How Do Red Pandas Move? (8 Answers You Should Know!)

Interestingly, Giant pandas love to roll than walk. And since red pandas are also “pandas”, do they also move like giants pandas?

Here’s what I found out – 

Red pandas move exactly the same way as most other animals, especially the animals that live on trees (arboreal). 

They use their four legs, which also have retractable claws that help them to move on trees easily.  Additionally, the tail helps them to balance their body while moving. 

In this article, I will discuss everything related to how red pandas move. 

So, let’s start! 

Table of Contents

In the Trees:

While on the trees, the red pandas use their tails along with the four limbs (hands and feet) to balance themselves and move among the trees and branches. 

The retractable claws, opposable thumbs, flexible ankles, and lightweight all help in their movement.

On Ground:

When on land the red panda uses all four legs to move like any other animal you see. 

However, it is not very fast on land, which is why it avoids walking on the ground. 

Rather they always run up the nearest tree if it sees any danger. 

In the water:

Now you might be guessing that an animal that lives almost all the time on trees might not be able to swim. Well, in the case of the red panda, it will be a wrong guess.

Even though red pandas live on trees, they are very good swimmers. It’s not very often that the red panda might go for a swim. However, they swim pretty well when they do go swimming. 

What Body Parts Help Pandas to Move?

Hands and Legs

The main parts that help in the movement of red pandas are their hands and legs. 

Their legs help them in running, climbing, swinging, and swimming. 

However, the red panda cannot move on two legs, even though they can sometimes stand on two legs. 


The retractable claws of the red panda play an important role while moving through the trees and ground. 

It also helps the panda to be very silent when it moves.

The claws are well adapted to grip tree barks while the red panda to walk or run along a branch.

Retractable thumb

The retractable thumbs allow them to grab onto the branches of the trees. 

This gives them a strong grip and better balance to move through the forest canopy.


A picture of red pandas focusing on their tails

The long tail of the red panda is an important body part that helps them in maintaining balance. 

Unlike other primates, red pandas cannot use their tail to grab branches. 

Nonetheless, their tails help them to balance their body weight while walking on narrow branches.

There are also other important parts that are important for the movement. The first one is the brain itself which helps in the coordination of the limbs for movement.

Another is the ear, which has a tiny mechanism for helping with balance. This mechanism understands if the animal is falling, and immediately sends signals to correct balance.

How Fast Can Red Pandas Move?

Red pandas can run at a speed of 23 mph (38 kph). In the water, they move at a speed of 12 mph (19.3 kph). 

This makes them faster than humans. So if you are thinking of chasing a red panda, catching it is out of the question.

However, sadly enough, it is not fast enough to evade its main predator, the snow leopard. This is because snow leopards run at a speed of 38 mph (60 kph). 

Can Red Pandas Move on Two Legs? 

No, red pandas cannot move on two legs. Although it can stand up on its hind legs sometimes, it cannot walk in that posture. 

Furthermore, the hip bones of red pandas are like cats, which does not allow bipedal walking.

Do Red Pandas Climb Down Trees Headfirst?

A picture of a red panda

Yes, the red pandas have really flexible ankles and hands. This allows the red panda to rotate its ankles and hand at wider angles and climb down tree trunks, headfirst. 

The retractable claws and opposing thumbs also offer a better grip on the tree trunk while the red panda is climbing down headfirst.

Can Red Pandas Swing From Trees?

Yes, red pandas can also swing from the trees very well. They use their hands and legs to hold onto branches and vines to swing from one tree to another. 

While swinging, it uses the tail to balance itself to avoid falling down. The claws also give them a good grip to help them swing.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we have seen that red pandas have several adaptations that help them to move. They can move on the ground, on trees, and in water. However, it cannot fly.

Red pandas use their four legs, opposable thumbs, retractable claws, and long tail in their movement.

They can run and swim faster than humans but not as fast as snow leopards.

Moreover, they can also stand on two legs. 

Just like red pandas can stand on two legs, they also sometimes put their hands up. Read Why Do Red Pandas Put Their Hands Up? to find out!