Sex-based limits to running speed in the human, horse and dog: The role of sexual dimorphisms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Elite performing men continue to record faster record times in running events compared to women. These sex-based differences in running speed and endurance in humans are expected based on sexual dimorphisms that contribute to differences in the determinants of aerobic performance. Comparatively, the sexual dimorphisms contributing to sex-based differences in elite aerobic performance are not ubiquitous across other species that compete in running events. The purpose of this review is to offer a framework and model for ongoing discussions of the physiological determinants and ultimately limits of physical performance. The records for average running speed of champion athletes were delineated by sex for thoroughbred horses, greyhound dogs, and humans. Male and female performances within each of these species are being optimized by training, nutrition, and financial incentives, and are approaching a performance maximum. For horses and greyhounds breeding also plays a role. Analysis of athletic records shows that there is a sex-related difference of ~10% or more in elite athletic performance for humans; however, the upper limit of performance does not appear to be different between sexes for thoroughbred horses and greyhound dogs. In the context of the nil sex differences in running performance in thoroughbreds and greyhounds, we discuss the physiological role of sexual dimorphisms on sex-specific limits to running performance. We highlight that studies on both human and animal performance in athletic events stimulate critical physiological questions and drive novel research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere21562
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • comparative physiology
  • endurance performance
  • performance prediction
  • physiological determinants
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex-based limits to running speed in the human, horse and dog: The role of sexual dimorphisms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this