How Fast Can a Sloth Go?

Flash from Zootopia and a real sloth

This shouldn’t take too long.
Screengrab credit: Disney Zootopia Characters in Real Life
Logo credit: Disney

Here at Zap Zap Math, we’re all about zooming through different planets on our quest to learn math. But when we’re on the road, we do believe in moving at speeds that keep us and other road users safe. When you’re in a busy city like Zootopia (or Zootropolis, or Zoomania, depending on where you watched it), road safety is of utmost importance to ensure that citizens from all its twelve unique ecosystems can get around safely.

So it’s no wonder that Flash the sloth was stopped by Officers Judy Hopps and Nicholas Wilde for speeding in the city center. (Who says sloths can’t be fast?) But how fast, exactly? And so, it was a quick decision (pun intended) to see how a real sloth moves compared to Flash.

How fast a sloth moves IRL

Our Zootopian today is Flash, a three-toed sloth who works in the Department of Mammal Vehicles, or DMV. In our world, three-toed sloths are natives of Central and South America and spend most of their lives in trees, coming down to the ground about once a week to move their bowels.

Sloths are slowest when they’re on the ground, moving only 10 ft per minute. Given their camouflaging abilities, they usually stay hidden from predators like jaguars and harpy eagles. But if a sloth finds itself in danger, it can move up to 15 ft per minute. But nothing beats a sloth’s speed in the water, where it can move up to three times faster, at 45 ft per minute.

A sloth swimming

Their long arms make them strong swimmers.
Photo credit: BBC Earth

Here’s how a real sloth’s speed looks like in a table.

Three-toed sloth
Situation On the ground In danger In water
Speed (ft per minute) 10 15 45

While it is unclear how fast Flash moves, we do know that he was travelling at 115 miles per hour when he was stopped. Let’s see how that stacks up with the speeds of a real sloth.

Three-toed sloth Flash
Situation On the ground In danger In water In car
Speed (ft per minute) 10 15 45 10120
Speed (miles per hour) 0.112 0.503 0.17 115

Flash, Flash, 100-yard dash!

Sloths can be fast

Nope, not saying that at all. Image credit: Disney

Wow, Flash is quick! Like Nick said, him being a sloth does not have any bearing on his zooming ability! But wait, given this speed, how fast can Flash actually cover 100 yards?

As we already know, Flash moves at 115 mph. There are 3600 seconds in an hour. 100 yards is 0.0568182 miles. So to calculate the time taken to cover 100 yards, we take the the value of 100 yards in miles and divide it by 115, and finally, multiply it by 3600. And we get 1.7786 seconds. Which looks like this.

speed calculation of a sloth

Over in a flash.

And that’s one fast sloth! Flash has got to watch his speed, or he’s up for a speeding ticket soon!

Judy Hopps on parking duty

You never know if there’s an officer on your trail. Image credit: Disney

As for us, we’re happy to keep within the speed limit. Unless, of course, you’d like to race us across the yard.

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