Why are cheetahs so fast?

Cheetahs can run at 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour. They are the fastest animals on four legs.

 

Here’s a cheetah sprinting at top speed in pursuit of an animal. This cat can accelerate from zero to 100 kilometres (60 miles) per hour in only three seconds.

 

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Here’s the cheetah in slow motion. You can see how far forward the back legs swing, gripping the ground and pushing to propel the cat forward. A single stride launches a cheetah eight metres (25 feet).

 

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But how do they do it? What makes a cheetah faster than a leopard or a lion? Their secret is in the structure of their body. With their small head, thin body and skinny legs, cheetahs minimise wind resistance when running. A cheetah’s ribcage is specially flattened to keep the chest slim, and its light bodyweight gives its running muscles an easier job.

Even the cheetah’s organs are built for speed, and an oversized heart pumps oxygen-rich blood around the body. The huge lungs help replace spent carbon dioxide with oxygen and the flexible spine acts as a spring to launch the limbs forward. The cheetah is simply built to run fast.

 

Amur leopards, Eurasian lynx and cheetahs all call the World Heritage Foundation home. This centre in Kent breeds critically endangered cats to save them from extinction. By breeding cats with highly diverse genes they are able to keep their populations healthy and able to survive.

 

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Image from flickr.com/photos/tambako