A Surprising Number of Americans Think They Could Beat Wild Animals in a Fight

A 2021 YouGov survey had revealed that a surprising number of Americans think they could win an unarmed fight against a variety of wild animals.

Reassuringly, the percentage of Americans confident about winning an unarmed fight goes down, the larger the animal.

Most Americans—72 percent—believe they could beat a rat in a fight, which despite the rodent’s large teeth, could perhaps be feasible. However, some foolhardy people still believe they stand a chance against some of the scariest animals in Animal Kingdom, such as the grizzly bear, and the crocodile.

So, are they right? Newsweek asked experts about some of the most fearsome animals on the list, and here is what they said.

It is a criminal offense to hurt animals. Animal cruelty is a federal crime. The animals mentioned below are generally of no threat to humans unless provoked.

The survey found the larger the animal, the less confident Americans got.

Could You Beat a Bear in a Fight?

Americans are not confident in their abilities to beat a grizzly bear in a fight. Only 6 percent believe that they could win. Grizzly bears can stand at a height of up to 8 feet, and the males can weigh up to 1,700 pounds.

According to Wesley Larson, bear biologist and host of the podcast Tooth and Claw, this rash 6 percent do not know what they would be letting themselves in for. Larson told Newsweek it would be a “very uneven fight.”

“They are faster, stronger, better equipped with both teeth and claws, and they have a much higher level of protection with thick fur, skin, fat layers and thicker stronger bones. So both offensively and defensively we are no match for them,” he said.

Larson said bears have a brute force that is strong enough to break a bowling ball.

“It is possible (and not that hard) for them to crush a human skull in their jaws. Their claws can grow to be several inches long. With those weapons at their disposal, an encounter with a human that only last a few seconds can leave that person maimed for life or even dead,” he said.

However, grizzly bears rarely see humans as a food source, he said. While they are territorial and defensive, they generally will run away when confronted with a human.

grizzly bear
A stock photo shows a grizzly bear. Larson said it would be a very uneven fight.
JNevitt/Getty Images

Could You Beat a Lion in a Fight?

Americans were slightly more confident in their abilities to win against a lion (8 percent), a big cat with a fearsome reputation, and a weight of about 420 pounds.

Alan Wilson, professor of locomotor biomechanics at London’s Royal Veterinary College, told Newsweek that while there are other big cats far stronger than lions, such as a cheetahs, he still is not confident of a human’s chances to beat one.

He believes the survey results largely depend on an individual’s perception of the animal—the majority of Americans have probably only seen these animals in wildlife documentaries, he said.

“They’ve never seen a lion in full on fighting aggression,” he said. “Most people have probably never been close to a lion. If you see a lion full-on aggressive, that’s a very different perception… We’ve only got two legs on the ground. These animals have four, and their arms are mighty.”

A stock photo shows a lion, an animal 8 percent of Americans think they could take on
Maggy Meyer/Getty Images

Could You Beat a Crocodile in a Fight?

A bold 9 percent of Americans think they could take on a crocodile, the biggest reptile in the world.

Simon Pooley, Lambert lecturer in environment (applied herpetology) at Birkbeck, University of London, told Newsweek that he didn’t miss a human’s chances against them.

A normal length for an older mature adult male saltwater crocodile is 17 feet. Some can even reach 20 feet, Pooley said. Males over 17 feet weigh from about 1,760 pounds to 2,200 pounds.

“Considering that one of the strongest men in the world, [Iranian weightlifter] Hossein Rezazadeh, was able to lift only 579 pounds, you can see what you’re up against,” he said.

Pooley said crocodiles are stealth predators with a bite force of 3,700 pounds.

And saltwater crocodiles have around 66 teeth, he added.

“The crushing power is overwhelming, shattering bones effortlessly,” Pooley said. “They typically grab humans in their crushing grip, and spin them off their feet, holding them underwater, whereas we know humans can’t hold their breath for very long.”

A stock photo shows a crocodile. Saltwater crocodiles are the largest reptiles on Earth.
Carl Jani/Getty Images

Could You Beat a King Cobra in a Fight?

A shocking 15 percent of Americans believe they could win against a king cobra, one of the longest and most venomous snakes on earth.

Anita Malhotra is a senior lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University and specializes in snake venom research.

“King cobras rarely come into conflict with people because they’re generally more intelligent than most people and try and avoid confrontations,” Malhotra said.

She said only people with large egos think it’s a good idea to handle one.

“You don’t tangle with the world’s largest venomous snake and expect to win unless your IQ is smaller than your shoe size. In other words, the king cobra would win. Every time. No exceptions,” she said.

king cobra
A stock photo shows a king cobra. A shocking 15 percent of people believed they could win a fight against one.
ePhotocorp/Getty Images

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