Londolozi’s Electric Landrover can go from 0 to 60km/h in just over 10 seconds. A Ferrari Enzo can go about 8.1 meters per second, which takes it from zero to 95 kph in about 3.3 seconds. A Cheetah picks up speed faster than both this electric land rover and sports car! It’s body accelerates at 10 meters per second and gets up to 65 kph in just three strides. It reaches a maximum of about 115 kph. Any animal that can go from zero to 40 mph in three strides must have a very specialized body. The Cheetah is the perfect example of an animal that was built for speed…
But how exactly can the cheetah reach these insane speeds?
• A slender body with a flattened rib cage and thin long legs all help with aerodynamics.
• It only weighs about 55 kg meaning that the muscles don’t need to carry much weight.
• Large lungs, wide nostrils and an oversized heart all facilitate quick and deep airflow and thus good oxygen levels.
• It’s eyes are elongated allowing a fast, wide angle view of the landscape.
• It’s exceptionally long and large tail acts like a rudder allowing the animal to turn and control during turns at high speeds.
• Special leg muscles allow for a large stride. At full speed a Cheetah can achieve strides of close on 8 meters (25 feet).
• A very flexible spine, allows for considerable give with each stride.
• Hard, ridged footpads and blunt, nonretractable claws maximize traction with the ground just like the spikes of an athlete.
But this design for speed comes at a price…
During a chase the Cheetah’s heart rate goes crazy allowing it to reach impressive speeds. In the process strain is put on the heart as it over-works. Brain damage is a reality. Thus the Cheetah can only sustain these high speeds for about 500 meters. After this it is too hot and too tired to move. Exhaustion sets in and for this reason a Cheetah will often loose it’s kill once it has been made. It needs time to rest.
It also has very weak jaws and small teeth; both adaptations for speed and improved aerodynamics. This means it feeds slower and less effectively simultaneously making it difficult for it to fight back if larger animals attack them or their young. I fear this may be an issue in the Sabi Sands as our population of over 100 lions may be playing a negative toll on the already low Cheetah numbers in the area.
Just for fun I decided to put up some other speeds to allow a comparison…
Maximum speeds are given in kilometers per hour
Londolozi’s Electric Land Rover 55
Black Mamba 32
Whilst on the topic of speed who will ever forget the moment where Jamaican’s Usain Bolt showed the world what the human body is capable of. I found this interesting video posted on YouTube that shows a comparison between the two speedsters.
Written by Adam Bannister