After the now famous bloodhound Ludivine won a medal for accidentally completing a half marathon in 7th place, we wanted to look at the animal kingdom’s top endurance runners and see where we humans rank amongst them.
When it comes to the animal kingdom, we love the sprint kings that can go from 0-60 in under five seconds. There is something so primal about watching the Usain Bolts of the animal world hurtling around at speeds we can’t comprehend. But, they are not the only animals whose speed is mind boggling. The animal kingdom also hosts another kind of runner: the marathon runner.
Here are the animals that put endurance over speed, and who can travel distances of hundreds of miles without breaking a sweat. Move over Haile Gebrselassie!
You may know them as huskies, but they are pretty much the same animal. Sled dogs are packs that are indigenous to the area around the North Pole. And, they are the ultimate form of transport in their region. A pack of huskies can pull a sled for up to sixty-six miles a day at speeds that reach over twenty-five miles an hour. To put that into perspective, they could run over two marathons in one day under three and a half hours. Sled dogs are that good that they can clock one thousand miles in 15 days during the Iditarod.
The last animal to pop into your mind when it comes to endurance runners is a camel. To be honest, it is easy to see why because they spend most of their time grazing. However, they can move when they need to. Indeed, a camel can reach speeds of 40 miles an hour over a short distance, a speed that would make a cheetah proud. The speed drops over longer distances, but the camel still hits the twenty-five mph range. And, it can sustain this speed for over twenty miles. What’s its secret? The camel can keep well hydrated over long distances thanks to its humps. The result is that it doesn’t need to stop for a break as it can continually refuel.
Again, horses are synonymous with speed as most horse races take part over a short distance. And, again, the horse can reach top speeds that would put a Ford Fiesta to shame. But, they are also capable of running long distances. In fact, a horse can sustain a speed of ten mph over twenty a mile journey. To compare that to the human race, the best time ever recorded for a marathon race is 2:03:59. However, that time is an outlier as most people finish within the 2:30:00 mark. Where would a horse finish? Around the same time.
The Pronghorn Antelope
We always say that speed and endurance do not go together, and we would be right for the most part. After all, you wouldn’t expect Mo Farah to beat Usain Bolt over one-hundred meters. That is true, but we are talking about the animal kingdom, and they do things differently. Take the Pronghorn Antelope as an example. Not only is it an excellent distance runner, but it can also maintain speeds of sixty mph for many miles. If you were to compare that with a cheetah, they could hit seventy mph but only for around one kilometer. A Pronghorn would destroy pretty much every animal in any race, as long as it was over one kilometer. To compare that to the human race, it could finish a marathon in forty-five minutes. That is one hour and fifteen minutes quicker than any marathon runner.
Hyenas travel in packs, and it is this ability that makes them awesome endurance runners. Due to their intelligence and large numbers, the average pack of hyenas can chase its prey for hours. To make sure that they don’t collapse from exhaustion, they take it in turns to track the animal until it is too tired to continue. And, when that happens, they have their meal. But, this doesn’t happen at slow speeds. No, the hyena has to hit speeds of forty mph to keep up with its meal of choice. To give some context, the marathon world record holder Gebrselassie runs at an average speed of thirteen mph. At that rate, a pack of hyenas could run twenty-six miles in around about an hour.
What do hyenas love to eat more than any other animal? Wildebeest. Wildebeests are large and full of meat, which makes them the perfect choice. And, to try and make sure they don’t end up on the menu, they have to match the hyenas’ endurance skills. In all honesty, wildebeest are better than hyenas at endurance running because they do what a pack does alone. That is pretty impressive when you think of the size of the animal.
Ostriches are another animal that can complete a marathon in well under one hour. What is so special about an ostrich, though, is that they are birds. Most birds fly, and when they fly they can reach high speeds for long durations. In fact, a migration of birds can travel thousands of miles to reach their destination. Ostriches do not do not have that ability because they are flightless. But, what they do have are long limbs and a body suited for long distances. The birds’ legs are mostly tendon, and that allows them to maintain their forward momentum. Plus, the muscle is higher up the leg and nearer the body, which makes the leg lighter.
Every year, salmon make a brutal journey to spawn. And, every year, they travel hundreds of miles to make it happen. It firstly starts in the Atlantic Ocean and gradually makes its way into the rivers of North America. Over the time of a month, the salmon have to endure waterfalls, hungry bears, and drastic changes to their bodies. And, when they do reach the end and lay their eggs, they die. All in all that has to be the most extreme marathon in the world!
It is official: the animal kingdom is the home of the endurance kings.