Can You Outrun A Bear?

Running away from any species of bear is a bad move. However, is it possible?

There are three species of bear in North America. Bears have great speed for their size, as well as great endurance. It would not be possible to outrun a bear.

Outrunning a bear is never a good move. Here I will give you all the reasons why you should never attempt to outrun a bear.

If you or someone you know loves bears then check out these great gifts on Amazon.

How Fast Can A Bear Run?

There are three species of bear in the continent of North America; The American black bear, the brown grizzly bear, and the polar bear.

The grizzly bear is the fastest of the three bear species in North America. The grizzly has been clocked at speeds of up to 56 km/h (35 mp/h), making them much faster than the other two species. 

The American black bear is the second fastest of the three species. The black bear can run at speeds of between 40 to 48 km/h (25 to 30 mp/h) when they feel threatened.

Grizzly bear in water

Polar bears are very large animals but are extremely quick for their size. They have been seen to run at 40 km/h (24 mp/h).  

Can you outrun a bear by entering water? Find out if a bear can swim in this article I have written here.

How Fast Can An Average Human Run?

The speed at which an average human can run depends on a few factors. The first is distance. Over short distances, humans can run relatively fast, at speeds of up to about 25 km/h (16 mp/h) over 100 meters. Over longer distances, the average speed of a human decreases.

Why Are Bears So Fast?

Bears are predators, not prey animals, but mainly use their speed to escape from other predators, or when startled. Black bears rarely chase down other animals for food, whereas grizzly bears and polar bears may.

Bears have huge, muscular legs that help to propel them forward at high speeds. Bears have longer back legs than front legs, helping them to achieve their fast speeds.  

Can Bears Run Downhill?

There is a myth that has been perpetuated surrounding this. The myth states that bears can’t run downhill, as their shorter forelegs will cause them to tumble. This is a myth and is false. In this article from the National Parks Service, J.M.Mackenzie described Clubfoot, a famous grizzly bear, as “able to keep pace with a horse going downhill, but not uphill.”

Do not think that you will outrun a bear by having it chase you downhill. If anything, it will be quicker as it is going downhill.

Can you climb a tree to get away from a bear? Find out here in this article I have written.

Can Usain Bolt Outrun A Bear?

Usain Bolt is a multi-time World record holder. He has broken the world record for the fastest time over 100 meters and 200 meters. His speed was clocked at 44.72 km/h (27.8 mph) on 16 August 2009. The speed was taken between the 60 and 80 meters part of the 100 meters sprint.

As discussed, a black bear can run as fast as 30 mp/h. It is very likely that over 100 or 200 meters, an American black bear would beat the fastest man in the World in a race.  

If Usain Bolt can’t outrun a black bear, the normal person does not have a chance at outrunning them or beating them in a race. Against a grizzly bear or polar bear, Usain would be left in the dust.

How Far Can A Bear Run?

I found an excellent article from the National Park Service, which I will summarize here. The bulletin is titled “The speed of grizzly bears.”

Ernest Thompson Seton, in his book “Lives of Game Animals,” said the following regarding the speed of the grizzly bear. “Swift too, is he, in amazing measure for his build. Those who form their idea of a bear’s speed from watching a hulking, slouching prisoner, are sure to be amazed at the real thing.

For 50 or 100 yards a Grizzly can go faster than any horse, and keep it up indefinitely. It is well known that in the spring of the year, the Indian ponies that have wintered out and are poor, very commonly become the prey of the grizzly, who can now catch them on the open plain.

Townsend tells of a wounded Grizzly that pursued closely a man on horseback for half a mile, snapping at the horse’s heels, and apparently would have captured the object of his wrath but for a timely volley from the man’s comrades.”

In the same bulletin from 1937, there is a story of a female grizzly bear who had just woken up from hibernation with her cubs. Losing sight of her cubs, due to the car going past, the mother chased the car at a speed of 45 km/h (27 mp/h) for a distance of two miles.  

If you think you have the speed to outrun a bear, then I am pretty sure you will not have the endurance to match.


I found this news article in the Washington Post. Morinda Marube is a professional runner and said that he knows what to do when encountering a black bear. However, when faced with a black bear whilst on a run, he did the opposite of what he knows. He ran.

During his 18-mile run, two black bears appeared. Knowing that the bears could climb trees, he decided that he could either run or swim in the lake. However, he couldn’t swim.

He has passed a house 20 yards before, so he thought he would be able to make it back to the house.

As soon as he started running, the bears ran after him. The runner, Morinda Marube, told reporters that when he reached the house, the bears were within 10 yards of him. The house was unoccupied, so he unhooked the screen door, and stepped inside of the elevated porch.  

Although the bears could see him, the bears did not enter the porch; however, they did sniff him. The runner said that if the house had been any further than 20 yards away, the two black bears would have outrun him.

If you or someone you know loves bears then check out these great gifts on Amazon.  

Further Reading:

Wild Animals I Have Known. By Ernest Thompson Seton. You can buy this on Amazon here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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