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How Fast Can An Iguana Run

Have you thought about making an iguana your newest pet, but want to know more about the species?

Have you heard iguanas are fast but aren’t sure if it’s true?

When you are first learning about iguanas, you might ask:

How fast can an iguana run?

Members of the iguana family are very fast. One species of iguana, the spiny-tailed iguana, has been dubbed the fastest lizards on record, clocking in at approximately 21 miles per hour.

Keep reading this article if you want to learn more about these speedy lizards.

how fast can an iguana run

How Fast Can An Iguana Run?

Iguanas are one of the most common reptiles kept as pets in the country.

They are fascinating creatures who can grow as large as 6′ or 7′ feet and weigh up to 30 pounds depending on the species.

One of the most outstanding facts about these creatures is their speed.

Iguanas are known to be extremely speedy, with some species being recorded going as fast as 21 miles per hour.

Usain Bolt, the Olympic gold medalist and arguably the fastest man in the world, briefly reached a record-setting speed of 27.5 miles per hour in 2009 when he ran the 100-meter dash.

The spiny-tailed iguana, native to Central America, has been known to reach the 21 miles per hour mark, but other species are known for their speed as well.

Even with their stout build and often clumsy-looking body, they have adapted over time to achieve these fast speeds and are quite agile.

Why Do They Need To Run Fast?

You might be wondering why these reptiles need to be so quick on their feet.

Do they enjoy running, or is there a reason they need to be so fast?

Iguanas have evolved and developed this characteristic over time to evade the predators who want to make them their next meal.

The speed and agility are a great defense mechanism keeping them just out of reach.

Iguanas in the wild are in danger of being eaten by a variety of predators, including hawks, owls, snakes, cats, and even humans, who have dubbed green iguanas the chicken of the trees.

An Iguana’s Other Defense Mechanisms

In addition to being fast and agile, iguanas also have a few other defense mechanisms to help them stay alive.

Iguanas won’t always run from their predators, instead choosing to take a stand and fight.

They have extremely strong jaws and razor-sharp teeth and claws to help if they need to fight off predators.

Probably their top line of defense is their tail.

The tail on an iguana makes up over half of its body and has immense strength.

If they are being attacked, an iguana will whip their tail, hitting the predator in an attempt to drive away from the attacker.

Sometimes in captivity, when they are feeling threatened or don’t want to be bothered, they might even whip their tail at you.

This tail of an adult iguana is so strong, in extreme cases, it could even break a human bone.

Breaking the bone of a human is not common, but the strength is there, and it is important to be aware of your iguana is giving signals it doesn’t want to be handled.

In addition to being very strong, an iguana tail is also sharp, giving them another advantage over predators.

If the fight is not going their way, even after whipping their tail at the attacker, the iguana has yet another trick up their sleeve.

Like many other reptiles, an iguana can detach their tail if they are caught.

Once it detaches, the tail will still wriggle and move on the ground, hopefully distracting the predator and giving the iguana a chance to get away.

The iguana will regrow their tail without any permanent damage, but research has shown, the newly regrown tail is not going to grow quite as long as the original and will be a slightly darker color.

In captivity, an iguana might detach its tail if they are feeling threatened or even scared.

Another instance where an iguana might detach their tail is when they are kept in too small of a cage for a prolonged period.

Do Iguanas In Captivity Want To Run?

So you’re thinking of bringing an iguana into your home, but you’re wondering if they can run fast, do they like to run regularly?

Just because these animals can reach top speeds, doesn’t mean you need to take them out to a park and let them loose to burn off energy as you might with a dog.

As they get to be adults, they are relatively lazy creatures.

Baby iguanas have so much more energy than the adults of the species.

The young iguanas will move quickly and often, allowing for you to be entertained just by watching them.

As they enter adulthood, laziness sets in, and they tend to spend much of their time basking under a lamp or in the sunlight.

They will also enjoy spending their time sleeping on a branch or tree branch substitute. 

Iguanas in the wild also enjoy just laying around and basking, so you really won’t see them changing their habits just because they are in a cage in your home.

You won’t find your iguana wanting to engage with you to play games or wanting to go for a run.

Overall, running is a defense mechanism, and in captivity, they won’t face the same dangers they would if they were living in the wild.


Whether you are interested in learning about wild or captive iguanas, you will be able to find a variety of fascinating characteristics.

Their surprising speed and agility make them an interesting study, as some species have reached speeds up to 21 miles per hour.

After reading this article, we hope you have a better idea of not only how fast an iguana can run, but also why they might need to reach those speeds.

Check out our other article on how to cut iguana nails or on how long iguanas can stay underwater.

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