The Travel Almanac

Top 10 List:

The Fastest (Land Based) Animals in the World

fast lion
Lions are ranked 3rd

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The fastest land based animal is generally considered to be the Cheetah. Note that this list is for land based animals, so no birds or fish are included in the analysis. The official measured speed of the Cheetah probably underestimates its speed in the wild - when it is chasing its meal there is a lot more motivation to run faster.

If birds were included, a list of the fastest animals would be mostly those - the Peregrine falcon is universally accepted as the fastest animal in the world. It reaches its top speed when in a hunting dive, the stoop, in which it soars to a great height, then dives steeply at high speeds (200+ mph, 322 km/hr). See our fastest birds list. If fish were included, the sail fish (68 mph, see World's Fastest Fish) would be high on this list.

Average Speed v Maximum Speed

The speeds used for the following table are based on measurements recorded over approximately quarter-mile distances. Exceptions are the lion, which was clocked in the act of charging, and the cheetah, which was measured over a 100-yard distance. You may also notice discrepancies between this list and the World's Fastest Mammals which have many of the same animals. This just highlights the difficulties in measuring speed, whether average or maximum speed is recorded, and averaged over what distance.

Many people consider the greyhound to be the second fastest animal. They can reach average race speeds in excess of 18 metres per second (59 feet per second) or 63 kilometers per hour (39 mph), which would place then just outside this top 10. However, at maximum acceleration, a greyhound reaches a full speed of 70 km per hour (43 mph) within the first 30 metres, traveling at almost 20 metres per second for the first 250 metres of a race. The only other animal that can accelerate faster over a short distance is the cheetah, which has been measured to reach speeds of nearly 100 kilometers per hour over 3-4 strides from a standing start.

Animal speed
(mph)
speed
(km/hr)
notes
1. Cheetah 61 98 On June 20, 2012, 11 year old Sarah the cheetah shattered the world record for the standing 100-meter dash, clocking a time of 5.95 seconds. That is an average of 38 miles per hour (61 km/hr). During the run it was radar-timed at a peak speed of 61 miles (98 kilometers) an hour. See a video.
2. Pronghorn antelope 60 97  
3. Lion 50 80  
4. Thomson's gazelle 50 80  
5. Wildebeest 50 80  
6. Springbok 50 80  
7. Quarter horse 47.5 76  
8. Cape hunting dog 45 72  
9. Elk 45 72  
10. Coyote 43 69  

Sources

Other fastest animal lists include:

Slow animals

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