For short distances, the cheetah or hunting leopard is the fastest animal on feet, but its endurance is not very great. Men have used the creature for hunting gazelles and antelopes, and it usually overhauls even these swift runners with remarkable ease.
But the endurance of some of the gazelles and antelopes at high speed is remarkable, and it is certain that for distances of over a mile or so either the blackbuck of India, the Mongolian gazelle, or the pronghorn antelope of the United States could outdistance any living mammal. The pronghorn antelope is easily the fastest animal in North America.
Some people are apparently quite pleased with man’s running ability as compared to that of other animals but I find it difficult to share this complacency. To prove man’s superiority they cite cases of trained athletes who have beaten horses for a short distance yet what chance would a trained athlete have against a horse without a rider, and how many untrained human beings could outdistance even a draft horse?
The claim that man is one of the fastest of animals is, of course, true, but the statement is somewhat misleading. The comparison includes all species that belong to the animal kingdom, and even the slowest of us could probably outdistance a snail or even such a speedy animal as the earthworm.
But the reference to the following table will show that man at his fastest is quite slow indeed when compared with the really speedy members of the mammalian clan.
|Species||Running Speed (miles per hour)||Remarks|
|Cheetah or hunting leopard||70||This animal has been timed at this speed with a stop. watch.|
|Mongolian gazelle||60||These animals can maintain this speed for a mile or so after which they drop to slower speeds.|
|Pronghorn antelope||60||When chased by a car, these animals have maintained this speed for 2 miles, and have averaged 36 MPH for 27 miles.|
|Lion||50||This speed is possible for only short distances in charges after game.|
|Deer||45||A buck deer was timed by automobile at 49 MPH, but one biologist doubts the accuracy of the speed• ometer and indicates that he considers about 30 MPH the maximum for deer.|
|Jack rabbits (several species)||40 to 45|
|Coyote||35 to 45||One coyote was timed for a short distance at 43 MPH. This speed seems somewhat excessive, and I do not know whether or not the speedometer was checked for accuracy.|
|Greyhounds and whippets||35 to 40||Whippets have been clocked with stop watches at 35.5 MPH and grey-hounds at 36.|
|Bison||32 to 35||One of these animals has been timed with a speed-ometer at 32 MPH.|
|Grizzly bear||30 to 35||A specimen chased by a car attained 30 MPH.|
|Rhinoceros||25 to 28||This speed is possible for only a short distance.|
|Elephant||25||One African elephant has been timed with a stop watch at 24 MPH for 120 yards.|
|Man||22 to 25||The average speed of 22.2 MPH has been reached for the 220 yard dash, the race in which the highest average speed attained.|
The table above lists a few of the fastest mammals for which actual records have been made, or for which we have estimates by competent observers.
The Species are arranged in order of known possible speeds, but when more information is available the order may well have to be rearranged.
Some animals place high in the table because of one or more speed records they have made for short distances. No figures are available for some species, which may be able to run faster for short distances than others that are higher in the table.