Jumping requires energy, which must be provided by muscles.
Because of their ability to generate quick energy, the best muscles for jumping are the fast-twitch muscles. The more fast-twitch muscles you have, the better at vertical jumps you will be.
It’s similar when it comes to animals; the jumping height might depend on how much muscle an animal has, how efficient the muscles are, what the animal’s shape is, and much else.
Gorillas are huge beasts with about 40% of their total weight in muscle. 69% of those are fast-twitch muscles, especially in the lower extremities. That means that they must be able to jump pretty high, no? Actually, that’s not the case.
Gorillas can jump, but they are not particularly good at it. A gorilla might jump up in the air slightly less than its height, between 30 and 48 inches.
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the standing jump ability of a Western lowland gorilla is up to 4 ft, while its standing reach is about 9 ft.
In one enclosure, a 5’6″ tall gorilla managed to jump vertically and grab an object at a height of over 9.5 feet. The gorilla first tried to grab it by climbing the sides of the habitat, and when that failed, he sat under the desired object and jumped straight up to grab it.
In another zoo in Japan, a 420 lbs male Western gorilla had a vertical leap of around 31.5 inches to grab a piece of banana that was stuck on the wall. Pretty impressive.
To access the lower limb explosive strength of athletes, scientists have been measuring their standing squat jump (SJ). A squat jump is a vertical jump where you sit in a semi-squat position before performing the upward/concentric phase and jump.
A study done by the National Strength and Conditioning Association discovered that a 6’1” athlete will squat jump around 30.7 inches. This is 0.8 inches shorter than the Western gorilla – the gorilla jumped higher than the 220 lbs lighter athlete.
Despite not being the world’s great jumpers or acrobats, gorillas are still strong and agile climbers. There have been many cases of gorillas escaping their enclosures by running, jumping, and climbing.
When in the wild, gorillas will not jump from one tree to another. To grab the fruits there, or just to play, gorillas will use all of their four limbs to climb.
Due to their weight, silverback gorillas will rarely move up from the ground – they will climb high into fruiting trees only if the branches can carry their weight.
Mostly the younglings will spend their time in the trees, jumping and playing. When they are in the trees, gorillas might softly burp and grumble at one another to show their joy and to locate one another.
Can A Gorilla Slam Dunk?
The height of an NBA basketball hoop is 10 feet. And according to HoopsBeast, a 6’1” athletic person should dunk without any serious form of dunk training.
In the NBA, many players consistently produce 40+ inch running vertical jumps and perform spectacular dunks in games.
A gorilla with a standing reach of 9 ft would need a vertical jump height of 12 inches to touch the rim and 18 inches to dunk a basketball. It would also need 31 inches to do a 360° Windmill like Vince Carter.
Taking this into consideration, with proper training, gorillas might be able to score by shooting the ball down through the basket with their hands above the rim. However, so far, there haven’t been any recorded cases of gorillas dunking.
Imagine a 400-pound gorilla doing an “Air” Jordan Dunk. Wouldn’t that be a spectacle?
Primates That Can Jump Higher Than Gorillas
The lar gibbon, also known as the white-handed gibbon, is an endangered primate in the gibbon family that can jump very high up and forward. Due to the clever use of arms and running speeds of 34 mph, gibbons have been seen jumping over 30 feet forward!
Bonobos, the endangered great apes, are also famous for their jumping skills. The height of their squat jumps (without run-up) is around 30 inches. This is less than gorillas, but keep in mind that gorillas are 5 times heavier and 1.3 ft taller than bonobos. The bonobo has less jumping muscle mass than a gorilla and still jumps similar heights.
This concludes our article examining “can gorillas jump?”. To examine the jumping abilities of athletes, scientists examine the individuals’ ability to create, transfer, and apply force efficiently.
And despite being huge and muscular, gorillas are not the best jumpers. They have lots of fast-twitch muscles that should allow them to jump high, but they can reach heights of around 30-48 inches. This makes them almost able to dunk.
Still, there’s a lot of time to pass before we see them competing with the best NBA dunkers.