Can a dog run fast

Science in dialogue

Why can dogs run more persistently than humans?

The question is not that easy to answer because there are many different breeds of dogs and also many possible reasons. We only mention a few important reasons here and of course refer to persistent dog breeds. Because dachshunds, for example, cannot run any longer than humans.

When hunting, dogs are evolved to pursue their prey for a long time. People, on the other hand, had to rely on good tactics and the element of surprise. Over time, these differences in exercise behavior have led to adaptations in body structure, some of which we would like to list below.

Compared to dogs, humans need more energy to move. Probably the most important reason: dogs not only have long legs, but also have special leverage. Compared to the thigh, your lower leg and metatarsus are significantly longer. Thus, dogs have a longer stride relative to their height than humans. In addition, humans do not have the different gaits like the quadruped (four-footed). With increasing speed, the quadrupeds can always change to a higher gait as soon as the current gait becomes too energy-consuming. For example, from trot to gallop. When galloping, the elastic properties of the ligaments and joints are best used. The ligaments and joints store kinetic energy and then release it like a tennis ball.

Every muscle is made up of different fibers. A distinction is made between fibers that can contract particularly quickly, but also get tired quickly ("twitching quickly") and those that tend to contract slowly but can work for a long time without getting tired ("twitching slowly"). It is assumed that dogs that have been bred specifically for endurance performance over many generations, such as the Siberian Husky, have a very high proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers.

It can look different if you bring the temperature factor into play. The dog may be more persistent in cold climates, but never as soon as the temperature rises. Humans, on the other hand, can sweat and therefore endure high temperatures. The question is also what exactly is meant by perseverance. In the sense of classic athletic competitions, those who achieve a higher speed over a given longer distance have better endurance. In normal environmental conditions, most dog breeds will be faster than humans over medium and most long distances. In a marathon or 100 km run, however, people will be able to run faster, especially in warm ambient conditions.

Answered the question: Dr. Elke Schleucher, Zoological Institute, Department of Metabolic Physiology, and Katrin Lucki and Christian Thiel, Institute for Sports Science, Department of Sports Medicine at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt.