Swift, agile, and capable of impressive leaps, the gazelle presents a formidable challenge for its predators. There are currently 17 species of gazelle with the fastest species, Asia’s goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), capable of burst speeds up to 60 miles per hour. At sustained running speeds, most species can gallop at about 30 mph.
So, how fast are gazelles compared to some of their top predators in Asia and Africa? Read on to find out.
How Fast are Gazelles: Asian Species and their Predators
Most of the species of Asian gazelles occur across Southwest and Central Asia, including the Arabian Peninsula, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and India. For Asian gazelles, the top predators of adults and subadults include subspecies of leopards and wolves.
Top Predators of Asian Gazelles: Arabian Wolf (Canis lupus arabs)
In the Arabian Peninsula, the small but highly adept Arabian wolf (Canis lupus arabs) hunts Arabian and Erlanger’s gazelles. During an extended chase, Asian gazelles typically reach maximum speeds of 30 mph. This means Arabian wolves must take down their gazelle target before its initial burst speed flight or wear the animal down in an extended chase. Since gazelles are highly vigilant and the Arabian wolf hunts in small packs of three to four individuals, this predator is most likely to be successful in an endurance chase.
Top Predators of Asian Gazelles: Leopards (Panthera pardus)
The smallest subspecies of leopard, the Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is also a top predator of the Arabian gazelle and Erlanger’s gazelle throughout its limited range of the Arabian Peninsula. This powerful, yet critically endangered predator can reach burst speeds of 38 mph. However, leopards are not endurance hunters. Instead, these solo hunters rely on ambush tactics to take down prey. While gazelles would likely detect a pack of Arabian wolves in time to flee, they are less likely to sense the presence of an expert in solo ambush hunting.
Throughout Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan, the Persian leopard preys on the goitered, Indian, and mountain gazelles. What they lack in speed, leopards compensate with power and the ability to launch themselves up to 20 feet horizontally and 10 feet vertically.
How Fast are Gazelles: African Species and their Predators
Currently, in Africa, there are 10 species of gazelles in the Gazella, Eudorcas, and Nanger genera. One of the most well-known African species is the Thomson’s gazelle, capable of reaching burst speeds of 50-55 miles per hour. For African gazelles, top predators include cheetahs, lions, leopards, and wild dogs.
Top Predators of African Gazelles: Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)
The only predator of the gazelle that can match or exceed its top burst speed is the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). These incredibly agile and fast land predators can reach brief burst speeds up to 75 miles per hour. They typically reach this speed in less than three seconds but can only maintain it for about 30 seconds. However, with a well-executed attack, cheetahs can take down gazelles within this time frame.
Top Predators of African Gazelles: Lions (Panthera leo)
African lions (Panthera leo), especially lionesses and young adult males are capable of reaching short bursts up to 50 miles per hour. They can only sustain this speed for a few seconds, and as such, typically use stealth to approach within about 90 feet of their target before launching an attack. At 50 miles per hour, they can cover 328 feet in four seconds. During sustained chases, lions will single out weakened or young gazelles that can’t keep up with the herd or perform difficult zigzagging maneuvers.
Top Predators of African Gazelles: African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)
Fast, agile, and tenacious, African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) hunt a variety of prey from rodents and birds to small ungulates like gazelles and wildebeest calves. African dogs are especially adept at capturing gazelles in endurance chases. These incredible animals can pursue prey at speeds of 37 miles per hour for over three miles! This impressive stamina at high speeds allows them to single out a gazelle and wear them down over a sustained chase.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/StuPorts
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