If you’re wondering which land-dwelling creatures can move faster than a cheetah, you’ve come to the right article! Here you can discover which animals reign supreme in the speed race. From zippy lizards to fleet-footed antelopes, these 10 land animals will surprise you with their lightning-fast speed! Find out which creatures possess lightning-quick reflexes and agility.
Plus, you’ll learn more about why their speed gives them a competitive advantage in the wild. So, get ready to explore 10 of the speediest land animals on the planet!
1. Cheetahs: The Speed Champions
Cheetahs are rightly called speed champions when it comes to terrestrial animals. Reaching speeds of over 100 km/h (60 mph) for up to 500 m (1,640 ft), these felines are the fastest land animals. Cheetahs’ long legs, flexible spines, and enlarged hearts and lungs are key to their unrivaled speed.
Some of the key adaptations that allow cheetahs to reach their high speeds are:
- Long claws that act like cleats on the feet provide the cheetah with extra traction.
- Retractable claws provide a non-skid effect on the ground.
- Flexible spine provides the cheetah with great agility to rapidly change direction.
- Large lungs and expanded ribcage provide the cheetah with greater oxygen intake.
- Small, aerodynamic head reducing air resistance at high speeds.
Cheetahs are capable of brief bursts of speed that cannot be maintained. They can reach 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in only 3 seconds. This is twice as fast as a racing car and four times faster than an average human’s running speed!
Their high-speed hunting requires a lot of energy, forcing cheetahs to rest for an hour before any further activity. After a successful hunt, they will once again need to rest for several hours before beginning to eat. To help conserve energy, cheetahs are also known to wait for strong gusts of wind before accelerating during a chase. Once a chase is over, cheetahs don’t let the captured prey escape. On capturing their prey, they immediately pull it to the ground and hold it down with their front paws.
2. Gazelles: Passing by with Elegance
Gazelles have long been renowned for their agility and grace even from the days of ancient Egypt. They are graceful antelope that roams the eastern plains and are easily distinguished by white patches and black tassels on their tail.
Speed is among one of the defining features of a gazelle. These animals have many tactics to outrun their predators such as:
- Short sprints
- Accelerated running or bounding
- Changing directions quickly and unpredictably
Anatomy and Diet
Gazelles have often lengthy legs and slim bodies built for high endurance running, they also possess good eyesight and hearing which helps them to detect predators in the distance. Their diet consists of grass, leaves, and herbs.
Predators and Populations
Gazelles’ main predators are big cats such as lions, leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs. Humans are also major predators since they hunt them for food, trophy, and fur. Populations of gazelles have drastically decreased due to widespread hunting and degradation of their natural habitat.
3. Springboks: Gracefully Sprinting Across the Savannah
Snapping and bounding across the savannah, the majestic springbok can traverse the landscape with ease. Built for speed, these agile creatures can reach speeds of up to 88 km/h. This makes them one of the speediest and most graceful of all land animals.
The springbok has an athletic form, allowing them to maneuver quickly and gracefully over the terrain. Their powerful hind legs are adapted for soaring leaps, which help them to evade predators. In fact, they can even jump as high as 3m!
The coat of the springbok is a mottled brown tone and provides them with excellent camouflage. As it runs, the springbok’s pattern creates a ‘flash’ of white, which helps to startle its predators. This ‘flash’ allows the animal to sprint away at full speed, giving the chasing predators a better chance of being left behind.
The springbok is one of the great sprinters of the animal kingdom, and admiring the swift and graceful creature in action is a sight to behold. Here are some interesting facts about the species:
- Weight: 33-60 kg
- Size: Height 90-110 cm
- Lifespan: 8-12 years
- Range: African countries including Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
4. Pronghorns: The Antelope’s Silent Leap
One of the world’s fastest land mammals, the pronghorn is an antelope of North America. It has an average speed of around 55 mph, making it one of the quickest animals on Earth.
Adaptations for Quick-Leaping: Pronghorns have evolved many features that help it reach its high speed. It can reach up to 25 mph in as little as three strides, allowing it to move across terrain quickly. Its nose pressurizes the air in its lungs, giving it the ability to store more oxygen and maintain its fast speed for longer. Its small brain and nervous system provide a fast reaction time to its environment, enabling it to quickly make decisions on whether it needs to accelerate, stop, or turn.
