Top 12 Fastest Land Animals in the World

Updated on August 4, 2017
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Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Horses are quick and agile, with a highly developed sense of balance.  They were first domesticated by humans in 4000 BC and were a regular form of transport up until the 20th century.  They can gallop at speeds of up to 43.97 mph.
Horses are quick and agile, with a highly developed sense of balance. They were first domesticated by humans in 4000 BC and were a regular form of transport up until the 20th century. They can gallop at speeds of up to 43.97 mph. | Source

Speed can often be a matter of survival in the wild.

Many of the world's fastest animals are either hunters, or the hunted. They are either required to catch prey for sustenance, or to escape from predators in order to survive.

Most of the quickest animals run on four legs, but others move by hopping. Their speed is impressive, but can only be achieved over relatively short distances in some cases.

Here is a list of the top 12 fastest land animals in the world.

#1 Cheetah

With the ability to run at speeds between 68 and 75 mph (109.4–120.7 km/h), the cheetah is the quickest of all the land animals, certainly over short distances.

As well as having a high top speed, the big cat also has an incredible rate of acceleration, able to go from 0 to 60 mph (96.6 km/h) in less than three seconds.

The cheetah has a limited endurance, however. It runs in short bursts and typically only for only sixty seconds or so.

Interestingly, a cheetah at full speed actually spends more of its time in the air than on the ground.

The pronghorn is not as quick as a cheetah over short distances, but over longer distances, it is unbeatable.  It is able to sustain 55 mph over half a mile and can outrun any potential predator in North America, where it lives.
The pronghorn is not as quick as a cheetah over short distances, but over longer distances, it is unbeatable. It is able to sustain 55 mph over half a mile and can outrun any potential predator in North America, where it lives. | Source

#2 Pronghorn

Also known as the American antelope, the pronghorn is the fastest land animal over long distances with the ability to run at 35 mph for up to 4 miles (56 km/h for 6 km).

Over half a mile, it can achieve a sustained 55 mph (88.5 km/h).

The pronghorn is faster than any potential predator in North America, prompting scientists to speculate that it evolved to run faster than hunters that no longer exist, such as the American cheetah, which existed during the Pleistocene epoch.

#3 Springbok

Springboks are exceptionally fast and can attain speeds of 55 mph (88 km/h) over short distances. They can also make sharp turns when running and jump up to 13 feet (4 m) through the air.

They are antelopes, belonging to the gazelle tribe, and can be found in southern Africa. Their name comes from the Afrikaans and Dutch words for spring meaning jump and bok meaning male antelope, or goat.

Unlike pronghorns, they don't have great endurance over long distances. The Springbok is also the national symbol of South Africa.

Also known as gnus, wildebeest are another antelope with exceptional running powers, especially over long distances.  They need the speed to help them to escape from predators.
Also known as gnus, wildebeest are another antelope with exceptional running powers, especially over long distances. They need the speed to help them to escape from predators. | Source

#4 Wildebeest

Another exceptional runner with endurance is the wildebeest. There are two species: the black wildebeest and the blue wildebeest and both are exceptionally fast, especially over long distances.

These southern African antelopes, also known as gnus, need their speed to help them escape from dangerous predators, such as lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, and crocodiles.

They can often reach speeds of around 50 miles per hour (80.5 km/h) when running.

Lions are the second fastest big cat after the cheetah.  Like the cheetah, they can only manage fast speeds over short distances, however, and quickly become exhausted.
Lions are the second fastest big cat after the cheetah. Like the cheetah, they can only manage fast speeds over short distances, however, and quickly become exhausted. | Source

#5 Lion

The second fastest big cat, lions can move at 50 mph (80.5 km/h) in short bursts.

They quickly become exhausted, therefore they depend on sneaking up as close as possible to their prey beforehand.

#6 Blackbuck

Blackbucks inhabit the Indian subcontinent and are able to maintain speeds of 50 mph (80 km/h) for almost a mile (1.5 km).

Unfortunately these antelopes have been classified as near threatened by IUCN since 2003, due to declining range.

Each blackbuck stride when it is in full flight measures 19-22 ft (5.8–6.7 m).

#7 Hares

Belonging to the same family as rabbits, hares are long-eared. They eat leaves, woodbark, stems, grass, fruit and vegetables. They usually live on their own, or in pairs.

They can reach a maximum speed of 35 mph (56 km/h) over short distances.

#8 Greyhound

The fastest breed of dog, these domesticated animals have been bred by humans for coursing game and racing. Greyhounds are also popular as family pets.

