In the unforgiving African savannah, nature’s raw power and relentless pursuit unfold in mesmerizing displays of survival.
The video below showcases cheetahs chasing a hare or rabbit (what’s the difference anyway?) and a gazelle calf captures the essence of the circle of life, where predator and prey engage in a high-speed chase.
Witnessing these exhilarating moments reminds us of the delicate balance of ecosystems and the extraordinary adaptations that both cheetahs and their prey possess.
Let’s find out more about the endangered cheetah and their incredible speed.
Catch These Cheetahs in Action, if You Can!
The Fastest Land Animal
It’s easy to be left in awe by the sheer speed and agility of the cheetahs, also known as the fastest land animals on Earth. Their slender bodies, long legs, and keen eyesight allow them to reach incredible speeds (sometimes up to 75 miles per hour!), effortlessly maneuvering through the terrain in pursuit of their quarry.
Although cheetahs can only maintain their blazing top speeds for a short time, it’s clear that they have exceptional hunting prowess and a mastery of the art of sprinting. They can even climb trees when the situation requires it.
While they are an advanced predator in their habitat, cheetahs are at risk of being predated by several other hunters native to Africa. One of them, the leopard, may look somewhat like a cheetah but is quite different.
Is It Normal Behavior For Cheetahs to Run Fast?
Yes! Cheetahs are incredibly fast animals! One of the standout features of these felines is their lightweight physique, enabling them to accelerate quickly.
In addition to this, they have smaller heads and elongated legs that optimize their ability. Furthermore, their spines facilitate exceptional extension during their sprints which further improves their speed.
Cheetahs are carnivorous creatures that eat a diverse array of small animals. Unlike most cats, which are nocturnal hunters, cheetahs are primarily diurnal, actively pursuing their prey during the early morning and late afternoon hours.
Cheetahs Are Unique Felines
Although cheetahs are indeed a type of big cat, they are actually quite different from most of their relatives. While they do have sharp teeth and eat a carnivorous diet, they don’t have retractable claws, unlike most other felines. They are also most active during the day and don’t make a roaring sound.
As we can also see from their sprinting prowess, their hunting style is mainly designed around stalking, sprinting after, and suffocating their prey, rather than using brute force to take them down. Their fluffy tails, however, still serve the same purpose of a cat’s tail, which is to keep them in balance especially when traveling at high speeds.
Another interesting thing about cheetahs is their social structure, known as either coalitions or streaks depending on their current function, which are only occasionally seen as the cheetah is a largely solitary animal.
How Big Do Cheetahs Get?
The fastest animal on land has had to sacrifice the power and size of its big cat cousins in order to evolve into its present speedy state. No other cat can accelerate from zero to 45 miles per hour in just 2.5 seconds – or reach speeds of 75 miles per hour. The cheetah is a speed demon with a springy spine that supports long, powerful back legs that extend the cat’s reach with every step. That lanky body built for speed comes at the expense of several typical physical qualities shared by other predator cats.
An adult cheetah weighs 75 to 140 pounds and stands around 30 inches tall at the shoulder with a length of up to 4 feet, 9 inches. Compare that to the size of a lion that can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds. Even the smaller female lions reach lengths of 8 feet and can weigh 350 pounds.
The cheetah’s large nasal passages allow them to take in all of the air their extra-large lungs need to propel them at great speeds – but they take up room needed to anchor big teeth – which limits their fighting abilities. Cheetahs must kill prey by suffocation by clamping down on their windpipes. Lions, on the other hand, have jaws and teeth designed to tear and shred prey. Their large skulls support powerful jaw muscles and canine teeth that measure up to ten centimeters (3.9 inches) in length.
Cheetahs own their speed-demon personas and are the cool cats of the savannah – zipping across the plains in the blink of an eye – too fast to catch with no need for bulky girth. They aren’t the biggest but they are the fastest cats and the fastest animal on Earth.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Marcel Brekelmans/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.