by Melinda Anne Gathman, July 2000


You probably know that humans very rarely eat bugs. And you may also know that plenty of bugs are edible. You MAY also know that gorillas seldom eat bugs also. And when they do, they usally swallow them because they're on the leaf, or branch, and the gorilla doesn't care or doesn't see.

What does that tell you? It tells you simply this: Gorillas seldom eat bugs! They never hunt either. Gorillas only eat grasses, ferns, herbs, vines, shrubs, tree bark, and a few fruits.

They eat their biggest meals in mid morning and late afternoon. Did you know, that when a gorilla eats it stuffs its food in its mouth with both hands? What a pig! To add to that list of pig like behavior, the only sounds a gorilla makes while they're eating are belches and grunts. Not very well mannered.

And another eating habit that gorillas have is they don't drink water. In the wild, they get their water from what they eat. For example, a large Silverback eats over 60 pounds of vegitation a day. That contains about 25 qt. of water. But in captivity they have to learn to drink water. They usally stick their mouth in the water and they suck.

As soon as it starts to get dark, gorillas start getting ready for bed. Can you imagine getting a new bed every night? A gorilla sure can! He does get a new bed every night! Well, he doesn't actually get a new bed each night, he makes one!

Every night when it starts to get dark, he starts gathering branches to make his nest. He usally piles the branches in a circle on the ground. Sometimes in a tree. He leaves the bottom of the nest bare.


Have you ever wondered what a baby gorilla looks like? If you have, then I'll have you know, that baby gorillas have pinkish grey skin. During the first two months of their lives, their skin turns black.

When they turn ten, a "saddle" of silver forms across the back of most males. Ladies never have a "silverback." Also, from birth, all gorillas have hair almost covering their entire body. Only their ears, lips, nose, palms, and the soles of their feet do not have any hair.


Have you ever wondered about gorilla training? Have you ever heard of Koko? If you havn't, then I'll tell you about her.

Koko's mistress is Penny Paterson. Penny taught Koko the American Sign Language! Penny started to train in 1972, when Koko was ten months old! A few weeks after Penny started to train, Koko knew two words. By the time she was three, she knew 180. As an adult, she knows 500. (If she's still alive.)

Now, last but not least, here's a comparison between a gorilla and a former world heavy weight champ: I know that most of you probably don't rember Jack Dempsey, a former world heavy weight champ from over thirty-five years ago, but for those of you who have been sudying heavy weight champions or researching them, or you just like to read about them, or you're old and you remember him, it's estimated that the gorilla has the strength of sixteen men. Now, what do you think will happen, if a gorilla escaped, and got into the ring with Jack Dempsey? I personally do not know anything about heavy weight champions, modern or from 40 years ago, but I do know that the gorilla would probably win. And once, Carl Akeley compared a mountain gorilla with Jack D.: "Although not as tall as Dempsey, the gorilla weighs nearly twice as much, and his arms are longer and more powerful." Here is a chart that shows the difference:

Height5ft 7.3 inches6ft 1 in
Weight360 pounds188 pounds
Chest62 inches42 inches
Upperarm18 inches6.25 inches
Calf Circumference15.75 inches15.25 inches
Reach97 inches74 inches


The Gorilla, Carl R. Green and William R. Sanford, Crestwood House, Mankato, MN (1986)
The Great Apes, Michael Nichols, Book Division National Geographic Society, Washington, DC (1993)
Gentle Giants, Geoffrey H. Bourne and Maury Cohen, G.P. Putnams's Sons, New Your (1975)
The New Encyclopedia Britannica Volume 5, pp. 372-373, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. (1998)

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