The fastest human on earth can run 100 metres in under 10 seconds, that’s about 28 mph.
Many different animals in the world can be considered the fastest, whether that’s a bird swooping down for its prey or a big cat chasing down an animal; nature has created some amazing animals that would make even the fastest human athletes look very very slow.
Let us take a look:
Top 10 Fastest Animals in the World
- Peregrine Falcon (242 mph)
- Golden Eagle (150-200 mph)
- White-throated needletail swift (105 mph)
- Eurasian Hobby (100 mph)
- Mexican Free Tailed Bat (100 mph)
- Frigate Bird (95 mph)
- Rock Dove (92.5 mph)
- Spur-Winged Goose (88 mph)
- Grey-headed albatross (79 mph)
- Cheetah (75 mph)
Let’s take a look at some of these animals in more detail:
The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird, and the fastest member of the animal kingdom. It is not usually a fast animal, but it’s great speed is achieved in its hunting dive, the stoop, wherein it soars to a great height, then dives steeply at speeds of over 200 mph (320 km/h).
The peregrine falcon belongs to the family Falconidae and the genus Falco. There have been numerous subspecies of the peregrine falcon described, and currently 19 are recognized. The scientific name Falco peregrinus is a Medieval Latin phrase that was used by Albertus Magnus in 1225.
These birds feed mainly on medium-sized birds, although will also sometimes take small mammals. They make their nests mostly in open habitats, but in recent years have also been known to make use of urban areas, particularly tall buildings where there is a lot of pigeon prey for them to eat.
In full stoop, a golden eagle can reach spectacular speeds of up to 240 to 320 kilometers per hour (150 to 200 mph) when diving after prey. Although less agile and maneuverable, the golden eagle is apparently quite the equal and possibly even the superior of the peregrine falcon stooping and gliding speeds.
There are six living subspecies of Golden Eagle that differ slightly in size and plumage. They can be found in different parts of the world.
The Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is the world’s largest flightless bird which is native to the savannas and grasslands of South Africa. Although its bulky body means that flying is out of the question, the ostrich has adapted to life on the ground with impressive agility. Ostriches are superb runners that can sprint at speeds of up to 45 mph (72 km/h) on average, with a peak 60 mph (96.6 km/h). This makes it the fastest of the flightless birds.
Mexican Free Tailed Bat
The Mexican free-tailed bat or Brazilian free-tailed bat is a medium-sized bat native to the Americas, regarded as one of the most abundant mammals in North America. Its proclivity towards roosting in huge numbers at relatively few locations makes it vulnerable to habitat destruction in spite of its abundance. It has been claimed to have the fastest horizontal speed of any animal and has reached speeds of up to 100 mph.
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the fastest terrestrial animal in the world and is a unique member of the cat family ‘felidae’. The Cheetah appeared on Earth around 4 million years ago, well before the other big cats. The Cheetah is unique for its speed but lacks the ability to climb like other cats.
Cheetahs have very flexible spines and when they are sprinting, their spines flex and straighten allowing their powerful hind legs to achieve longer, more effective strides making them capable of reaching speeds of 110 kilometres per hour (70 miles per hour). They are able to accelerate from 0 to 64 kilometres per hour (40 miles per hour) in just 3 strides. Their long tails (28 inches) act as rudders and allows the Cheetah to achieve extremely tight turns when pursuing agile prey.
Wildebeests are a large, hoofed mammal which is preyed upon by lions and hyenas. They are migratory and travel in large herds across the Serengeti. Wildebeests are also known as gnus. Wildebeests have a somewhat reputation for being ugly animals. However, they are actually quite interesting creatures. For example, did you know that wildebeests can run at up to 80 km/h (50 miles per hour)? That’s pretty fast!
Wildebeests are also very good swimmers and can even swim across rivers with crocodiles in them.
Lions are generalist carnivores, meaning they are able to thrive in a wide variety of environmental conditions and can make use of a variety of different resources. They are also called hyper-carnivores because meat makes more than 70% part of their diet.
While not quite as fast as the cheetah which can reach speeds of 70 mph, a lion can achieve a land speed of 50 mph for short distances. They have an amazing jump, and have been recorded springing as far as 36 feet. They can also climb extremely well, and are capable of climbing vertical tree trunks with ease.
