Sarah the cheetah, running

The fastest land animals

If you search for the fastest land animals on the Internet, you will find many “fastest animals” lists, most of them are popular “top list” sites. But, in fact, there is a tendency to overestimate the speed of fast animals. Even the speed of the world’s fastest land animal, cheetah’s speed is usually highly overestimated.

Measuring an animal’s speed is a very hard task, and very few of them were properly authenticated. Some of them are really fast, that’s true, but what is the exact number? This information is usually not measured correctly.

Another point is, the species vary in size, power, weight, and speed. Some individuals can be extremely faster than the others. Think about humans: there’s Usain Bolt, the fastest human ever recorded, set the 100 m world record at 9.58 seconds. He topped 47.52 km/h (29.55 mph) between strides during the 50 m to 70 m intervals. So, there can be “Usain Bolt”s of animals’ world which remained undetected.

So, here is the my list of the World’s fastest land animals below. Note that most of the top speeds are just estimate, only few were properly measured. The list is also far from being complete, there may be other record-breakers. If you find such records which has reliable sources, please tell me in the comments section below.

25-30 mph (40-48.3 km/h)

  • Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), Bearded dragon (Pogona), Perentie (Varanus giganteus), Polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Dingo (Canis lupus dingo): 25 mph (40 km/h)
  • Llama (Lama glama): 28 mph (45 km/h)

Human (Homo sapiens): 29.55 mph (47.52 km/h)

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt set the 100 m world record at 9.58 seconds. His absolute fastest recorded speeds (between individual strides) during that sprint were 13.2 meters/second (29.55 mph/47.52 km/h) between strides during the 50 m to 70 m intervals. Average overall maximum speeds over this 20 m section of the race (where max speed is reached during approx. the middle) to 75 m were 44–45 km/h (28 mph) before tapering from 75 m onwards.
  • Common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), White rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), Red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Impala (Aepyceros melampus), American black bear (Ursus americanus), Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus), Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos ssp.)(1), Tapir (Tapirus), Bobcat (Lynx rufus), Lynx (Lynx lynx), Moose (Alces alces), Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Jackal, White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus): 30 mph (48.3 km/h).

Domestic Cat (Felis catus): 30 mph (48.3 km/h) (Egyptian Mau)

Egyptian Mau
A bronze colored Egyptian Mau. They come in five colors. From most to least common these colors are: silver, bronze, smoke, black and blue/pewter. All Maus must have green eyes, but an amber cast is acceptable in kittens and young adults up to eighteen months old. Photo: Liz West, wikipedia

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “the fastest breed of domestic cat is the Egyptian Mau, which can attain speeds of up to 30 mph (48 km/h) and has been referred to as a feline greyhound.”

Egyptian Mau is a small- to medium-sized short-haired cat breed. They are slender and muscular and they are thought to be one of the progenitor breeds of the modern domestic cat. Egyptian Maus are relatively rare: As of 2007, fewer than 200 kittens are registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy each year; and as of 2006, a total of 6,742 Maus were registered with the Cat Fanciers’ Association.

30.1-35 mph (48.4-56.3 km/h)

  • African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)(2), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Snow leopard (Panthera uncia), American bison (Bison bison), Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), European rabbit or common rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), Hare (Lepus timidus): 35 mph (56.3 km/h)

35.1-40 mph (56.4-64.4 km/h)

  • Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta): 37 mph/59.5 km/h
  • Ocelot aka dwarf leopard (Leopardus pardalis), Wolf (canis lupus): 38 mph/61.1 km/h
  • Lion (Panthera leo)(3), Tiger (Panthera tigris), Cougar aka mountain lion (Puma concolor)(4), Jaguar (Panthera onca)(5), Zebra (Equus), Coyote (Canis latrans): 40 mph/64.3 kmh

40.1-45 mph (64.5-72.4 km/h)

  • Onager (Equus hemionus), Kangaroo(6): 43 mph (69.2 km/h).

Dog (Canis lupus familiaris or Canis familiaris): 43 mph (69.2 km/h) (Greyhound)

Greyhound running in a race
The fastest dog on Earth is Greyhound. Photo: wikipedia

The fastest dog on Earth is Greyhound, which has been bred for coursing game and Greyhound racing. Since the rise in large scale adoption of retired racing Greyhounds, it has seen a resurgence in popularity as a family pet. The Greyhound can reach a full speed of 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph) within 30 metres (98 ft) or six strides from the boxes, traveling at almost 20 metres per second (66 ft/s) for the first 250 metres (820 ft) of a race.

  • Horse (Equus ferus caballus)(7): 43.97 mph (70.76 km/h).

45.1-50 mph (72.5-80.5 km/h)

  • Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii)(8), Blackbuck or Indian antelope (Antilope cervicapra)(9): 50 mph (80.5 km/h).

50.1-55 mph (80.6-88.5 km/h)

  • Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana): 55 mph (88.5 km/h).

The fastest land animal on Earth – Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus): 61 mph (98.1 km/h)

Sarah the cheetah, running
A captured image of Sarah from a high speed video clip.

The cheetah’s body is specialised for speed. Yes, it is the fastest land animal of the world, but how fast actually it is? Different sources cite different speeds; estimates include 96–120 km/h (60–75 mph). But the fastest properly authenticated cheetah was a female South African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) named Sarah that lived in the Cincinnati Zoo. She was known as the world’s fastest land mammal according to National Geographic magazine. She ran 100 meters in 5.95 seconds in 2012 when she was 11 years old, and was radar-timed at up to 61 miles (98.1 kilometers) an hour. She died (put to sleep because of her diminished quality of life) on 22 January 2016 at the age of 15.

11 year is quite old for a feline, it is the equivalent of approx. 60 human years. Maybe she was even faster when she was younger? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

Notes

  1. Some sources claim that the Grizzly bear can run at 35 mph which is about 56.3 km/h.
  2. Some sources, including wikipedia claim that the African wild dog can run at 44 mph which is about 71 km/h.
  3. Some sources, including wikipedia claim that the Lion can run at 50 mph (80.5 km/h) which is very unlikely.
  4. According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, the cougar can reach 50 mph (80.5 km).
  5. Some sources claim that the Jaguar has a top speed of 50 mph (80.5 km/h).
  6. Penny, Malcolm (2002). The Secret World of Kangaroos. Austin TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn. ISBN 0-7398-4986-7.
  7. The fastest horse speed was achieved by an American Quarter Horse.
  8. According to the wikipedia, the Thomson’s gazelle is the second fastest land animal on Earth (after Cheetah). According to the African Wildlife Foundation, the Thomson’s gazelle can run at 60 mph (96.6 km/h), which makes it as fast as cheetah, which is unlikely. When running a Thomson’s gazelle can run at a sustained speed of around 30-35 mph which is about 48.3-56.3 km/h. They are long-distance runners, can escape cheetahs by sheer endurance.
  9. Burton, Maurice; Burton, Robert (1 January 2002). International Wildlife Encyclopedia Set. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 226, 2499. ISBN 9780761472667.

Sources

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