How to Wrestle an Alligator

by A Manly Guest Contributor on October 19, 2010 · 29 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Ty Karnitz.

Imagine this situation—you take a break from your exploration of cannibal-infested, uncharted jungle to set up camp along the river when your female traveling companion informs you she’s off to bathe in the river. She leaves you to set camp and start the fire. And start a fire you do, without matches.

But just as you’ve gotten the fire going, a scream breaks the jungle’s tranquility. You race down to the river bank and find yourself faced with a situation bred to test your mettle.

An alligator is approaching your lady love, and the only way to save her is to wrestle the cold-blooded terror into submission.

Here’s how to wrestle an alligator.

Step One: Getting on the Alligator’s Back

Possibly the most dangerous part of wrestling an alligator is getting on its back. Never attempt to jump an alligator from the side or from the front. Doing so is the easiest way to get bit. You want to approach the alligator from behind. If possible, have someone distract the animal so it doesn’t turn to keep an eye on you.

However, if that’s not possible, take off your shirt and use it as a blindfold (or use a towel). Throw your shirt on the top of the gator’s head, making sure to cover its eyes. Without sight, the alligator is much slower to react.

Draw a straight line down the alligator’s head and back, and tail if possible. Get a running start down that line and, staying low, leap onto the animal with hands extended forward. You want your hands to land at the alligator’s neck, between the back of its jaws and the front legs. When you land on the animal, push down with all your might on the neck to force the head to the ground.

Alligators open their mouths the same way humans do. That means the bottom jaw moves—the top doesn’t. By pinning the head to the ground, you’re preventing the jaws from opening.

You should be high on the gator’s back, near the front shoulders. Your knees should touch the ground but squeeze the animal’s flanks. The lower part of your legs should be pinning the hind legs while keeping the feet from touching the ground.

Keeping the rear legs from the ground helps prevent the alligator from “death rolling” (spinning around violently). When an alligator does this, you’ve lost control of the animal.

Step Two: Getting Control of the Mouth

Once on the gator, it’s important to gain control of the mouth. Both hands should still be firmly on the alligator’s neck, pressing down hard with your full body weight.

Rule of thumb: you’re not going to hurt the alligator, but it can certainly hurt you. Always use all your strength. But remember, technique is more important than brute force.

Rotate the dominate hand (right or left) forward. Remain in contact with the alligator and keep pressing down as you slide the hand forward down the middle of the alligator’s head. You want to cover both eyes with your hand. Alligators retract their eyes into the skull, so just coming into contact with them should be enough. Again, you’re blinding the animal to give yourself the advantage.

Now, press down on the eyes with all your weight. Again, pin the head to the ground to prevent its jaws from opening. Slide your other hand forward and down and run it along the bottom jaw line. Put your fingers under the gator’s jaw and you’ll feel soft skin around bone. With fingers under the jaw and palm and thumb on top, grip firmly.

All of an alligator’s jaw power is on the down stroke. They have almost no muscle power when it comes to opening their jaws. What that means is that you can hold the animal’s mouth shut with one hand. It doesn’t mean you should hold it closed with one hand, though.

Still keeping the head pinned to the ground, slide the hand covering the eyes down until it too can hook the lower jaw.

Both hands should now be holding the mouth shut.

Step Three: Submission

Lift the alligator’s head off the ground and toward your chest. Once the head is at close to a ninety degree angle, the gator can no longer fight back.

Congratulations, you’ve just wrestled an alligator into submission.

Step Four: Getting Away

Now comes the tricky part… How do you get off?

When you’ve saved your lady love, it’s time to release the animal and make a quick retreat.

Push the alligator’s head back to the ground. Slide the dominant hand back into a position to cover the eyes. Pushing down with the dominant hand, slide your other hand back along the jaw until it is pressing against the neck. Slide your dominant hand back from the eyes to the neck. You should be in the same position now that you were in when you first jumped onto the animal.

Take your knees off the ground and get your feet under you, so you’re squatting on the gator’s back. Keep your legs tight against the gator’s body. It’s much more difficult for the alligator to bite you when you’re on its back than when you’re off to the side. If the animal struggles, push down again. Don’t let the animal struggle free.

