I know what you’re thinking, and what you’re thinking is, “What the fuck are you talking about? How did that even come into your head?”
In my defense, he started it.
For those out of the loop, that’s former NFL running back Arian Foster — an incredibly athletic and powerful man, to be fair — speculating about his ability to fight a wolf, presumably in hand-to-hand (hand-to-paw?) combat.
Arian Foster is big, strong, and confident, but he is sadly mistaken. Let’s break it down.
Arian’s right, most wolves are around 100-120 pounds, and he’s much bigger than that. But to compare his own strength to that of a wolf is ludicrous. Arian’s a running back, so he’s not run blocking, but a blocking sled that an NFL blocker would practice on weighs about 300 pounds, so that’s a good metric for raw power. Can a wolf generate a similar amount of power?
You’re fucking right it can. I know it’s not a direct parallel, but that’s a 90-pound dog pulling a 5000-pound sled. Still not convinced?
That’s a similar-sized dog jumping fifteen feet in the fucking air. You think you’ve seen a dog in full attack mode, but chances are you never have. A dog (or wolf) at 100% effort is unbelievably fast and strong. A dog’s reflexes are insane. Look at the speed of this encounter and tell me you could hang with even one animal who can move like this.
Arian says “if I control his neck” like that’s a plausible thing, but anyone who’s ever played tug-of-war with a big dog knows how strong that neck is. And sure, you weren’t trying your hardest, but neither was the dog. When it turns into a life-or-death situation, a hundred-pound dog will beat you at every physical test you can name, thumbs or not.
Wolves don’t have weaknesses, Arian. They don’t. There’s no soft spot that you don’t also have. That wolf can take any hit you can throw at it, and here’s the thing: you can’t throw many hits. On Joe Rogan’s podcast, Foster said his game plan would be to punch or kick the wolf in the jaw, breaking it. Never mind how hard it is to break a jaw — even boxers and MMA fighters rarely break jaws — there’s not a chance you could land a square hit. Here’s a slow motion video of a cat taking a swipe at a dog. Look how fast the dog reacts.
That’s a low-stakes scenario and the dog has his eyes closed and his head out of the way before the cat even has his paw out. Plus, you don’t have claws, your teeth are flat and your mouth is too small to grab anything. A single wolf can take down an elk, and an elk can fight back harder than you can. Not even close.
The wolf doesn’t need to know where your arteries are to open one up, Arian. He’s gonna go for anything he can get his jaws around, which means your neck or your arms. both of them have arteries in them, and a wolf can absolutely bite hard enough to open those up.
Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. If he bites you, you are immobilized. You’re in a steel trap. The wolf is going to crush your bones and rip your arm all the way off, and then you’re going to bleed out in minutes. Even if the wolf doesn’t tear your arm off, what are you going to do with your free hand that you think is so threatening? Punch him? Wouldn’t affect him AT ALL. Gouge his eyes? That might piss him off enough to let go for a minute and come at you again, and then you’re stuck again. I’ve broken up some fights between big, strong dogs — fights that would have ended with a dead dog if not for human interference — and there is nothing you can do to separate those jaws. We threaded a tow rope through his jaws behind his teeth and pulled the dogs apart and we might as well have been pulling on a tree trunk. What finally worked, if you’re curious, was spraying a hose down his throat. Literally drowning will get a truly determined dog to let go, and not much else.
So Arian went back on the defensive.
It’s about belief, you guys. Until you encounter an animal that can crush your forearm like a pretzel stick, and then it’s not about belief any more.
Turns out the experts actually weighed in on this. Specifically the people at the International Wolf Center, who said:
To Arian’s point, wolves do not have thumbs, nor do they need them. Wolves use incredible upper body features and strength to take down their prey. Their bite is intense and crippling; they crack the bones of their prey and have powerful muscles in their neck to take down and disable animals that can be five to ten times their size or more. This is where Arian’s theory of being able to go after them by the neck would likely not work.
“Intense and crippling” doesn’t begin to describe it. Think about how hard you can bite. Maybe you’ve been badly bitten by another person. If you really wanted to, you could bit a finger off, right? You could crunch through a chicken drumstick or similar-sized bone. Think of how much pressure you can generate between your teeth. A grey wolf can create ten times that.
Then shit got personal.
Arian is by far the most openly non-religious player in the NFL, though he’s likely not the only one. But that apparently pisses people off. It also makes them think that he’d lose a fight with a wolf. Which he would, but not because of faith.
True enough, Arian. This was a weird one.
At least he’s got a sense of humor about it.
This has been the first and probably last entry in my “Could a pro athlete kill a wild animal in one on one combat” series. Have a good weekend.