By: Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor
Published: 07/30/2012 09:16 AM EDT on LiveScience
The Summer Olympic Games have begun with mostly hairless, bipedal athletes vying for gold. But how would record-breaking runners, such as the fastest man in the world Usain Bolt, fare against the wilder side of the animal kingdom?
Turns out, Usain Bolt would be left in the dust by greyhounds, cheetahs and pronghorn antelope (if he were to take the four-leggers up on a challenge), writes Craig Sharp of the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University in a commentary in the journal Veterinary Record.
Sharp points out animal athleticism that would put to shame many a human Olympian, while also noting humans would take home gold in athletic versatility at the Summer Olympic Games.
No worries, though, us bipedallers would give the Dromedary camel a run for its money, at least the fastest of us would. Human runners max out at a speed of 23.4 miles per hour (37.6 kilometers per hour), Sharp said. The Dromedary camel? This ungulate tops out at 22 mph (35.3 kph). [Look Quick! Gallery of the Fastest Animals]
A cheetah would clock in at 64 mph (104 kph), or about twice as fast as the world's top sprinters, while the pronghorn antelope would likely be on the medal stand, pulling out a speed of 55 mph (89 kph). Even he fastest bird, the ostrich, may also take home a medal in one of the running events, clocking some 40 mph (64 kph).
In the pool, both Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps may have some competition; sailfish can reach a swimming speed of 67 mph (108 kph).
Here's a look at some possible line-ups if some other animals were to participate in the Olympic Games:
- Bolt ran 100 meters in 9.58 seconds compared with the 5.8 seconds it would take a cheetah to cover that same distance.
- Bolt ran 200 meters in 19.19 seconds, while a cheetah could sprint that distance in 6.9 seconds, a Black Caviar racehorse would gallop the same in 9.98 seconds, and a greyhound in 11.2 seconds.
- Retired American sprinter and gold medalist Michael Johnson ran the 400 meters in 43.18 seconds. The greyhound? 21.4 seconds. A racehorse? 19.2 seconds.
- Kenyan runner David Rushida, world-record holder for the 800 meters, ran that distance in 1 minute, 41 seconds. That's compared with a 33-second time for the pronghorn antelope and 49.2 seconds for a greyhound.
- An endurance horse could blow marathon record holder Patrick Makau Musyoki (finishing in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 38 seconds) off the course with a finish time of 1 hour 18 minutes and 29 seconds.
- World champ Mike Powell is known for his record-breaking jumps, reaching 29.36 feet (8.95 meters) in the long jump, but that's nothing for a red kangaroo, which can leap 41.99 feet (12.8 m).
- The animal kingdom also has a strong contender for the high jump: The snakehead fish can leap 13 feet (4 m) out of the water, easily snatching the medal from athlete Javier Sotomayor, who jumps to 8 feet (2.45 m).
Even Olympic weightlifters would have to contend with some fierce competition from the African elephant, which can lift 661 pounds (300 kilograms) with its trunk and carry 1,807 pounds (820 kg), the grizzly bear, which can tote some 1,003 pounds (455 kg), and the gorilla, which can lift a whopping 1,984 pounds (900 kg).
- 7 Amazing Superhuman Feats
- Going for Gold! 7 Olympic Secrets to Success
- Gallery: 2012 Summer Olympic Torch Route
The Atlas beetle (pictured) can push around 850 times its weight.
Largest Invertebrate (Land)
The coconut crab weighs about 6.6 pounds and its legs can span up to two and a half feet Liz Hall from the Melbourne Aquarium inspects Coconut Crab as he takes possesion of a coconut in Melbourne, 19 December 2006. They Coconut crab (also known as the Robber Crab) are the largest living crab in the world and can climb coconut trees to harvest coconuts which they can break with their huge nippers and have been gruesomely know to feed on injured or unconcious people in the bush. (William West, AFP / Getty Images)
The giant squid is the world's largest invertebrate, and the largest ever measured was 59 feet long. Giant squids also have the largest eyes of any animal, each one about the size of a human head.
The etruscan shrew is the smallest mammal (by weight) in the world. The smallest animal by skull size is the bumblebee bat.
Most Venomous Animal
The sea wasp jellyfish (pictured) has enough venom to kill 60 adult humans. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/65578066@N00" target="_hplink">Guido Gautsch/Flickr</a>
Arctic terns migrate about 11,000 miles to the Antarctic each year...and then come all the way back! An Arctic Tern dives down to protect its nest on June 24, 2011 on Inner Farne, England. (Dan Kitwood, Getty Images)
Blue whales' low-frequency pulses can be heard over 500 miles way. At 188 decibels, these sounds are louder than a jet engine. In this picture taken on March 26, 2009, shows a blue whale swimming in the deep waters off the southern Sri Lankan town of Mirissa. (Ishara S. Kodikara, AFP / Getty Images)
World's Most Extreme Animals
North African ostriches run up to 45 miles an hour, making them the fastest land bird. They are also the biggest, weighing up to 345 pounds. An african ostrich eats at the Addo National Elephant Park, north of Port Elizabeth, on June 24, 2010. South Africa is hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (Patrick Hertzog, AFP / Getty Images)
Peregrine falcons dive toward their prey at over 200 mph. A young male Peregrine Falcon eats meat taken from the protective glove of Taronga Zoo bird trainer Erin Stone (unseen) following a short flying lesson in Sydney on December 9, 2009. (Greg Wood, AFP / Getty Images)
Sailfish can swim at speeds of up to 68 mph, although experts disagree as to just which species of sailfish is the fastest. Sailfish jumping out of the water on January 16, 2006 in the Florida Keys, Florida. (Ronald C. Modra, Sports Imagery / Getty Images)
Cheetahs can run at speeds up to 70 mph. Majani, a 2-year-old male African cheetah, exhibits lighting speed Friday, March 19, 2004 while chasing a mechanical rabbit at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park as part of the Park's environmental enrichment program. (Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo / AP)
Three giant tortoises are estimated to have lived over 175 years, with one estimated at a whopping 255 years. Image: Harriet, who died in 2006, was thought to be the third longest-lived tortoise on record. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/123660557/" target="_hplink">Cory Doctorow/Creative Commons</a>
World's Most Extreme Animals
African elephants are the heaviest and second tallest land animals. Large males can exceed 13,000 pounds and are 12 feet tall at the shoulder. This photo made on February 10, 2011 shows an elephant in Tsavo west national park, some 350 kilometres southeast of Nairobi. (Tony Karumba, AFP / Getty Images)