Is it true that humans can outrun all other animals in the long run?

I assume we’re talking about land mammals here, not albatrosses. I’ve heard it said quite a few times that while other animals will beat us in the 100 meter dash, we win the ultramarathon. Is it true?

I was thinking the big contenders might be wolves and coyotes, which seem to move in a very efficient trot that covers a lot of ground. Might the difference be that a wolf is never, given the option, going to run its ass to death, while a human isn’t as smart? The coyote doesn’t care about finishing the marathon and is not going to waste too much effort going after a particular food animal if there are other options?

Given that we’re talking about exceptional human specimens here - long distance runners, spear hunters who are accustomed to running after game, even those nutty-ass ultramarathoners. Is there a land mammal that will over the course of both their endurances win the race?

I’ve wondered this too, and would also think that among the top contenders would be wolves.

Large herbivorous herd mammals would be in the running too (NPI), except that I think that by trailing them, humans would disrupt their feeding patterns and so wear them down due to hunger. I’m not sure if that’s the mechanism that’s used in real life, but exceptional humans can catch game by outwalking/running them over long distances. I’d like to know if that would be possible with the wolf.

[hijack]Perhaps if you knew the likely retreat patterns of a wolf if you couldn’t catch it by harrying it from one human sprinter to another[/hijack]

Those big herd mammals don’t run and keep running - they sprint when they need to but mostly they eat a little, walk a little, eat a little, etc.

I found a great article that’s about how we evolved to be distance runners, only we have butts instead of tails. link

We can’t outrun all other animals, but we’re no slouches. Horses can beat us if they’re paced intelligently, but left to their own devices, they generally won’t. Wolves are comparable to us. The champions, though, are probably pronghorns, which can maintain 70 km/hr for extended distances.

The saluki is a long distance runner, and I believe the fastest land animal over a 5 km stretch.

I’ve looked for a cite of average speed over long distance but haven’t found one.

Here’s a youtube link(ffwd to about 1.45, before that, they’re just dots on the horizon). Judge for yourself.

Define ‘race’. If you’re talking a non-stop no-breaks no-refreshment contest in moderately warm climate over flat terrain, the average camel will still be chugging along well after any human has dropped dead, just because they can go more days without water. Likewise a polar bear (or even an emperor penguin, possibly) will likely win at the the -60centigrade event while reindeer would presumably crush humans in the ‘running through 30cm of loose snow’ event. These are silly examples, but you get my drift.

Teh scientific basis for the ‘distance runner’ theory is espoused here. It seems plausible
Looking at ultramarathons, it seems the Badwater is regarded as very tough. It’s 235km with the best time set at 22 hours, with extreme elevations. By contrast a horse endurance race is about 200km over two day-long stints, presumably in pretty flat terrain, but carrying 70kilos. So the humans make 10kph or so for 22 hours, whereas the horses do 20kph or so in ten-hour stints while carrying weights. I’m not sure how that would play out in the long run, but it would seem to me that running down a horse would be bloody hard work. Running down a kangaroo or a camel? No thank you - if those were the options, I’d stick to termites and grasshoppers for my animal protein.

There’s a perhaps related statistic I heard, that overall humans have about 4 billion heartbeats in a lifetime whereas other animals are about 1 billion. The point would be that our metabolic rate multiplied by our lifespan is very unusually large. I guess that’s how we got to be the first to cause global warming.

No cite, tho…

That’s from an Asimov essay. I seem to recall, though, finding some numbers since then that show that the other great apes aren’t too far behind us in that regard.

I’ve usually heard this claim in the context of persistence hunting – chasing down prey over a long period, until the prey is exhausted and can no longer escape. If this is what is meant by “outrunning,” I think the feat is partly physical and partly mental. Even if the animal being hunted can cover more raw distance over time than a human, it will (as I understand it) typically squander a lot of energy zig-zagging around, while the hunter just plugs away at it. While the human has to be a good distance runner to do this, a critical factor is that the human can plan ahead, and the animal can’t.

Relevant *Discover *article here.

If the theory of the persistence hunt is true, then it’s a technique that only works during hot weather and in climates that have hot summers. That’s great, if you’re out in the scrublands of Africa or northern Mexico. Not so good for ice age Europe.

It’s a good thing we developed throwing spears. Makes life a lot easier.

Actually, I saw a film once showing a human beating a horse in a 50 meter dash. This human was a trained athlete, not just someone off the street, but it came down to a human, being lighter, can accelerate faster or be ‘faster out of the blocks’. Beyond 50 meters the horse had the clear advantage.

Jesse Owens used to beat racehorses in the 100 yard dash, but a lot of his advantage came from having the racehorse panic for a second when the gun went off.

I’m with you there! It’s also a good thing we live and work in groups so somebody else can be on the other side of the prey, and we can corner it.

Do you have any evidence for this? All the evidence I’ve see suggest that any human male in reasonable shape will outrun a horse within 24 hours. A lot of that comes simply because a horse can’t run for 48 hours without stopping, whereas a human can and will. While a horse can sprint for a while and then stop while the human catches up they can only do that so many times before they are exhausted.

Not really. There’s a good reason why wolves are strictly a northern hemsiphere species: they can’t handle the tropical heat. Ine temperatures over about 30oC a human will outrun any wolf inside 10km.

Previous thread on the very same topic. Good info and discussion there.

**This American Life **did an interesting piece on author Scott Carrier’s 12 year quest to chase down an antelope. The show is called “Running after Antelope” (available streaming)

A human can run for 48 hours without stopping? er…you’re sure this is any person in reasonable shape and not some mutant marathon runner freak? I mean, I work out regularly and the idea of running for one hour period is wrong.

So why did people ride horses everywhere if it’s faster to run/walk?

It’s hard as hell, obviously. Run any ultramarathons lately?

ETA - and it’s certainly faster over shorter distances to ride. The discussion only comes into play over hundreds of miles of constant running. Not to mention you can carry a lot more on a horse.