Land speed record holder
Cheetahs are famous for being fast. In fact, individuals have been clocked at speeds of 98 kilometres (60.9 miles) per hour. No other land animal can keep up with the cheetah, though certain birds would win in a race. Peregrine falcons, for example, can zoom at over 321.9 kilometres (200 miles) per hour with the help of gravity.
Cheetahs can only sustain bursts of speed lasting 20 to 30 seconds, just long enough to catch up to fleeing prey. The element of surprise is crucial, and a sudden approach is a cheetah’s most efficient method of ensuring a kill. It takes only three seconds for a cheetah to accelerate from zero to 60 miles (96.5 kilometres) per hour, making it faster than a Ferrari Enzo, a Lamborghini Gallardo and a McLaren F1. Despite these impressive statistics, only around 50 per cent of hunts are successful.
The cheetah’s speed is a feat of evolution that began 5.5 million years ago. Fastmoving animals had better odds of survival than slower runners, and the cats that could outrun prey were the ones to pass on their genes to the next generation.
Speed alone isn’t what makes the cheetah a successful hunter. The unique anatomy of the inner ear provides exceptional balance, allowing the animal to hold its gaze at high velocity. The eyes lock on to the target and remain steady until the prey has been captured. The inner ear is exceptionally sensitive to head motion due to the enormous volume of the ear canal, which sends rapid signals to the brain. These electrical impulses of information help the cheetah make tiny adjustments to keep its head level while running to maximise the chances of a successful hunt.