The cheetah is best known for its reputation as the fastest land animal over short distances - up to 70 mph.

Speed

The cheetah is best known for its reputation as the fastest land animal over short distances - up to 70 mph. Cheetah's body's closely resemble those of the greyhound - another animal built for speed.  In-fact many of its characteristics are more dog-like than cat. Unlike other cats, the cheetah's claws can be only partly retracted, and they are constantly blunted as the animal runs across the ground. Blunt claws help the cheetah to change direction when running at high speed. Even the pads are more like those of a dog - small and tough, with edges that help to grip the ground.

The cheetah's canine teeth are also dog-like. Other large cats have long canines which enable them to easily bring down large prey - and they have more muscle power to seize and hang on to them. However, while it does have these disadvantages, the cheetah has one great advantage over all other cats - that is its ability to run at an amazing speed.

Although the cheetah can reach speeds of around 70 mph, it can only sprint about 300m before running out of steam. So a cheetah tries to creep up to within 50m of its prey before springing into action. It sucks in as much air as possible, arches its back and pulls its feet together. The supple, spring-like spine uncurls and the cheetah throws its legs out to their full extension. As the front legs hit the ground, the spine curls up again, ready to propel the legs forward.

A running cheetah almost seems to be flying, as for about half the time it has all four feet off the ground at the same time. The long tail streams out behind, acting as a rudder to help the cheetah turn. A cheetah sprinting at top speed cannot turn as sharply as a nimble antelope and if the prey manages to turn 3 or 4 times, the cheetah quickly becomes overheated and out of breath. The actual chase at the end of a hunt may last only 20 seconds. The cheetah is a sprinter, not a long-distance runner!

Read More: Territory

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