaits, which they'll Bam! (Warning - .pdf) select for best efficiency.
Acknowledged. I've seen footage of horses switching gaits. They may lose momentum on each footfall but they've got a whole lot of other energy-conserving strategies going for them -- ways in which a very small motion, an easy twitch of a specialized muscle, brings a hoof from way back there to way up here, as folded-up parts become extended parts all in the same motion; and how trotting, with the front and rear legs in synch is efficient in this range, and then galloping, with the front and rear legs in opposition, becomes more efficient...

Still, we're damn good at the long-distance thing. It really stands out given how nonathletic we are stacked up against other animals in so many other categories. It's like Eastern New Mexico University making it to the Final Four or SUNY at Stony Brook obtaining a berth in the Sugar Bowl or something. In the final round for the long distance killer-marathon we have camels and horses and hey, would you believe it, homo sap!
__________________
Disable Similes in this Post
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 03-30-2004, 01:10 PM
quothz quothz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3
Still, we're damn good at the long-distance thing. It really stands out given how nonathletic we are stacked up against other animals in so many other categories.
Oh, I dunno. While I wouldn't want to race a horse, I'll take one on any day in the discus hurl.

Seriously, I think humans would do better if we had to. We don't exactly live the life of nature, red in tooth and claw, these days. Humans have had tools to make things easier for quite a while; even your basic pointy stick can save a lot of running around. Once you've invented the pointy stick, you usually only have to chase injured animals.

A healthy, feral adult human could perform some remarkable feats. Including, I have to grant you, giving a horse a good run for its money, and maybe winning (at longish distances, of course). You're right -- long-distance racing would be where he'd shine. I bet he'd at least qualify for the tree-climbing event.

If there were a competition for using tools as a method of adaptation to varying climates and climatic changes, though, humans would be a shoo-in for the gold in both the freestyle and synchronized events.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 03-30-2004, 10:08 PM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: NY (Manhattan) NY USA
Posts: 16,302
quothz:
Quote:
Including, I have to grant you, giving a horse a good run for its money, and maybe winning (at longish distances, of course). You're right -- long-distance racing would be where he'd shine. I bet he'd at least qualify for the tree-climbing event.
Would you rather enter as a contestant against the chimpanzee, bonobo, kittycat, and opossum in the treeclimbing event, or go up against the horse, camel, kangaroo, and wolf in the long-distance marathon?

My dad has an 11 year old kittycat that had the poor idea of sleeping in the engine compartment of the pickup truck where it was warm back when he was a wee kitten of 10 months. Had to get stapled back together and was lucky to have all working parts still connected when it was done. I have personally with my own two eyes seen that cat go up a pine tree at a rate of about 2 seconds per every 10 yards, and he's getting on in his days (doesn't catch half as many squirrels and bring them back for Daddy-approval as he used to).

It's not with ease that I'd embrace the idea of trying to walk/run Black Beauty and the Budweiser team into the ground, but there's no way in hell I'd go up against that dilapidated kitty cat. And I have a sneaking suspicion the bonobos might clean his clock in a fair climbing test.
__________________
Disable Similes in this Post
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 03-30-2004, 10:34 PM
quothz quothz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3
quothz:

Would you rather enter as a contestant against the chimpanzee, bonobo, kittycat, and opossum in the treeclimbing event, or go up against the horse, camel, kangaroo, and wolf in the long-distance marathon?
Whoah, there. First off, I'm strictly talking about a feral human - one raised like a wild animal. I bet he or she could climob pretty damned quickly. Second, I'm saying our hypothetical wild but healthy homo sapiens would qualify to compete, not win - a mountain lion or similar-sized cat would probably take gold.

I just meant to highlight the fact that humans can climb at _all_, which is one more advantage over many (most?) other quadripeds, especially those that are likely to be strong distance runners.

*Disclaimer: I'm sort of drunk; if I'm somewhat incoherent or belligerent, that's why.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:13 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.