From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Wild horses stampeding

A stampede (/stæmˈpd/)[1] is a situation in which a group of large animals suddenly start running in the same direction, especially because they are excited or frightened. It may also refer to a situation in which many people are trying to do the same thing at the same time. Non-human species associated with stampede behavior include zebras, cattle, elephants, reindeer, sheep, pigs, goats, blue wildebeests, walruses,[2] wild horses, and rhinoceroses.

Some media sources refer to situations in which people were injured or have died due to compression in very dense crowds as a "stampede", but this is a misnomer; the more appropriate term would be crush, or crowd collapse.

Cattle stampedes[edit]

Cattle stampede
Annual Saskatchewan Cattle Drive through Val Marie

Anything unusual may start a stampede among cattle. Especially at night, things such as lighting a match, someone jumping off a horse, a horse shaking itself, a lightning strike, a tumbleweed blown into the herd, or "a horse running through a herd kicking at a saddle which has turned under its belly" have been known to cause stampedes.[3]

A large stampede typically eliminates everything in its path. With livestock, cowboys attempt to turn the moving herd into itself, so that it runs in circles rather than running off a cliff or into a river, and avoids damaging human life or property. Tactics used to make the herd turn into itself include firing a pistol, which creates noise to make the leaders of the stampede turn.[3]

Animals that stampede, especially cattle, are less likely to do so after having eaten and spread out in smaller groups to digest.[3] To further reduce the risk of stampedes, cowboys sometimes sing or whistle to calm the herds disquieted by nightfall. Those on watch at night avoid doing things which could startle the herd and even distance themselves before dismounting a horse or lighting a match.[4]

Sometimes people purposefully induce cattle to stampede as a component of warfare or hunting, such as some Native Americans, who were known to provoke American bison herds to stampede off a buffalo jump for hunting purposes, and harvest the animals after they are killed or incapacitated by the fall.

Human stampedes and crushes[edit]

Human stampede through Jamarat Bridge
Human stampede through Mahamaham stampede

Crushes often occur during religious pilgrimages[5] and large entertainment events, as they tend to involve dense crowds, with people closely surrounded on all sides. Human stampedes and crushes also occur as people try to get away from a perceived danger, as in a case where a noxious gas was released in crowded premises.[6]

While reports often talk of "panic", research has found that mass panic is rare;[7] on the contrary, people continue to help each other at the risk of their lives.[8]


According to experts, true "stampedes" (and "panics"[7]) rarely occur except when many people are fleeing in fear, such as from a fire,[8] and trampling by people in such "stampede" conditions rarely causes fatal injuries.[9]


Crushes are often referred to as stampedes but, unlike true stampedes, they can cause many deaths. Crowd density is more important than size. A density of four people per square meter begins to be dangerous, even if the crowd is not very large.

Academic experts who study crowd movements and crushing disasters oppose the use of the term "stampede".[9] "The rhetoric of 'stampede' is often used to imply that the crowd is animalistic or mindless". Most reported "stampedes" are better understood as "progressive crowd collapses":[9][10] beginning at densities of about six[9] or seven[8] people per square meter, individuals are pressed so closely against each other they are unable to move as individuals, and shockwaves can travel through a crowd which, at such densities, behaves somewhat like a fluid.[8] If a single person falls, or other people reach down to help, waves of bodies can be involuntarily precipitated forward into the open space.[9] One such shockwave can create other openings in the crowd nearby, precipitating further crushing.[9] Unable to draw breath, individuals in a crowd can also be crushed while standing.[8] Journalistic misuse of the term "stampede", says Edwin Galea of the University of Greenwich, is the result of "pure ignorance and laziness ... it gives the impression that it was a mindless crowd only caring about themselves, and they were prepared to crush people."[9] In reality, individuals are directly crushed by others nearby who have no choice, and those who can choose how to move are too distant from the epicenter to be aware of what is happening.[9]

