Share

How Strong are Gorillas?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: October 2, 2019
How Strong are Gorillas?

Gorillas are the largest primates in existence and have very similar DNA to that of human beings. It is understandable why they capture our imagination like they do. Gorillas are fascinating and incredibly strong animals. People often compare human strength to gorillas, mainly due to their similarities. As with humans, gorillas have two arms and legs with five fingers and toes on each. Even their facial mapping bears a strong resemblance to ours. These animals are very intelligent and really strong. As proof of this strength, they can tear down large banana tress just to get to the fruit.

Gorilla strength is not only impressive, but also somewhat scary! Gorillas are easily among the 10 strongest animals in the world, relative to their size and weight. If you want to know more about how strong gorillas are, keep reading AnimalWised.

You may also be interested in: Types of Gorillas

How strong is a gorilla?

Many people research the strength of gorillas because they want to know who would win in a fight between a human and a gorilla. Firstly, we should say that such a fight is unlikely for various reasons and inadvisable for even more. Secondly, there are various factors you would need to take into consideration. If a human had weapons, then this would provide a serious advantage. Even if a gorilla also has weapons. Most people ask this question about a one-on-one fight between the two without weapons.

I general, gorillas are 4 to 9 times stronger than the average male human being. According to the Guinness Book of Records, a silverback gorilla can lift up to 815 kg (1800 lbs) of dead weight. in comparison, a well-trained human being can lift a maximum of 410 kg (900 lbs). This i s a very rough calculation and there are many variables to consider, but it gives us a good general picture.

Trying to compare gorilla strength with human strength is not a new phenomenon. Many people have wondered how much stronger are gorillas than humans. In 1924, a rare experiment was conducted to compare ape and human strength. A 165 lb male chimpanzee named ‘Boma’ was able to pull a force of 847 lb on a dynamometer, whereas a human of the same weight could only pull 210 lb. Extrapolating this information, the 1989 Guinness Book of World Records estimates a gorilla could raise up to 2000 lb[2].

A silverback gorilla's strength is particularly impressive when applied to specific actions. This is especially when the action is related to interacting with their environment. For example, a gorilla can easily snap a thick bamboo cane, exhibiting a strength about 20 times greater than the average human. They may bite into the bamboo before snapping it in very thick bamboo, but even this goes to show the gorilla's natural aptitude in using their strength.

Gorillas fight each other for dominance of a group. Their greater muscle mass means they are fighting against each other and training in this way. Gorillas, therefore, improve their strength by fighting each other. Gorillas also have a very rough natural habitat they have to navigate. This requires various feats of strength which helps them to develop existing muscle.

How Strong are Gorillas? - How strong is a gorilla?

Can a human win a fight against a gorilla?

Even though a gorilla is evidently stronger than the average human being, many people might think there are exceptions. There are famous body builders, wrestlers, MMA fighters and other combatants who might seem to be as strong as a gorilla. However, even the average gorilla weighs around 143 kg (315 lb), but can weigh up to 310 kg (683 lb) in captivity. To give in idea of how much this is, the wrestler Kane weighs 147 kg (323 lb) and is 7 ft tall.

There are many other factors. A gorilla's height is much shorter than a human being's average. However, their arm reach is much longer. This means even a strong human being would find it very difficult to get a punch in. Both humans and gorillas have opposable thumbs. This means they are able to grapple and hold an opponent in a fight. If a human was to fall to the ground, there is very little chance of a human being able to escape.

Another major factor is that a gorilla has a much thicker skull and thicker skin than a human being. A punch from a human being would not be able to break the thickness of their skull and it would be much more difficult to inflict damage. Human beings need to wear clothes to protect themselves from the elements and other dangers. Gorillas have their thick skin and fur which is designed to help protect them from wild predators.

Mobility is also an important factor when considering a human vs. gorilla altercation. Not only are gorillas stronger, but they are closer to the ground. A lower center of gravity makes them much harder to knock off balance. Although a gorilla's legs are comparatively shorter, they are fast moving animals. In the jungle, they can navigate around tress and obstacles much better.

A gorilla also has a large mouth with long fangs. Human beings could not do much damage by biting into the thick skin of a gorilla. A gorilla could used their powerful jaws and sharp teeth to rip into a human being's flesh.

Finally, a gorilla is not only stronger pound for pound than a human being, but they are a wild animal. They have a fighting instinct which even the most well-trained human fighter can only emulate. If asking who would win in a one-on-one fight between a gorilla and a human, the answer is unequivocally a gorilla.

How Strong are Gorillas? - Can a human win a fight against a gorilla?

Are gorillas aggressive?

Although incredibly strong and able to beat a human in a fight, gorillas are not generally aggressive to human beings. Gorillas are mostly herbivorous animals and will not see us as a food resource. Gorillas will generally only use their strength as a form of self-defense or when they feel threatened, much like most other animals. A

n example of this behavior can be seen in the case of Bokito, a male silverback gorilla how escaped his enclosure and attacked a woman. The woman would visit Bokito around 4 times a week, put her hands to the glass and smile at him. It is believed she was attacked because he saw her actions as threatening[2]. This behavior has been seen in other famous instances such as the Harambe incident.

Gorillas live in groups called troops, usually with one male (a silverback older than 12 years of age), multiple females and young. However, there are gorila troops with more than one male. This can cause conflict in the group and there might be aggression between any of the sexes.Even in this kind of in-group fighting, however, it will never bring out the gorilla's full force of strength[3].

How Strong are Gorillas? - Are gorillas aggressive?