The Silent Leap: Pronghorns rely on their speed for safety rather than hiding or camouflage. They are often the first to detect potential predators and respond by running away with the characteristic silent leap they are famous for. Thanks to its large lungs and efficient heart pumping, the animal can sustain its speed for miles on end.
- Fastest sustained speed of any land mammal is around 55 mph
- Can strengthen its muscles and enhance its heart rate for short bursts of speed to evade predators
- Can accelerate from 0-25 mph in as little as three strides
- Long legs allow it to cover the ground quickly
Due to its extreme speed, the pronghorn is a keystone species to the North American Plains ecosystem. It helps maintain a balanced system by molding the structure of vegetation through its grazing patterns. The next time you take a hike through the plains, keep an eye out for the silent leap of the fastest land mammal!
5. Wildebeest: Racing the Plains
The graceful wildebeest is renowned for its impressive running speed and its incredible ability to traverse vast plains. Even though this creature may not place first in a race against a cheetah, it’s worth noting that its astounding speed can reach up to 50 mph!
This solitary species inhabits the steppes and grasslands of Africa, giving them the perfect backdrop for their unique form of locomotion. Their strides are characterized by a sharp up-and-down bouncing motion, which is why they are also called the wildebeest ‘pogo’.
This type of gait also has other advantages; it increases the power of the animal’s front limbs, provides posture stabilization, and allows for extra cushioning when grazing in rocky terrain. Wildebeest can also make sharp turns and jump up to 10 feet vertically.
Some amazing wildebeest facts:
- Wildebeests can run for up to two days without resting or eating.
- They have an incredible ability to endure the unforgiving African summer.
- They can cover 20 miles in a single day.
- They are highly social creatures and live in large herds.
Whether it’s protecting against predators or getting first pick at the plains’ resources, the wildebeest has perfected the art of getting around fast. It is truly an incredible species that deserves to be celebrated for its amazing feats!
6. Impalas: Poised and Nimble
Impalas are agile and alert animals, able to turn on a dime and leap over obstacles with grace and ease. They are often found in herds, able to cross open plains with unmatched speed and dexterity.
- Impalas can reach a top speed of 45 miles per hour
- Their average running speed is 30 mph
- Typically, impalas will use their nimbleness and speed to flee from predators
The Impala is considered one of the top ten speediest land animals because of its unique ability to execute sudden turns and rapidly accelerate. Its quick and efficient manner of movement helps the animal escape danger in an instant. Impalas’ energetic gait and athletic physique make them incredibly reliant runners.
Adapting to a wide range of habitats, from savanna to dense woodland, has resulted in the impala becoming an incredibly strong and resilient creature. Impalas are unable to outrun cheetahs but remain one of nature’s most agile and durable animals.
7. Jackrabbits: Focused and Agile
Jackrabbits are the sixth speediest land animal in the world, able to reach impressive speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Despite their size, jackrabbits have powerful bounding strides, making them a force to be reckoned with on the fast track. Jackrabbits are also notable for the agility and flexibility that they use to make abrupt stops, tight turns, and quick changes in direction with no slowdown.
- Agility: Jackrabbits are great jumpers and can make quick changes in direction
- Power: Jackrabbits can run at speeds of 45 miles per hour for long distances
- Focused: Jackrabbits are able to maintain focus in order to quickly reach their desired destination
When it comes to agility, jackrabbits are renowned for their quick reflexes and the ease with which they can slip and slide away from predators. They can jump and turn swiftly and still manage to maintain a respectable speed. Jackrabbits use their agility to dodge and assert their dominance against predators, including foxes, wolves, and even humans.
A jackrabbit’s speed may be most impressive, but their focused and powerful running abilities shouldn’t be overlooked either. As mentioned, jackrabbits can run at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour which enables them to cover long distances, even over rough terrain. They can also maintain highly focused sprints for a considerable amount of time, allowing them to effectively reach their desired destination.
8. Coyotes: Igniting the Chase
Coyotes are the stars of the show when it comes to land animals and speed. These clever creatures have the capacity to run up to 43 miles per hour, faster than humans in our peak conditions. Their incredible speed makes them one of the best predators on the continent.
It is all about the chase when discussing any predator, and coyotes are hungry to take on the hunt. This species is renowned for its agile movements and predatory strategies, making them one of the most efficient hunters around.
