Baby cheetah running

Speedy spots

Cheetah running on green grass

Whoosh! If you are seeing spots speeding by, you might just be looking at a cheetah! The fastest land animal in the world, cheetahs are built to run very fast for fairly short distances, allowing them to catch prey that other big cats can’t get. Cheetahs have a flexible spine, which allows their front legs to stretch far forward on each stride. They have long legs, and their long tails act like rudders to help with balance.

Baby cheetah running

Major MPH

While running, cheetahs cover 20 to 22 feet in one stride, about the same distance as a racehorse. But cheetahs are so much faster—the fastest racehorse runs 43 miles per hour, while cheetahs can run at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. Cheetahs are off the ground more than half of their running time! Their claws are hard and sharp like cleats, giving them great traction when they run.

Young cheetah holding stuffed animal antelope prey

Meals on the go

But what if their dinner runs off suddenly in a different direction? The cheetah is ready for that, too! They are the only cats that, while sprinting, can turn in midair to follow their prey.

When they are hunting, cheetahs are probably quiet so they can sneak up on prey. But when it's not mealtime, these cats have plenty to say. Cheetahs are very vocal: they make a bird-like sound called a “chirrup” when they’re excited. Mothers use the same sound to call their cubs. They also purr, growl, snarl, hiss, cough, moan, and bleat, but cheetahs cannot roar like lions or tigers do. It doesn't sound like they need to, does it?