Speed can be a matter of death or survival in the natural world. The fastest land animals in the world listed below are all either prey or predators, and it’s their speed that gives them the edge in the wild. The list looks at all land animals worldwide, with six of these top ten fastest land animals endemic to Africa.
There are different ways to rank the speed of fast animals – some lists look at speed compared to body length, which results in insects being included as some of the fastest land animals, and some lists look at acceleration, which would put some of these snakes as the fastest. This list of fastest land animals in the world simply looks at the top recorded speed of a species and ranks them one to ten.
The cheetah can accelerate from a standing start to over 95 km per hour in 3 seconds. The cheetah top speed is around 120 km per hour – by far the fastest land animal in the world, streets ahead of all other wild cats, and the fastest running animal. This fast speed is limited to very short bursts, however, with cheetahs able to sprint at top speed for around 60 seconds only.
Fun cheetah fact: Whilst sprinting cheetahs spend more time in the air than on the ground…. so they’re the fastest animal on land, but not actually on the ground too much when sprinting!
Ranging from Canada to California, the pronghorn is not only the second fastest land animal, but also has the stamina to run at pace over long distances, with the ability to run at a maximum speed of 56 km/h for 6 km.
The springbok is a smallish gazelle that lives in herds across southern Africa. Aside from their speed – which they can maintain only for short distances – their special skills are 3 meter high bounce-like jumps, and sharp turns whilst running at pace, enabling them to shake off chasing predators.
There are two species of wildebeest found in East and Southern Africa – the blue wildebeest and black wildebeest – both of which are surprisingly fast for their size. Their build lends them to endurance running rather than sprinting, which helps them in their epic continual overland migration.
The only member of the big five animals to make this list of fastest land animals, the lion is the fastest big cat in the world (a cheetah is not a big cat!) with a top speed of 80 km per hour. Like the cheetah, the lion can only manage their top speed for short bursts, meaning they need to stalk close to their prey and work as a team to ensure a successful hunt.
The blackbuck (aka the Indian antelope) is found across southern Asia in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. They are able to maintain their top speed of 80 km per hour for over 1.5 km, helped by their huge strides of 6.5 meters. Because of the male’s impressive horns, blackbuck are sadly a popular trophy animals for hunters.
Hares have long, powerful hind legs that help them reach speeds of up to 80 km per hour to evade predators in their grassland habitats. Similar in form to common rabbits, hares have longer ears and live alone or in pairs above ground, hence their need for speed.
Greyhounds belong to a family of hunting dogs called sighthounds and have been bred over hundreds of years to become the fastest dogs in the world, with a recorded top speed of 74 km per hour.
Kangaroos are large marsupials found only in Australia and some New Guinea islands. Their long, strong back legs and muscular tails are made for speed, and they’ve been recorded hopping at 71 km per hour in short bursts, considerably faster than their cruising speed of around 25 km per hour.
10. African wild dog
The endangered African wild dogs are impressive in their successful hunt percentage of over 60% – a result of their speed and stamina, amongst other things. They can sprint at 66 km per hour in short bursts, and run for longer distances at 60 km per hour.
And that’s our list of the top 10 fastest land animals on earth. Any that surprise you? Or any other super-fast animals that we’re missing? Let us know in the comments section below.