Grip around the neck. In one motion, throw the alligator as far forward as you can while you jump back. Depending on the alligator’s weight, you might not be able to throw the animal far and that’s okay. Six inches may be all you need to throw it forward. By throwing the animal forward you’re putting it off balance and giving yourself more time to escape.

Jump back as far as you can, and then keep moving backward. The gator is likely to turn and open its mouth at you and snarl or hiss. Let it. Keep your eyes on it and slowly back away. If the gator chases you, run directly away from it in a straight line. It will quickly grow tired and turn back to the water.

That’s how to wrestle an alligator.

Now you too can be like Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone or Tarzan. You can save your Jane.


Ty Karnitz is a wildlife educator and large animal trainer at the Jungle Adventures Zoo in Florida and has personal experience working with alligators.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeremy October 19, 2010 at 10:33 pm

your best bet is still just staying away from them…i know a couple of gator wrestlers, and they all tend to agree – to do their job, you have to be young, fast, and not too overly bright…(or a few fries short of a happy meal…)

history note – this technique was developed by the Seminole – before refrigerators, it was easier to capture the gator and take it back to the town or camp rather than cart all that heavy meat and try to keep it good. this is why in the old pictures you would always see a Seminole man wearing some sort of bandana or scarf – to tie the mouth shut. also they would wear a long sash, to help in restraining the gator once in the canoe to be taken back to camp for food.

2 JG October 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Here is another good tip: never try to wrestle an alligator in water even if it is two feet deep. You will be in his environment and you will lose. Can you hold your breath longer than a gator? Doubt it.

3 dustin October 19, 2010 at 11:36 pm

what if your in deep water and an alligator attacks?

4 Arlen Jay October 20, 2010 at 1:36 am

Yep…that’s how I used to do it. I was taught by a Seminole Indian and only wrestled a short while. Now I just look at those gators and smile.

5 Ahmad Halis October 20, 2010 at 1:59 am

That lady love story was a nice way to introduce the art of gator-wrestling.

Now, let me just find a woman who’s willing to spend a few days in some cannibal-infested, uncharted jungle so I can have an excuse to try this out.

The death-roll is probably the 2nd most dangerous thing next to getting bitten.

6 Roger Tucker October 20, 2010 at 3:56 am

My training in man skills is now complete.

7 chris October 20, 2010 at 4:54 am

well i Just had a dream an alligator bit my hand of, so I approve of the timing of this

8 Drew October 20, 2010 at 5:14 am

I’m with Ahmad on this one… all I need to do is find a girl willing to spend any amount of time in a cannibal-infested jungle with me. After that, hey, the alligator’ll be the easy part. ;)

9 Simon Brand October 20, 2010 at 6:12 am

Make sure your lady is worth risking your life for as well I’d say. The wenches have to bear some thoughty in all this. If I was in the everglades and my lady was dying for a bath I would at least ask her to wait until the hotel. Chivalry is fine but discretion being the ‘better’ part of valour needs to be noted as well.

10 Bastian October 20, 2010 at 7:34 am

I thought you’d give us a way to choke the gator out or something. :-)

Running in a straight line might not be a good idea though, since the animal is much faster than a human being.

11 Daniel Putman October 20, 2010 at 7:40 am

Very well written, I almost want to try it now. Anyone up for a trip to the zoo?

12 Ron October 20, 2010 at 8:18 am

I suddenly feel as if I’ve just gotten my Ph.D in Manliness.

13 Adam October 20, 2010 at 10:04 am says…

MYTH! It is often said that you can outwit a crocodile by running in a zig-zag fashion away from it. This isn’t true! Humans can out run crocodiles on land, and a straight line is the fastest way of putting distance between yourself and the crocodile. Most crocodile attack victims never see the crocodile coming – they use surprise, not speed.

Most crocodiles can achieve speeds of around 12 to 14 kph for short periods, which is somewhat slower than a fit human can run. Don’t believe the hype – if you’re reasonably fit, you can definitely outrun a crocodile!

