Cheetahs have long fascinated people, with their gorgeous coats, stealthy manner and ability to achieve impressive speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour). In fact, they can actually go from zero to 60 mph (97 kph) in as little as three seconds, similar to your average Corvette. However, they are not marathon runners, and can only keep up such high speeds for about 60 seconds. Their normal running speed is closer to 40 mph (64 kph). Cheetahs are generally considered the world’s fastest land animal.
Cheetahs are naturally outfitted with several physical characteristics that help to make them so fast, including claws that don’t retract (which helps them with traction on the ground), as well as unique pads on their feet. These cats are found across Africa, although their dwindling numbers mostly hang out in the southern and eastern areas of the continent. They use their incredible speeds to take down smaller prey, some of which are pretty speedy themselves. For instance, the blue wildebeest can reach speeds of 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour.
The next time you visit the Wyoming area, it’s entirely possible that you could lay eyes on a pronghorn or two. Though it is sometimes called the “pronghorn antelope,” this hoofed beauty is not an antelope, but rather a cousin of antelopes and goats. Pronghorns are by far the fastest animals on land in North America, and the second-fastest animals in the world, topping out at speeds of around 60 mph (98 kph). These deer-like mammals can maintain such speeds for up to a half-mile, longer than most other fast land animals who sprint primarily to hunt. The pronghorn’s speed and endurance could very well have been an evolutionary adaptation to help them evade hunters.
3. Goitered Gazelle
Next on our list is a mid-sized gazelle found in many parts of Asia, particularly northwest China, southern Kazakhstan and Mongolia. These beauties get their name thanks to an enlargement on the larynx that resembles a goiter. Goitered gazelles can achieve a high speed of 60 mph (97 kph), which is fortunate since they are popular targets for hunters. Currently, this land animal holds the Guinness World Record for “fastest antelope.”
The springbok is native to Southern Africa, and can run 55 mph (88 kph) in short bursts. This mid-sized antelope is also known for its maneuvering capabilities, like turning sharply while being chased and making incredibly long leaps to throw off pursuers, like cheetahs.
5. American Quarter Horse
Quarter horses were specifically bred over time to be fast. In fact, the name directly refers to the breed’s speed, as it describes its ability to outrun other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less, according to the American Quarter Horse Association. The world’s most popular horse breed, the quarter horse can run up to 55 mph (88 kph), which is undoubtedly why they’re so popular in ranching and horse racing circles.
Standards set in a 1940 meeting of the American Quarter Horse Association actually require that legit quarter horses need to be able to do a quarter-mile (402-meter) run in 23 seconds or less (if they can’t do that, they must demonstrate other quarter horse ranching skills to qualify).