Despite being very strong and often active, lions spend much of the day sleeping! In fact, the average amount of time they spend moving is two hours a day, and they can sleep for up to 20 hours a day! This is because they do not have many sweat glands so in order to conserve energy, they will lie about and rest.
The Thomson’s Gazelle is the smallest, daintiest and fastest of all gazelles. Sometimes referred to as ‘Tommy’, this gazelle was named after the Scottish explorer, Joseph Thomson who explored Africa in 1890. These graceful antelopes are still one of the most common gazelles in East Africa and although numbers may have declined in other parts of Africa, the Thomson’s Gazelle still thrives on farmland, grasslands and savannas in the East.
Thomson’s Gazelles are very fast little animals and can sometimes outrun their predators. During their initial flight from their attackers, a gazelle may sprint at up to 80 kilometres per hour (50 miles per hour) for around 15 – 20 minutes. These impressive sprinters also run in special ways to communicate with the rest of their herd and confuse their pursuer.
As the gazelles race along in their escape, they perform sudden bounding leaps in high arcs. This behaviour is called ‘pronking’ or ‘stotting’ and it makes it more difficult for the gazelle to be brought down by their predator.
The European Hare or Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) is a species of hare native to northern, central and western Europe and western Asia. The European Hare is a mammal adapted to temperate open country. It is related to the rabbit, which is in the same family but a different genus. The European Hare breeds on the ground rather than in a burrow and relies on speed to escape. In comparison to the rabbit, it is larger in size, has longer ears and longer legs. Its natural predators include the Golden Eagle and carnivorous mammals like the Red Fox and Wolf.
A hare can reach a speed of between 60 – 70 km/h in order to escape a predator.
African Wild Dog
The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) is a mammal native only to Africa. It is a member of the canidae family which also includes dogs, coyotes, dingoes, jackals and wolves. The African Wild Dog is known by other names such as the Painted Hunting Dog, African Hunting Dog, Cape Hunting Dog and Painted Wolf. In Swahili it is referred to as ‘Mbwa mwilu’.
The African Wild Dogs scientific name ‘Lycaon pictus’ comes from the Greek language for ‘wolf’ and Latin for ‘painted’. The African Wild Dog is the only species in the Genus ‘Lycaon’.
The Wild Dogs top speed is 60 kilometres per hour (37 miles per hour) and prey will most often be able to gallop so what faster. However, prey will eventually be chased down over distances of 6 kilometres (3.5 miles). Typical hunts are seen more as an endurance chase. During these long distance chases, Wild Dogs will spread out to prevent prey from any sideways escape attempts. The preys zig-zagging evasive movements which would normally confuse a lone hunter such as a Cheetah, are ineffective against the pack of wild dogs.
They are highly successful pack hunters.
The Red Kangaroo either lives alone or in small groups. They are mainly active in the evening or night (nocturnal and crepuscular) when it is cooler and spend most of the day sleeping. Kangaroos are not territorial animals and only enter into conflict over females. The largest males are dominant and control most of the breeding.
Red kangaroos hop around at great speeds which can reach over 35 miles per hour (56 kilometres an hour). When grazing together they are always on the lookout for danger and will warn others in the group by stamping their feet. This is a sign for young joeys to hop back into their mother’s pouch for safety.
The Greyhound is the fastest of all dog breeds and can reach speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour. Greyhounds are sight hounds, like the Afghan and Saluki, who rely on good eyesight to spot and chase down game. Sight hounds had to be tall, sleek and very fast sprinters to chase down fast game such as gazelles.
Greyhounds were probably developed in ancient Egypt or the Middle East and came to Europe with the first Phoenicians. These hounds became very popular in Europe in the Middle Ages where royalty used them to hunt small game.
More recently this breed has been used in the dog racing industry chasing mechanical rabbits around a track.
Due to their body shapes and limbs reptiles aren’t capable of reaching speeds as fast as birds or mammals. Below are the top speeds of well known reptiles.
- Perentie – 25 mph
- Green Iguana – 22 mph
- Leatherback Sea Turtle – 22 mph
- Black Mamba – 14 mph
- Komodo Dragon – 13 mph
Due to physical constraints, fish may be incapable of exceeding swim speeds of 36 km/h (22 mph), so this means that they cannot qualify as one of the fastest species in the world.