Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt was universally considered the world’s fastest human until he retired in 2017, and most of his records still stand.
But could he have outrun a cheetah? Get real. Bolt ran 100 meters in 9.58 seconds, but it would take a cheetah only 5.8 seconds to break the tape. Or maybe you think your Ferrari Enzo could beat a cheetah off the blocks. Wrong again. That Ferrari travels about 8.1 meters per second, and can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds. The ultra-swift cheetah clocks in at 10 meters per second, and gets up to 60 mph in just three seconds. In fact, the world’s fastest land animal achieves a speed of 40 mph in just three strides.
The cheetah is truly built for speed, with a slender body, a small head and long thin legs. This runner typically weighs about 125 pounds (56.7 kg), so unlike other big cats, there isn’t a lot of weight to carry. The cheetah also benefits from an oversized heart, large lungs and nostrils, a super-flexible spine that bends with each stride, and a large tail that acts as a rudder and counterweight, to keep the cat from spinning out on turns.
Chatting about cheetahs:
- The number of cheetahs in the wild has shrunk from about 100,000 in 1900 to about 10,000 today.
- Once found all over Africa, Asia and India, cheetahs now exist only in small parts of Africa and Iran.
- Unlike lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars, cheetahs don't roar; instead, they meow and purr much like a house cat.