superstar swimmer Filippo Magnini hit the headlines over the weekend after
taking on a pair of dolphins in a man-versus-beast race.
not the first human athlete to pit himself against a member of the animal kingdom,
however. We take a look at the top 10 man v beast clashes - starting off with the
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Filippo Magnini v two dolphins, September 2011
swimmer is twice a world champion in the 100m freestyle, but he was completely
outclassed in a race against 19-year-old King and nine-year-old Leah at a pool
in Torvaianica, about 30 miles from Rome.
outclassed the man nicknamed 'Superpippo' despite ceding a massive
headstart equivalent to twice the race distance, and overtook him in the final
"I never had such
tough opponents," joked Magnini, who perhaps enjoyed the experience just a little too much after
admitting that he "fell a bit in love
with dolphin Leah".
Score: Man 0-1
Dominic Menaldi v Dakota the grizzly bear, 1999
20-stone bodyguard from California, stepped into the ring for a wrestling match
with a 57-stone grizzly bear called Dakota at the Hollywood Park Casino in
At first it
seemed as if Menaldi might win a sensation walk-over victory as Dakota refused
to get in the ring, with the human claiming that his opponent "was
frightened by the rap music from the wedding next door".
after an hour of coaxing, cajoling and bribery with raw chicken, the bout got
going. Dakota clouted Menaldi around a little for a few minutes, giving him
several cuts and bruises, then decided to get back into his cage. Some observers
declared the bout a draw, but frankly it was pretty clear that there would only
be one winner if it had carried on much longer.
Score: Man 0-2 Beast
Jesse Owens v Various racehorses (and dogs),
legendary American athlete was famous for making the Nazis look silly in their
own back yard by winning four golds at the 1936 Olympics, and once set three world
records and equalled a fourth in the space of 45 minutes.
He went on
to make a living running exhibition races against racehorses and dogs,
regularly winning thanks to a tactic of always racing high-strung thoroughbred
animals who were invariably frightened by the starter's pistol.
said it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what
was I supposed to do?" Owens later explained. "You can't eat four
Score: Man 1-2 Beast
Takeru Kobayashi v Grizzly bear, 2003
legendary competitive eater - a multiple winner of the infamous, annual Coney
Island hot dog-eating contest - took on another grizzly hoping to restore some
pride for humankind against bears. The challenge was screened by highly controversial US TV show 'Man v Beast' - and Kobayashi lost
by two hot dogs.
The same TV
show also included a segment in which an orangutan flung a sumo wrestler out
of the ring in mere seconds, though a former US Navy special forces officer did
manage to beat a chimpanzee round an assault course. Presumably the chimp had
little or no idea what it was meant to be doing.
Score: Man 1-3 Beast
Thomas Voeckler v Eric Raffin's horse
The French cycling
star took on a horse and cart driven by top French jockey Eric Raffin in a race
earlier this summer at the snappily-named Hippodrome de la Malbrande aux Sables
and horse had a rolling start for the 380m course, and despite a decent effort
Voeckler ended up being pipped at the post.
Score: Man 1-4 Beast
Richard Shears v Ta Ta the orangutan, 2005
golfer Shears took on the Malaysian primate in a three-hole contest at A'Famosa
golf club in Melaka. Ta Ta had taken up the royal and ancient game unbidden, starting to hit nuts with a stick after
watching golfers playing on the course adjacent to the animal centre where he
lived. Shears lost the match on the last when Ta Ta holed a putt for an eight.
Score: Man 1-5 Beast
Tom Johnson v Endurance racehorse, 2002
runner Johnson took on a leading endurance horse in a 50-mile desert race held
in the United Arab Emirates. Johnson completed the course in an astonishing five
hour 45 minutes, with the horse trailing behind by just 10 seconds. The key to
Johnson's victory? He was able to eat and drink on the move, while the horse had
to stop for food and water, costing it almost an hour.
Man 2-5 Beast
Bryan Habana v Cetane the cheetah, 2007
African rugby superstar is quick, but he had his work cut out when taking on the
world's fastest mammal - despite being given a healthy head-start in their 100m
dash. It wasn't all bad that year for Habana, however: later that year he
was part of the Springboks side that won the World Cup.
Score: Man 2-6 Beast
Man v Alligator, ongoing
So well-established is alligator wrestling that James Holt, David Weathers, Ian Tyson
and Clint Holt set up an official body to regulate the sport, the Freestyle
Alligator Wrestling Competitions - or FAWC for short. What started out as little
more than emergency survival training for men - mostly Seminole native
Americans - in the Everglades now has several large-scale events a year
attracting crowds of 800 or more.
must retrieve alligators from the bottom of a water hole and wrestle them on to
dry land before performing 'tricks' such as placing their heads in the animal's
jaws. "Number one rule: you cannot be afraid to get bit," explains professional
competitor Jimmy Riffle.
Score: Man 3-6 Beast
Man v Horse at the annual Man v Horse marathon, ongoing
Keen runner and pub owner Gordon Green had a blistering argument with local horse rider Glyn Jones in Green's pub one November night in Wales in 1979: over a marathon course, could a man beat a horse? They decided to set up an annual 22-mile race to see who was right.
Horses dominated the first decade of the race, though man won a few times when mountain bikes were temporarily allowed in the later 1980s and early 1990s.
Twice in the past decade, however, men have won when the hot weather has played in to the hands of humans, who sweat much more easily than our four-legged friends.
British marathon runner Huw Lobb was the first to pull off victory, in 2004, with German entrant Florian Holzinger winning three years later. Another British runner, Martin Cox, won in 2009 - but the trophy was awarded to a horse after the time it spent being checked by a vet mid-race was discounted from its overall figure.
Man 4-6 Beast