A "crowd crush" as such ensues when a large crowd is trying to move in a certain direction to reach an objective, or in response to the need to move forwards due to events at the back, with those at the back pushing forward not knowing that those at the front are being crushed. This may happen if an exit expected to be open is blocked. The forces involved may be very large—sometimes guard rails that can withstand 1,000 pounds of force are bent by the crushed crowd.[8]

A common aftermath of a crush with serious consequences is that those responsible for the event where the crush took place, authorities such as government bodies, and news media blame the crowd and the victims for being out of control and causing the crush,[8] sometimes to the extent of a full cover-up. Later analysis, sometimes after those actually responsible have retired, may show that the disaster was largely caused (in the moral and legal rather than physical sense) by actions of those planning or in authority of the event, as in the Hillsborough disaster which killed 97 football spectators; actions by the crowd were blamed until investigations two decades later found manifold errors by those responsible for organising and controlling the football event, with members of the crowd then being regarded as helpless victims.[11]


It is believed that most major crowd disasters can be prevented by simple crowd management strategies.[12] Crushes can be prevented by organization and traffic control, such as barriers. On the other hand, barriers in some cases may funnel the crowd towards an already-packed area, such as in the Hillsborough disaster. Hence barriers can be a solution in preventing or a key factor in causing a crush. One problem is lack of feedback from people being crushed to the crowd pressing behind – feedback can instead be provided by police, organizers, or other observers, particularly raised observers, such as on platforms or horseback, who can survey the crowd and use loudspeakers to communicate and direct a crowd.[13] In some cases it may be possible to take simple measures such as spreading movements out over time.[7]

A factor that may contribute to a crush is inexperienced security officers who assume that people's behaviour in a dense crowd is voluntary and dangerous, and start applying force or preventing people from moving in certain directions. In the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, some police and stewards were so concerned with what they saw as possible hooliganism that they took actions that actually made matters worse.[7]

There is risk of a crush when crowd density exceeds about four people per square meter. For a person in a crowd a signal of danger, and a warning to get out of the crowd if possible, is the sensation of being touched on all four sides. A later, more serious, warning is when one feels shock waves travelling through the crowd, due to people at the back pushing forward against people at the front with nowhere to go.[13] Keith Still of the Fire Safety Engineering Group, University of Greenwich, said "Be aware of your surroundings. Look ahead. Listen to the crowd noise. If you start finding yourself in a crowd surge, wait for the surge to come, go with it, and move sideways. Keep moving with it and sideways, with it and sideways."[9]

After the 1883 crush known as the Victoria Hall disaster which killed 183 children, a law was passed in England which required all public entertainment venues to be equipped with doors that open outwards, for example using crash bar latches that open when pushed.[14] Crash bars are required by various building codes.

Causes of death[edit]

Deaths from human crushes are found to be caused primarily by compressive asphyxiation—people are unable to expand their rib cage to breathe due to pressure on all sides. Trampling is a lesser killer.[12] This is due to crowd crush or crowd collapse.[9][13] In a crowd crush, people are subjected to compressive forces by being pushed from all sides (or against a barrier such as a wall) with nowhere to move into. In a progressive crowd collapse one person falls, creating a space in the crowd into which others fall, creating an even larger hole. Those who have fallen are squashed by the weight of many people on top of them (vertical stacking). Compression in either case is often fatal. A crush is typical of a crowd pushed into a confined area; a progressive crowd collapse may occur in a large crowd moving steadily forward along a confined route.[9]

