Top 10 Fastest Land Animals in the World
Speed can often be a matter of survival in the wild.
Many of the world's fastest animals are either hunters, or the hunted, either required to catch prey for sustenance, or to escape from predators.
Most of the quickest animals in my list run on four legs, but others move by hopping.
Here is my list of the top 10 fastest land animals in the world.
With the ability to run at between 70 and 75 mph, (112–120 km/h), the cheetah is the quickest of all the land animals, certainly over short distances.
As well as having a high top speed, the big cat also has an incredible rate of acceleration, able to go from 0 to 60 mph (96.6 km/h) in less than three seconds.
The cheetah only has limited endurance, however, and can only run for around a minute at a time.
Interestingly, a running cheetah actually spends more of its time in the air than on the ground.
Also known as the American antelope, the pronghorn is the fastest land animal over long distances, with the ability to run at 35 mph for up to 4 miles (56 km/h for 6 km).
Over half a mile, it can achieve a sustained 55 mph (88.5 km/h).
The pronghorn is way faster than any potential predator in North America, prompting scientists to speculate that it evolved to run faster than hunters that no longer exist, such as the American cheetah, which existed during the Pleistocene epoch.
Springboks are exceptionally fast and can attain speeds of 62 mph (100 km/h) over short distances. They can also make sharp turns when running and jump up to 13 feet (4 m) through the air.
They are antelopes, belonging to the gazelle tribe, and can be found in southern Africa. Their name comes from the Afrikaans and Dutch words for spring = jump and bok = male antelope, or goat.
Unlike pronghorns, they don't have great endurance over long distances, however.
The Springbok is also the national symbol of South Africa.
Another exceptional runner with endurance is the wildebeest. There are two species: the black wildebeest and the blue wildebeest and both are exceptionally fast, especially over long distances.
These southern African antelopes, which are also known as gnus, need their speed to help them escape from dangerous predators, such as lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, and crocodiles.
Blackbucks inhabit the Indian subcontinent and are able to maintain speeds of 40 mph (80 km/h) for almost a mile (1.5 km).
Unfortunately these antelopes have been classified as near threatened by IUCN since 2003, due to declining range.
Each blackbuck stride when it is in full flight measures 19-22 ft (5.8–6.7 m).
#6 Hares and Jackrabbits
Over short distances, some hares and jackrabbits can approach speeds of up to around 50 mph (80 km/h).
They can also leap up to 10 feet (3m) at a time.
Belonging to the same family as rabbits, hares are long-eared, eat leaves, woodbark, stems and sometimes dun, and usually live solitarily or in pairs.
The fastest breed of dog, having been bred for coursing game and racing, greyhounds are also popular as family pets.
Racing dogs can attain average speeds of more than 40 mph (64 km/h).
They also have incredible powers of acceleration over a short distance, with only animals such as the cheetah and the pronghorn able to outdo them.
#8 African Wild Dog
With the ability to run at 41 mph (66 km/h) in short bursts, African wild dogs usually catch their prey, generally by running them to exhaustion.
At a longer distance of 3 miles (4.8 km), these canines are still able to maintain speeds of 35-37 mph (56 - 60 km/h)
Sadly these dogs, which live in Sub-Saharan Africa, have been classified as endangered by the IUCN, due to their declining range.
Kangaroos don't run, they hop, but they can do it at considerable speed.
Utilizing their powerful hind legs, they normally they hop at around 13 - 16 mph (21 - 26 km/h) but they are capable of moving at 44 mph (71 km/h) over short distances, if they need to.
Almost all kangaroos live in Australia (there is one genus, the tree-kangaroo, that is also found in Papua New Guinea). They are sometimes killed for meat, their leather hides, or in order to protect grazing land.
Horses were a main form of transport for hundreds of years and were first domesticated by humans around 4000 BC.
The animal's highly developed physique enables them to employ speed to escape predators. They also have an exceptional sense of balance.
Their need to quickly escape predators has also led to them evolving an interesting trait: the ability to sleep standing up, as well as when they are lying down!
The world record for a horse galloping over a short, sprint distance is 55 mph (88 km/h).
© 2015 Paul Goodman