The world’s fastest land mammal is built for speed. His claws are semi-non-retractable for good grip, his tail is long and muscular to help him steer at high speeds, and the black tear marks under his eyes help divert the sun’s glare for precise vision. He is capable of reaching a speed of 96km/h in three seconds, can make quick turns, and can cover 6 to 7m between strides.
He puts this speed to good use when hunting, although he is built for sprinting rather than long-distance running. To this end, he creeps up on his prey, with his spots serving to camouflage him, coming within 50m of his target before launching his attack. Using the force generated by running, the cheetah knocks his prey down and grabs it by the throat to suffocate it. Males and solitary females hunt every two to three days, while females with cubs must hunt every day. They only need to drink every three or four days, however, making them well adapted to their environment in dry, grassy savannahs.
In 2002, a cheetah named Sarah ran a 100m sprint in 5.95 seconds at Cincinnati Zoo, a time that would likely have been even faster in the wild. Compare this to the world’s fastest sprinter, Usain Bolt, who holds the 100m record at 9.58 seconds, and you realise just how fast a cheetah really is!
Get your January issue of Animaltalk for the full story on the cheetah.
See the video here: