Scientists believe wild apes are closely related to humans since they share almost 95% of the genes. When it comes to the orangutan (their scientific name is Pongo abelii and Pongo pygmaeus), the similarities are visible since these animals are highly intelligent and exhibit many similar characteristics to their more developed cousins.
It’s why the ancient Malaysian people named them orangutan, loosely translated to mean ‘person of the forest.’ However, one distinguishing trait that makes these apes unique is their perceived strength.
Despite their significant body weight, they easily swing and jump from high tree branches, which makes people wonder: how strong is an orangutan?
Orangutan Strength: Facts and Figures
Below are three criteria used to determine their strength:
These primates have incredibly strong jaws due to their wide and large jawline with a bite force of approximately 575 PSI.
They have single-rooted molar teeth on the lower jaw that enable them to chew and grind their meals (which include some of the hardest nuts and tree barks) into fine digestible particles.
The orangutans’ strong hands enable them to easily swing, jump and hang on tree tops despite their huge size. They have the strength to lift weights weighing up to 500 lbs (227 kg).
The hook-like hands of these primates enable them to have a strong grip that makes it easy to maneuver through the high treetops without falling. They have wide palms with long protruding fingers and a big thumb in each hand.
A normal orangutan has a grip force of 500-600 lbs, but according to the Guinness world record, the strongest grip by this species stands at 650 lbs.
How Strong is a Male vs. a Female vs. a Baby Orangutan?
The size and strength of male and female orangutans differ since they are sexually dimorphic species. Males are substantially stronger and larger than females.
Males typically weigh an average of 150- 250 lbs (68-113 kg), and are 3.5 – 5 feet (107-152 cm) tall. On the other hand, females often weigh 85- 110 lbs (39-50 kg) and are usually less than 4 feet tall.
Despite their small size, young orangutans are also very strong. The fact that they can firmly support their weight by holding on to their mother’s side or back as she swings between trees; proves they have enormous strength and coordination.
Are Orangutans Stronger Than Humans?
Yes, these primates are believed to be five to seven times stronger than humans. No matter the criteria used to compare the strength of the two species, the orangutans will emerge as the winners.
For instance, an adult human has a bite force of approximately 160 PSI, while an orangutan has 575 PSI. Our maximum grip force level is 76 PSI, while the primate beast can reach 600 PSI.
An adult person can lift 100 lbs (45 kg) with great difficulty above their head, while the orangutan can easily lift weights of 500 lbs (227 kg) above their head.
Are Orangutans Stronger Than Gorillas?
Gorillas are the strongest of all primates, while orangutans are second. The bite force of an orangutan is only 575 PSI compared to the 1,300 PSI of gorillas. When it comes to pulling/dragging objects, gorillas would easily win in a tug-of-war against the latter.
However, it’s essential to note that gorillas are terrestrial (are accustomed to the ground), while orangutans are arboreal animals (adapted to live in trees).
This difference makes it easier for the orangutans to lift things twice heavier than themselves, way above their heads. Although gorillas can pull or carry objects that weigh 1000 lbs compared to the orangutans’ 575 lbs, lifting them above their heads would be difficult.
Are Orangutans Stronger Than Chimpanzees?
As stated, orangutans are the second largest and strongest primates after the gorillas. Therefore, they are much stronger than chimps. Let’s consider their weight difference to understand how stronger they are compared to their cousins.
Chimps weigh between 70-150 lbs (32- 68 kg), compared to the 85-250lbs (39- 113 kg) of the orangutan species. Compared to humans, chimpanzees are 1.5 times stronger, while the latter are seven times more.
Although orangutans have longer front limbs/arms, chimps have longer and stronger hind legs, which makes them faster due to their higher sprinting capability.
Chimpanzees are very aggressive, unlike orangutans, who are generally calm and gentle. The outcome of a fight between the two species depends on the specific situation since chimps are experienced fighters due to their frequent engagement in fights.
A single blow by the orangutan’s muscular front arms is enough to severely injure or kill its cousin, but the chimps are very swift/fast, have sharp canine teeth, and a biting force almost similar to the ape beast. Hence it also stands a higher chance of winning the duel.
Why Are Orangutans So Strong?
Due to their arboreal nature and significant body size, orangutans have developed sturdy front limbs. They also have flexible muscles in their shoulders and hips, enabling them to move from tree to tree and maintain it in the air for an extended period.
Scientists state that the more a body part and muscles are used, the stronger they become. Therefore, the frequent movement and swinging of orangutans continue to strengthen their front limbs as they mature.
Their diet, mainly consisting of fruits (90%), also contributes to their strength. Their huge body size requires them to consume large amounts of foods enriched with vitamins, calories, proteins and carbohydrates (energy-giving nutrients).
These species are ‘opportunistic foragers, ’ meaning they aren’t choosy and will eat the available fruits, leaves, nuts, tree barks and roots in their habitat. They spend an average of 6-8 hours a day foraging, consuming an estimated 1500-3000 kilojoules daily.
Since they are also omnivorous, they supplement their diet with protein-enriched foods, mainly from small insects, eggs, and small animals. Therefore, their high consumption and diverse diet also contribute to their significant body weight, size, and strength.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Weight Can An Orangutan Bench Press?
An adult Orangutan can lift or bench press an estimated weight of up to 500 lbs (227 kg).
How Tall Is An Orangutan?
Adult male orangutans have a standing height of 3.5 – 5 feet (107-152cm), while females are usually less than 4 feet tall, an average of 3-3.3 feet (91-101cm).
How Much Does An Orangutan Weigh?
An adult male typically weighs 150- 250 lbs (68-113 kgs), while the female orangutan generally weighs 85- 110 lbs (39-50 kgs).
Despite their gentle nature, orangutans are very strong and may pose a serious threat when provoked. As we have already seen, they are the second largest and strongest primates, only second to gorillas.
Fortunately, they are among the most peaceful species. They always try to avoid unnecessary violence and fights, even if it means retreating from smaller animals, although they have the strength to overpower them.