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Will a Human Ever Run as Fast as a Dog?

Updated on July 15, 2019
Lorra Garrick profile image

Former ACE-certified personal trainer Lorra Garrick has trained men & women for fat loss, muscle building, more strength and more fitness.


Usain Bolt’s speed was 27.8 mph at its fastest point in that particular race, and the average speed for the entire distance was 23.3 mph. A greyhound dog can run around 45 mph for a longer distance.

So if a man can ever run as fast as the swiftest domestic canine, as in, the fastest absolute speed possible over a short distance, he’d have to be covering 100 meters in fewer than five and a half seconds. Currently, to break nine seconds in the 100 meter dash would be considered almost superhuman.

Other Fast Dog Breeds

Saluki (43mph)

Afghan hound (40mph)

Jack Russell terrier (38mph)

Borzoi (38mph)

Dalmatian (37mph)

Russian wolfhound(36 mph)

Whippet (35mph)

Doberman pinscher (32mph)

Border collie (30mph)

German shepherd (28mph)

Got a Treadmill?

Set your treadmill to 15 mph, and without holding on, can you keep up with the tread or will you fly off like George Jetson? There’s a reason treadmills don’t go faster than 15 mph, and many makes and models go only up to 10 mph.

Perhaps for centuries, man has wondered if humans could ever learn to run as fast as a wolf or domesticated dog. Wolves run as fast as 36-38 mph.

Human sprint times keep getting better and better, but not by leaps and bounds, even over many decades. Yet some believe the world record will eventually be broken again … many more times by different men.

Might there be a hunter-gatherer somewhere in a land far from the U.S. who can actually run faster than Bolt – even if it’s only for 10 meters? Maybe he’ll be born 40 years from now. But it’s a compelling question.

After all, there are modern-day hunter-gatherers who depend on running for survival – though the running is paced rather than all-out sprinted. Nevertheless, there may be lots of undiscovered talent in those societies.

But even if there’s an undiscovered supernova out there, this doesn’t mean they can beat a German shepherd at a short sprint.

Researchers Aren’t Giving Up Hope

Believe it or not, a team of researchers whose report is in the Journal of Applied Physiology hasn’t brushed off the idea that humans could eventually run at speeds of over 35 mph.

"The prevailing view that speed is limited by the force with which the limbs can strike the running surface is an eminently reasonable one," explains physiologist Peter Weyand in the paper.

He points out that elite sprinters apply peak forces of 800-1,000 pounds with one limb during each sprint step, and that this seems to show that sprinters are likely functioning at or very close to the “force limits of their muscles and limbs.”

New data, however, suggests otherwise: That legs are capable of much greater ground forces in standard sprinting. What is the critical biological limit of running speed really determined by?

It is imposed by time, say the researchers. That is, the very brief moment of time in which the force is applied to the ground. In world-class sprinters, contact of foot to ground occurs in under one-tenth of a second.

Peak ground forces happen within less than one-twentieth of a second – in the first instant of foot-ground impact.

  • Study subjects sprint on a high speed treadmill where foot-surface forces could be measured.
  • They ran at fast speeds using different gaits including hopping on one leg and running backwards.

Is how fast a human can run actually limited by how much foot-ground force is exerted?

When the sprinters hopped on one leg at their fastest speed, the ground forces were greater than those applied when doing regular sprinting – greater by at least 30 percent.

The forces that were generated by the primary limb muscles were about 1.5 to two times greater during the hopping. This doesn’t make the ground-force theory look too convincing.

The time theory is supported by the fact that the minimal periods of foot-to-ground contact were nearly identical for standard sprinting and backwards running at top speeds.

What determines how quickly a sprinter’s leg can apply force to the ground?

It is the contractile speed limits of muscle fibers.

"Our simple projections indicate that muscle contractile speeds that would allow for maximal or near-maximal forces would permit running speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour and conceivably faster," explains biomechanics expert Matthew Bundle in the paper.

Does this mean that eventually, humans will be running as fast as wolves or the family dog? Maybe one day we’ll find out, according to this research.

But common sense dictates otherwise.

There is no evolutionary reason or survival necessity for man to cover a short distance as fast as a dog. Even in primitive times, ancient hunters relied more on endurance. Who needs to accelerate at maximal speed to capture prey when you can impale them from a distance with a projectile weapon?

But rest assured, humans have a physical feature that any dog just drools in envy over: an opposable thumb that allows us to open the refrigerator.



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