How Strong Are Orangutans? [Strength Facts & Comparison]

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The largest tree-dwelling mammal, orangutans are known for their distinctive red fur and long, powerful arms that help them swing from tree to tree. They are mild-mannered creatures that would rather spend their time eating fruit than engaging in fights. But if it comes to it, how strong are orangutans?

Orangutans are very strong apes, around five to seven times stronger than humans. They can lift up to 500 pounds, which is about three times their own body weight. Orangutans also have a strong bite force – around 575 PSI – almost four times the bite force of a human and only slightly lower than that of a lion.

Here are some quick orangutan strength facts:

  • Orangutan bite force: 575 PSI (2,560 N)
  • Orangutan arm strength (lifting): 500 pounds
  • Orangutan arm span: 7 to 8 feet
  • Orangutan weight: 73 to 180 pounds
  • Orangutan standing height: 4 to 5 feet

How Strong Are Orangutans?

Orangutans are very strong apes. Not only can they lift loads about three times their own body weight, but they also have a powerful bite. Due to size differences, male orangutans are generally much stronger than females.

How Strong Are Male Orangutans?

An orangutan’s strength is majorly concentrated in its arms. These apes use their forelimbs to travel and swing from one tree to another.

It is easy to understand that a heavier body mass requires more strength. Swinging and gripping a branch while jumping also requires incredible strength. Thus, the bigger the body size, the stronger the orangutan is – the apes build strength in a fashion similar to calisthenics or weightlifting.

Depending on their species and size, male orangutans can lift more than twice as much as their own body weight.

In addition to muscle strength, an orangutan’s arms are also long. In fact, the arm length (spanning) can reach eight feet, depending on the actual size and species.

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Orangutan females can also lift hefts twice as heavier as their own body weight. However, they are about half the size of a male. Hence, they are weaker.

The table below compares the size and weight of orangutan males vs. females:

SpeciesWeightAvg. Height
Bornean orangutan132 - 200 lbs.88 - 110 lbs.3.2 ft.2.5 ft.
Sumatran orangutan155 - 200 lbs.90 - 110 lbs.4.5 ft.3.5 ft.
Tapanuli orangutan165 lbs. (avg.)82 lbs. (avg.)5.0 ft.3.9 ft.

Aside from strong arms, orangutans also have powerful bites. The bite force is about 575 PSI, which is only slightly weaker than a lion’s. Orangutans need powerful bites to crack the shells and seeds of fruits they feed on.

How Strong Are Baby Orangutans?

Baby orangutans are much weaker than both their parents. While there are no specific studies, it is clear that they start to develop body strength from a young age. In fact, they are strong enough to cling to their mothers’ back, side, or stomach and support their own body weight while she swings from tree to tree.

Despite their strength, orangutans have the longest development period of all great apes, which can last up to ten years.

How Strong Are Orangutans Compared To Humans?

In terms of body strength, orangutans are about seven times stronger than humans. Their bite force is almost four times the bite force of a human. Thus, when it comes to a head-to-head confrontation, humans have no chance of putting off an orangutan. 

If you want to further compare your strength to that of an orangutan, know that the apes can lift weights over two times heavier than their own body weight – and they do so effortlessly.

Some of the strongest men could lift a similar load, but there is a lot of effort involved, and you’d have to be a professional weightlifter to pull out such a performance. In reality, the average man would struggle to lift more than 100 pounds over their head. Considering that the average individual weighs 136 pounds, that is less than their own body weight.

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Humans also have a weaker bite. Orangutans have a bite force of 575 PSI, whereas humans’ bite force is only 162 PSI.

How Strong Is An Orangutan’s Grip?

An orangutan’s grip strength is about 600 pounds. While there are no scientific studies, anecdotal evidence suggests that some of the largest orangutans have even stronger grips.

This might be true, considering that orangutans are tree-dwelling animals and are able to hang with just one hand despite their body weight.

Orangutans Lifting Ability

Orangutans have the ability to lift up to 500 pounds. Considering that the biggest orangutans weigh about 200 pounds, that’s at least two and a half times their body mass. 

This strength is the result of highly developed arm muscles. In fact, orangutans’ forelimb muscle mass is double the forelimb muscle mass of a chimpanzee.

Why Are Orangutans So Strong?

Orangutans’ strength is the result of their habitat and lifestyle. These tree-dwelling apes rarely climb off the trees to travel on land. Their primary way of locomotion is swinging from one tree to another. They also climb trees vertically to reach for fruits.

All these activities require a lot of strength, and that’s why most of an orangutan’s strength is concentrated in its forelimbs.

Female orangutans are smaller and weaker compared to males, but their strength is still proportional to their body mass. Moreover, orangutan females are strong enough to support their own weight together with the weight of their young.

In addition to muscle mass, this strength is also a result of certain anatomical adaptations, such as a stronger torso and larger shoulder blade bones.

Orangutans vs. Chimpanzee Strength Comparison

Orangutans are stronger than chimpanzees as far as lifting and gripping are concerned. However, chimpanzees have stronger hind limbs. Both ape species have similar bite forces, but the chimpanzees have a shorter arm spanning. 

The table below compares orangutan vs. chimpanzee strength characteristics:

Size-wise, orangutans, and chimpanzees have similar height and weight. Both species are tree dwellers. However, the different behavior puts orangutans at an advantage in terms of strength.

In a study investigating the forelimb muscle dimensions in orangutans and chimpanzees, researchers have found that orangutans spend almost all of their lives in trees and only rarely descend to the forest floor. On the contrary, chimpanzees travel mainly on the ground.

These differences explain the stronger grip and lifting strength of orangutans compared to chimpanzees.

Because orangutans majorly use their forelimbs for locomotion, they have longer arms with stronger developed muscles. Thus, orangutans have a longer arm span than chimpanzees.

Despite being weaker, chimpanzees could still put off an orangutan. The two apes have a similar bite force, as highlighted in a study. While the higher lifting strength would put orangutans at an advantage, the chimpanzees are more aggressive and would likely win a fight.

Are Orangutans Stronger Than Gorillas?

Orangutans are weaker than gorillas. In fact, gorillas are the strongest large apes. They are larger in size and heavier than orangutans. Gorillas also have a more powerful bite force. In a tug of wars, gorillas would always win. 

Talking about numbers, gorillas are twice as heavy as orangutans. Their height isn’t substantially larger, but the heft difference increases their strength.

Gorillas also have stronger jaws compared to orangutans. In fact, gorillas have an approximate bite force of 1,300 PSI – more than a tiger.

While orangutans are strong, gorillas are stronger and can lift about 1,000 pounds. Compared to their body mass, gorillas have about the same lifting strength as orangutans (about two and a half times their own weight). However, the actual strength puts gorillas at an advantage in a real-life situation.

To Finish

Orangutans are the second strongest apes in the world. They are stronger than chimpanzees, and the only great ape stronger than them is the gorilla. Orangutans are also much stronger than humans. We hope this guide has helped you learn the true extent of orangutan strength.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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