The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world and fascinates speed fans around the world: the lithely built big cat reaches a speed of over 100 kilometers per hour when hunting – and it takes just three seconds to do so.
Image: beckmarkwith – Fotolia.com
Cheetahs now live mainly on the African continent south of the Sahara. They love hot, dry savannahs with little shade, semi-deserts or light tree steppes, where they can fully exploit their breathtaking speed. Read more about the rapid cat of prey below.
Hello Usain Bolt, it’s me the cheetah!
If cheetahs could watch TV, they would probably only smile wearily at Usain Bolt’s records at the Olympic Games. Because the numbers speak for themselves. While Usain Bolt’s record over 100 meters is 9.58 seconds, the spotted big cat manages this distance in an incredible 5.95 seconds. The cheetah has a streamlined body, with long legs and strong thighs. Since it is the only big cat that cannot fully retract its claws, it also has good traction, also thanks to the rough undersides of its paws. The slender body has no fat reserves, a veritable greyhound waist, and very light bones and small but highly efficient muscle mass – all this allows the cheetah such incredible speed.
Cheetahs are short-distance sprinters
The hearts of speed enthusiasts should also jump at the sight of these statistics: The cheetah accelerates from zero to 100 in just three seconds and reaches a top speed of 112 kilometers per hour. Small downer: After 400 meters at this speed, the cheetah runs out of juice. By then, the prey should definitely be caught. So they are short-distance sprinters, but they can still maintain very high speeds (about 90 kilometers per hour) for several kilometers.
The perfect predator: Sneak, sprint, kill
The cheetah is not only a near-perfect predator thanks to its speed. Its ability to stalk unobtrusively and silently also makes it a feared hunter among its prey. A cheetah sneaks up on its prey almost unnoticed – the spotted camouflage pattern helps it, especially in tall steppe grass – avoiding any quick movement that might startle the victim, and then all at once literally explodes from its hiding place to give chase. Gazelles and other animals then have to dodge very cleverly, for example with zigzag maneuvers, and hope that the cheetah, as a short-distance sprinter, will eventually tire and stop the hunt.
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