How Fast Can an Ostrich Run? Discover Its Top Speed and Where It Ranks in the Animal Kingdom

Written by Deniz Martinez
Updated: October 24, 2023
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Ostriches (Struthio spp.) may not be able to fly, but that hasn’t stopped them from holding several records in the animal kingdom. Those records include being the largest and heaviest of all living birds and laying the largest eggs of any living bird (and any living animal). They are also quite speedy sprinters, but where does their top speed rank? Read on to find out!

close-up of the legs of an ostrich, with its long nail and its second finger. The feet are a pinkish/peachy/flesh color. They appear to have two distinct toes. Only the larger inner toe has a nail. The nail is long and pointed and protruding outward from the big toe.

Ostriches are the only two-toed birds in the world – an adaptation that aids their fast running.

©Pablo Andrewsfield/Shutterstock.com

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Just How Fast Can Ostriches Run?

Ostrich running through tall grass on a clear day

Ostriches can cover 10-16 ft (3 – 5 m) in a single stride!

©JohnCarnemolla/iStock via Getty Images

The average top speed for ostriches is usually listed as 43 mph (70 km/h). However, some sources cite unconfirmed top ostrich speeds as high as 56 mph (90 km/h). The highest published scientifically measured running speed for ostriches, however, is just 39 mph (61 km/h), obtained by speedometer reading while a car engaged an ostrich in a straight-line chase.

Where Ostrich Speed Ranks in the Animal Kingdom

The cheetah uses its speed to chase down prey, and occasionally to avoid becoming prey itself.

Ostriches are fast but not quite fast enough to knock the cheetah out of the top spot as the fastest land animal in the world.

©iStock.com/slowmotiongli

The ostrich’s top speed earns it multiple speed records. They are the fastest birds on land, as well as the fastest bipedal animals on land. If the 56mph figure is also accepted, then they are also the third fastest animal on land overall, topped only by the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana). However, given the uncertainty of its top speed figure, there is at least one other agile African species with a more certain top speed of about 55 mph that should probably share this bronze medal honor with the ostrich: the springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis). Additionally, the domestically bred American quarter horse can also clock 55 mph.

Fasting Animals on Land

AnimalTop Land Speed
Cheetah75 mph
Pronghorn60 mph
Ostrich56 mph*
Springbok55 mph
American Quarter Horse55 mph**
*unconfirmed (see text) **domestic breed, not wild species

Fastest Birds: Land, Water, and Sky

A Peregrine Falcon

With the incredible vertical flight velocity of its hunting stoop, the peregrine falcon is the overall fastest animal in the world.

©Harry Collins Photography/Shutterstock.com

The ostrich’s amazing running speed has earned it a place in the triumvirate of bird speed record holders. While the ostrich is the fastest-running bird, the fastest swimmer is the gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua), and the fastest flyer is the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus).

Fastest Birds

LocomotionBirdTop Speed
swimmingGentoo Penguin22 mph
runningOstrich39-56 mph*
flyingPeregrine Falcon242 mph
*even at the lowest confirmed top speed, still faster than any other bird on land

Conclusion

Ostriches are the fastest-running birds, the fastest land animals on two legs, and could be the third fastest land animal overall based on unconfirmed top-speed stats. While they may be able to sprint as fast as 56 mph, about 39-43 mph is likely more common.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © bruna-nature/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Deniz Martinez is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on biogeography, ornithology, and mammalogy. Deniz has been researching, teaching, and writing about animals for over 10 years and holds both an MS degree from American Public University earned in 2016 and an MA degree from Lindenwood University earned in 2022. A resident of Pennsylvania, Deniz also runs Art History Animalia, a website and associated social media dedicated to investigating intersections of natural history with art & visual culture history via exploring animal iconography.

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