- Coyotes can reach remarkable speeds when hunting
- Their agile movements allow them to make quick turns and sharp movements when pursuing prey
- These animals are incredibly intelligent and use a range of predatory strategies to their advantage
Fortunately, it is not always the coyote that gets the upper hand in the hunt. Smaller animals, including rabbits, deer, and gophers, can often outrun coyotes in their own territory. It all depends on the terrain and the coyote’s own level of speed and agility.
Coyotes are very important and interesting animals in the animal kingdom. Taken together, their speed and agility provide them with an invaluable advantage and demonstrate just why they are considered one of the speediest land animals on the planet.
9. Greyhound Dogs: Built for Speed
Greyhound dogs are amongst the fastest animals on land, reaching speeds of up to 38 mph. Their athletic build, aerodynamic silhouette , and strong legs provide them with the power and speed necessary to be competitive amongst the quick and agile animals on land.
What makes these animals so well-suited to running quickly?
- Low, muscular bodies
- Large lungs and hearts supply powerful oxygen to muscles
- Extremely flexible spines to navigate turns
- Lightweight musculature and bones
Greyhounds are a popular breed for dog racers, but they aren’t the only animals the general public associates with speed and agility. In fact, some greyhounds have been known to beat horses in a race!
Overall, they are loving and playful, but their most distinctive trait is their speed and agility. Before you choose your next pet, consider the speed and intelligence of a greyhound. You won’t regret it.
10. Ostriches: Sprinting Giants of the Plains
When thinking of the fastest animals on land, birds may not be the first creatures to come to mind. However, ostriches, native to Africa, stand out as the fastest-running bird on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 45 mph. Not only are they speedy, but they are also the largest living bird species, standing up to 9 feet tall.
What aids these flightless birds in achieving such remarkable speed?
- Strong Legs: Ostriches are equipped with long, powerful legs, allowing them to cover up to 5 meters in a single stride.
- Two-Toed Feet: Unlike other birds with three or four toes, ostriches have only two toes on each foot, with a large, central toe equipped with a formidable claw. This design aids in traction and provides a strong kick if threatened.
- Feather Dynamics: While they can’t fly, their strong wing feathers are not just for show. Ostriches use their wings for balance and steering during high-speed chases.
- High Stamina: Ostriches don’t tire easily. They can maintain a consistent speed of 30-40 mph over longer distances, ensuring they escape from most predators.
Being herbivores, they mainly feed on plants, seeds, fruits, and small insects. Their keen eyesight and height give them an advantage in spotting potential dangers from afar. Despite their size, they have a few predators, including lions and cheetahs. However, their swift speed combined with their powerful kicks makes them a challenging target for most.
Interestingly, ostriches have been a part of human culture for thousands of years, not just as a curiosity but also for their feathers, eggs, and meat. Today, ostrich racing has become a popular sport in some parts of the world, where riders mount the birds, showcasing their impressive speed and endurance.
In conclusion, ostriches might not be the conventional choice when thinking of the fastest land animals, but they are undeniably one of the most remarkable sprinters in the animal kingdom. Their unique blend of size, strength, and speed truly sets them apart.
Final Reflections on the Fastest Land Animals
What an incredible journey we took through some of the speediest land animals! From the incredible cheetah to the mighty pronghorn, we’ve seen that nature has some incredible designs when it comes to land speed. Our final reflections now focus on the wider implications of land speed for the animal kingdom:
- It is an incredible evolutionary achievement for animals to be able to run at such astonishing speeds.
- The animals we’ve discussed have natural adaptations that enable them to achieve extreme speeds and outrun predators.
- Speed can also provide animals with an advantage when it comes to hunting or escaping danger.
- The amazing speeds that some of these animals can achieve are evidence of how remarkable the natural world is.
In addition to the advantages that speed can provide, it also provides us, humans, with something even more extraordinary – inspiration. We can learn from animals and the incredible things they can do with their bodies, to understand the power and capability of our own selves. Just think of how far science and technology have taken us – if some of the animals we’ve discussed can outrun a car, we can imagine that there are no limits to what we can achieve if we join forces and work together.
So, even when we consider the fastest land animals in the world, we are reminded that nature can be a great teacher, and our own abilities can take us just as far.