On August 3, 2012, a female cheetah set a new record of covering the distance of 100 meters in just 5.95 seconds. This record is far greater than the record time of 9.58 seconds set by the Jamaican sprinter and Olympic record holder Usain Bolt — the fastest man on Earth. There are three prime reasons that enable the cheetah to run at such great speed:
1) The cheetah is bestowed with long legs by nature.
2) Its body is connected to the legs with highly flexible muscles
3) The long and flexible spine of the cheetah acts as a spring and helps it to bounce with full energy, thus enabling it to cover a distance of nearly 6.7 meters (22 feet) with every leap.
The Cheetah Vs. Usain Bolt
On average, cheetahs can run at a speed of 93 kilometers or 76 miles per hour. Usain Bolt, who is considered to be the fastest man in the world, has a maximum speed of around 44.7 kilometers or 27.78 miles per hour. This comparison makes it evident that when we simply look at maximum speeds, the cheetah is far ahead of any human. In fact, most animals are much faster than Usain Bolt when they run at their maximum speed. These include bears, lion, antelopes, and even the domestic cat!
Cheetahs are known as the fastest animal on land, being even faster than the speed limit on motorways in the United Kingdom. Now, if this super fast animal is made to compete with the Olympic gold medalist sprinters, who will win the race?
This depends on the type of race they’re having. If it is a 100 meters and 400 meters sprint, the cheetah can easily defeat even champions like Usain Bolt. The cheetah will take only 16 seconds to cover 400 meters, while in the case of human beings the record of covering the distance of 400 meters in 43.18 seconds. This record was set by an American sprinter named Michael Johnson in 1999.
Assuming that the cheetah moves ahead with the same speed, it would cover the distance of 800 meters in 32 seconds. On the other hand, for the humans, this record has been set at 1 minute and 41.01 seconds by the Kenyan runner David Rudisha in the year 2010.
Is there any chance for a runner like David Rudisha to beat the cheetah on a racetrack? Actually, there is! If an 800 meters race is held, David Rudisha can easily outperform the cheetah. Here’s the reason: The cheetah’s normal body temperature remains at 102 degrees Fahrenheit. (The normal temperature for a human body is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.) According to research, it is observed that once the cheetah gains momentum beyond the speed of 16 kilometers per hour, its body cannot release excess heat. The grueling task performed by the cheetah leads to its body storing 90 percent of the heat it generates. This will increase the cheetah’s body temperature to a great extent. The situation is similar to a motor car engine getting overheated due to a malfunction in the cooling system.
If the cheetah continues its run even after its body becomes overheated, the accrued heat affects the brain and leads the cheetah to become unconscious. Once this overheating starts, the cheetah can run for another 550 meters at the most, after which it is physiologically compelled to take a break and rest for 15-20 minutes. The attempt to relax and exhale helps the cheetah to calm down till its body temperature is restored to normal.
Meanwhile, a runner like David Rudisha would run to the finishing line defeating the fastest animal on the Earth. It is due to this physiological characteristic that the cheetah moves towards its prey as slowly and silently as possible so that it does not have to run for a long distance later to chase it.
Despite this, the African Impala and Gazelle antelopes can successfully dodge the cheetah’s chase by running in a zigzag pattern. If the cheetah can pounce on its prey within a sprint of 500 meters, it gets to feast on it. If it doesn’t, the fastest animal on land goes hungry.