However, crocodiles can accelerate much faster than this over very short distances by exploding into action – I have measured adult saltwater crocodiles (around 4 metres total length) moving at 12 metres per second for a quarter of a second, which is long enough to capture prey standing within one body length before it even has time to react. This is where crocodiles excel – launching themselves into motion from a standing start, hoping to cover the short distance between themselves and their prey before the prey can react. This isn’t running, however, because the crocodile cannot maintain this acceleration for more than a very brief instant.

14 David October 20, 2010 at 10:50 am

Ok, this kind of grabs my attention. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a live crocodile, but being a perfectionist, this has me a little bit worried as I didn’t completely grasp the part where you keep one hand around his throat, and the other hand down along the jawbone looking for soft flesh! Can anyone help me to polish off this manly trait? It’s weird how we recall information like this in a subsequent circumstance! Thanks! I might just bring a huge vice clamp next time I go swimming in the Everglades.

15 jay sauser October 20, 2010 at 11:27 am

I hope that I don’t ever have to put any of this advice into practice. but if I do then I will.

16 DR October 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Wrestling an alligator is unequivocally masculine… For me, however, I’ll be flipping it up on the ole’ gator and he can try to play my game instead of me trying to play his.

Reminds me of Dr. Indiana Jones handling a similar situation in which he was clearly out-classed:

17 Think, Then Thrive October 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm

This will definitely be handy in SE Texas….Just need a small one to practice on….

18 Justin McKean October 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

@Brett I voted for you in the Tulsey’s. Good luck, sir.

19 Walt October 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm

@David – The discussion is about alligators. Crocodiles have exposed teeth when the mouth is closed, and this technique will not work as well. In Florida we don’t usually let the kids play with their food, anyway.

20 SimJ October 21, 2010 at 5:40 am

To Walt – ‘ In Florida we don’t usually let the kids play with their food, anyway’

What do you mean by this ?

21 Daly October 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Gators can actually reach 34 mph in short bursts. You only wanna race if you get a good head start.

22 Mike October 22, 2010 at 2:58 am

Well, now I know – don’t ever imitate a cover image on ‘Man’s Life’. Looks like he’s about a quarter-second from losing an arm.

23 Larry October 25, 2010 at 12:44 am

First off, I don’t really think I’d want a girlfriend who’s ignorant enough to take a bath in an alligator or crocodile infested river/lake/whatever. If one wishes to survive in the wild, one must pay attention to one’s environment, and adapt one’s actions to ensure one’s survival.

Second, if silly girl insists on bathing amongst the carnivorous critters, I’d tend toward the use of the Ruger Blackhawk .45 LC instead of the wrestling techniques in the article. That ends the critter problem and the sound of the shot may get her attention long enough for me to point out just how stupid her recent action really was. Thereby giving her useful information to possibly save her life in the future.

24 Lance October 25, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Larry’s right. if you’re half way smart you probably brought along a gun on this trip to the cannibal infested island. in this case, just shoot it.

25 Jeff Cooper October 29, 2010 at 7:58 am

If you want to practice alligator wrestling check out Colorado Gators Farms they are 20 miles north of Alamosa in Southern Colorado. For $100 dollars you get to wrestle Alligators for about 3 hours. It is definately worth the trip but you have to make reservations in advance

26 Todd November 29, 2012 at 9:57 pm

For my 30th birthday I want to wrestle an alligator or croc. Does anyone know a place in Southern California where I can get trained, then wrestle one in the same day?

27 Sebastian October 18, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Something tells me this might be slightly harder with the salt water crocs we have down under.

28 Jacknife March 5, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Or you could just kill the gator once it’s in submission. That would give you more food, you could save and tan the hide, and you don’t have to fool around with releasing it and risking the situation of it retaliating again.

29 Oriana m March 27, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Honestly gator wrestling isn’t as hard as you would think. And please don’t kill any gators. O.K, sure they can become a nuisance, but then call someone and have it taken to a facility for nuisance gators.

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