Racing dogs can attain maximum speeds of 46 mph (74 km/h).

They also have incredible powers of acceleration over a short distance, with only animals such as the cheetah and the pronghorn able to outdo them.

Jackrabbits are able to use their powerful hind legs to get out of danger.  They are able to achieve speeds of up to 45 mph over short distances.  They can also leap out of danger when they need to.
Jackrabbits are able to use their powerful hind legs to get out of danger. They are able to achieve speeds of up to 45 mph over short distances. They can also leap out of danger when they need to. | Source

#9 Jackrabbits

Over short distances, jackrabbits can reach speeds of around 45 mph (72 km/h).

They can also leap 10 feet (3m) at a time. Some have even been known to attain 20 feet (6 m) leaps.

Jackrabbits run in a zigzag pattern combined with leaps to escape predators.

African wild dogs generally hunt by chasing their prey to exhaustion.  Consequently, they can sustain speeds of over 35 miles per hour over 3 miles.  As their name suggests, the dogs live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
African wild dogs generally hunt by chasing their prey to exhaustion. Consequently, they can sustain speeds of over 35 miles per hour over 3 miles. As their name suggests, the dogs live in Sub-Saharan Africa. | Source

#10 African Wild Dog

With the ability to run at 44 mph (71 km/h) in short bursts, African wild dogs usually catch their prey by chasing them to exhaustion.

At a longer distance of 3 miles (4.8 km), these canines are still able to maintain speeds of 35-37 mph (56 - 60 km/h)

Sadly these dogs, which live in Sub-Saharan Africa, have been classified as endangered by the IUCN, due to their declining habitat.

#11 Kangaroo

Kangaroos don't run, they hop, but they can do it at considerable speed.

Utilizing their powerful hind legs, they normally hop at around 13 - 16 mph (21 - 26 km/h) but they are capable of moving at 44 mph (71 km/h) over short distances, if they need to.

Almost all kangaroos live in Australia (there is one genus, the tree-kangaroo, that is also found in Papua New Guinea). They are sometimes killed for meat or their leather hides, or in order to protect grazing land.

Horses have had a close relationship with humans ever since they were domesticated in 4000 BC.  They have been bred to possess both speed and endurance and have an average gallop speed of 25 to 30 mph, although the world record is 55 mph.
Horses have had a close relationship with humans ever since they were domesticated in 4000 BC. They have been bred to possess both speed and endurance and have an average gallop speed of 25 to 30 mph, although the world record is 55 mph. | Source

#12 Horse

Horses were a main form of transport for hundreds of years and were first domesticated by humans around 4000 BC.

The animal's highly developed physique enables them to employ speed to escape from predators. They also have a highly developed sense of balance.

Their need to quickly escape predators has also led to them evolving an interesting trait: the ability to sleep standing up, as well as when they are lying down!

The fastest horse speed reached was by a thoroughbred, reaching 43.97 mph (70.76 km/h).

Other Fast Land Animals

  • Onagers and Thompson's Gazelles can reach 43 mph (70 km/h).
  • Coyotes, zebras, and tigers can move at 40 mph (65 km/h).

Humans tend to run at around 11 mph (18 km/h).  Athletes can run much faster, however, especially over short distances.  Usain Bolt is the world record holder for the 100 m sprint.
Humans tend to run at around 11 mph (18 km/h). Athletes can run much faster, however, especially over short distances. Usain Bolt is the world record holder for the 100 m sprint. | Source

The Maximum Speed for Humans?

Usain Bolt is the fastest human being ever recorded over a short distance, setting the 100 m world record at 9.58 seconds. His absolute best speed has been calculated at 29.55 mph (47.52 km/h) when racing, taking a 20 m segment of his performance.

Non-athletic humans tend to run at speeds of around 11 mph (18 km/h).

Sources

  • Carwardine, Mark (2008). Animal Records. New York: Sterling. pp. 11, 43. ISBN 9781402756238.
  • Nowak, Ronald M. (7 April 1999). Walker's Mammals of the World. JHU Press. p. 1193. ISBN 9780801857898.
  • Knight, Kathryn (15 July 2012). "How Cheetahs Outpace Greyhounds". The Journal of Experimental Biology. 215 (14): i–i. ISSN 0022-0949. doi:10.1242/jeb.075788
  • Vaughan, Terry; Ryan, James; Czaplewski, Nicholas (21 April 2011). Mammalogy. Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN 9780763762995.

© 2015 Paul Goodman

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