Cheetah world record sprint

Source:, photo by James Temple
At the recent Olympic Games, Usain Bolt set an Olympic record by running the 100 metre dash in 9.63 seconds. But that was a snail’s pace compared to Sarah, the cheetah at the Cincinatti Zoo: she can do 100 m in only 5.95 seconds!
In 2009 Sarah had already set the 100 metre record at 6.13 seconds, and now she has improved her time and broken her own record. The Cincinnati Zoo has installed a racetrack for cheetahs to record their speed. The animals run after a toy animal pulled at high speed in an attempt to catch it.

Cheetahs are able to reach such speeds because of their remarkable build. A highly flexible spine allows great extension of the legs, so that one stride can span up to six metres. The cat’s sharp claws provide good grip as its paws push off. During a sprint, the cheetah is more in the air than on the ground. These cats also have light bones and a relatively large heart and lungs. Still, this kind of super-sprint is possible only for short distances, usually not more than about 500 metres.

De Cincinnati Zoo has been working for about twenty years for the conservation of wild cheetahs. In the US, zoo programmes promote awareness in schools. In Namibia, they support a breeding programme and a project using dogs to guard farmers’ herds so that the farmers no longer have to fear cheetahs – or shoot them.
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