Examples of stampedes and crushes[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "stampede 1 (noun)". Oxford Learner's Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  2. ^ "3,000 walruses die in stampede tied to climate". NBC News. Associated Press. 14 December 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Fay E. Ward, The cowboy at work, Courier Dover Publications, 2003, ISBN 0-486-42699-8 p. 28
  4. ^ Fay E. Ward, The cowboy at work, Courier Dover Publications, 2003, ISBN 0-486-42699-8 p. 31
  5. ^ Illiyas, F.T.; Mani, S.K.; Pradeepkumar, A.P.; Mohan, K. (2013). "Human stampedes during religious festivals: A comparative review of mass gathering emergencies in India". International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 5: 10–18. doi:10.1016/j.ijdrr.2013.09.003.
  6. ^ "Updated - Paceville crush: Man arrested for letting off gas spray; heated exchanges in Parliament; dramatic video". Times of Malta. 16 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d Ro, Christine (21 March 2018). "The secret science that rules crowds". BBC Future. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Seabrook, John (February 7, 2011). "Crush Point (discussion and example of crushes)". The New Yorker.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Benedictus, Leo (October 3, 2015). "Hajj crush: how crowd disasters happen, and how they can be avoided". The Guardian. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  10. ^ Moore, Jack (September 24, 2015). "What Caused the Hajj Tragedy?". Newsweek. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  11. ^ Lord Justice Stuart-Smith (February 1998). "Scrutiny of Evidence relating to the Hillsborough football stadium disaster" (PDF). p. 83. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  12. ^ a b Fruin, John. The Causes and Prevention of Crowd Disasters Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine. March 1993, revised January 2002. "Virtually all crowd deaths are due to compressive asphyxia and not the 'trampling' reported by the news media."
  13. ^ a b c Ripley, Amanda (19 Jan 2009). "How Not To Get Trampled at the Inauguration". Slate. Retrieved 12 May 2009. Article acknowledges traffic engineer John J. Fruin and G. Keith Still of Crowd Dynamics Ltd.
  14. ^ Stoner, Sarah (13 Jun 2008). "Children's deaths that shocked the world". Sunderland Echo. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
  15. ^ Hoe, Susanna (2015). "Valletta". Malta: Women, History, Books and Places (PDF). Oxford: Women's History Press (a division of Holo Books). pp. 371–372. ISBN 9780957215351. OCLC 931704918. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 October 2016.
  16. ^ Howard, Joshua (2004). Workers at War: Labor in China's Arsenals, 1937-1953. Stanford University Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-0804748964.
  17. ^ Evtushenko, Evgenii (September 2015). "Mourners Crushed at Stalin's Funeral". Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  18. ^ Khlevniuk, Oleg (2017). Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300219784.
  19. ^ "Manila stadium stampede kills 73". BBC. 4 February 2006. Retrieved 5 Apr 2016.
  20. ^ "73 dead in stampede at Philippine game show". ABC News (Australia). 4 February 2006. Archived from the original on 20 Aug 2009. Retrieved 5 Apr 2016.
  21. ^ Levy, Megan (1 January 2015). "New Year's Eve stampede in Shanghai kills dozens". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 Jan 2015.
  22. ^ "Hajj pilgrimage: At least 700 pilgrims killed, over 850 injured in stampede". ABC News. September 24, 2015. Retrieved 25 Sep 2015.
  23. ^ "Torino, piazza San Carlo – Dopo la morte di Erika Pioletti ipotesi di reato è omicidio colposo". Il Fatto Quotidiano. June 16, 2017. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
  24. ^ "Panic erupts during Champions League viewing in Italy, injuring 1,500". BNO News. June 3, 2017. Archived from the original on 7 Apr 2018. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  25. ^ Karimi, Nasser; Vahdat, Amir; Gambrell, Jon (8 Jan 2020). "Iran strikes back at US with missile attack at bases in Iraq". Star Tribune. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  26. ^ "Los Olivos: Al menos 13 personas murieron tras una intervención policial en fiesta en una discoteca". Grupo RPP. August 22, 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  27. ^ Hadas Gold; Amir Tal; Abeer Salman; Michael Schwartz (30 Apr 2021). "Dozens killed in crush at religious event in northern Israel, emergency services say". CNN. Retrieved 30 Apr 2021.
  28. ^ "Travis Scott's Astroworld: Eight killed after crowd surge at Texas festival". BBC News. 2021-11-06. Retrieved 2021-11-06.
  29. ^ CNN, Travis Caldwell, Jennifer Henderson, Chloe Melas, Gregory Lemos, Rosa Flores and Amir Vera. "Astroworld victim Bharti Shahani has died, bringing the death toll to 9". CNN. Retrieved November 11, 2021.

External links[edit]