Wild Fact #967 – Faster than a Speeding Bullet – Cheetah


It is the middle of the week and I am still feeling a little sluggish (I think I need to start drinking coffee) so I thought it might help me if I wrote about the fastest land animal.  We will see if the cheetah is able to inspire me to get moving and become a bit more productive this week.

I believe most people know that the cheetah is to the cat world what Usain Bolt (come on people, the crazy fast sprinter!) is to humans.  So how come the cheetah is so much faster than anything else? Is it because they have four legs to run on? In a little experiment, I tried running on all four legs but my speed was nowhere near the 120 km/h (75 mph) that the cheetah obtains.  The only thing this experiment accomplished was to amuse the passerby’s watching me run in circles in my front yard on all fours.

All right, I know the suspense is getting to you so I will share the secret of achieving cheetah speed.  It all has to do with the way cheetah’s are built.  Yep, it is their anatomy that allows them to run so fast.  I am pretty sure you all suspected that so I guess I should go into a little more detail.  I guess we can start with their legs since it seems like a logical place to start.  I want everyone to look and feel their shoulder.  Are you looking at it? Good, see how it is a socket like system? Well, a cheetah does not have shoulders like humans.  Their shoulders are held by very strong muscles. When you add this to a very flexible skeleton it gives the cheetah’s legs a larger range of motion which in turn increases its stride.  The cheetah’s stride may be as long as 23 feet. As well, the spine of a cheetah acts like a spring, not quite like a slinky but similar, which allows the cheetah to have explosive bursts. All right, so we know they have strong leg muscles and a springing, slinky spine but how can they breathe so easily while running at great speeds.  I am panting and wheezing just thinking about running so clearly I don’t have the same adaptations as the cheetah.

The cheetah has enlarged nostrils which allow for a greater intake of oxygen.  As well, their lungs and hearts are also larger which works together like an well oiled machine to circulate that additional oxygen.  In order to have some traction while running like the wind, the cheetah has semi-retractable claws (your typical house cat has fully retractable claws, but don’t tell your couch cushions that). This type of claw system allows for greater grip and ultimately more control.  I know this post is getting long but I also wanted to let you know that the cheetah will also use its tail as a rudder to help steer itself during a chase.

All right, this post is just about finished.  One last cheetah fast fact and I will let you get on with your day.

Cheetah Fast Fact: A cheetah can only maintain its top speed for about 30 seconds and rarely longer than a minute.  They are able to accelerate from 0 to 110 km/h (68 mph) in 3 seconds.  Not only do they accelerate  faster than my truck but faster than most supercars.

Thanks for reading and I will see you again tomorrow.  Have a great day!

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