While humanity has successfully achieved escape velocity (~ 11 km / 7 miles per second) with the help of technology, we can see that nature’s own speed records are quite impressive as well. And the great thing about nature’s speed records is that there are no roaring or fuel guzzling engines. Nature’s fastest animals rely on pure muscle and bone and their movements are quite graceful as well. For comparison, here’s a quick look at some of the fastest land animals on planet earth.
Cheetah – Found predominantly in the plains of Africa and central Iran, cheetah is a large cat that can reach speed of around 80 to 128 kilometers per hour (50 to 80 mph). Through evolution, nature has endowed them with special features such as pointed head, thin legs, and lightweight and aerodynamic body. Another key feature is the long tail, which ensures that the cheetah is not only fast but can also change directions swiftly. Cheetahs also have large nasal passages and enlarged lungs and heart, which ensure adequate oxygen supply during a chase.
Pronghorn – Found in interior western and central North America, pronghorn belongs to artiodactyl (even-toed, hoofed) mammal species. It is known by other names such as prairie antelope or American antelope, even though it is not an antelope. Pronghorn can reach a top speed of around 88.5 km/h or 55 mph. It can maintain this speed for around 0.8 km. A pronghorn has large windpipe, lungs and heart along with cushioned, pointed toes that allow the animal to move at fast speeds. Other evolutionary traits include hollow hair and lightweight bone structure.
American Quarter Horse – A special breed of horse, American Quarter Horse is widely used in horse shows, rodeos, calf roping, barrel racing, etc. It is known to achieve a top speed of 88.5 km/h or 55 mph over short distances. It got its name ‘quarter’, as it is faster than other horse breeds in races that are equal to or less than a quarter mile.
Springbok – Native to southern and southwestern Africa, springbok is a medium-sized antelope. When faced with a predator such as a cheetah, a springbok primarily relies on its speed to escape. It is said to have a top speed of 88 km/h or 55 mph. However, as the speed is lower than that of cheetah, a springbok can become a prey if it’s not careful. Wild dogs are also known to hunt springboks by chasing them and tiring them out over longer distances.
Blue wildebeest – A native of southern and eastern Africa, blue wildebeest is a large-sized antelope. A blue wildebeest’s movements may not be as graceful as other fastest animals, but it can still reach a top speed of 80 km/h (50 mph). The lion has around the same speed, so it’s an equal match between prey and predator. In one-on-one combat, a wildebeest can outmaneuver a lion with its speed and large size.