How Fast Can Chameleons Run?

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If you own a chameleon, you may have spent many hours watching it sit there and do…well, not a lot.

In their relatively small enclosures, at least when compared to the space they have in the wild, chams don’t have a lot of room to move about.

Moreover, if they are content, they won’t have any reason to run, since chameleons tend only to make a dash for it when they feel threatened. But when they do move, just how fast can chameleons run?

Chameleons are much slower than many other lizards but when they want to make a run for it, they have been known to run as fast as 21 miles per hour!

If you’re planning on taking your chameleon outdoors, we would always recommend doing so in some sort of enclosed space.

Let’s find out more about chameleon speed and how these amazing animals get around.

Do Chameleons Run; And How Fast?

Chameleons are relatively placid creatures and if you keep one as a pet, you will likely find that when it moves around, it does so slowly and casually.

In captivity, there shouldn’t be too many reasons that a chameleon would want to run away since they tend only to do this when they are frightened.

In this wild. chameleons may become a meal for a variety of other animals including snakes and several different types of mammals.

This means that they have to be on their toes and ready to make a dash for it at any moment.

Of course, one of the main advantages for the chameleon is that it is an arboreal species and so, provided it remains in the trees, there is less likelihood of it becoming prey.

However, once they sense a threat, a chameleon can move pretty quickly with some reports detailing speeds up to 21 miles per hour.

That said, this is pretty speedy even for a cham and you will find that the average speed of these lizards is somewhere around 15 miles per hour.

Chameleon Tongue Speed

What is most fascinating about the chameleon is not its running speed but how quickly it can move its tongue.

Since these animals are very laid back and don’t tend to move around as much as other creatures, they don’t have the ability to go ambling after prey.

Chameleons love to eat insects but these can be extremely fast and difficult to catch.

Yet, they are no match for the rapid movement of the chameleon’s tongue, which can shoot out as quickly as reaching 0 to 60 in 100th of a second, for some of the smaller species.

chameleon tongue speed

In fact, it has been noted that the smaller the chameleon, the more quickly its tongue can dart out.

Interestingly, it isn’t only the speed of the chameleon’s tongue that is impressive but the power behind it.

According to Science Magazine, the chameleon can pack up to 14,00 watts of power per kilo with each strike of its elastic, sticky tongue. That’s some mind-blowing power from a relatively small animal.

How Do Chameleons Get About?

As we have discussed, the chameleon doesn’t spend great amounts of time running around the forests where it lives.

And certainly, if you have a pet cham, you aren’t going to see it doing a cardio workout in its vivarium any time soon. But of course, these little lizards need to navigate the world and they do so with one of the most interesting gaits in the animal kingdom.

Since chameleons are prone to becoming lunch for a prowling predator, they need to blend in with their surroundings.

It goes without saying that one of the most obvious ways of doing this is with their amazing camoflague ability.

However, this isn’t the only thing that our chammy friends can do to make sure that they go unnoticed.

The chameleon also uses its gait to blend it and moves in a similar manner to that of a blowing leaf which helps it to move through the environment undetected.

They move using a back and forth motion that is jerky and almost seems unnatural but this is just one of the many effective ways that the chameleon manages to keep itself safe.

Can I Take My Chameleon Outside?

If you have a pet chameleon, you might be tempted to take him outdoors for some al fresco exercise. While this won’t do him any harm, in fact it may do him good, there is a chance that he could run away if he is startled.

Spending time outdoors is fine for chams at any age and they will enjoy the natural sunlight, provided that they have some shade to escape to, should it get too warm.


However, with a risk of predators, it is vital that you only take your chameleon outdoors if you are able to supervise it.

Moreover, we would strongly advocate placing the chameleon into some sort of enclosure or at the very least, in an area that they cannot escape such as a securely fenced patio.

While it is unlikely that your chameleon would suddenly become spooked for no reason, this is always a possibility.


Chameleons are fascinating animals in many ways but the way that they move around the world is particularly interesting.

While they are largely inactive animals that prefer to sit and bask rather than run rings around their enclosures, they can, of course, run when the moment calls for it.

In fact, chameleons are pretty fast and have been known to run as quickly as 21 miles per hour.

For the most part, however, they will amble around with an unusual gait that helps them to remain concealed from predators.

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