Silverback gorilla strength facts

  • Even though male gorillas that weigh about 250 kg (550 lbs) are considered obese, they're still capable of climbing trees and swinging from branch to branch, showcasing the incredible strength in their arms.
  • The grip of a silverback gorilla strength is so powerful that it could theoretically crush a crocodile's skull, although the scenario would be unlikely.
  • Gorillas don't only use their legs to get around, but also rely on the strength of their arms to walk.

Want to know more about gorillas? Check out our article on the dietary habits of the gorilla.

If you want to read similar articles to How Strong are Gorillas?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

References

1 McWhirter, N. (1989). The Guinness Book of World Records, 1989. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

2 Fielder, Sabine. (2007). Did Love or Fury Spur Gorilla's Attack? Retrieved October 3, 2019, from
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-dutch-gorilla/did-love-or-fury-spur-dutch-gorillas-attack-idUSL3042888320070530

3 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0193096

Write a comment about How Strong are Gorillas?

Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
7 comments
Peter
May I ask you on one fact? How strong is Gorilla when is captured in ZOO? Is his strength decreasing with time spend into jail?
What about Gorillas which are born in ZOO - Do they have same strength as Gorillas in wild?? Thank you for your answers and thoughts.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Peter,

It will depend on various factors. If it is a good zoo with appropriate environmental enrichment, food, care, etc., then it shouldn't make much difference. However, many animals in captivity can suffer various psychological issues. Many live in zoos or sanctuaries because of threats in the wild which can lead to trauma. A lack of free range can also be psychologically damaging. This can lead to lethargy and a lack of exercise, theoretically decreasing their strength. In contrast, a gorilla in the wild may have a lack of access to food due to habitat destruction which could weaken them. As we say, it would depend on the individual. Thanks for the question!
Ben From
I wonder how it can be said, that gorilla would be easily in top ten strongest animals, when in reality there is very little proof, that gorilla would be stronger than other animals weighing same. When thinking about lions and tigers, which actually show strength many times, in what way gorilla would be stronger? Or bear, they are also real powerhouses, I donĀ“t think that thumb makes a gorilla something special what comes to strength. This kind of speculative articles are easy sources for misinformation. And weight... 250 kg is not normal weight for a gorilla. It is 140-170 kg, when talking about silverbacks. Some exceptional individuals can in rare cases be 200 kg or more.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Ben,

This article does not discus 'which animals would win in a fight'. We simply look at the studies done on gorilla strength and reveal the findings. It makes them one of the strongest animals in the world, but fortunately bears and gorillas do not have opportunity to fight each other very often.

In terms of their thumbs, it means they can use objects and have more manoeuvrability than other animals. The only comparison we make is between humans an gorillas which have similar morphology, but humans lack their strength.
Ben From
Something to think about. A study about big cat strength, including lion: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3587382/
What comes to gorillas, many myths about their strength are based on myths about chimpanzee strength and that if chimpanzee, then gorilla....: Here a study about chimpnazees:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317947724_Chimpanzee_super_strength_and_human_skeletal_muscle_evolution
When there is no video footage about gorillas doing something extraordinary etc. it is pretty difficult to understand what would make a 150-200 kg big ape something special in strength, when we compare to same sized big cats, bears etc.... animals tend to be strong, what is there really to back up, that gorilla would be stronger? Gorillas break coconuts by hitting with rock, polar bear for instance in one video simply crushes coconut by biting it.
Rating:
Jorgen Olsen
Great article, but the statement that humans can only lift 410 kg is false. Eddie Hall has the world record deadlift of 500kg.
brian
Gorillas are easily among the top 10 Animals in strength?...So there is the Elephant,Rhino, Hippo,Polar bear, Clydsdale, Buffalo, Giraffe, Crocodile, Killer whale, whale shark, Sea elephant, Walrus and I'm sure quite a few more animals that have at least twice the muscle content of the largest Gorilla. Its strange how there is so much hyperbole around gorilla strength.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Brian,

Many people are simply interested in gorillas, perhaps because we humans are self-involved and gorillas share many of our characteristics. Also, the strength of a gorilla is interesting to compare due to the ratio of muscle mass. I'm sure many are hyperbolic about gorillas and their strength, but there is no doubt they are a fascinating animal.
Rating:
Kiersty Miller
Question... Is a Gorilla capable of crushing Polycarbonate? This debate has gone on too long between my flatmate and I lol. Thank you for your time :)
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Kiersty,

Polycarbonate is a material used to break many different objects. It can be made to bespoke thicknesses and sizes. It is used to make everything from water bottles to CDs. A Gorilla could snap a CD, but if there was something big and thick enough made from polycarbonate, it might be a different story. However, polycarbonate does not crush very easily, it would shatter before it is crushed. Hope this helps!
Ravi
Tear down banana trees? Banana trees are one of the weakest trees ever. And they are even weaker when they are with fruit. You can lean against one and the whole thing will go down. Gorillas may be strong but tearing down banana trees is not a feat of strength.
Lee
Indeed Muay Thai fighters will often kick a banana tree to pieces with their shins as part of their training.
Linda
Do you have any pictures of Gorillas lifting trees? How high is the IQ of an astute Gorilla? Thank you!
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Linda,

We don't have any pictures of gorillas lifting trees, we're afraid you'd have to search an appropriate animal photo database. As far as IQs for gorilla's go, it's difficult. The famous and recently departed gorilla Koko was given different tests to understand the level of her intelligence. Some sources claim she had an IQ in the range of 85 to 95, but there are many aspects to consider. It is difficult to apply these human parameters onto an ape or primate. There have also been questions over objectivity when it comes to gorilla research on animals such as Koko.

How Strong are Gorillas?
1 of 4
How Strong are Gorillas?

Back to top