How Fast Can a Cheetah Run?

The science of cheetah speed

Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are the fastest land animals on Earth, reaching speeds up to 75 mph or 120 km/h. In order to catch and attack their prey, cheetahs sneak up and sprint a short distance.

Cheetahs can reach speeds of 65 to 75 mph (104 to 120 km/h), but their average speed is only 40 mph (64 km/hr), punctuated by short bursts at their top speed. A cheetah also attains high acceleration in addition to speed. A speed of 47 mph (75 km/hr) can be reached in two seconds, or a speed of 60 mph can be reached in three seconds. Cheetahs can accelerate as fast as sports cars.

Key Takeaways: How Fast Can a Cheetah Run?

  • Cheetahs reach speeds of 69 to 75 mph at their peak. Sprinting, however, is limited to a short distance of 0.28 miles for the cat. Compared to a human runner, a cheetah runs about 2.7 times faster.
  • Cheetahs accelerate quickly, allowing them to overtake prey close up.
  • Sarah is the fastest cheetah on record. Sarah is a resident of the Cinncinati Zoo in Ohio. At 61 mph, she ran the 100 meter dash in 5.95 seconds.

Fastest Cheetah on Earth

Cheetahs can reach speeds of 75 mph, but the fastest recorded speed is somewhat slower. There is a female cheetah named Sarah living at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio who holds the world record for “fastest land animal.” Sarah ran the 100 meters in 5.95 seconds at 61 mph when she was 11 years old. The fastest person, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, ran 100 meters in 9.58 seconds.

How Do Cheetahs Run So Fast?

Cheetahs are built for speed. Cats weigh an average of 125 pounds. To minimize air resistance, it has a small head, flattened rib cage, and lean legs. As cleats, the hard foot pads and blunt, semi-retractable claws help the feet maintain traction. Cats use their long tails as rudders to steer and stabilize themselves. The spine of a cheetah is unusually flexible. With flexible hips and free-moving shoulder blades, the animal’s skeleton acts as a spring, storing and releasing energy. Over half of the cheetah’s time is spent with all four paws off the ground when it bounds forward. A cat’s stride length is an incredible 25 feet or 7.6 meters.

The amount of oxygen required when running so quickly is high. For air intake and oxygenation of blood, cheetahs have large nasal passages and enlarged lungs and hearts. As a cheetah runs, its respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute at rest.

The Cost of Running Quickly

Being so fast has its drawbacks. Cheetahs need to rest after a chase because sprinting increases their body temperature and exhausts their oxygen and glucose reserves. As cheetahs rest before eating, the cat is more likely to lose a meal to competition.

Cats are lean and lightweight because their bodies are adapted to speed. Cheetahs have weaker jaws and smaller teeth than most predators and aren’t strong enough to fight. A cheetah runs away if a predator threatens to take its kill or attack its young.

10 Fastest Animals

Despite being the fastest land animal, the cheetah is not the fastest animal on earth. The speed at which birds of prey dive is faster than the speed at which cheetahs run. Here are the top 10 fastest animals:

  1. The peregrine falcon (242 mph)
  2. The golden eagle (200 mph)
  3. Swift with a spine-tail (106 mph)
  4. Bird of prey (95 mph)
  5. Goose with spur-wings (88 mph)
  6. The cheetah (75 mph)
  7. The sailfish (68 mph)
  8. Antelope pronghorn (55 mph)
  9. Fishing for marlins at 50 mph
  10. Wildebeest (50 mph)

The pronghorn is the fastest land animal in the Western Hemisphere, resembling an antelope. Despite its speed, it has no natural predators that can match it. According to one theory, the pronghorn once preyed on the now-extinct American cheetah.

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