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Orangutan vs Chimpanzee: What Are the Differences?

orangutan vs chimpanzee

Orangutans and chimpanzees are two of the planet’s most well-known primates. They share many similarities but also have some distinct differences that set them apart.

Despite these differences, there often needs to be more clarity about which primate is stronger or smarter.

This article aims to answer that question by comparing the physical and cognitive abilities of orangutans and chimpanzees. By the end of this article, readers will better understand what makes these primates so unique and how they differ from each other.


big male orangutan sitting

Orangutans are larger than chimpanzees, with males weighing up to 200 pounds and standing up to 5 feet 9 inches tall. Females are smaller, weighing 100 pounds and standing up to 4 feet 3 inches tall. In contrast, chimpanzees weigh between 70 – 130 pounds and stand 3 – 5 feet 6 inches tall.

It’s important to note that there is some variation in size among individuals within each species, and there can also be differences between subspecies. For example, the Bornean orangutan is generally larger than the Sumatran orangutan, and the eastern chimpanzee is generally larger than the western chimpanzee.


orangutan with baby

One of the most notable differences between orangutans and chimpanzees is their hair. Orangutans have longer hair that is typically reddish-brown in colour, while chimpanzees have shorter hair that is usually black. Male orangutans also have distinctive beards, while chimpanzees have hairless faces.

Orangutans and chimpanzees also have different facial features. Orangutans have flatter faces, while chimpanzees have more protruding faces. Additionally, orangutans have longer arms than chimpanzees, which they use to move through trees with ease.


two chimpanzees

Regarding strength, orangutans and chimpanzees are both impressively strong primates. Orangutans are known for their incredible grip strength, allowing them to climb and swing through trees easily. They can also lift up to 500 pounds with little effort, which is approximately twice their body weight. In comparison, chimpanzees can only lift about half that amount.

However, chimpanzees have stronger hind limbs, which allow them to run and jump with greater agility. Both ape species have similar bite forces, with orangutans having the most substantial bite at about 575 PSI and chimpanzees having a bite force of about 400 PSI.


female orangutan with baby

One of the reasons for the high intelligence of orangutans is their ability to learn and use tools. They have been observed using sticks to extract insects from tree bark and leaves to cover themselves while it rains. This ability to use tools is also seen in chimpanzees, who have been observed using sticks for fishing termites out of mounds.

Social Behaviour

three chimpanzees having a meeting

Orangutans and chimpanzees have different social behaviours. Orangutans are solitary creatures and spend most of their lives alone, except for mating and mothers caring for their young. In contrast, chimpanzees are highly social and live in groups of 20 to 30 individuals, which can grow up to several dozen.

Another difference between orangutans and chimpanzees is their social organization. Orangutans do not have a social hierarchy and do not form strong bonds with other orangutans. In contrast, chimpanzees have a complex social hierarchy and form strong bonds with other group members.

Chimpanzees also engage in grooming behaviour, which helps them build and maintain social relationships. Chimpanzees are also known for their aggressive behaviour, especially towards members of other groups.

They engage in territorial behaviour, and they will defend their territory against other chimpanzee groups. In contrast, orangutans are generally peaceful creatures and do not engage in territorial behaviour. Only male orangutans can be aggressive towards other males and females during the mating season.


chimpanzee in tree

Orangutans and chimpanzees have different habitats. Orangutans are native to the rainforests of the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, where they live in lowlands and along waterways. These primates are arboreal and spend most of their time in trees. They build nests in the trees where they sleep and rest.

Chimpanzees are found in the grasslands, tropical moist forests of central to western Africa, and savannas of equatorial Africa. Chimpanzees are mostly terrestrial but climb trees to find food and rest. They build sleeping nests in trees, but they also sleep on the ground.

Both orangutans and chimpanzees are threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation, hunting, and the illegal pet trade. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), orangutans and chimpanzees are critically endangered.


male orangutan eating bananas

Orangutans and chimpanzees have different diets. Orangutans are primarily frugivores, meaning they eat mainly fruits but will consume leaves, bark, and insects. Their diet varies according to the availability of fruit in their habitat.

They have been known to consume over 400 different types of fruit, with figs being a particular favourite. Orangutans also eat young leaves, flowers, bark, and occasionally insects and small vertebrates such as birds and lizards.

Chimpanzees, on the other hand, are omnivores and have a more varied diet. They eat fruits, leaves, flowers, insects, and small mammals such as monkeys, rodents, and even other chimpanzees.

It is important to note that the diets of orangutans and chimpanzees can vary depending on their habitat and food availability. For example, orangutans living in areas with low fruit availability may rely more heavily on leaves and bark.


female chimpanzee with baby on back

Female orangutans typically give birth to a single offspring every eight years, while female chimpanzees can give birth to one offspring every five years. Flanged orangutan males are often dominant and establish a territory that overlaps with the territory of multiple females. In contrast, chimpanzee males often form alliances with other males to compete for access to females.