Crocodiles are one of those creatures that inspire awe and fear. We’ve all seen those viral videos of their jaws snapping with no warning which is scary enough, but what if a crocodile was to jump up at you? In fact, do crocodiles jump on land, or is this just scaremongering? Here’s the truth.
Can crocodiles jump? Yes, some crocodiles can jump on land, but it is very rare. When you see crocodiles appearing to jump on land, it would be more of a lunge movement than a real jump where their body leaves the ground.
That’s a very simple answer, but as with crocodiles, nothing is ever straightforward. Because of that I asked a reptile expert to give us the full lowdown on this unique and extremely unusual behavior – as seen not just with crocodiles, but also alligators.
Can crocodiles jump on land?
Crocodiles do jump on land, although it’s almost never witnessed, it’s that rare to see them do so. Crocodiles lack the physical attributes to jump high, given that they have short legs and are unable to put the spring required to jump up.
What’s more, a crocodile’s jump is more of a forward lunge than an actual jump.
So, whilst it might look like a crocodile is jumping up on land, the reality is that it’s more or a horizontal spring or leap type motion. Most crocodile species choose not to (or are unable) to launch themselves in a vertical jump when on land.
Now that we know that crocodiles don’t have a true jumping ability, here’s why they display this behavior that could appear to look like a jump.
Will crocodiles jump on land?
As I mentioned previously, crocodiles will appear to jump on land when attacking prey. In reality, the jump is more of a lunge. However, they may also jump (or perform a lunge action) as a warning when they feel threatened or cornered.
This behavior typically happens when people venture too close or stumble across their path by accident… the classic videos you might see on social media.
Additionally, younger crocodiles are more likely to jump than their older counterparts. Why younger crocodiles enjoy jumping so much is unclear, but experts have theorized that this behavior probably stems from their curiosity and inexperience.
Some younger crocodiles have even been observed jumping in the air to catch small bugs like dragonflies or mammals like flying fox bats.
Moving into the water for a moment, younger crocodiles can completely exit the water when jumping vertically, a feat that older heavier-bodied crocodiles are unable to do.
Although older crocodiles will still jump, they will do so rarely and will struggle to push their whole body out of the water when they attempt this feat. Adult crocodiles often reach similar heights to younger crocodiles due to the bigger size and length of their body.
Can crocodiles jump in water?
I won’t spend too much time on this particular question, as I’ve written at length about crocodiles jumping from water into boats elsewhere on Crittasaurus.
However, if it’s a short answer you want, then yes, several species of crocodiles are known to jump out of the water while in pursuit of prey.
How high can crocodiles jump on land?
Whilst there have been no studies on how many feet crocodiles can jump on land, there are recorded instances. For example, at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, United States, they had a Cuban Crocodile jumping 5 feet off the ground.
If you watch the video below, you will see the crocodile jumping high to grab a treat from one of the zookeepers.
So, based on the lack of scientific research, I must default to what I do know… Cuban crocodiles can jump as high as 5 feet on land.
How fast can crocodiles run?
If you weren’t nervous already about a crocodile jumping up high, how about their speed on land? Yes, that’s right, I also asked the expert how fast can crocodiles run, and here’s what I was told.
With their short stubby legs and fat bodies, crocodiles don’t look like the fastest animals ever. However, in a short race with a person, they would probably win nine times out of ten.
This is because most large crocodiles (such as the Nile, American, and Saltwater species) are fast enough to reach speeds of around 15 – 22mph at a full gallop. In comparison to this, the average person can only run between 10 – 15 mph, and that’s on a good day!
However, there are other things to take into consideration when it relates to a crocodile’s ability to outpace a human.
Firstly, crocodiles are normally unable to run on land for more than several body lengths. Although crocodiles have been observed sprinting for distances up to 100ft, their bodies aren’t suited to this type of pace, and they will give up on a chase relatively quickly.
Instead, crocodiles prefer to ambush their prey by lying in wait at the edge of a riverbank… possibly jumping out of the water.
Can crocodiles climb trees?
So, let’s just say you’ve managed to outrun the crocodiles, you know he can only jump on land as high as 5 feet, so climbing a tree should make you safe. Or will it?
Do crocodiles climb trees? If they do, you’ll be in trouble.
Again, I asked the expert about this and here’s the verdict on crocodiles’ climbing ability, and the answer might surprise you.
Yes, crocodiles can climb trees.
A study from 2014 showed that despite crocodiles lacking the physical attributes to be good climbers, that have been shown to climb trees. The PBS website wrote the following report on tree climbing crocs:
After studying five crocodilian species on Africa, Australia and North America, the team found that the reptiles can climb as high as six feet off the ground. Juveniles have been spotted as high as 30 feet. Combined with anecdotal evidence in these areas, the researchers found that the smaller crocodiles were able to vertically scale trees, while their larger counterparts relied on angled branches.
The reason that crocodiles were found climbing trees was put down to them needing to regulate their body temperature by finding a warm spot to bask in the sun.
However, one of the reasons people rarely see crocodiles jumping up and climbing trees is that the “researchers observed that the crocodiles were “skittish,” fleeing from their heights if observers approached too closely.”
So, crocodiles can jump on land, up into trees, and climb. So, whilst you might outrun them, perhaps it’s best to find a house to go into… because as far as I now, crocodiles cannot open doors.
Handy Hint: The truth about alligators and crocodiles getting along is a complex one, here’s what I discovered.
Should you be worried about a crocodile jumping at you?
Crocodile attacks are very rare. The Guardian newspaper reported on statistics by the Australian Government. The upshot was this:
While there has been a large increase in attacks overall, in context a crocodile strike is still a very rare occurrence. For example, in 2011, you’d have more to worry about from the common ladder
Crocodiles can appear to jump on land, although the actual action is more of a forward lunge. Some crocodiles are seen to jump up in captivity, but this is where they also use a wall to give themselves leverage.
In most cases, you have nothing to fear of a crocodile jumping up at you.
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- How many stomachs a goat has might surprise you
Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/animal-crocodile-wild-predator-194914/