The Cheetah Anatomy Built for Speed

The ‘superman’ of the land animals, the cheetah isn’t exactly faster than a speeding bullet, but he’s faster than any other animal. The cheetah can run up to 65 or 70 mph. He can only sustain that speed for short times, though, so he has to be ready to get his prey before he starts to run. He stalks his prey until they are as close as they can get, then they kick it into high gear. They try to get close enough to swipe their back legs and bring them down. Once they’re down, they’re dinner. Dinner is prepared by suffocating it after it’s down by catching it by the face.

The body (spine) of a cheetah is specially made so that it can speed like the wind for short bursts. S/he is built “somewhat like a spring” (think Tigger of Poo fame). Because of this build, he has longer strides “due to a more free running motion as the spend builds”. Instead of a run, it is almost like bounding. Each thrust gives him “greater distance and thus, greater speed”. Cheetahs are also unique in the cat world because they are the only ones with “fully retractable claws”. This gives them a lot better traction when they run.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to the cheetah’s specialized body. They often lose prey because they are too tired and too hot to eat right away. The body temperature goes up and they have to “replenish oxygen to the brain”. The problem is not the prey, it is dead, the problem is that others, lions, hyenas, …, will take the prey from the cheetah, and the cheetah is too exhausted to fight back. Besides, his body type makes him like the ‘nerd’ who would be standing up to the class bully. Instead, he lets it go, rests and tries again. This is one of the reasons cheetahs are dying out in spite of their amazing bodies.

Cheetahs, with their specialized anatomy and skill, may be too specialized in the end, only time will tell.

Here is an interesting article: what does a cheetah eat